Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
My name is Emilie Giustozzi. I work with a variety of clients, focusing on providing coaching and consulting services for people who want to change how they use their skills to make a bigger civic and social impact. Sometimes this looks like providing data-informed, people driven strategies to political campaigns. Other times, it can be one-on-one coaching with professionals who are working to refocus their careers or tackle their passion project. I love being able to use my own varied areas of expertise to help others change our world for the better.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I joined Ellevate only a few months ago. I had recently moved from Oklahoma to North Carolina, and I knew that I needed to find community with other women driven by their passion for better lives and a better world. When a friend of mine introduced me to Ellevate's Charlotte chapter, I knew I had found what I was looking for.
How would you define your professional mission?
My professional mission is to inspire and help people to use their skills and talents to build strong, resilient communities. I believe that much of the divisiveness we experience in our politics and media comes from the brittleness of disconnection. Being in community with those around us--not just living in the same place, but really seeing, hearing, and valuing our neighbors--isn't easy. There are no simple answers, no killer app that will change this. When I work with clients, I build in community-thinking and connection, no matter what we are working on together.
What are some career challenges on your radar?
I left a full-time salaried job a year and a half ago to strike out as a consultant. My biggest challenges are all still rooted in shifting my thinking from working-for-someone-else to working-for-myself. Investing in myself as a business asset is a really weird shift, and I'm still letting go of knowing exactly how much will be in a regular paycheck after having one for over a decade. The biggest external challenge I am tackling is the cyclical nature of some of my work. How do I balance clients that can support me during quieter times yet still leave room to ramp up when the busy season hits.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
My first professional work in the political arena was the best and the worst experience ever. Our team poured our heart and soul into that campaign, and we achieved more than anyone thought we could given the numbers and previous elections. Despite all that, come election night, we still didn't get the votes to win. I was gutted. My brain had known losing was a real possibility, but apparently it never let my heart know. I was supposed to announce the results and then introduce the candidate. But I was speechless. Literally, I was too overwhelmed to speak. Another staffer had to take over the emcee duties while reality caught up to me.
Despite the pain of that loss for all of us, I am so proud of the work we did. People who volunteered and staffed the campaign have continued to work hard to make their community a better place. Many were instrumental in efforts that led to several wonderful candidates winning this past November in Oklahoma, one of whom was even a staff member on that "failed" campaign. My first candidate has continued to be a strong voice for the community and is helping others use their skills to make their state better. And I was able to keep going. I've worked on winning campaigns since then, but I'm proudest of the fact that I didn't just quit after that loss.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
There hasn't really been a straight line in my career path. I went to college thinking I'd become a math professor. I left undergrad with degrees in English writing and linguistics. I spent a couple years struggling to figure out what I wanted to study next, until I finally decided to just work for a while. I was able to start as an entry-level web application developer at my alma mater, and then spent over a decade in a college IT department, going on to be a database administrator, knowledge manager, team lead, and then Director of IT Operations. During this time, I went back to school and earned a MS in Knowledge Management. I was also able to become a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and a graduate of the CTI Co-Active Leadership program. In addition to my "day job," I took on coaching clients, working with a wide range of personal goals.
I might still be sitting at my university desk, but the effects of on-going state budget cutbacks were having profound consequences on our school and the state agencies we also worked with. After realizing that several problems I had been tasked with addressing had root causes coming from the floor of the state legislature, I began to take time off each month to advocate at the capitol for education funding in Oklahoma. It only took seven months for that to escalate into leaving the university to work with political candidates running to change the problems I had been running up against day in and day out.
My family had an unexpected opportunity to move to Charlotte, and it was too good to pass up. I'm currently in the process of shifting my work to the Carolinas. In addition to working with political candidates, I am excited to refocus my coaching to work with clients who are ready to put their expertise to use to build a stronger civil society. I am inspired every day by the way people are stepping up to the challenges we face, and I'm honored to work with them make the changes we need.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
Okay, this question brought up a crazy image. When I worked in my old career, I was a salaried administrator. The job never quite fit right--like I bought an outfit off the rack. There was always something that didn't quite match my measurements. They colors were never quite what I'd pick. But I also knew that it was "normal" and "acceptable" whenever people saw me in it. Now that I'm building my own consulting/coaching practice, I feel like I'm sewing my own clothes. They fit me like no one else, but I'm always a little worried that I'm going to have to explain or defend what is going on to other people. Even though that's a vulnerable feeling, it fits me well. I've always been a bit eccentric.
Who are your role models?
Dorothy Zbornak, the Golden Girls Mary Oliver, poet Bob Ross, painter Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
What would you say your personal superpower is?
To see the unseen in those around me.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
As I was leaving for college, my dad gave me the strangest advice: "Loosen up or you won't learn anything." He really knows me all too well. I have a tendency to take the world very seriously, and I can let my high standards and expectations from seeing what I really need to see. It's extremely important to want things to be better, but when we get caught up in how things "should" be, we miss what new things are happening that we had never thought to expect.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
Throw out the phrase "have it all." No one has it all. No one. There is only so much time each day, and only so many resources in the world. We need to focus on *having enough*. Enough time with our family. Enough money to be secure. Enough time to recharge. Enough impact at work. Enough connection to our friends. Enough is always changing depending on the day. What might seem like failure one day is a home run the next.
Shifting this thinking has really helped me as well as my spouse to ask for help when we need it. Trying to have-it-all can force us into constant crisis thinking. Since we never have all of everything, how do we begin to find a place to ask for help? But when we stop to think, what do I not have enough of *right now* to make *this one thing* happen, it's a lot easier to reach out and get support.
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