Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
My name is Dara (rhymes with Sara), and I live in Philadelphia, PA, with 1 husband, 2 teenage step-daughters, 2 cats, and 1 puppy-dog (who happens to be prominently displayed on the first page of my company website). I spent the first 20 years of my career as a management consultant working in a small consulting firm that I helped establish with 2 other folks. At that firm, I worked with companies, nonprofits and philanthropies to design new initiatives, develop strategic plans, manage leadership changes, etc. After 2 decades of focusing on systems and plans and structures, I decided it was time to turn my full attention to helping people perform, grow and thrive to their maximum potential. With this as my passion, and my goal, I made the bold - and what some thought insane - move to leave my comfortable position and stable company and go back to square one (or, what the fabulous Whitney Johnson calls 'disrupting yourself' and going back to 'bottom of the S curve'), and to start up my own consulting firm that works with individuals and teams, at all levels of seniority, within companies of all different sizes and in all different industries, to help them develop and capitalize on healthy, productive, rewarding thought patterns (which in turn drive their choices, behaviors, interactions and relationships) that enable them to thrive to their maximum potential. My clients are currently located throughout the country, and my hope is to be able to say all over the world in a year or two.
How would you define your professional mission?
My personal and professional mission is to improve the human condition. Given the skills, knowledge and natural talents I possess, I have decided that the way in which I can have the greatest impact in support of this goal is to work with individuals and teams in a corporate context.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
The list is very long, but a few of the most important ones are: 1. Care. You have to really, truly, without hesitation care about people, about humanity, about positioning people to thrive. 2. Curiosity. You need to be insatiably curious and be good at asking questions in a thoughtful, non-judgment manner. 3. Distinguishing Facts from Assumptions & Challenging Assumptions. You absolutely have to be willing to challenge your own assumptions and biases, or there is no way you can be authentic and truly helpful to someone else. 4. Emotional Agility. You need to be good at regulating your own emotions and separating your negative emotional reactions to something or someone and recognize you have a choice of how you behave in response to those emotions.
What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
The day my former company went from being a practice within another company to being our very own, independently run firm. Another one is definitely the day I made the decision to leave my previous firm and embark on a major, daring career change.
What are some career challenges on your radar?
I am eager to diversify my client base, with a particular interest in working with women in industries that are disproportionately male, such as construction, engineering, areas of technology, among others. I am also eager to increase the number and types of speaking engagements I have each year, with a particular goal to get some in other countries.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
The first, and arguably most passionate piece of advice I give to people just getting started on a career path: Don't feel it needs to follow a linear path. Let go of this misconception. Let your path be circuitous, with unexpected mid-course changes in your interests, decisions and the like.
I started graduate school with plans to become a clinical social worker and within weeks of starting the program, I realized that I am in no way suited for that type of job. Fortunately for me, I was in a graduate program that I had 2 tracks, with the other being a policy and planning track, which was perfect for me. From there, I figured I would go work for a think-tank type of organization and do some type of policy work. I networked a lot while looking for jobs and ended up being referred to a man who was working in a financial advisory firm. I know absolutely nothing about finance and could not for the life of me figure out why my contact was referring me to a 'finance guy'. I decided to trust the referral and met with the guy, and it turned out he wasn't a finance guy at all. He was running a small consulting practice within a larger firm and his work was EXACTLY aligned with my degree, my passion and my natural talents. That circuitous, unlikely path led me to an incredible career and I want others to feel free to do the same.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There is just nothing like watching people's sense of identity, confidence and pride, and performance grow as a result of their hard work to adopt thought patterns that serve them well and, equally important, let go of thought patterns that really don't serve them well. I feel immense pride when I observe the differences that I am helping to make in people's lives.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?
Consistent with my mission, I hope to increase the number of people who possess thought patterns that not only enable them to thrive to their maximum potential, but also position them to help others do the same.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
Simply stated, I joined the Ellevate Network, and remain a proud member for 2 main reasons: 1) I spent a good portion of my early career with big-time 'imposter syndrome.' I was absolutely certain that my boss and colleagues would realize that I actually wasn't that smart or capable. As much as I hate to admit it, there were even times when I felt like something was wrong with them that they didn't see the cloak I was wearing. Then, thanks to a load of my own self-reflection and hard work, coupled with an incredible network of friends (mostly women) and mentors, I was able to let go of the horrible imposter threat. Even more, I realized that I actually had a lot of natural and learned talents, and my job was to contribute them to my maximum potential. I am very proud of who I am today and am very committed to mentoring and helping guide other women who are in any way doubting their talents, their choices or simply need some positive guidance and reinforcement. 2) Being a sole practitioner is lonely at times. I love it to no end, but I am craving a connection with other women, to include those in similar fields as well as those in dramatically different positions and industries, and with different areas of expertise. I want to feel connected to something much larger than myself, and the Ellevate Network helps meet this need.