I’ve been digging through some of the archives recently. In summer of 2016 I was interviewed for a women’s interest blog — the week before I was meant to give birth to London. Unfortunately the interview was never published but looking back on it, some of the things I said felt too relevant and too good not to share. 💖
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Kaitlin Maud. I’m a solopreneur currently based in Los Angeles. When not working, I am usually found at the gym, consuming some sort of media, or traveling. As of June I’ll be taking on my biggest project yet: a baby girl!
What do you do?
I am a Strategy consultant and coach. I work with primarily with lifestyle brands and creative professionals to help them solve complex problems. Think Olivia Pope, but my process involves a lot more research, trendspotting, and brainstorming and lot less murder. My areas of expertise are wellness, arts & music industry, digital, & youth culture, so the majority of my projects and clients fall into those buckets. I also get hired for workshop facilitation and giving talks at companies and conferences, both of which I really enjoy. (I’m still trying to figure out how to explain all of this to my parents!) Prior to starting my own business I worked as a Brand Planner in the advertising industry.
Why did you go into Advertising?
I went to art school for college. At that time I felt extremely insecure about my future as a working artist, so I pursued coursework and ultimately a career that I hoped would be creatively stimulating but also economically viable… If I could go back and yell at my 20 year old self I would! I would never tell someone now to choose money over passion. But in the end it all worked out. I took quite a liking to the communications field, and other aspects of the “corporate world” that I would have otherwise never been exposed to. I realized business can (and should be) creative and that the artistic process translates very well to business processes.
Who are some women that inspire you in your life and work?
I make it a point to surround myself with women that inspire me in life and work. And I would encourage everyone else to do the same! There are so many great female role models out there, but when those role models are people you know personally, the admiration is more like inspiration. It becomes actionable. Some of the great ladies in my life who keep me motivated are:
Melissa Dowler — Melissa used to be my boss at an ad agency, but she left the industry to start her own film production company. She has directed a few documentaries now in addition to commercial videos and she is doing a lot of great advocacy work for women in the film industry in general. She’s a great mentor who to me embodies authenticity and following your bliss.
Madeline Timm — Maddie is my fitness coach, but is also a huge inspiration to me as a working soon-to-be mom. She has been a great support and motivator throughout my pregnancy and seeing how much she has grown personally and professionally after the birth of her son has inspired me. In addition to coaching she also does fitness modeling and is a competitor in the CrossFit Games.
Nancy Baym — Nancy was kind enough to meet with me for coffee when I was in a period of transition living in Boston and working at an ad agency. I was considering changing directions with my career to pursue research in a more academic setting and she gave me great advice. She and I have kept in touch through social media and I keep a close eye on her work. Nancy studies internet and entertainment — two fields that I also do a lot of work in. And she’s a kickass mom!
Christen DeLaney — Christen is a friend from Boston who moved out to LA around the same time as me. Also like me, she came out with the intention of growing her own business and she has been knocking it out of the park. Her jewelry line CAM can be found in Nordstrom and Free People. She’s also super dedicated to her spiritual and fitness practices and I admire how she weaves it into her life and work so seamlessly.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about a whole lot! If I had to narrow it down to one particular theme though, I would say I am most passionate about education. I am a voracious learner. I spend the majority of my non-work time reading and talking to new and interesting people. I love to try new things. As for what drives this passion professionally, I love to share knowledge with others as a coach and consultant. I am passionate about helping women in particular learn, grow, and build their confidence. I believe everyone has something to teach and something to learn.
What is the most helpful piece of advice someone has given you?
My mom taught me that you can always change or un-do anything in your life (except having a baby). I’ve made a lot of changes over the years when things haven’t worked for me — I’ve moved across the country, left jobs, ended relationships. But when it came to starting a family, I listened to her and waited until I was absolutely sure it was what I wanted. I still don’t necessarily feel “ready”, but I am confident in myself that I will be able to figure it out. And that confidence only came from many years of adapting to those other big changes.
Why do you do what you do and what do you love most about what you do?
I am continually evolving my “what I do” and finding new ways to bring my work to life in this world. But ultimately my why has remained the same — I want to inspire people. Not inspire them because of who I am as a person or anything, but to serve as vehicle for others to get to the information or people that will give them that “ah-ha moment” as Oprah calls it. I want to surface ideas people may have never heard of or been exposed to. I want to introduce them to new and different cultures or ways of doing things. I love opening people’s minds and getting them to think out of the box. This is a critical part of the creative process and I thrive when I’m in that role.
Are there challenges you have faced in your work specifically because you’re women? If so, how did you overcome them?
Oh, yes. Advertising in particular is still a very male dominated field and it’s pretty common to encounter sexism. It’s not usually personal or intentional, but cultural and systemic (which, in my experience, is actually worse).
One example from a couple of months ago- I had an agency client whose client on the brand side of the project didn’t respect women in business/leadership. Flat out. I am not positive where his bias stemmed from exactly, but rather than tackle the issue head on, the agency opted to bring on an older white male to the team to present the research and strategic recommendations to the client team so that it would be received more favorably. It was uncomfortable and sort of messy for me to not have the opportunity to represent and take ownership of the work. But what do I do, you know? There’s no real handbook for this. What would you do?
I’m facing new challenges now as I enter motherhood. Growing a business and growing a human simultaneously has presented unique scenarios that I haven’t exactly known how to navigate. For example, when is the appropriate time to let clients and prospects know that I’m expecting? I worry sometimes that my baby will be seen as a liability and not an asset, but at the end of the day I have to trust that if a client or project is really a good fit for me, my parental status will be a non-factor. I would be lying though if I said I wasn’t concerned about the future and balancing family / work.
As for how I am overcoming sexism? Well, I’ve started by educating myself and becoming more aware of the dynamics and biases at play especially in business. This has helped me be a better advocate for myself, which I hope will have a ripple effect on the women I coach and the women I work with and mentor. I try to be conscious of the media I consume and share — is it mostly male voices I am amplifying? This has made me a more vocal supporter of and collaborator with female-first publications (like yours!). I’ve also joined communities such as Innovation Women in the hopes of securing more speaking opportunities on gender-balanced panels at conferences. These practices are all small, but they add up and add up exponentially as more women see and adopt them themselves.
Are there any particular people who you would absolutely love to collaborate with on something?
An exercise I’ve done for my business a couple of times now is profiling my ideal (target) customer. What problems is she facing in life/work? How would she find out about a business like mine? What type of services and products does she need from me? The person I always use as my ideal customer is Jenna Lyons — the Creative Director for J. Crew. I would love to collaborate with her on Strategy work for the brand or even work with her as a coach!
What would be your advice to girls and women?
Never settle. In relationships, in jobs, in your health or in any other aspect of your life. “OK” or “good enough” is not good enough. When you stop growing, learning, trying… You might as well be dead.