Exploring the Intersection of Leadership, Mentorship, and Personal Growth: A Conversation with Elizabeth Spears

Elizabeth Spears Plainsight

by | Feb 14, 2023

Elizabeth Spears Plainsight

Welcome to the third of my four-part interview with Elizabeth Spears. During our conversation, she graciously shared many aspects of her personal and professional life with our team. This conversation was as much for our readers as it was for my personal growth as a new business owner.

JH: What advice do you have for people jumping into entrepreneurship or jumping in as owners of a new business – in terms of being able to take a break? And say, “okay, I’m done for right now.” Personally, I’m trying to give myself an hour a day, whether it’s lifting in the garage or a workout with my sister or reading.

EB: One of the things that has made the most impact in my life was discovering meditation early in my 20s. It really helps me slow down. So, I do something similar to what you’re talking about. I dedicate time, not a time of time, but some time in the morning and evening to be able to just take that 20 minutes and slow down. And I really prioritize sleep and I really prioritize exercise like you mentioned. I have a block on my calendar for exercise too.

JH: And now, let’s really jump into today’s edition.

ES: Sleep and exercise are so important. When I started as a neuroscience major, I volunteered in a hospital and learned that. I learned that early. And then that’s when I kind of stumbled upon computers. I joined organizations, boards, and I’ve somewhat recently moved to Washington and so I’m working on kind of growing my presence in the industry and in the community. I’ve gotten involved with the University of Washington Entrepreneur program. And so I’m available as a mentor and, judge their entrepreneur competitions and things like that. Judging hackathons, sometimes they’re female-focused. Sometimes they’re not startup pitch competitions. I really like the opportunities where I can make myself directly available for input and advice.

JH: Which is so wonderful that you’re doing that. So you moved to Washington? Is it different than the place you used to live, how different?

ES: I moved from LA, so yes.

JH: So all – yes.

ES: I moved from LA, so yes very different.I went to UCLA and then lived in LA for about 15 years and then a few years ago moved to the Seattle area. I grew up in California, so I’m still just used to it here.

JH: I’m sure there’s a lot of weather there compared to LA.

ES: The fact that it’s not always sunny is an adjustment for me, but I’m working on that one, you know. I’m really enjoying the community, especially since I’ve seen a really active female community in Seattle. I’m part of an organization called Wonder Women and it’s just sort of a no-nonsense organization to help bring up other women. So. getting women on boards – helping to provide those opportunities to our community. That type of outreach is also part of the community around the University of Washington’s work for entrepreneurs, but there is really a concerted effort there for women in STEM. And it’s very cool to see and to start to be more and more a part of.

JH: Oh, I’m sure because you’re there now you’re going to see the growth and for you to be a mentor to so many people at this point. To share your experiences with them and, you know, ask those tough questions and help them on their career path. It’s something that I think is newer in terms of kids. I know I didn’t have that and I went to the University of Maryland. My husband went there to Maryland too. He didn’t have that, but when he was at Georgetown in grad school he had that, just a couple of years ago. For his MBA program, there were constantly people that he could go and talk to that went to classes. They shared their experiences with them, which is definitely something that I think has changed.

ES: ES: When you’re in search of a mentor, it’s important to both find someone with expertise in the area and recognize what you can bring to the conversation. That mutual exchange of insight and ideas can be so powerful.

JH: Stakeholder Buy-In. So how do you know you personally foster a collaborative, trusting climate in the workplace? And what you do might not work for somebody else, but what is your blueprint for success in terms of what has worked for you?

ES: That piece you just said of what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I would say this is a constantly evolving practice of mine. How do I better achieve this goal of, you know, an inclusive workplace that’s really productive and collaborative? We’ve talked about mentors a lot, and one of the things that I think I really pay attention to is how others are successful at doing a thing. This, in particular, is one of the places where I had to really learn my own way.

What I have seen is that you have to start with a foundation of respect and an expectation of collaboration, so as a team you can accomplish goals together. And when that kind of foundation isn’t being upheld, that’s something that we commit to resolving.

First, you create a culture of high professional standards. We’re a team in accomplishing the goals together, and we’re a team in accomplishing those goals in a collaborative way together. And then beyond that, I think it’s really important to be aware of and understand how different people communicate. People communicate differently and having the patience and tolerance to hear the content of the idea, regardless of how it’s delivered, can really make the difference in elevating someone to have a big impact on the team and be one of the leaders in contributing to solutions. And I would say that’s true in tech, especially where we’re working with so many types of people, and communication styles can range from the highly creative to the highly technical.. That’s one of the keys, treating everyone as individuals and finding out how they work best, and helping them thrive. And making sure that’s a conversation that we have as a team. How can we foster that?

JH: Which is absolutely fantastic advice to give. I talk a lot about my personal life because you know, I’m a mom. I have two kids. But, the way I talk to one child is very different than the way I talk to the other.

Join us next week for the conclusion of my interview with Elizabeth where she shares the best piece of advice she’s ever received, the role of technology, and the importance of transparency within ESG. 

Parts 1 & 2 of our Conversation

A Human-Centric Approach to AI – A Conversation with Elizabeth Spears

Commercial Kitchens & STEM Education: Part 2 of E+E Leader’s Conversation with Elizabeth Spears

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