Lesley Grossblatt is COO & VP Product for theBoardlist, a Public Benefit Corporation working to increase corporate board performance through greater gender diversity. In this role, Lesley oversees development of theBoardlist's board candidate discovery and recommendation platform, as well as overall direction of theBoardlist's growth strategy and business model.
Lesley has led product, innovation and growth efforts at Netflix, Intuit, AltSchool and CreativeLive; she also holds multiple patents for software products. Lesley was recently named to Fast Company's 2017 Most Creative People in Business List and has been a featured speaker at Fast Company's Innovation Festival, the inaugural Women in Product conference, The Girls Lounge and Intuit's Create the Offering and Design for Delight conferences.
Lesley has served as a non-profit board member and as an advisor to several technology startups in the real estate technology and e-commerce spaces. Lesley earned her BA at the University of Chicago and JD at the University of California-Hastings College of the Law.
How did you get to where you are today?
My career path has been full of unexpected twists and turns that, looking back, all seem to make sense only in hindsight. After college, I went straight to law school — but I never enjoyed law and only spent a year working as a lawyer before I realized that I really wasn't fulfilled with the litigation work I was doing. I took a couple of detours, working in sales and marketing for a legal publishing company and then as a political consultant.
Around this time, the internet boom of the late 90's was in full bloom, and I became fascinated by technology — I had no experience in technology and had been an English major, but I was fascinated by the promise of connecting millions, if not billions, of people around the world to each other. I happened to meet a guy named David Park who had just graduated from Harvard Law School who had moved out with a couple of Harvard Business School friends to start what you'd recognize today as a very early prototype of an online social network. David and I became fast friends, and I asked him if I could come work for his startup. I told him I wasn't sure what I could do for the company, but that I was pretty smart and worked really hard. Amazingly, and maybe because he recognized the transferable skills I brought from being a lawyer and political consultant, he said yes. I started out in the marketing team and about 2 weeks into the job, David asked me if I wanted to be the product manager. I said, "Sure . . . what's that?" He said he had no idea, but that our investors told us we needed one! That was the start of my career in product, which is now going on 18 years.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
The toughest obstacle I've faced is my own self-doubt and impostor syndrome. I have often been my own worst enemy by not believing in myself. It has taken me years to learn how to trust my own experiences and instincts, and to stick up for myself. A lot of that has come from having lots of years under my belt to see repeating patterns so that I can call things out for what they are when I see them happening. Mentoring folks coming up behind me has also helped because I can see how they thrive and succeed with the guidance and encouragement I give them — their success is my success.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
The key to staying focused and motivated is to be clear with yourself about what your priorities are, and to act accordingly. If your priority is being mission driven, but you're in a soul-crushing job for the money (or vice versa), then you're not going to last long. Being honest with yourself is critical, as is stripping away those things that aren't as important. Similar to financial investing, I constantly assess how I spend my time and whether I'm investing my time against my personal priorities correctly, and I re-balance constantly.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Nora Denzel once told me that the success police are not going to come knocking down your door to give you a promotion. You have to be your own advocate and cheerleader because everyone else is caught up in thinking about their own stuff and not worrying about whether it's time for you to be recognized.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
Be honest with yourself. Assess what your personal priorities in life are and make sure those are aligned with whatever your new venture is. Be strategic about how you spend every minute of every day — you're not going to succeed if you run yourself into the ground (contrary to Silicon Valley lore). Focus your efforts on what will deliver the most bang for the buck toward your goals. Like the wise person on the bumper sticker once said, "Don't sweat the small stuff."
How do we get more women leaders?
I am a big proponent of the Rooney Rule to change macro outcomes by making 1 simple behavioral change. In this case, the behavioral change is to ensure at least 1 woman is interviewed for every job opening from board rooms, to c-suites, to managers, to staffers. We need to stop accepting the excuse that there aren't any qualified women — there are plenty, and if you can't find them, you're not trying hard enough.