Ep 59: Elena Lipson: Follow Your Heart

Diva Tech Talk interviewed Elena Lipson, Founder of Mosaic Growth Partners (http://www.mosaicgrowth.com/). Elena is also the host of THE BOOST Podcast, a podcast highlighting accomplished  entrepreneurs, athletes and healthcare professionals.  A quester, Elena has experimented with multiple paths in her personal journey, and the creation of her mission. “I started off in a corporate job in HR and marketing,” she shared, after her college graduation. “But I realized, quickly, that I wanted to do work that was more mission-focused. So, I went back to school to get my master’s in public policy.”   

Elena then moved into the world of public sector consulting, working for BearingPoint, a small firm and then Deloitte Consulting for 7 years ( https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en.html). “There, I really fell into the health tech space. Prior to that, I had avoided going into health, because my Dad’s a doctor, and my Mom’s a health policy researcher. I didn’t want to follow in exactly what they did. But then I realized I loved it!”  Like many of our previous divas, Elena said “I was really not that technical person. I was more interested in how technology could help enable better healthcare.” Elena worked in consulting for 8 years, but “I got to the point where I felt that being a partner in a big consulting firm was not the path I wanted to be on. It was a tough decision, because I was in people’s succession plans, and moving up. But I just knew it didn’t feel right.”

Elena moved over to a business development role at a nonprofit association, AARP (www.aarp.org) on the “for profit” side.  “That was a fun role, because I got to see all of the innovative technologies being developed and launched.” But the pace of that organization was “a lot slower than what I was used to,” Elena said.  “I saw all these opportunities in the market. I started thinking about what I wanted to do, next. I had this ‘aha’ moment where I realized that I was tired and burned out from working for other people.”   So, Elena decided to start her own consulting firm. “I quit my job at AARP, started Mosaic Growth Partners, and 2.5 years later, I am still rolling along!”

“I was pretty fortunate that I had a pretty soft landing when I started my firm,” Elena said. “I had made a lot of contacts, during my time at AARP. I spent the first year testing out a lot of things. From that I developed a couple of core offerings.  My firm is mostly focused on helping entrepreneurs, and organizations, in the digital health and Baby Boomer space. I focus on helping them with growth strategy consulting, and business development. We do a lot of market intelligence work; go-to-market strategy and innovation strategy work; as well as outsourced business development functions and workshops around new business models.”  Elena also launched her podcast and is in the process of launching a coaching program for professional women “to help them get the promotions, raises and respect they are looking for in the workplace.”

One of the major advantages of her entrepreneurial role, in Elena’s eyes, is “the flexibility to try new things all the time.”  Two major lessons for her is “staying attuned to the market to see what’s working, and keeping your eyes on the ‘bottom line’ all the time.” Elena foresees great developments in the healthcare industry. “I think a lot of organizations are putting the patient in the center. As technology becomes more and more pervasive, it is important that they design the experience around the patient. I am seeing a lot of user-designed research and that’s really exciting.”

As she became a business owner, Elena began to experience gender discrimination, which she had not as part of corporate America.  “I began to think about how I could give back,” she said.  “A lot what happens can be very subtle.”.

Based on her experience as a mentor to other women, Elena recently published an article to supplement her newly-minted coaching practice. Entitled “7 Things Badass Professional Women Don’t Do”, it exhorts women to put their ambitions to the forefront, in a balanced way.  Three of her key tips include:

  1. Don’t put your head down and work harder.  “A lot of what happens in the corporate world is based on your relationships,” she said. “I encourage women and men to take time to build relationships around them.”

  2. Don’t say “yes.” She noted that “many women are ‘people pleasers.’ “In Elena’s opinion, “it is critical that you set boundaries so that you can protect your creativity” and your time. She also suggested “you don’t have to apologize if you have to say No.”

  3. Don’t be a “tough guy.”  In saying “no,” you can accomplish this with “grace and finesse. You don’t have to steamroll people.”

Elena acknowledged that “this can be a tough balance” for a lot of women to achieve. “I found that women have to walk a tightrope of being authentic to themselves, but also embracing their femininity, and being assertive enough to command respect.”

One of Elena’s key themes is living a balanced life. Self-care is essential in her opinion to professional success and happiness. “When I started my own business, I realized that taking care of myself was the most important thing. If I’m not exercising, sleeping, eating right, I am not able to be my best self.”  Elena ensures that she gets eight hours of sleep, blocks out time to exercise, and has good nutritional habits. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you deal with a lot of rejection,” she said.  So being in top physical shape is a protection and enables her to “handle some of that, and deal with the stresses.”  Elena said “I really love to sleep. It just makes me feel so refreshed!”   She also takes long walks with her dog, “it’s a time for meditation, listening to music or listening to podcasts.”

Elena also values mentoring. “I don’t think I would be where I am in my career, today,” she said, “without the great mentors that I’ve had, both men and women.” Elena also stated that “It’s been very important for me to mentor others. When I’ve mentored other people, I’ve gotten so much out of the experience and have learned so much from them.”  She noted that she has had both formal and informal mentoring relationships but has benefitted most from those that are organic, “relationships with people that really feel natural, and you are just the right fit, from a chemistry perspective.” She said: “I would encourage people to reach out to mentors, but if it doesn’t feel natural, don’t feel like you have to work with that person. Just keep trying to find the right person.”

Elena’s final words of wisdom for striving women are “you need to be confident in yourself; no one else is going to be able to give you that. Part of that is really understanding what your natural talents are, and making sure they’re aligned to the work you’re doing.”  Additionally, she emphasized “just be really open to trying new things. Just be open to where the experience will take you.”   Elena Lipson can be reached at elipson@mosaicgrowth.com.  

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