Erica Keswin

Member Spotlight

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am a workplace strategist who has worked for the past twenty years with some of the most iconic brands in the world as a consultant, speaker, writer and professional dot-connector.

From 2011-2015, I researched the impact of technology on people in the workplace with MIT Professor Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation. I blog for the Huffington Post and the Society for Human Resource Management, am on the board of the Information Overload Research Group (IORG) and I am guest contributor for shows like “Huffington Rise” and Randi Zuckerberg’s “Dot Complicated,” as well as an expert in magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Conscious Company and Oprah.

My current passion is the Spaghetti Project, a platform devoted to sharing the science and stories of human connection. The name is based on a Cornell study that found that firefighters who eat together perform better, in other words—save more lives. And as a hats-off to the firemen and their go-to firehouse meal, I calls this work the Spaghetti Project. These events bring together groups of colleagues, freelancers, working parents, and neighbors because “left to our own devices, we aren’t connecting.”

How would you define your professional mission?

My professional mission is to share the stories and science behind why connection matters, helping people honor relationships in the wild west of our digital world. I help individuals and businesses understand the need to leverage all that is great about technology, but also remember to put it “in its place,” which could be in a basket in the center of a conference room table or in your purse during coffee with a friend.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

The Spaghetti Project is something that I am the most excited about and proud of. Every day, the story of the firefighters reminds me that when I invest in relationships, my life just works. I have loved bringing the science and stories behind the study into companies and watching the “aha” moment cross people’s faces as they realize that they, too, need to honor relationships. They realize that their calendars are not reflecting their values or that they have been texting their colleagues when they should be walking down the hall or picking up the phone. And, the best part is that they leave with a commitment to make a change. There is nothing better than that.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I have always been a connector. It’s in my DNA. After attending the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, I started my career in human capital management. I worked at Gemini Consulting and the Hay Group in organizational development, executive coaching and compensation. I transitioned to Executive Recruiting at Russell Reynolds Associates, which was perfect for my interest and skill set as I was essentially a “professional connector.”

It was at Russell Reynolds Associates where I got my first cell phone (a Blackberry) — a big step up from the Palm Pilot. The phone enabled me to work from anywhere, which was quite helpful in consulting, but I soon realized why people started referring to it as a “crackberry.” And so began my own internal struggle with the benefits and challenges of technology.

In 2009, after facing my defeat (my attempt to limit my digital distractions actually led me to juggle two devices instead of one!) my family and I took a life-sabbatical and moved from Manhattan to Colorado for the year, where we could all get back to the nature. Even if just for a year.

It was in Aspen that I met MIT Professor Sherry Turkle, with whom I spent the next several years traveling around the country talking to companies about technology in the workplace. I am now writing, speaking and consulting about the impact of technology on relationships in the workplace, always with an eye toward high tech for human touch.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

My hope is that the companies and people I work with realize themselves, in a deep way, the importance of relationships. I want them to see that it is good for them personally, their businesses and the world.

What is your morning ritual?

Every morning I go to Starbucks and order an extra hot grande soy latte - sometimes with an extra shot. Instead of checking emails and getting work done, I use this time to relax, center myself, feel the heat on my hands and actually enjoy the taste and smell of the coffee. It’s my own Starbucks morning meditation. After that, I’m ready to take the day by storm.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

Connecting the dots.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Work-life balance is a problem for everyone today. Technology is integrated into everything that we do and it blurs the delineation between work and home. We need to be disciplined to ensure that we can enjoy the “life” part of the equation.

When I am on vacation with my family, I lock all five of our phones in the hotel safe for a few hours every day. This reminds my kids to look around, pick up a tennis racket, go for a swim, and relax under a tree. And it is much easier to connect as a family when we aren’t distracted by our devices.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

You can have it all, but just not all at one time. Something always has to give. Every couple of years (or more often), stop and really consider your priorities in the context of the stages of your life: your kids’ development, your family’s finances, and needs of your extended family (aging parents, etc.). In other words, let your values guide you. For example, I have stayed in two jobs longer than I might have wanted because they were low stress and enabled me to prioritize my family, which would be much harder at a start-up.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I recently joined Ellevate because I have been speaking to an increased number of women’s groups, some of whom are Ellevate members. I see the power of bringing women together to connect and I look forward getting to know the many talented women that are part of Ellevate.

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