BABE #76: LINDSAY ENGLAND,
Director of Operations @ Ultimate Medical Academy
Lindsay is a hustlin' babe with a heart of gold. We met back in high school at a couple of concerts when she lived my unrealized dream of playing in a local band (and as the only woman, might I add.) She has always been super supportive and encouraging of my various projects and endeavors, too, so being able to feature her for the incredible work she does today with Ultimate Medical Academy is pretty dang cool. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Linds! Keep being a babe.
Hometown: Bradenton, FL
Current city: Tampa, FL
Alma mater: University of South Florida
Degree: M.S. in Biological Oceanography
Very first job: Cashier at Dairy Queen (I was too young to operate the blizzard machines and the first day I snuck in to try it, I flipped the blizzard upside down for the customer and it dumped all over the floor…)
Hustle: Director of Operations @ Ultimate Medical Academy
Babe you admire and why?
There are currently two that I’d like to reference. First is Sylvia Earle, the famous oceanographer who has paved the way for awareness on protecting and preserving our ocean systems. Second is Diana Natalicio, President of the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a thought leader who has been transformative in helping traditionally underserved and low-income students have opportunities in higher education.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Is it too predictable to say Pinterest? I’m currently in the process of buying my first home, and I swear if my boyfriend could block Pinterest from all my electronic devices, he would. I also really enjoy Ted Talks, which help to fuel my 1-hour work commutes in the morning.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Tacos, sushi, or a massive plate of macaroni and cheese from Panera Bread.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Melissa McCarthy, because I truly believe I would sit there and do nothing but laugh, the whole cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because that’s my favorite show, and Sylvia Earle, because she is a complete badass who has set serious records in marine science and has seen depths of the ocean that most never will.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
I have an innate love for science, and while I’m incredibly passionate about oceanography, I’m equally as passionate about primates. I could sit and watch gorillas for hours, and I can’t get my hands on enough research to satisfy my curiosity about them.
I really enjoy playing CoD with my boyfriend, and we sometimes have date nights that involve beer, take-out and video games (until I inevitably fall asleep on the couch.)
Queso or guac?
If the queso is spicy, then I choose guac. If the guac is from Subway, then I choose queso.
Tell us about your hustle:
I’m the Director of Operations within the Career Services Department at Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA,) an online allied health school that specializes in serving non-traditional and underserved student demographics in obtaining higher education. The Career Services Department is responsible for supporting graduates in obtaining gainful employment in their field of study. I oversee a team of ~45 employees, over a department of 400 total employees. My team has quite a few different branches: Operations, Strategy, Training and Graduate Support.
What does your typical workday look like?
On average, my day lasts 9-10 hours. It begins before I’m actually in the office, with catching up on emails and planning for the day (while trying to do my hair and make-up.) At the office, daily activities include meetings, brainstorm/strategy sessions, development for my employees, providing analysis/direction in a consultative approach for our partner teams, and helping to mitigate risk internally or externally. Our department is very high-energy and we pride ourselves on our positive culture, so we also integrate what we call “mental flosses” to help break up the sometimes very long and stressful days that we have. These are typically not related to work or production, and are meant to reset your brain and put a smile on your face. (For example: My team had a contest to see who can make the best paper plane that can fly the furthest today!) We also ensure that we incorporate employee and graduate recognition throughout the day with rewards, chanting/cheering, or something even as simple as high-fives.
What was the application and interview process like for your current role?
Most people don’t believe me when I say I found this job on Craigslist. The application and interview process was pretty typical to other companies - I interviewed with a recruiter, then with the VP of our department. Since I started with an entry-level position initially, it was a short interview with an immediate job offer. I was thrilled!
What was the process of working your way up in the company like?
My role has been unique because it didn’t exist prior to me being promoted into it. As I continued to be successful within the company and industry, I started to realize that I was really passionate about the analytics, strategy and process aspects of it. I wasn't originally involved with these processes at the associate level, so when I obtained my first job in management, I made sure to integrate it. Between my skill set and ability to develop employees and future leaders, I was recognized by Senior Leadership and they created my Operations role. Candidly, when I first started at UMA I did not think I would grow into the role I had today. The Career Service Advisor job is difficult, and I wasn’t sure if it was the right career path for me. After 6 months of living our mission statement, I realized that I was committed to growing with the company and that’s exactly what I've done.
What advice would you give to other babes looking to work their way up in a company?
Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t buy into the narrative of what your story and success should look like. I’m one of the youngest people in my department, and the youngest person on our leadership team, and there have been countless times throughout my tenure that I've been reminded of that. I worked through it, and have earned the respect and trust of my peers, many who are 10-15+ years my senior.
How do you manage to stay on top of deadlines and handle delegating tasks as a director?
Time management and organization were things I struggled (and sometimes still struggle) with when I was promoted, and no amount of experience could have prepared me for the workload that I received. I manage heavily via Outlook calendar and to-do lists, and make sure to work on similar tasks that can be done at the same time. The most impactful behavior that I recently learned was planning my next week each Friday, which includes scheduling open blocks of my day with tasks/items that I need to focus on so that time slot doesn’t get filled with a meeting.
What has your training process been like?
It has been very much ‘learn as you go,’ which I have appreciated. I report to the Senior VP of our department, and the autonomy that she has given me to pave my own way - but also learn from my own mistakes - has contributed to a lot of my success. Rather than 'training,' she has provided professional development along the way, which I value even more. Learning things like how to ask questions, how to anticipate executive team members' questions during presentations, and how to analyze data properly have been invaluable to my growth as a senior leader.
How would you say being a woman has affected your career/work/professional experience?
I’m very fortunate to work in a company that is innovative and has a high staff of successful women in leadership roles. I wouldn’t say that being a woman has affected my experience as much as my age has. Being 25-years-old and responsible for managing such a large staff with so much responsibility is sometimes a really hard pill for older generations to swallow. I’ve run into countless scenarios with managers and advisors who report to me and don’t necessarily feel like I have the ‘life’ experience to hold them accountable, or more importantly, contribute to their professional growth. That’s a challenging thing to overcome, but I've worked hard to build their trust, stay consistent in my expectations of them, but also make sure they understand that their development is my top priority. Some of my most difficult employees are now some of my best, and who I have the healthiest working relationships with. It takes time, and open communication from all parties involved.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
Everyone looks to me for the answers, as I’m a centralized (and neutral) resource for all of the other departments and leaders within my department. That’s a high-demand position to be in, and it’s challenging to manage expectations, communication and the needs of so many others, while also being able to do your day job. I’m privileged to be that resource, but it contributes to my time management and prioritization challenges.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Going from being a peer to a supervisor and even managing some of my closest friends. This is a challenge that any manager who was promoted internally will face and it’s not the easiest to overcome. Candidly, I've had to sever ties with friendships that could not sustain that change and the level of accountability and respect that comes with it. The best way to overcome it is having a candid and transparent conversation with whomever is involved. I think it’s important to establish the necessary boundaries, and that you are able to keep the friendship (or relationship) separate from the working relationship. I’ve been successful with it, and it’s really great to be a cheerleader and contribute to some of my best friends professional success!
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
My favorite is the people and the amount of time I get to spend developing them and seeing them grow. I’m also a huge nerd and love being able to poke holes in processes, then come up with creative solutions to fix them. My least favorite is having to have tough conversations with employees for uncomfortable situations such as dress code (literally the WORST!) and professionalism. I combat the awkward conversation but always making sure they walk away from it feeling like they have grown professionally.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your current role?
My ability to think strategically, and to see the "big picture." I can look at a process, department and/or report holistically and understand exactly where the pressure/change needs to be applied in order to achieve the desired impact.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
My presentation skills. I present 3-4 times a week, so you would think that I have this skill mastered. I'm very matter-of-fact, and it comes out in my presentation style. While this is appropriate to some audiences, I have received feedback that I need to be more ‘animated’ (which I really suck at!) so that’s an area I’m working to hone in on.
What traits do you think are important to have in management roles?
I am such a strong believer in influential leadership styles, and leading by example. I attribute some of my success as a leader to the fact that my team knows I will never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do alongside them. Aside from that, you have to be trustworthy, transparent and possess good communication skills when in a management role. Those are the hardest traits to coach, but have lead to some of the most successful leaders.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
Geez… I’ve had quite a few. My team always picks on me for how fast I walk, and how I “email and walk” throughout the department. About two years ago I was doing just that, turned a corner and expected a door that is always open to be open... and of course it wasn’t. I ended up giving myself a bloody nose in front of about 25 people. Another example was when I was first promoted to a senior manager. One of our board members was in the elevator with me, and I ended up asking them what department they worked for (not realizing that they were one of the people that signed my paycheck!) I still get reminded of that on a monthly basis.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I’m very passionate about Save the Children, and have been involved with the organization for almost 2 years. I’ve also been involved with Metropolitan Ministries, which is a local charity that helps to serve a demographic similar to the students that UMA serves.
What motivates and inspires you?
It’d be unfair for me to say that money doesn’t motivate me. Both of my parents had to work hard for everything that they gave to us, while sometimes working multiple jobs and going to school, so having a financially sound life is important to me. Aside from monetary incentive, I really enjoy seeing people grow within my company. If my employees are able to be promoted or achieve the professional success they were hoping to achieve, that motivates me to work even harder for them.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I’m a big reader, and there’s nothing I look forward to more than coming home and shoving my nose into a book. I’m also a huge HGTV and SVU junkie (along with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Golden Girls and Seinfeld), so after a really long day I come home, love on my boyfriend and dogs, then flop on the couch with a big glass of wine and turn one of those on.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
I’ve always wanted to be a Biological Oceanographer, and still aspire to be able to volunteer for research projects in the future.
What does success look like to you?
If I can leave work every day knowing that I impacted someone, solved a problem or contributed to a positive impact, then that was a successful day to me. If I can continue to do that daily, while still having time to go home and enjoy doing what I love most, then that is a successful life to me.
What’s next for you?
I see myself continuing to grow within my current team at UMA. While my educational path was a little different than the industry I’m currently in, I’m very passionate about what I do and still feel like I have a lot of areas that I have left to impact. I have some fantastic employees underneath me and my goal is to have the opportunity to see them grow, and contribute to that growth.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Stay curious, think big, and speak up. Learn to laugh at yourself, look for the best in others, and never settle.