Interview with Joelle Rusin

Joelle Rusin earned her bachelor’s degree in Business and Technology from the School of Business in 2012. She is currently a lead change manager at Duke Energy. She has also worked at a diverse set of organizations, such as J. P. Morgan, Major League Baseball, McGraw-Hill, SelectMinds, and Avanade.

In this interview, Ms. Rusin talks about how her data analytics projects help solve old business problems, how she gains credibility as a young woman in technology, and how she keeps a sharp focus on her goals when navigating biased interactions.

Transcript:

Wei Zheng: Welcome to the second event of our Women Leaders in Technology Interview Series presented by the Stevens Leadership Portal. My name is Wei Zheng, Associate Professor of Management and Richard R. Roscitt Chair in Leadership. The Stevens Leadership Portal is a new initiative at the School of Business to connect people to leader stories, cutting edge research and learning communities. Through our web-based knowledge portal, we want to provide you with fresh perspectives to tackle the problems at the intersection of leadership, technology, and inclusivity. Our web portal is targeted to go live next month.As part of an effort for this portal, we have organized this live interview featuring six top level women leaders in technology. 

It is my great pleasure now to have a conversation with one of our School of Business alumni, Joelle Rusin. Joelle earned her Bachelor’s in Business and Technology from the School of Business in 2012. She is currently a lead change manager at Duke Energy and has also worked at a very diverse set of organizations such as JP Morgan, Major League Baseball, McGraw Hill, SelectMinds, and Avanade. Welcome Joelle.

Joelle Rusin: Thanks for having me. I’m so excited that Stevens is doing something like this.I wish something like this existed when I was there, so this is so important. Thank you for taking the time.

Wei Zheng: Thank you so much for being willing to spend your time with us.I think a lot of us are looking forward to hearing your experiences and insights. Let’s get started. So Joelle, could you start by telling us what got you interested in technology? 

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, honestly the idea of integrating technology and my college experience really only came to mind from the Stevens Business and Technology major. At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go to college and I always enjoyed my jobs in high school and working and I did really well at my jobs so I thought business was a good place for me to land and technology was a differentiator at the time. In hindsight, I’m extremely glad that I went that route because in today’s technological landscape, there really is no leadership without technology leadership across industries, so integrating my business major with technology has really helped me to help my customers, at least in my consulting experience and in the companies I’m working for, trying not to be so reactive, but rather lead changes through understanding both the business components and technology as well.

Wei Zheng: Interesting. So on that topic since your role currently is change lead change manager, could you tell us what you really do and what kind of projects you work on?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so ironically I’m actually in the process of taking on a new role for a different company and that is a large insurance company where I’ll be in their IT space under the strategic program organization.So essentially there I’ll be leading teams that are implementing large scale technology changes, but currently I lead change at Duke Energy on a team called Analytics Products and Transformation which sits under the Enterprise Data Analytics team.Essentially what we do is we build products and solutions for internal customers so other employees at Duke with data science at the core and my role is to lead all change efforts from aligning closely with our senior leadership stakeholders to raise awareness in generating and buying to new solutions and pipeline development to work with our product teams and understand the current state for what our customers are doing.I focus on the stakeholder goals where challenges and resistance will exist as well as driving adoption and really figuring out how we can capitalize on return on investment of the solution that we’re implementing. I can give some examples of some of the things that we’re working on right now if you would like.

Wei Zheng: Yes, go ahead.

Joelle Rusin: Sure. So keep in mind too that before coming to Duke Energy, I wasn’t really familiar at all with the utility industry and I also wasn’t super familiar with data science, so I’m going to break this down for you in terms that I hope everybody can understand or at least I could understand when I first started. 

So the first product that I worked on at Duke was for identification of energy loss through energy theft meter failure or misconfiguration for both energy and natural gas meters. So when I’m talking about meters, think about it as simple as a meter that sits on the side of your house, that’s what we’re talking about, so that meter could be misconfigured and you could be losing energy. There’s actually instances where people will figure out how to jack the meters and circumvent the way that energy is being run through the meter to make it cost less and that’s an example of energy theft. 

So the big problem statement here was that prior to us developing this product and prior to us using data science to identify areas where we think this might be occurring, there really wasn’t a standard way to do it, so people that were in the field were essentially driving around and identifying things that maybe didn’t look right, so this product added that element of standardization and through using this data we were able to instill data driven decision making that that wasn’t there before.So these were problems that were costing the company time and efficiencies and also leaving millions of dollars on the table every year in lost revenuebecause of these occurrences, so this product as the element of the data driven decision making was made to recoup that revenue all while reducing overall costs.

Another example of a product my team is working on right now is rolling out a 10 year granular forecasting prod.For our forecasting team and for distribution planners, that’s more interactive than anything that they’ve had before and it allows our end users to use those forecasters to look at various scenarios and understand forecasting for things like electric vehicles and rooftop solar in order to increase reliability and customer satisfaction in additional to meeting the carbon reduction commitments that Duke Energy has.

So those are a few pretty big bucket examples. We also have several big data management solutions that we power through with Power BI so that our teams can work with tens of thousands of rows of data more efficiently, and again, all with the purpose of enhancing that data driven decision making.

Wei Zheng: That’s really helpful. Thank you for sharing the examples. It’s very helpful. I’m just wondering, given you talked about 10-year forecasting, when we do forecasting, there’s got to be uncertainties like COVID that happen.How does COVID influence utility usage or how technology responds or doing their jobs? 

Joelle Rusin: I absolutely love this question and I think in our previous conversation we talked about how important data is for all companies across all industries, and I think there’s actually an article from I think it was Harvard Business Review that talks about how data really is the number one asset for companies.

When COVID hit, my team was actually asked to help create a dashboard for our senior leadership to be able to forecast and show what we anticipated the impacts of COVID on our grid and then beyond that we were also asked to integrate a lot medical data and data from hospitals to determine and predict where we thought there would be hotspots. So really, this pandemic really showed us how important data is and that no company or industry is resistant to these types of impacts and how important data is.

Wei Zheng: So talking about resistance in our prior conversation, you talked about this change strategy rather than change management. How does that work?How does a change issued by a technological need work and what kind of resistance there could be? How do you break that resistance?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so I think first let’s focus on that question about change strategy versus change management, and I hope that this can help others to realize that a job title can be just that and that you can transform a role to add value in different ways. 

So to me, change management is more of a solid textbook methodology and there’s many different brands of change management. I use ProSci which is a hybrid word for professional science, and it’s probably the one with the most brand recognition. Typically change management has a big-ticket goal in mind, like rolling out a product and it is pretty prescriptive in the way that we prepare and support individuals to successfully adopt a change, really all while focusing on the human side of change. 

To me, change strategy is largely around change, thought, and leadership. It’s more proactive than reactive and seeks out opportunities for improvement.So I was brought on to my current role to stand up the change practice within analytics products and transformation and from my previous experience in IT consulting delivery, I knew that changed management was constantly forced to be reactive since most of the time change management and the change management team was really an afterthought. IT teams were still trying to understand how to use change management teams effectively, or even understand what changed management was responsible for and what value they brought, so with change management being so reactive, having less time to plan or execute their work, the true value of change management just wasn’t being realized across the board. I wanted a way to blend some of that change management and delivery methodology together so that we would have our product owners considering change management aspects during their planning and strategizing.

So besides developing some of our own methodology and aligning closely with ProSci while also taking from other experiences and testing them, we were able to align more closely with our stakeholders and increase satisfaction which is extremely important in this space since we’re asking people to rally behind really unfamiliar concepts like product development, data science, and changes in their day-to-day routines that they’ve been doing for the past 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years in this industry.

So essentially, that’s what change management does. It looks at the human side of change and prepares and equips potential targeted end users to be able to embrace, adopt, and use that change.The change strategy element is more around how we can do that more effectively. 

I think your second part of the question was around resistance. There’s always resistance. Anytime that you introduce something new, there’s always going to be skepticism. I found that resistance is often rooted in fear and the lack of a full understanding of what the change is and the benefits for the end user. So within all the different change methodologies, there’s a bunch of different tactics to work through that, but I think having that empathy and understanding why your targeted end users might be resistant is really one of the most powerful tools that you can use.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful, so let me follow that up with one of the participant questions which is very relevant. We have a specific case that a participant raised in spite of advanced digital tools with easy self-serve options. Clients love Excel for analytics, so in this kind of sort of resistance or this entrenched mindset, how do you break this kind of mindset if you are in a situation and you need to break it or help them to see the options other tools offer?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so whoever said this question must be on my projects with me because I mean we see this all the time.We have this problem all the time and this is largely a change management issue, but also it definitely relates to the user experience space and product design.Clients love Excel because it’s familiar and they know how to use it.If you handed off a product that’s intuitive enough, people are going to want to revert to what they know. If you can’t show people how to use the replacement of whatever Excel is, they aren’t just going to adopt it themselves. If you can’t show more value or the consequences of not changing, they won’t change. It’s also an element of understanding what your stakeholder requirements are in the current state and why and how they use Excel today so that you can factor that in and integrate that into your solution.

Wei Zheng: Great ideas, thank you, so sort of showing the values of change or the new tools and at the same time the consequences of not changing what they’re going to lose.

Joelle Rusin: Exactly. I think the whole what’s in it for me concept is always really important to answer when you’re talking to stakeholders.

Wei Zheng: But probably understanding why they resist something might be the first step.

Joelle Rusin: Sure, yep.

Wei Zheng: Another follow-up question here. If a person wants to get better, improve their strategic planning capability and change strategy, what are one or two things they can do to improve in this area?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so I think it goes back to empathy in how is this making end users feel. That’s always a really big one. And then I think the other one is thinking about the overall change journey and what that looks like. ProSci offers up a really great acronym that I think about a lot in my field, but also honestly sometimes in my personal life as well because I’m that nerdy, but the acronym is ADAKR. So the A stands for awareness, the D stands for desire the A for ability, K for knowledge, and then you have reinforcement for the R. So you’re constantly thinking about how to make people aware of this change, how to make them want to do this change, and then thinking about how to give them the tools and the ability to actually change. Once you’ve hit all of those marks and they’re able to do that, people tend to forget about the reinforcement, but to a certain degree. If you’re not reinforcing it, you’re not building a lasting change, so that’s really important to keep in mind.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful, thank you. Let’s move on to another topic which is career changes or working in different organizations. What is the most far out problem you’ve solved with analytics in different organizations? Did you have any big epiphanies in your career ?

Joelle Rusin: Sure, so truthfully, the analytics and data science really only comes into play at Duke. That’s really where I’ve had the most exposure to it, so I think that the forecasting element at a granular level over 10 years is a pretty big deal, especially when you consider how much is changing from the actual population and city densities to greener energy options. There are all these new factors that are coming into play, so being able to understand that and incorporate that into our forecasting is pretty amazing.

And then also like I mentioned to you, our team was asked to participate in the back to work planning and COVID responses to predict cases locally for our offices, so to use forecasting that way I think as far as the biggest epiphany question, the biggest epiphany in my career so far is actually no one really fully knows what they’re doing, especially when you’re learning something new.It’s not about being a born genius, it’s about working hard, work ethic, and diligence. Especially being younger in my career and oftentimes the only woman in the room in my career, keeping that in mind has really helped me have the courage and the confidence to speak up and ask questions and not be so timid.

Wei Zheng: I would like to follow up on that in a later question about being a woman in the technology space, but let’s keep on about different careers or different experiences with different organizations.So you have worked with a lot of quite a few or different organizations. What are your strategies of adapting to or learning fast in those new when you first enter those organizations? Are there any particular things you do or tools that help you to learn and adapt to the different organizations?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so I think being in consulting helped me with that a lot, because as a consultant you’re put on different projects in different industries all the time, so I was sort of forced into a lot of these scenarios off the bat, and I think from those experiences some of my learnings are that change is hard, which is why they have people there called change managers, so it’s okay to give yourself some grace during an adjustment period and not be afraid of what you don’t know. 

So what I typically do is I’ll set a time frame and say okay let’s just say for the first two weeks I’m going to accept that I have little to no idea what’s going on, and I’m going to use that time to observe the current state and ask questions, and like we just talked about asking.Questions can be intimidating. I used to struggle with it and feel almost like I was showing my hand of cards, revealing that I didn’t really know anything.I mean, it’s a really vulnerable place to be as the new person ramping up, but what I’ve found is for me it’s easier to find a few allies at the beginning that you can field questions to you, but if that doesn’t work out, just ask the question. It’s better to ask and gain a deeper understanding. It’s also possible that no one has asked that question before, and now you’re adding value through offering a new fresh perspective. 

So after those two weeks or the three weeks or whatever your goal is, then figure out how to add value and identify some quick wins to work on. I also really encourage people to understand and learn how they operate in uncertain and ambiguous experiences.The more you can learn about how you react to things that are new and different and not fully understood, the more you can hone in on tools to help you adjust in the future.I think something else to note too, which I kind of call my secret sauce but is no secret at all,it’s the number one tool used by corporate America, and that’s Google. Everybody uses Google for things that they don’t know, so I at least try to get my footing on a topic before going and ask someone a question. I think that Google is the best first stop so you can gain a general understanding and then ask more thoughtful questions when you’re asking someone to take their time away from whatever they’re doing.

And then also, like I mentioned before, taking some of the nerves out of a new experience and giving yourself that grace period to absorb and understand and then figure out where you can add some value quickly.Something to keep in mind is that if you are new to an organization, there’s likely already a lot of work in flight and people have been working on these things for a while, so hopefully you know you’re coming in ready to be a valued team member and wanting to make suggestions and improvements.But just be mindful about the way you position these recommendations. There’s a lot to be said about leading with influence versus telling people they could be more efficient or doing something better, point blank.  

Wei Zheng: Wonderful insights, thank you. Especially on the point of being vulnerable the first few weeks and having to ask a lot of questions.In my research of women leaders, that is something that makes women feel vulnerable, especially in male dominated environments, because they could be seen as not competent or other things.And so how do they keep both vulnerable and competent at the same time? And so you said you, Google to build up a good grounding before you go and ask questions so you’re showing your competence and diligence at the same time you’re showing your humility by asking and being open and being vulnerable, so that is a wonderful insight.

Joelle Rusin: I was talking to one of my colleagues the other day and she was saying how she really enjoys learning the details of concepts and really digging in and learning how rubber meets the road and how she was talking to somebody else and sometimes from the male perspective, they don’t need to necessarily get in the weeds as much. They need to be able to generally understand a concept and be able to say it back and I found both of us kind of saying I remember in the past asking a question and a man telling me no, it’s too complicated, that’s a big concept, don’t worry about the details, type of things, and I think that that goes back to what I was saying earlier about my epiphany that maybe nobody really does fully know what’s going on, and sometimes that answer of oh, that’s a complex concept, don’t worry about it can be generalized and we can understand these complicated concepts in a much more abstract way.But you know, women that tend to really need to know all of the details are much more detail oriented, and I’m generalizing, but it was just so interesting to hear one of my colleagues experience that as well.

Wei Zheng: Yeah, that’s true and in research as well that women tend to having to prepare more because their credibility and competence are rated or assumed to be lower than men, especially in male dominant areas, and so they need to demonstrate their competency by giving more details and showing more knowledge in order to be treated the same or evaluated the same in terms of competence, so that’s interesting. Let’s delve into this experience of being a woman in technology. You mentioned in our prior conversation, sometimes you meet teams of people who are much older than you and probably have more industry experience so how do you present yourself as this trusted leader in this technology space?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so I really do look forward to the day when it’s not as remarkable to be a woman in STEM, because that would mean that we’ve made a lot of headway, but unfortunately today women still don’t quite entirely fit in. Several years ago, I was participating in a two week onboarding experience with 30 other people and out of those 30 people being onboarded to this company I was one of two women. I frequently find myself on teams and conference rooms, even at social team activities or client dinners where I’m the only woman and that’s been happening my entire career, even during my education at Stevens.I think when I was there the gender split was 70% male and 30% female, so there isn’t a flip the switch solution to increase these numbers. It’s going to take time. 

I think my philosophy is maybe we can actually turn that whole, not fitting in thing into something with a little bit more of a positive connotation, which is to stand out.And I don’t mean that I want to stand out just because I’m a woman. I mean more like if I’m already noticeably different, let me use that notice to my advantage, so I’m going to seek out opportunities to be really good at something and have people relate that second nature to who I am and make it my brand, and that can be anything, it can be being a subject matter expert or an excellent communicator with clients, consistency in delivering work, understanding different methodologies, being the go to person for having a large network and bringing people together, whatever it is, figuring out how to make it yours and part of your brand will allow you to stand up for something other than being the only woman in the room. And I think one of the most difficult parts of that is actually recognizing your strong suits and learning to tell your story as it develops.So as women, we’re so good at believing in others and seeing their capabilities, we push others to grow and recognize their potential, but we forget to do that for ourselves. 

Also, it’s important to learn how to tell your story beyond your resume and showcase your value is up to you. There’s no easy answer. There’s no easy way to necessarily do that, but I found that it’s a lot about you connecting the dots for someone else versus somebody else connecting the dots for you.You have to be able to talk about those things, how much you bring to the table and then back that up with actions. 

An example of that I had was actually fairly recently is I was in an interview and during the first interview the interviewer said sell yourself and I said oh well, you have my resume and he said no, I didn’t look at your resume, I don’t want to hear what’s on your resume, sell yourself.And that was one of those moments where I was so glad that in the past I had mentors that had taught me how to tell my story and share it because if I didn’t know how to do that, I would have been dead in the water on the spot, so it’s important just to know that.

Wei Zheng: Wow, that’s profound. Could you share with us how you answered that question? How was it different from talking about your experience and educational preparation experience? Is there a perspective you offered that tied up your story together in a way that was appealing to the employer, particularly in that case I’m curious, how did you sell yourself? How is it different from summarizing your resume?

Joelle Rusin: Sure, so from my consulting experiences and having to do all these presentations on the fly, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying themes, and I’m sure if you go back to your resume and you look at your resume, you’re going to be able to extract a theme. So for me, I was able to kind of do three big buckets. I think I said I’m a builder, I’m a problem solver and connector, and I’m a trusted advisor and then I was able to drill into those themes and give examples of how I’m those things. 

So I’ll just give the builder example. I really like being at the beginning of something, I like to help develop teams and products and bring ideas to fruition. So I gave the example that one of my first jobs was at a startup company and actually now on the side I’m doing freelance consulting for another startup company and I like to take somebody’s vision and help to make it a reality and build that so that translated really well into that space.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful and also in one of previous conversations, you also talked about being this master connector. Could you talk more about that?

Joelle Rusin: Yes, absolutely. So being a bridge builder or a connector is something that I really do enjoy doing so being in it, there’s a lot of opportunities to notice things occurring in silos.Based on the nature of really, I guess all of my rules, not only is the project or product I’m on at risk if things are happening in a vacuum, but also the actual work that I’m doing as an individual is at risk.So, it’s really easy for me to stress to others the importance of communicating and collaborating cross functionally. I often do take on the role of bringing people together to the table to understand what they’re working on and how that impacts other spaces. 

Besides project work, one of my mentors early on said something that that kind of stuck with me. I was at a company where they were mandating 40 hours of training annually, which is actually really great.I get around the company’s dime and you could take that time to learn about whatever you wanted and oftentimes people would travel to training and then they would come back. And that was kind of the end of that, so my mentor said that it would always be so much more valuable at a minimum to share what you learn with your teams that everybody else could learn and grow and the team could be stronger for it, and it’s such an obvious concept, but constantly overlooked. You can look at it from the lens of reciprocity and doing business so your company is paying relatively a decent amount of money for you to go learn something new, so you need to really be able to share that knowledge to get a return on investment. 

And then I think along the same theme of being a connector and bridge builder, the last top of mind example I have really kind of set me apart in consulting, so through being a bridge builder in my internal network, I was able to better understand different functions of the company and truly, what different capabilities we had so at Avanade I was in the business technology and integration, but there also were analytics families and system engineers and much more technical roles than what I had. So I wanted to learn more.I wanted to figure out what they did and because of that you know when I was on a client site, I didn’t necessarily always walk the walk, meaning I didn’t go heads down and crank out some code or understand the inner workings of cybersecurity, but I could somewhat talk the talk and I knew a whole network of people that I could connect my client with in order to showcase my company wide range of capabilities so a lot of times that would result in us being able to sell more work, which was great for my company, but also for me because I got to experience that process and then I got exposure to a lot of people that I might not have otherwise. So when you think about the general concept of connecting people and getting people talking, it’s simple, but the upside can be really great.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful advice. So coming back to the gender issue, you mentioned sometimes you feel you’re discredited or not given adequate credit or maybe unfairly treated. How do you deal with situations like that? Do you call it out? Do you have some self talk that can help you deal with that?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah. So this is certainly a situation where it is not one size fits all.I think with a question like this, it’s important to understand that everyone has a different history, a different perspective, and I think to a certain extent what I’ll call a different pain tolerance, and based on those things I might not recognize or react in those scenarios the same way that someone else might.So relating back to my earlier comment about being able to tell your story, sometimes that also acts as armor for me a little bit when you know what you’re really good at, when you know what your goals are and when you’re laser focused on the kind of your mission so to speak, your perspective might be a little different.And it’s not so easy to feel discredited because you’re standing firmly on a more solid foundation. It helps to within your network, have allies that have witnessed and know your integrity to your work. You can offer guidance if need be or if someone is openly and repeatedly making inappropriate comments or actions, I’ll determine the best way to address it. If it’s bothering me, I also sometimes take the approach to ask myself, is this something that they’re doing, which is just a reflection of them or is this actually affecting me?And to be honest, again, this kind of goes back to my experiences and my quote unquote pain tolerance. I can sit there all day and have someone say completely unreasonable things if I know what I’m saying is fact based and when it’s not, of course I’ll concede, but I have no problem letting someone fly off the handle and have that be a reflection of them while I stay calm and track towards my goals.That gut check has helped me tremendously in my career. 

That being said, I do operate under a zero-tolerance policy for my teams, and I think that might be because of some of the experience that I had when I was younger in my career, so no one should have to go to a hostile work environment not knowing where the next landmine is that they’ll step on.I actually had a situation a few weeks ago where there was someone really openly talking down to a woman that reports to me to the point where this person actually beat me to the punch and told this this guy to calm down on the phone. So afterwards I talked to his manager and let him know that what we just witnessed was not inappropriate behavior and we pulled him into the conversation as well and we gave him specific examples.About a week later, this man was added again on a rather large call, trying to discredit this person on my team, and she was rightfully extremely upset.We closed out the call early and I looped my manager in. We agreed on an action plan and we wound up pulling this person boss and his boss on to a call to let them know that our decision was that we would be pulling our resource. The woman that reports to me was off of their project because their culture did not align with the culture that we were trying to foster.

And you know, we were very practical and kind of methodical in the action that we took the first time.We heard it. We stopped it.And we cited those specific examples letting him know that that was not behavior that we would condone. And then when it went wrong again, there was no surprise to anybody. You know, that they knew that there would be consequences, and I think something else that was really important was we owned the response instead of waiting for somebody else to own it.We said this is the action that that we’re going to take, and as it turns out, this person actually had a track record of inappropriate behavior and he turned out to be removed from the project and they asked for my resource to stay. So that’s more of an example of sometimes taking a step back and trying your best to be logical, but don’t confuse that with suppressing something that’s really affecting you is important.

Wei Zheng: Wow, thank you for these very specific suggestions and principles to follow. Let’s move on. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received and what’s the advice you give the most? How do you sort through good versus bad advice from a variety of people?

Joelle Rusin: That’s a good question. The worst advice that I ever received was when I was an intern.It was during my final review at the end of one of my internships with a Senior Vice President of the group and she was praising me for the work that I did. There was a lot of great feedback and the last thing that she said to me actually had nothing to do with my work.She told me watch my laugh. She said that if I wanted to be taken seriously in a male dominated industry, I had to watch my laugh, which is something I mean, now you know, there’s this whole concept about bringing your whole self to work.And I do tend to laugh a lot. I’m a little bit more lighthearted, that’s part of my personality.That’s who I am and how I like to work. So at a young age, I was an intern and that really affected me and I was thinking oh my gosh, how do I go to work and just not be myself?How do I be so serious at work? So about a month ago I had my annual review with my current manager and at one point we got talking about the team as a whole and the culture kind of where we wanted to go and how to grow it strategically and he said to me, I miss being in office and talking to people.I miss being in the office and you busting out laughing at a conference room. That’s the kind of person I want in my team, and that’s the kind of culture I want, and I’m sure he had no idea the impact that actually had on me, but it made me really realize that advice is oftentimes an opinion, and you get to decide whether or not to subscribe. There will be feedback and advice that stings, and it hurts, but it’s legitimate. And sometimes there’s going to be feedback that you just plain don’t agree with, and that’s ok.

I think some of the best advice I’ve experienced is to kind of take the parts that you like and are helpful, and I think that the same goes to learning new things or even like mentorship and coaching and seeing leadership styles you like.You might not agree with everything, but I’m sure that you can identify parts that you like and take them with you and make them your own.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful thank you. So I want to ask one more question and then I want to open it up to all our participants.Where do you draw energy and knowledge? What do you read, watch, or attend to keep yourself updated with even the technology or the industry?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah I do a lot of reading actually, and I find authors and thought leaders that I like and you know now social media makes it easy to do a little harmless stalking to see who they follow and like to kind of continue to open new avenues for inspiration. I also do like streaming documentaries of inspirational people, but for me, nothing beats reading a good book.And to be honest, I also I run a lot, I’m what you might call a fair-weather runner. I only run when it’s 60 plus degrees outside, but a lot of times I’ll do some sort of guided run through the Nike Run Club app and they offer some interesting media through running coaches. Actually, one of them is from Headspace, so it’s almost like a running meditation, but also just different thoughtful questions to think differently and offer new perspectives. They also interview famous athletes and those interviews are always really inspirational from more of a leadership perspective.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful actually related to Headspace, our School of Business actually just subscribed to their service so our faculty and students can create a free account which I think is wonderful especially during these COVID times.

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, I really recommend that. I know a lot of my friends and colleagues use that. I actually know a startup founder that listens to that religiously. He lovesHeadspace so I can’t recommend that enough.

Wei Zheng: Thank you, thank you. Let’s open it up for our participants’ questions.So you mentioned allies and friends, so you probably draw some energy and inspiration from them. Who are your people? Who’s the community that lifts you up?

Joelle Rusin: Yeah, so I like this question too.I think and actually this could relate back to the best advice question because this is a piece of advice that I got probably when I was in high school that I think about often too, which is to surround yourself with ten good people. And I don’t think that just translates into career and work. I think it’s also important to find out who those people are in your life, so I definitely have worked to figure out who my network is at work and seek out mentorship. A lot of times I find indirect unofficial mentorship is the most powerful mentorship for me. I’ve had really, really great experiences that way and then in my personal life, I have a lot of girlfriends that are very ambitious, very talented, and way smarter than me, so you know, we get together, even during COVID, and we will FaceTime and things like that just to catch up and talk about what’s going on in each other’s spaces and how life is going. You even start to have these one-off conversations about things that just get you thinking differently and noticing things that you might not otherwise notice and for the most part to those friends that are in my network in my personal life, we’re all in different industries, all doing different things, so you do get a lot of diverse advice and just information and knowledge sharing.

Wei Zheng: Wonderful thank you.Well, we’re out of time so thank you so much Joelle. This was such an informative discussion, especially with all the examples and wonderful insights you have shared. I appreciate it so much, thank you.

Joelle Rusin: Thanks for having me and thank you again for doing this.

Wei Zheng: Thank you so much everyone, have a great weekend.