“Education startups, at all stages, are my drug of choice,” says Jamie Farrell, Chief Revenue Officer at Emeritus. From the rush of the highs to the depths of the lows, Farrell thrives on the rollercoaster of startup life. But, she says, if you think making a startup successful and maintaining a work-life balance is going to be easy, think again. As one among women in leadership roles for many years, she doesn’t believe in work-life balance; she believes in scheduling a life that leaves you fulfilled.
“Throughout my career I’ve found that blocking my calendar out in 30-minute increments from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. keeps me organized. I’ve made my calendar my to-do-list and it keeps me on track. There are definitely days where I think, ‘Lean In’. Really, Sheryl Sandberg?” Farrell says. These 30 minute increments can be anything from, “Wash your hair” to “Jax’s HW” (Jax is her son) to “Board meeting”. But if something isn’t in the calendar, it doesn’t exist!
Leadership is a long journey and not often a straight one. So setting some ground rules might help you get that extra edge. Farrell, who lives in Florida with her husband and son, shares some provocative rules she leans into when it comes to career, family life, and beyond.
Meet Jamie Farrell, Chief Revenue Officer, Emeritus
Farrell joined Emeritus in 2021 with a wide range of successful exits from multiple businesses and across multiple roles. Her career has taken her from being an admissions advisor to the founding COO and selling Trilogy Education Services in 2019. Today, she’s a CRO, ed-tech entrepreneur, board member, angel investor and advisor, mom, and wife.
You can take a detailed look at Jamie Farrell’s career path here.
“I am asked often, ‘how do you make it work?’” Farrell says. “And while I’m probably a better executive than I am a mother and wife, I make it work for me by being clear about my principles and sticking to them.”
Here are Jamie Farrell’s top six rules for work and life.
#1: Fire Yourself
“I believe that as one of the women in leadership roles, my job is always to seek out the best talent to ultimately replace me. I love being a mentor and building a team. It’s a strength of mine and something that I really enjoy doing. I then have to have the confidence to ‘fire myself’ from a role and jump into the next role (or even new business) that needs my skill set. I’m also willing to quit when it’s just not the right fit: I started my career in sales after dropping out of law school. Ultimately, it worked out: I became addicted to working in a field that changed lives,” says Farrell.
#2: Keep Driving Forward
“Working in a start-up teaches you to be resilient.” While Jamie’s been a successful entrepreneur and one of the women in leadership roles, her greatest role in life is that of a ‘mom’! But the process of becoming a parent for her was fraught with challenges. In her case, it involved multiple losses, multiple adoptions that fell through, and years of trying different approaches. While part of her career made her wait to have a child, the upside was that it also provided her with the innate optimism, belief and persistence to keep going.
#3: Know What Matters
Looking at a woman leader’s life from the outside might present a rosy picture. But in reality, being one of the women in leadership roles involves a lot of prioritizing. “Realistically assess your values and the time you can give to each of your priorities. If something is not a priority, cut it out of your life. Mine are simple — family, work, friends (in that order). I cut back on the time I spend with friends and the number of friends I have. If they aren’t a ‘lifer,’ I don’t see them; and my other friends I only see on the weekends,” says Farrell.
#4: Have A Plan
“And stick to it. More importantly, share your plan with the most important people in your life. People think my plan is crazy, and it is, but it works for me. I wake up at 3 a.m. EST most days and work from 3-6 a.m., then I spend time with my son until he goes to school. I log on or drive to work at 8:30 a.m. I’m working from 9-4, then get home, log off and spend time with my son. There’s dinner with my better half at 7:30 and I’m in bed by 9. I scheduled a life that works for me and allows me to see my family five hours a day. Communicate your plan to your office. If you don’t get unwavering support, you’re working for the wrong company,” says Farrell.
She stresses on the importance of working for companies that support your lifestyle, whatever that may be. But do all women have that choice, we asked her. “Education opens up the choices for us,” she replies.
#5: Find a Family-friendly Company
If you want to excel at work and also have a family, ensure your company values family. Don’t let them ‘talk the talk’, says Farrell. Ask very specific questions in the interview process: ‘What’s your maternity policy?’ ‘What type of insurance do you have for families?’ ‘Can you put me in contact with two or more people on your team that have children so I can hear directly how they make it work?’ Listen not only to what people say, but how they speak; and if they aren’t able to give you details, that’s a red flag. Facebook-stalk current company employees and leadership. Do you see a bunch of family pictures? If you look at enough profiles, you’ll get a good sense.
#6: Embrace Change
“Know that the ‘plan’ you created will likely only happen 60% of the time. There will be work dinners, there will be business trips, there will be times when work (or friends) have to be priority No. 1. But, as soon as your initial plan changes, make room for what you lost. If you are going on a business trip for a week, then work from home the next Monday,” says Farrell.
The bottom line is, Farrell says, “if you’re passionate about work, you likely have the capacity to be passionate about anything you want to do well in. Be passionate about making life the way you want it to be. Ignore what people tell you is the ‘right’ way to live and create your own happiness.”
If you enjoyed Farrell’s bold take on leadership and having it all, don’t miss our conversations with other women in leadership positions like Lisa Rohrer, University Partnerships President, and Ashley Chiampo, Chief Learning Officer, at Emeritus.
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