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No One Puts Women In The Corner, with Deena Baikowitz

No One Puts Women In The Corner, with Deena Baikowitz

Episode 117: No One Puts Women In The Corner, with Deena Baikowitz

After moving to new York, Deena Baikowitz, Chief Networking Officer of Fireball Network, realized how important it was to have a network of other people to support, help, and give feedback. Working in numerous fields from Broadway to healthcare, Deena emphasizes the importance of having personal relationships no matter which field or stage of career one is at. On this week’s episode, we talked about her consulting and coaching agency, Fireball Network, using Ellevate as a member, the importance of creating a voice for yourself, and how both extroverts and introverts can succeed in forming and leveraging their networks.

Episode Transcript

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Network Podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host Maricella Herrera. Hi Maricella.

00:22 Maricella Herrera: Hey Kristy.

00:23 KW: So, you are technically not in the office the day that this is being aired because you are on vacation.

00:32 MH: Yes, much, much needed vacation, stuffing my face with Italian food.

00:37 KW: Oh well, that is very important, that's key. I love vacations, I personally love vacations...

00:45 MH: Who doesn't?

00:45 KW: But I love when people on our team take vacations because it's always... I've always been a... I've always been the person who makes sure I use all of my days up, and so many people don't, but you need it, you need to refresh, recharge, take some time for yourself. So, I'm excited that you are away having fun.

01:07 MH: I agree, I agree that people need to take vacation. It's harder... It's very hard and it seems daunting when you're planning it because you have to get so much stuff done before, and making sure everything is covered. And we just got out of a very hectic period with the summit, and the office move, and all these other things, so it was hard. But if you don't take that pause, you're gonna burn out.

01:32 KW: Yeah.

01:32 MH: So, I'm happy I'm doing that.

01:35 KW: I think just the concept of having something to look forward to, as well.

01:41 MH: Yes.

01:41 KW: Is a great motivator. And on a personal level, you feel energized by it and not so... I don't wanna say defeated, but I think that seeing this week after week after week of hard work ahead of you, when there's a break in that, it can be very uplifting.

02:05 MH: Yeah, it is absolutely great to have something to look forward to. I'm also traveling with my family, which I don't do anymore. I think, it's been... Gosh I don't know, maybe like 10 years, since I've been on a family vacation.

02:19 KW: Oh Man.

02:20 MH: Yeah, it's been really, really long. My brother and I usually take one trip a year but not with my mom. It's fun. What I did learn last year though, was to not take long flights the day after the summit.

02:33 KW: [chuckle] Yeah.

02:34 MH: I learned that the hard way, I ended up with pneumonia in Greece. So, not doing that again. [chuckle]

02:41 KW: Yeah, you live and you learn. I actually have a family vacation coming up this summer with my... I'm one of four, and we are all going away, to Myrtle Beach. So that will be fun, the beach and just hang out and relax and spend time together, so I'm looking forward to that.

03:01 MH: That's awesome.

03:02 KW: It'd be good to get away. Our guest today, if we're talking about what energizes us, certainly Deena is a fireball.

03:12 MH: She's a fireball. She is fireball Deena. And we're not just calling her fireball Deena because of her energy, Fireball Network is her company. And it's really... To me, if I have to think of someone who really embraces the brand of what she's doing and really puts it into everything she does, it's Deena. She really owns her energy, her brand, and being this very extroverted person, which is very interesting to me, as not an extrovert.

03:52 KW: No, Deena is great. And she's been a huge member of the Ellevate Network for quite some time now. I just recently did an event with Maricella on networking as an introvert... An extrovert.

04:03 MH: And I did introvert part. [chuckle]

04:04 KW: You did the introvert part, Deena did the extrovert part, but I'm always inspired by the women in our network who truly believe in supporting other women and lifting other women up, and in providing them with the knowledge, the skills, the tools, the insight, and the cheerleader to really help women get to that next stage in their career. So all around Deena is a phenomenal woman, and we are excited to have her on this week's podcast.

04:33 MH: Yeah, very, very excited. She's great, she's a huge supporter, she's a huge connector. The amount of times that she emails me because she heard of a reporter who was looking for some information that we could potentially leverage and use it as a PR opportunity for Elevate. Or that she offers to connect people to each other, it really shows how much she cares about helping other women get ahead.

05:01 KW: Absolutely. Alright, well we hope you enjoy our conversation with Deena today, and we will see you next week on the Ellevate Podcast.


05:23 MH: So happy to be here today with a guest, who I very recently had a great networking workshop presentation with a few weeks ago, so it was so much. Deena, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

05:39 Deena Baikowitz: My pleasure.

05:40 MH: I love getting to talk to people who I know are very passionate about what they do, and who have been part of the network for a while, and who know us, who know what matters to our audience. So I want you to tell me a little bit about your career and sort of how you got to be the networker that you are today.

06:01 DB: My story. So when I was a little kid, I was very, very short, and as you know I still am. But as a kid, I was teased and picked on, so I became insecure and somewhat shy and I was not comfortable around strangers. And I wasn't happy with that situation I knew I had to do something about it. So I found my confidence through dance and theater, I was always comfortable on the stage. And I took that confidence into the rest of my life, and I made it my mission to make sure that nobody else would go through what I went through. 'Cause nobody wants to be that kid alone in the corner, or that grown-up at a networking event by themselves with no one to talk to. And so I became the one to organize parties, and bring people together, and make introductions, and take the lead. And there's an expression from the movies, classic Hollywood movies, which I love, which is, "Hey kids let's get together on the backyard and put on a show." And so, that ended up translating into my career, where I was the one always starting clubs, and groups, and associations, and planning networking events.

07:12 DB: And I kinda joke, like, "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner," great movie, Dirty Dancing. And...

07:18 MH: Great movie.

07:19 DB: Yeah. In the business world, it really is about your relationships and your connections, and who can help you, and who you can help. And also, not just the work but What are you passionate about? What do you love to do? So in my case, I love the theater, I love dance, I love theater people, and artists and creatives. So in December 1st, 1999, I moved to New York City from Montreal, Canada, and I'd never been to New York before. And I landed a job marketing and promoting Broadway and off-Broadway shows, dream job, dream experience, first time in New York, at the theater every night planning launch parties. And my boss even said to me, he goes, "You are doing things in one year here, that people who've lived here for 20 years haven't done."

08:11 MH: I'm not surprised.


08:13 DB: But he also gave me the support. That's the thing, having a supportive boss who gives you that freedom to let loose with your creativity and your talent, is just the best kind of situation. And one of the things I've learned throughout my career, and I've had many different careers and career transitions, is that finding the right fit, the right culture, the right environment right outlet for your passions and your talents is critical.

08:39 DB: And I've made some mistakes along the way, taking jobs where it was the culture, or the boss, or I wasn't appreciated, or I didn't appreciate the company, to be honest. And those mistakes are when I didn't trust my instinct, or I didn't take other people's advice as carefully as I should have. So that would be one, both advice on a positive end, but also the negative is go where you're passionate, go with the people that you fit with best, and also be careful that it's not a really bad fit but at the same time stretch yourself, right? I started with theater and then I ended up working for an engineering company doing customer service, because I really liked the business world. Then I ended up in healthcare because I started volunteering at a nursing home and discovered that I really was passionate about working with seniors and working in healthcare, and that became a new career. And then I went into advertising, and then I moved to New York. [chuckle] Trying different things is how I built my network and my reputation as somebody who has access to all different communities and different sources of information, and will bring those disparate sources together.

09:52 MH: So, up 'till now, you're telling me about your story and you're telling me... And there's so many things. I kept writing down stuff that I wanted to get into, because it's great. You talked about having your boss who was very, very supportive, and we know how important it is to have sponsors, we know how important it is to have either a mentor or someone that will go to bat for you or someone that will really encourage you, especially inside a company, to really reach for your full potential. Can you talk a little bit about that a little bit more?

10:21 DB: One of my very favorite bosses, in fact, a woman she gave me the name fireball. I did not even know what it meant, and I went to interview with her, it was for a consulting job at a medical rehabilitation facility, and I was taking a program and completely turning it on its head, and growing it, and expanding it. And she said, "You know, we'll bringing you in as a disturber," she says, "But we'll call you a change agent." And so she understood right away what my talent was, that I was gonna look at something, see what was wrong change it, fight it.

10:56 DB: I wasn't gonna worry too much about causing trouble because she gave me that mandate and that support, and also to make it better. And I always say, "She gave me as much support as I needed and as much freedom as I wanted." And I remember once coming to her saying, "We only have X amount of resources in terms of budget, and time, and people, but it's not enough for me to do what I want to accomplish, and create all the programs that I want for the families, and the patients, and the staff." And she said, "Well, then you just have to stop where you're at." And then I came back to her a week later, and said, "You told me to stop, but I didn't listen to you. I found a way to expand our programming given the budgets and the resources." She said, "I knew you would, that's why I told you what I told you." [chuckle] It was my choice. And so then she recommended me for another consulting job at another medical facility. And I walked into the gentleman's office, and he said to me, he said, "I just got the most unusual job recommendation I've ever gotten." And he looks at the email and reads it to me, "She's a little fireball of energy, hire her." [chuckle]

12:01 DB: And the name stuck with me. So when it came time to launch my company Fireball Network, in 2009, I said, "You know what, that's a good name. It reflects me but it's not my name." My company is about bringing people together, so my clients are fireballs, and the people in my network are fireballs, people who come to my workshop are fireballs. It's a brand, it's an energy, it's an idea.

12:26 MH: So, it's funny, this is one of the things I wanted to mention and talk about which was your brand. I was gonna ask you how it came... Where it came from, because you... And this is coming from me, you are so really your brand, you really, really have found a way to build a brand that is completely an authentically you. And even when I say, "We're gonna be doing a podcast today," it's, "I'm gonna be podcasting today with fireball Deena."

12:54 DB: Yeah. [chuckle]

12:55 MH: It's fireball Deena.

12:56 DB: That's what they call me. [chuckle]

13:00 MH: First name: Fireball. Second name: Deena.

13:00 DB: Exactly.


13:00 MH: So, it's great, and you embrace it. And what tips would you give people to really build their brand?

13:09 DB: Well, I think being able to find that confidence about yourself, I was not always this confident, I was freezeball when I was a kid. I didn't walk in with my head held high into every situation, I didn't go to bars and make friends easily, it took a while, and it also took other people seeing that talent that I had that I didn't realize, or that it was so obvious to me that I had creativity but I didn't know how to sell it, or package it, or articulate it in a job interview. It took bosses, and friends, and colleagues to say, "Hey this is what you're great at, you need to own it." And it also took watching other women. When I came to New York, and I started meeting women in banking, and finance, and corporate America. And at the time they were wearing the dark blue pinstripe suits, and the big shoulder pads. And they were tough and smart, and talked finance and I was so impressed by them, and I thought, "I wanna be able to walk into a room with that confidence. I wanna learn to negotiate like that and not be meek and subtle."

14:10 DB: And so I say, "Learn from others, and also check in with your best friends, with your family, with your bosses." If you can't see your own strengths, ask other people to tell you what they see in you and then you have to embrace it, and you have to push it out there. And sometimes it's fake it 'til you make it. Act as if you have faith, and faith shall be given to you. The first couple events I was going to in New York, where I was brand new and I didn't know anyone in the room, I was scared, I was insecure. I walk in, really tiny, I always think people are gonna say, "Oh who's the 12 year old in the business suit?" Right? [laughter] Okay this was a few years ago, but, you know what I mean.

14:53 MH: Oh, I know what you mean.

14:54 DB: We all walk in with some misperception of how people are going to perceive us, and we usually go negative. So I say, "What if we walk in with the attitude that, you know what, people are gonna respond to my energy, they're gonna respond to the fact that I genuinely want to help other people connect, that I'm friendly, I'm not intimidating." And so yeah, having other people around you to support you, to help you, to give you feedback to me is what's critical. And that's what I built my business on.

15:26 MH: Yeah. So on the confidence note I would say, every time someone talks about walking into a room, I just think, "Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man."


15:41 MH: That's all. But on the advise though, going back to our advise and conversation for the podcast. You checked in with your board of directors, your personal board of directors.

15:53 DB: Yes, absolutely.

15:54 MH: We talk about that a lot because I think part of building your network and part of finding your career path or finding what you're gonna be very successful in, is really having those touch points, those people you can really count on. You said friends, you said family, people who really know you. How do you know who to go to?

16:14 DB: Great question. And so for me, when I came to New York and I didn't know anybody here, and I'd never been here, I was starting, to a certain extent, from scratch. And to that point, interestingly, I saw a press request yesterday that responded to, saying, "How do you develop friendships as an adult?" And to me, developing friendships is the same as developing business relationships, you have to put yourself out there. You go where you meet people who have like-minded values and similar interests. So dance class, theater, for my hobbies, art class, trapeze, gymnastics, figure skating, golf, tennis. But in the business world, where I went, are professional associations, and because as somebody who's always started associations and who's also joins associations, getting involved it's not just showing up to one event, looking around the room and saying, "Oh I didn't make a friend, or I didn't land the clients, or I didn't get a job, so I'm walking out." It's taking that time to build those relationships over time, multiple points of touch points. So with an organization like Ellevate or New York Women In Communications, or Commercial Real Estate Women, or Women in Housing and Finance, whatever area of work that you're in, go to an organization, meet the people, take a role on a committee.

17:39 DB: Or if you're not ready for that, if you're younger in your career and you're not quite sure where to fit in, volunteer for an event and reach out to the other people and ask them for advice. Some of my best advice came from people that I had met at one or two conferences who I didn't know very well and I didn't think they knew me very well, but... And generally it was women who are a little more established in their careers, and graciously, unsolicited gave me advice that was extremely helpful. So sometimes, somebody that just meet you for the first time, will see something in you that was always there that you didn't realize. In other cases, it is the people you work with, and the people they work with, right? So, it's friends of friends, and your colleague's colleague, and community, whether it's religious, cultural, local neighborhood alumni groups.

18:32 MH: Yeah. No, it's important and it's important to really broaden out. We've talked about this a bit but just to go from the start, tell us a little bit about your business and what you do at Fireball Network.

18:43 DB: Oh, okay, so at Fireball Network, we are a consulting and coaching agency and we work with individuals and organizations around building their networks for career success. And that includes marketing, and branding, and presentation skills, and building relationships. It includes press. And I also say that I have to lead by example because I am a marketer, and I am a brand, and I am a networker. So being on podcasts, being on radio show, which I was on on Tuesday, and speaking at events like the New York City Bar Association, which I did last night. All of these elements that go into anyone's professional career is what we teach, and what I preach, and that on a very basic service level is coaching, workshops, speaking services, consulting for brands around how do they reach their marketplace, what is their voice?

19:46 DB: Social media these days, of course, or digital marketing is so pervasive, and so important. And I love it because it's creative, and you can tell stories, and videos and images and reach a huge market. At the same time, the personal relationships, the one-on-one and the who do you know, who can you pick up the phone and they will take your call, and help you with whatever you need. It really is that blend of mass reach an individual connection and attention.

20:19 MH: So having a lot of connections and you never know where your next opportunity is gonna come from. It likely will come from a loose connection, more than a close connection. But you do need those deeper relationships and building those along the way.

20:33 DB: Absolutely.

20:34 MH: You've been part of Ellevate. You've been part of a bunch of different groups. You are part of tons of organizations and you do this. This part of your...

20:43 DB: My work.

20:44 MH: This is part of your work.

20:45 DB: I network for a living. [chuckle]

20:46 MH: You network for a living. How, how can someone be successful in an organization like Ellevate?

20:51 DB: Okay. I received an email this week that I wanna read to you, because it's from Ellevate Network and it says, "Pop the champagne, it's your Ellevate anniversary."

21:03 MH: Your Ellevate-sary.

21:04 DB: This week is my Ellevate-aversary. Investing in your career is a habit. It takes time and effort but it's so worth it. Make this year your best year yet, by taking advantage of our interactive jam sessions, world-class networking events and educational content, articles, blogs, and videos that will help you get where you're going faster and smarter. The reason I'm smiling as I'm telling you this is because I look at it and I say, "Well, here's what I've done with Ellevate, networking workshop with you. February 27th. Check. Podcast today, check. A jam session, we've got it on the calendar for next month, check. The Ellevate Squads. I am a moderator, I'm leading a squad starting in two weeks.

21:50 MH: Yeah, I heard.

21:50 DB: Check. [chuckle] So I have truly taken advantage of everything that Ellevate has to offer and I know the very first time I joined, which was this anniversary, and the first event I went to, it was already in my head. I wanna do workshops for Ellevate. I wanna get involved. If they have committees, I wanna be on one. Who do I need to know? I wanna get to know the leaders. And I did. Now, it wasn't that I was gonna do a workshop the very first month. It took time, but I got to meet all of the team and going to events and meeting other speakers and meeting other members. In fact, there's a member of Ellevate, who came to a workshop that I put on because I post my own events on the Ellevate network, and I get clients that way. And when I spoke at the bar association last night, she came because she said she made it a point, partly because of my advice, and the advice of Ellevate network, to go to a networking event at least once a month in addition to Ellevate sponsored events. She saw the event that I posted it and she came.

22:51 MH: That's awesome.

22:52 DB: And I looked at her, I was like, "I'm so glad you're here." And she's not a lawyer.


22:57 DB: And she volunteered for the role play networking exercise that we did in front of the whole room, so she put her brand front and center in that room.

23:07 MH: That's great. Yeah, part of... I love that, and I should cut that up and put it as an ad somewhere, but this is... No, it's great. It's great to hear, and it's always good for me to know when people are really taking advantage of the network. And I know you have... And we did this networking workshop a couple of months ago, and it was to be so great to see how much people got out of it. There was a lot of interaction and a lot of engagement in the room so that's always great to see, but I do wanna talk about that workshop because we talked about a very specific topic, which was a big difference between the two of us, and we both addressed each of the different angles. You are clearly an extrovert.

23:52 DB: Yes.

23:52 MH: I am a closeted introvert. And the reality is, networking is very different for these two groups, but it's always the same thing.

24:01 DB: Yes.

24:02 MH: So as an extrovert, tell me some advice for extroverts, specifically, when it comes to building relationships with introverts.

24:13 DB: Ooh, that's a good one. I'd start by saying extroverts and introverts definitely need to appreciate each other, not judge, but look at the benefits that come from both. You and I, on a stage together, so much more effective, interesting and dynamic, than either one of us alone up there, because we appeal to different people, and we have different stories. It's the same reason there's not just one book in the entire world or one movie or one story. Using a theater analogy again, 'cause that's my passion. I look at extroverts as those of us who like to be on the stage and introverts who are behind the scenes. Both are equally important. You cannot put on a show without a cast, you cannot put on a show without a crew. As extroverts. We love to talk to people, we can work a room, we can make a ton of friends. One of the issues that I find extroverts have is following up and managing all those contacts because we're so outgoing and gregarious and can just pick up friends anywhere and everywhere we go, it's sometimes harder to keep track of them. And also to create those deeper relationships that you talked about. Yes, there's a blend of broad and deep.

25:29 DB: How do you maintain that over time and not be overwhelmed? So one of the ways is certainly technology. There's lots of different systems and apps and tools out there for managing. It's also about prioritizing. As much as I can meet 50 people on any given day of the week and multiply that by three, if I'm going to three networking events, I can't keep up with 150 people every single week. So choosing who's the most important person that I need to connect with at that point in time for my career goals, having a career goal is what will create your path and your strategy and your systems. Going to a party or going to a bar and just looking to hang out and have fun is one thing, but when you're at a networking event, you need to think about who do I need to meet and why? It is that combination of being focused and being strategic, and for extroverts, that can be perhaps a little harder because we're willing to talk to anybody and everybody at the same...

26:33 MH: Free as you are.

26:34 DB: Yeah, we are. At the same time, knowing that there is a goal and for me, as a business owner, looking for clients or press opportunities or just making solid connections with people that I can create a collaboration with.

26:50 MH: Yeah, no, some of the things you were saying, resonate on the introvert side too, right? For introverts, it's probably harder to work a room. I consider that very kind of frightening, sometimes, but when you were talking about being on the stage versus being on the... The cast versus the crew. For introverts, a lot of the times, being on the stage can be a secret weapon. It could be that that's the way you actually get yourself out there and have people come to you. So just putting that out there, introverts. There's a reason I'm on the podcast.

27:24 DB: That's a really good point. And also leveraging that for introverts and extroverts. Once you have that position of visibility and influence and power and leadership, leverage that in so many other ways. And you can leverage it in somewhat of a passive way by promoting it, through articles on social media, email, letting people know where you'll be speaking. So you are now in effect talking to 50 or 500 people without actually having to talk to each one of them individually. And that's one of the analogies that I use for extrovert, introvert, ambivert, anyone in between, and particularly for women, we have to take the spotlight. And it doesn't have to be the literal stage, but in our careers, we have to take the spotlight so that people know who we are, know what we do and know what we're capable of. Right? They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Well, put yourself in that spotlight even if you're not 100% sure of how you're gonna manage it, but getting into that role, if she sees it, she can be it. And the more women that we see on panels, speaking at conferences, running podcasts, being guests on podcasts, producing the podcasts, behind the scenes and in front of the camera, getting women's names and faces and voices out there is critical and we need to amplify each other's voices as well.

28:58 MH: I love that. I kinda wanna end on that 'cause that is a very, very strong sentiment and I think that what you're doing is putting that to light. What we're doing at Ellevate is putting that to light as well and the more we can all shine a light on each other and the more we can amplify every other womens voices, the better and the faster we'll get to changing the world.

29:21 DB: Absolutely, so to paraphrase, nobody puts women in a corner.

29:25 MH: There we go.


29:28 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't get to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Catherine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much and join us next week.


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