Women Of The C-Suite: “Just get started” With Jen Tye, COO at Glow
Just get started. In today’s increasingly competitive world, one of the things we emphasize at Glow is to “pick a lane and start running.” Most of the time, you don’t have the luxury of perfect information, and I’ve seen people fall into “analysis paralysis.” Those of us who are Type-A personalities can fall into the trap of wanting to make 100% sure that the decision we’ve made is the right one, but the danger is that, by the time we’ve made that decision, someone else will have beaten us to the punch.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Tye. Jennifer is Chief Operating Officer at Glow, Inc., a data-driven women’s health and fertility company, making up the largest mobile community for women’s health in the world. In addition to its platform of 4 apps with nearly 15 million users, Glow also offers the Glow Fertility Program for those who need assistance to take the next step on the path to starting a family, by providing resources that help with comprehensive and affordable fertility care. This includes support from Glow Fertility Coaches, savings, and financing options for fertility treatment and medication.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in healthcare (even going so far as to take the MCATs in college!), so after a stint on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs, I spent over a decade working for biotech and healthcare companies, with eight of those years at Genentech. Glow is right in the intersection of healthcare and technology, so when I had the opportunity to join the Company when it started, I was excited to take on the challenge.
Personally, as a woman who had children at an “advanced maternal age” (yes, that is the medical term), the mission of empowering people with information about their reproductive health was also something that I knew I had to be a part of.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine broke the news to me that she was pregnant and that she had used the Glow app. Fortunately, I’ve had this happen with many of my friends, but this particular friend is a doctor (not an OB/GYN or fertility specialist) and sheepishly admitted to me that Glow had taught her things she did not know about targeting her fertile window! If highly educated medical professionals don’t know these details, how can we expect women everywhere to know everything they need to know about their fertility?
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had a meeting with some people from a well-known company in Silicon Valley and excitedly started telling them about Glow and demoing the Glow app to them. As I was breezing through our app features for tracking menstrual flow, sexual position and cervical mucus, I realized midway through that my audience was looking very uncomfortable. I joked that many conversations at Glow’s office might otherwise be considered NSFW. I suppose there was a lesson learned here in knowing your audience. But really, I do hope fertility topics can one day be less squirm-inducing than that meeting was!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Today, in this current political and social environment, I’m extra proud of being part of a company that is empowering people everywhere to make the right decisions for themselves about their reproductive health. Ninety-two percent of our US team is female, and so while we’re in the midst of Silicon Valley startup life, we don’t fit the stereotype.
Glow also stands out in some other pretty remarkable ways. For example, all of the men in our company understand as much as the women about fertility, pregnancy and periods! They realize and understand that these are not just “female issues.”
Success will be when both men and women are comfortable talking about these topics openly. And Glow is working hard to create information that is accessible, helpful and useful for both men and women, so hopefully, one day, this will be achieved.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We recently launched a new, first of its kind program called the Glow Fertility Program. This program helps everyone on their specific path to start a family through individualized fertility coaching, treatment and medication discounts and/or financial assistance for things like egg freezing or IVF.
Everyone should be able to decide if and when they want to start a family, independent of their biological clocks, career paths, relationship status or financial situation. And considering that 1 in 8 people struggle with infertility, there are a lot of people out there that need help, but don’t know how or where to get it, or understand what the process is like. This is where our program assists people.
There is still so much for us to do in terms of growing the program, but at times, I have to stop and remind myself how much we’ve already accomplished. In 18 months, we launched the program and it’s grown to more than 100 clinic locations with nationwide coverage!
And what is most rewarding is hearing from the patients who’ve had successful egg freezes, or pregnancies from IVF that they went through in the Glow Fertility Program. These are everyday reminders of how much the program helps people who are trying to start or build their families.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice to female leaders would essentially be the same as the advice I’d give to male leaders. However, that said, I do have some personal experience to share as a female and a person of color.
As a female of Asian descent who’s worked on Wall Street and in the pharmaceutical industry, I’ve had many moments throughout my career when I’ve been the only woman and/or the only Asian American in the room. And I’ve struggled through my own moments of striking the right balance of being assertive and voicing my opinions. Through those experiences, I’m more attuned to when those moments come up on my team and — as a leader — can mitigate those situations, thus ensuring that more voices — not just the loudest ones — are heard. Female leaders can draw from their own experiences and cultivate an environment where teams really can thrive and excel.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Communication, communication, communication! Actually, this advice applies to helping teams thrive as well as managing a team of any size. When I think about the speed bumps that we’ve encountered, the ones that we could have avoided inevitably come down to communication, or the lack thereof. A high-functioning team is great at communication in all directions and in leveraging the various channels we have to communicate with (as opposed to being victim to those channels). And yes, we use them all — email, calls, in-person meetings and Slack.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As a mother of two elementary school-aged children and a partner to a full-time working spouse, it really does take a village, and I’m grateful to everyone included in that village — babysitters, parents, siblings and friends — that I lean on every day. Most weeks, I feel like we’re scotch-taping schedules and logistics together (my next goal is to use duct tape). One such moment was when I was out of town for meetings and my spouse had to catch an early morning flight — we only made it work by being able to drop off our children at 6:30am with dear friends of ours, who fed and drove our children and theirs to school. That situation actually felt like a huge accomplishment, but even more importantly, it reminded us of how fortunate we are to have such a village around us.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m reminded everyday that what we do at Glow is helping our users and our patients take charge of their reproductive health. With something as precious and important as creating one’s future family, there is a sense of responsibility to help make it happen for as many people as possible, on their terms. That feels like a lot of goodness right there!
But in addition to that, I’ve been fortunate to have had some pretty amazing professional experiences, and I want to do the most with that and pay it forward to the next generation of leaders. I’ve also taken on roles in the nonprofit world — most recently, with an organization called Miraclefeet, — which is dedicated to eradicating untreated clubfoot in the world.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Just get started. In today’s increasingly competitive world, one of the things we emphasize at Glow is to “pick a lane and start running.” Most of the time, you don’t have the luxury of perfect information, and I’ve seen people fall into “analysis paralysis.” Those of us who are Type-A personalities can fall into the trap of wanting to make 100% sure that the decision we’ve made is the right one, but the danger is that, by the time we’ve made that decision, someone else will have beaten us to the punch.
2) Embrace change AND have a backup plan. This lesson is relevant not just for startup life but for life in general. As much as we might plan — and we do need to plan product launches, new partnerships, and personal life goals — we need to be prepared for the fact that things often don’t go according to plan. If it’s important enough, then if something doesn’t go according to plan, you and your team are better off having a backup plan to fall to.
3) Expect excellence: Setting a low bar for your team doesn’t inspire excellence. Enough said!
4) Be transparent: Employees appreciate and respect leaders who are honest. Don’t you appreciate the same?
5) And finally — Exercise: Life, work, leadership — it’s all stressful. The best way to manage that stress is to nurture yourself by getting regular exercise in. I didn’t always look at exercise this way, but I learned it the hard way after two challenging summers of navigating my child’s medical issues while still working full-time at Glow. Regular physical exercise was the only way I was able to stay sane, and since then, I’ve prioritized getting some exercise most days of the week. Even if it’s a 7-minute workout, that exercise benefits your mental as well as physical health.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Fortunately, this movement is already underway, but the push for menstrual equity is one that will bring good to 50% of the world’s population! In some developing countries, it is still common for girls to miss over 40 days of school each year due to lack of menstrual hygiene products. In most of the US, menstrual hygiene products are still taxed, yet Viagra is not. At Glow, we feel strongly about moving towards menstrual equity and have supported programs in the past such as HURU International and are fans of advocates such as Jennifer Weiss-Wolf.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One of the smartest minds of her generation yet regularly thwarted due to her gender, she’s achieved so much and arguably has done more to advance equal treatment of women than anyone else in recent history. Oh, and anyone who can do 20 pushups at the age of 80 is a badass in my book. :)