Skip to main content

Nora Barry

Nora Barry

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

I'm currently focused on starting my third business (in college I started a housecleaning business; 20 years ago, I started a web content development company; a year ago I launched an on-demand communications agency).

How would you define your professional mission?

To love what I do. I work a lot, so enjoying what I'm working on makes it more fun.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Patience! You encounter a lot of different personalities when you serve external clients. Every new assignment is like starting a new job — so you have to know how to read the people and personalities, understand who will work with you and who will work against you, and be committed to supporting what the client feels is most important.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Launching the first site for online film in 1998. The Internet was still mostly crawling along at dial-up, but I saw the potential for its use as a platform for a new media form. Working in the online world 19 years ago was like the Wild West — right down to the paucity of women on the front. The upside was, there were never long lines in the ladies rooms.

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

I created and produced an online collaborative project involving 100 people on four continents. We broke new ground in the use of technologies for creative production and the result was a "game-film" produced by students in China, Europe, Brazil and several locations in the US.

I'm most proud of it because it brought people from different cultures together to create a film, using an archetypal narrative. So for me, it demonstrated the universality of narrative.

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

After grad school I spent a year in sales, which taught me almost everything I know about marketing (my dad, who was a "mad man" in the 60's taught me everything else). I went full-time freelance as a marcomm writer and scriptwriter after sales, focusing on technology companies.

In the mid-90's I was working on a project for AT&T and I saw video being transmitted on phone lines. Two years later I started a web content company and launched the first site for Internet film. When YouTube blew up the landscape in 2005, I went back to writing, this time for newspapers and magazines. That led to me create a blog, "The Dame Domain," which ran for several years and was syndicated nationally. I eventually compiled the essays from that blog into a book, "The Home Fires Are Burning My Feet" in 2011.

I kept my hand in scriptwriting and producing and in 2012, I began working in the events industry. Scriptwriting led to speechwriting and that in turn led to coaching. I think my background as a scriptwriter and producer gave me a great understanding of audience engagement, and that has added to my ability to coach. I was so overwhelmed with work that I was turning jobs down. That led me to form a new company with a partner and employees. The new agency is focused on creative and strategic communications, but I remain engaged in speechwriting and coaching.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Successfully communicating complex ideas, when I'm writing. Getting a speaker to the point where s/he feels good about going on stage, when I'm coaching. I love that feeling when I can see they feel confident and excited instead of scared. And when they get sincere applause, I am thrilled.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

It's creative but it also requires learning new things for every project, which can be challenging (and I like that).

Who are your role models?

Eleanor of Aquitaine, 12th century queen of France and England. Scarlett O'Hara, successful entrepreneur and businesswoman. Jo March, writer by trade. Dr. Marie DiBernardino, geneticist and feminist, a rare woman in her field in the 40's, on up until her death in 2014. Julia Child, because she didn't really get started until her 50's.

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

I had a built-in balance when I had young children and I was a single parent. That forced me to set deadlines and break my days into quadrants. Once they went to college I had no need to balance and I'm enjoying the lack of constraint. One thing I do force myself to do is work out regularly, which pushes me away from my desk.

I've also learned to turn off my phone at 10pm at night and go off-line.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

The problem I have with most agencies is that the creatives have never worked in any other industry, so they don't get what challenges are faced in the boardroom... it's like politicians who've never made payroll being in charge of a national budget. So I would say, you have to have some skin in the game *and* you have to be willing to go deep to understand the client's business and industry.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

"It's just business, nothing personal."

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

It gets easier as the kids get older. Until they're teenagers, then it gets worse. But then they leave for college, and it gets a *lot* easier then!

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.