Leading In An Increasingly Complex World

by The TogetherDigital Team

S3 E03

Leading In An Incredibly Complex World

Explore leadership insights with Maria Giudice, former Hot Studio CEO: learning from failure, designing change in complex world.

Maria Giudice

Founder & Executive Leadership Coach, 
Hot Studios

About Maria
Executive Leadership Coach; Founder, Hot Studio Maria Giudice is the co-author of Changemakers: How Leaders Can Design Change in an Insanely Complex World and Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design. She coaches and leads workshops to train executives
and their teams in business and design leadership. She is the founder and former CEO of the experience design firm Hot Studio, which was acquired by Facebook in 2013. There, and later at Autodesk, she led global design teams that created human-centered experiences for millions of people around the world.

Maria Giudice headshot

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The meeting commenced with Amy Vaughan, Chief Empowerment Officer of Together Digital, introducing Maria Giudice, former Hot Studio CEO, for an engaging discussion on leadership insights. Maria took the audience through her transformative journey, starting from her early experiences organizing parties to eventually leading design teams and navigating the challenges of a male-dominated industry. She underscored the pivotal role of on-the-job learning in leadership, emphasizing the practical experience and adaptability needed for effective leadership development.

Amy and Maria delved deeper into their childhood influences, shedding light on the significance of embracing innate talents in shaping their respective careers. They explored the hurdles women often face in professional settings and stressed the essential nature of collaboration and support. Design thinking emerged as a recurring theme, with both speakers underscoring its importance. Embracing failure as a valuable learning tool and taking accountability for it were highlighted as critical aspects of leadership growth.

The conversation transitioned to Maria’s perspective on aging, with a focus on appreciating each day and finding joy in the present. Amy, in turn, discussed the importance of self-reflection to understand what energizes and fulfills individuals, emphasizing the need to recognize personal decision-making styles. Maria, now an executive coach, shared valuable insights into common struggles observed among leaders, emphasizing the role of self-awareness and helping individuals overcome fear to step into new opportunities.

Key Questions

    • How did key moments shape your leadership path?
    • What are the insights on leadership?
    • How can leaders learn from failure?
    • What are some common patterns or struggles you observe among leaders, and how do you guide them through those challenges?
    • What is the role of executive leadership coaching?

    Key Takeaways

    • Embracing Failure in Leadership: Both Amy and Maria highlighted the importance of embracing failure as a valuable learning tool. They emphasized that acknowledging and learning from failures is a critical aspect of leadership growth.
    • The Significance of Design Thinking: Design thinking emerged as a recurring theme in the conversation. Amy and Maria underscored its importance in leadership, emphasizing its role in problem-solving, innovation, and fostering a creative mindset.
    • Self-Awareness and Overcoming Fear: Maria, now an executive coach, shared insights into common struggles observed among leaders, emphasizing the role of self-awareness. Overcoming fear to step into new opportunities was highlighted as crucial for personal and professional growth.

    Amy Vaughan
    Welcome to our weekly Power Lounge, your place to hear authentic conversations from those who have power to share. My name is Amy Vaughn and I am the owner and Chief Empowerment Officer of Together Digital, a diverse and collaborative community of women who work in digital and choose to share their knowledge, power and connections. Join the movement at wwwtogetherindigitalcom. Let’s get started. This week, we’ll be exploring leadership insights with Maria Judis, former Hot Studio CEO. Learning from failure and designing change in a complex world and Maria is no stranger to that complexity. She is an executive leadership coach and the founder of Hot Studio, the co-author of Changemakers how to Lead, how Leaders Can Design and Change, and an insanely complex world the rise of the DEO leadership by design. She coaches and leads workshops to train executives and their teams in businesses and design leadership. She is the founder and former CEO of Experience Design, the experience design firm Hot Studio, which was acquired in Facebook in 2013. There later, then later at Autodesk, she led a global led global design teams that created human-centered experiences for millions of people around the world. Maria, we are really stoked to have you here today for you to share your authentic leadership experience. Thank you for joining us.

    Maria Giudice
    I am so happy to be here with my ladies.

    Amy Vaughan
    Right. It’s always good to be in good company of just smart, amazing, powerful and generous women. So, again, I know you’re on the road right now, so we do so much appreciate you taking the time to pause in your busy schedule and spend the next hour with us. You’ve had a remarkable journey, becoming and being a woman CEO in a very male-dominated industry, all the way to selling that company to Facebook, which is amazing, no small feat. Could you share some of the key moments that helped to shape your leadership path?

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, it’s a great question. I was thinking about this, this sort of like the idea of a leadership path, and I have to kind of go back to being a child, like I was that kid who organized all the parties, set the tone, created the experience and the theme. Yeah, I was 16. I had a Toga party. I had a Toga party for my sweet 16 birthday. But as a child I was always really good at organizing and getting a group of people together to believe in something bigger than them, even if it was like outrageous, and so I’ve always had that sort of gift of really getting people to go along with things and putting that leadership sort of profile to the test. When I think back in my career, it really started when I was in my 20s. My first job out of college I worked for Access Press, which designed guidebooks, and the guy who owned Access Press, richard Werman, got the gig to redesign the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages in California, which is how I accidentally moved from New York to California, and so I was at the sort of very beginning of starting a new agency to create the Yellow Pages for all of California and Nevada. And he just tossed me, it was still a very male dominated world. It’s like right, what can you do? You go do the maps. Like through that job to me, like go design all the maps for Nevada and California Sounds like fun and I just had to figure out how to actually design maps. And then I had to figure out how to repeat the design style across every single Yellow Page for California and Nevada. I mean, these are, I don’t know, 40, 50 areas and I had to hire people to help me. And so at 24 years old, I had like 20 people reporting to me, designing maps and working really hard, long hours, hitting deadlines, and I think that really and really figuring it out along the way. I mean I went to art school and go to business school and so I think it’s, you know, so much of leadership is really on the job learning, depending on the context you’re in.

    Amy Vaughan
    Absolutely. I love that answer so much, one because you went all the way back to childhood. I relate to that a lot because, similarly, I was that kid on the block that had I think I’ve mentioned this in past episodes a what was it called the planeteers. Do you remember the planeteers? I don’t know. It’s like it was a cartoon back in the 80s and 90s. Yeah, it was all about this group of superhero kids that worked to save the world and save the planet, and so I was constantly building groups and clubs to make people feel included, and so it’s like, wow, no wonder I’m running in a program.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah you go, it’s in you and it brings together.

    Amy Vaughan
    Women it is, and I think sometimes, you know, we tend to forget those inner childhood talents, desires and gifts that we just kind of did without question and we don’t think it’s something that we can live out in our careers. But you absolutely can, and so I hope that encourages Absolutely.

    Maria Giudice
    And you don’t have to get an MBA, you don’t have to get in leadership right, you just have to embody and be, want to be a leader and have it in you. And if you have it in you and it’s something you want to do, you’re going to spend the rest of your life learning.

    Amy Vaughan
    I agree, I agree and I do. I love that too that you went straight into being 24 and managing a team of 20. I think we do discredit that. We seem to think that you know education and certificates is the answer. But I was just reading yesterday from the US Census Bureau they’re saying that like the. It sucks to hear it, but education does not close the pay gap. Education are getting more degrees than men, but we’re still getting paid less. So I think your learned experience. You know you need to learn how to champion that, to celebrate it and to sell it to others, because it does qualify as experience, I agree.

    Maria Giudice
    Absolutely, Absolutely, Absolutely. I mean, you know, I am so proud, I’m so happy that the universe gave me the sex of being a woman, that I identify with being a woman. Uh-huh, you know it is a struggle, you know it’s like you know there are. You know things are stacked are not necessarily stacked in your favor, Right.

    Amy Vaughan
    There’s a lot of stuff you always have to overcome things. Yeah, yeah, let’s talk about that because, again, like I said earlier, you know face, so no stranger to facing challenges. It’s definitely a universal experience, and one that you’ve talked about openly in particular is being forced out of Autodesk. I’d love to hear more about that and how you navigated that challenge in particular, or any other similar challenges, and what lessons you learned along the way, because you know again, your story I’m sure is going to relate to a lot of our listeners.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, yeah. I like to tell the Autodesk story because I’m one of those people who’s really like an overachiever. You know like I like, I went for, like the you know, 98%, 99, 90, 100 on report, on my report cards. You know, I was like I’m not going to tell you I was more. I was that person which is must not fail, right, right, if you work really, really hard and be great at what you do, you will not fail. That was sort of the mindset that I had and, again, being a woman, I always feel like I had to do, I had to work twice as hard. Oh yeah, you know like. You know, still, like it’s, it’s like yeah, and so I grew up as a tomboy. I was like I am going to prove to you that I can. I can not only meet you but be to you.

    Amy Vaughan
    And.

    Maria Giudice
    I had that. I had that perspective when I was running my own agency. But when I was a VP of design at Autodesk, that was a job that I absolutely loved. I struggled. I sold my company to Facebook. That was like an amazing moment in time and it was the right thing to do, but for my company and for me personally, but I, I, the culture, I did not align well with the culture at Facebook. It was like a very male, dominated, every man for himself kind of culture and I really didn’t fit in well. And so when I was recruited to go work at Autodesk as a VP, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was the right job for me and it was the right culture. And I was recruited by the CEO and the chief product officer. I had my executive sponsors at the highest level of the organization. I had the ability to influence culture at scale. I, I and I threw myself into that job. I really was like I, I want to move this culture from being engineering dominant to being human centered and I was crushing it. I felt like and I was holding a lot of power. I realized that my style, my leadership style of including everybody and not deal. Not deal with the bullshit of hierarchy or a caste system, but like really engaging people equally and tapping into their talents to do something bigger than what they are doing day to day. And I loved that job. And about two years in, without warning, the CEO, carl Bass, announces he’s retiring, he’s stepping down, and then suddenly it was like an earthquake in the company and then there was like a fight to see who was going to be the CEO. It was like Mad Max, and it was between my boss, who was the product guy, and another guy who’s the business guy, the business strategy guy, and I bet on my guy, but the other guy won. You know, I didn’t bet on the wrong horse, right, the wrong horse won, won, yeah, and and then all of these people who were in that camp and I really actually liked the business guy, we actually had a good relationship, so it wasn’t antagonistic at all, right, the people that were in his camp who rose to power were not my supporters, and and so when he rose to power, he’s like Maria, I see what you do, I appreciate what you do, but you know what I don’t think design is that important at this level. Where do you go from there, right Like my. Basically, your job, your job and your mission and your vision is no longer wanted in this company. Wow, and I then, you know, got pushed out. I mean, I knew I was getting pushed out, I wasn’t as surprised at that point and it crushed me Absolutely. It, you know, because my mantra was you do the hard work you have. You know, I had stellar, you know, feedback scores. I got great. You know I got raises. I was making dense in the culture. People loved me, but sometimes that stuff doesn’t matter.

    Amy Vaughan
    Right.

    Maria Giudice
    You know, and so the big lesson was a gift, and I like to tell people this in your darkest time when you feel like something bad happened to you, whether it was something that you initiated, or had a misfire, or it wasn’t within your control. You lose a job or something terrible happens and we start beating ourselves up. That’s human to do, why it’s all our faults that we suddenly this happened to us. But guess what? It’s part of being human Right. And you have to go through the grieving process. You do have to grieve this loss or this change that you experience, but then, with grief, once you get past that grief, there’s this moment. And was it built? William Gibson has a book called Transitions. He calls it the neutral zone. Okay, start to you settle from the grief and you have this moment of insight. The way I like to call it is you’re lying in a coffin above ground waiting to be resurrected. There’s this moment of reflection where you can kind of like get out of the emotional state and go okay, where am I now? What did I learn? Yeah, what is the learning here? What is the insight? And then you actually get the insight which sparks new ideas and puts you on a different trajectory. Absolutely so. That was the gift from losing my job at Autodesk was experiencing this thing that happened to me where it never happened to me before, I never got fired Right and what do I want to make of it? And that’s what got me going on the book Changemakers. So the gift was a reflection of what I did well and what I didn’t do well, and then, as a designer treating everything like a design problem, then went and did my research and said, oh, let me ask other people. So then I got curious and I asked, like over the pandemic, I interviewed like over 40 people in different industries who were in different positions, a power, and I asked them to tell me their stories. And that became the book Changemakers.

    Amy Vaughan
    I love it. Yes, definitely check it out, Kaeley. For our live listeners, she’ll drop the link to the book inside the chat and we’ll include it in the show notes. I love hearing these stories. I’m not a huge fan of success without strife. I think that we all get there through the struggle. That’s part of kind of making it. It just doesn’t happen overnight, it’s over time and it’s through a lot of things that sometimes we can’t control. And I think that’s one thing you mentioned, like how much of that was really your fault? None of it, zero. You were doing your job. You were doing a stellar job. It was that there were certain things that were out of your control, that were changing, and it is a matter of sometimes looking at things and saying is this happening to me or is this happening for me Because the book wouldn’t be here?

    Maria Giudice
    I don’t think right, Would you agree? No, I wouldn’t have done this book. I’d still be at all the desk. And what are?

    Amy Vaughan
    you doing and what do you tell the folks that are listening? What are you doing next week? You’re like doing?

    Maria Giudice
    a go ahead. Oh, I’m doing a workshop for change makers with my co-author, Christopher Ireland, who is a woman, who was a woman CEO back in the day. So we’ve been collaborators and partners for years on things like this. It’s amazing, but I do want to say that in any kind of change, there is things that are within your control and things that are not within your control. So, that’s where the learning comes from. So, while I was angry and shocked, I was like none of this isn’t my fault, but then I go OK, what would I have done differently? Maybe I wouldn’t have ignored the people that were feeling threatened by me Interesting the people in power. You know like there were people who were threatened by the fact that I was becoming powerful. Yep, right, and that happens in corporations, sometimes Absolutely and actually unfortunately. I’m going to say something that is controversial to say. When I look back at the people who were the most threatened by me coming up, it wasn’t women, it was other women. Yeah, and that is because I grew up at a time that there weren’t things like this, right, I grew up at a time when there were so few women in companies that if there was another woman, you would have competition.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yeah, compare and compete Absolutely. I think we’re conditioned to do that because there’s only so much room at the top for women. Even nowadays, maybe there’s a little more room, there’s one or two extra seats, but then there’s still 51% of the workforce are women and still 24% of leadership roles are women. So it’s like, yeah, there’s only so much room and there’s so many of us, and so we need to start to find ways to make more room and not compete and collaborate in order to achieve that power. So, yeah, 100%, I think that’s. I look forward to the day that we have equality and we don’t have to have things necessarily like this in these conversations so we can just focus on moving all of humanity forward. But until then, I think it’s a very fair statement and I think it’s very true. Even still today, women feeling threatened by other women, but even just ambitious women in general, right, it’s just like you’re like the bull in the China shop. You’re the one who asked the questions, you’re the one who asks for the opportunity to grow and raise and promote and all of those things and, depending upon the culture, yeah, that can really put you in a precarious place when it comes time for a leadership change. I’m not sure how much I went into it. I haven’t listened to the first episode of this podcast in a while, but I’d mentioned earlier that I kind of shared my story as the very first episode of the Power Lounge and I went through something relatively similar. It wasn’t as big as Autodesk, it was a much smaller, independently owned and operated company and I very much had my sights on being an executive creative director and through a series of very unfortunate events and a lot of trauma I ended up also kind of making a semi amicable agreement to leave because the CEO had kind of just all of a sudden left and the whole world just fell apart. But up to that point I was so blissful in that job, you know it was exactly the role I had been wanting and looking for. And then I saw this change happening. And I’m not the kind that, like when I see a change coming, I start to freak out and duck away. I kind of get in it and I want to like figure out how we can make the most of the change as an opportunity. But I think sometimes that is met with some concern and or animosity from others. So that is a challenge, but you know what that’s the beauty of working for yourself.

    Maria Giudice
    You don’t have to worry about that anymore, but I did want to go ahead. There are always stakeholders, no matter what you do. Exactly that’s true.

    Amy Vaughan
    Right, that’s true. That’s a good point. I know that the workshop you all are hosting is at Stanford University as well, so you are all doing some really awesome and amazing work with the book and with the content and helping shape tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s dig into that a little bit more, because you also work, as you know. You talked a lot about design and design problems and design thinking, and you like to think of everything as a design problem, so I would love for you to elaborate on that a little bit more and how that mindset has helped to influence your approach in both leadership and problem solving.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, it is. Treating everything as a design problem is a way in which you can look at the world with curiosity and creativity. So, because you know, design is about, you know, creating making something new right, and maybe something that is existing or something that hasn’t existed before right. And so this idea of creation gives you the permission to not necessarily be the smartest person in the room, you know and and and gives you permission to put aside your own biases or preconceived notions by exploring, by exploring the problem based on what is possible. So every good design process starts with discovery and asking questions and looking at worlds differently and more broadly and hopefully without bias. And when you do that, then you can look for patterns, and we, through the lens of listening to people, and you look for patterns that bubble up and create a vision that came from the very people that you are serving. So it’s like a, it’s like a co-created vision, as then you could implement right. So so it gives me permission feeling good about not knowing something. Yes, if I, if I’m, if I don’t, because my whole design career, working with clients, hundreds of clients in different domains and different competencies, I had to learn things you know so I could be a good designer. Like I remember in the 90s early days of web. Like I had to learn about how server farms work. Sounds like fun. You know what I like? Geek out on that shit, right. You know it’s like you know, give me something like really like hardcore that I will never, ever know about or care to know about my life and pay me to learn yes, right. And so I think about like 20 years of hot studio working with such a wide range of clients and so many domains gave me an incredible view of the world and education that into spaces I never would have gone without that.

    Amy Vaughan
    That is such a great point. I think that is a definite reason. I feel like most of the women when I think about together digital. They are lifelong learners. They do love to dig into, even outside of industries of their own. But that’s part of it. Right, you have to understand the core before you can really start to solve the problem. And I do think you know it does work so well. That idea of active listening and empathy, which you know, I think are strong characteristics of most women, do lend themselves so well to influence, which then becomes leadership but also helps with problem solving. So I 100% agree with you. I think design thinking is a smart way to sort of begin to objectively approach new problems and situations and really set yourself apart as a leader. I love it.

    Maria Giudice
    And it’s like everything I do, you know, just even have to be a gig, it’s just, you know, I, just I lead with imagination and data. Yeah.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yeah, I love it, I love it.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah.

    Amy Vaughan
    Keep the curiosity coming, let’s talk a little bit about failure. Learning from failure is a powerful concept and I’m, like I said earlier, a huge proponent of not promoting the idea of success without strife or dispelling that notion. Could you share a specific instance where failure played a crucial role in your professional development, and what lessons has it taught you?

    Maria Giudice
    Well, I mean, I think I just gave you like the major failure story about Autodesk and the gifts that came along with that and that was, you know, like.

    Amy Vaughan
    I think would you call that a failure. I guess that’s my pushback. Would you say that that’s a failure?

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, I don’t, I don’t demonize the word failure at all. Yeah, I think I think you know we are humans and the failure is a way of learning. Now it sucks, it totally sucks, and it hurts, yeah, and it you know, and it it fucks with your head, yeah, it’s no fun to fail.

    Amy Vaughan
    Nobody enjoys it. It totally does. Nobody loves failure, yeah.

    Maria Giudice
    But. But it’s the only way to kind of like learn and take stock of what’s there, and so you can have a smart failure or you can have a dumb failure. Sure, right, yeah. And. And in design there are multiple ways in which you can fail early, fail smartly try things out, prototype them and see whether they work or not. Right, there’s like smart failure. And then there’s dumb failure. Where you like, step down the line and you broken somebody’s trust, right.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yes, right.

    Maria Giudice
    And so there’s a, there’s a. Amy Edmondson wrote a book about this and she talks about sort of this failure spectrum, Okay, and that everybody fails. So what are some of the where, what are some of the things that you can do so you don’t, you don’t create your like irreparable harm? you know, and so failure is really part of it, and so, as a leader, I really want to educate people that report to me that don’t be afraid to fail, and up to it, yes, and the best way you can recover from failure is owning up to it and not trying to hide it, right.

    Amy Vaughan
    Absolutely Well, cause it, like you said, especially when you’ve kind of broken someone’s trust, which is absolutely essential in the role of a leader, in my opinion. Yeah, if you don’t take ownership publicly and address it, then how are you ever meant to mend that? You know Absolutely.

    Maria Giudice
    And when you own up to the failure it takes, it empowers you, yes, it doesn’t deflate you, right. Right, because you’re not hiding behind something. And that’s one of those values that I’ve kind of kept current my whole life around Try to be, as always, try to be radically honest about things, yeah, and not to hurt people. But to you know, I’m a terrible liar, right. So it’s so much better to be honest and get down, ripped, the bandaid off, than it is hide behind something that’s going to bite you in the ass later on. And so you know, there’s this improv, this is improv activity, which is like the failure activity. I took an improv class. I suck.

    Amy Vaughan
    Okay.

    Maria Giudice
    But I hated it, but I did it and I failed it. I failed it in prop and whenever in improv, whenever you fail, you’re supposed to throw your arms up and tell the group and yell oh, that’s so cool, I failed, yeah, and I actually enjoyed that part of it and I probably grew up my arms a lot in improv, but I love that, like, okay, release it. And then. So in the book we talk about failure a lot and Justin McGuire was the chief product officer at chief creative officer at Salesforce. He said you know, as a leader, you have to own the sword and fall on it. Yeah, On the sword you own your mistakes and then you ask how you can learn from them. So if you own failure, like I failed, what can I learn from this? Right, so you’re asking yourself or you’re asking the people that you, you know that you failed with Yep and that that gives you your power back, when you can own your own failure.

    Amy Vaugha
    I agree. I love that so much. Co-hatch is a new kind of shared work, social and family space built on community. Members get access to workspace amenities like rock walls and sports simulators and more to live a fully integrated life that balances work, family, well-being, community and giving back. Co-hatch has 31 locations open or under construction nationwide throughout Ohio, indiana, florida, pennsylvania, north Carolina, georgia and Tennessee. Visit wwwcohatchcom for more information. I was really impressed. Yesterday I was at an event and I heard Jeff Burding, who was the co-CEO here in Cincinnati for FC Cincinnati. He talked about his leadership style and how it was just growth at any cost and go, go, go, constantly pushing. He had a passion, he had a vision and he was clearly just a visionary and very much so. He hired a bunch of people to basically get the job done and achieve the impossible, which was an established major league soccer team here in the city of Cincinnati. They got there and as soon as they got there and he admitted this in a room of over 100 women said as soon as we achieved that and got the MLS deal, a third of our people quit. I’m like wow, like to admit that. And he said you know, I realized at that moment that my leadership style was not going to be the thing that continued to make my vision that I had, you know, for the city and for my children to come to life. He said I had to really look inside and do some inner work, and so one to have a leader on the stage saying that was wonderful to have a white male leader on stage. I was like oh yeah, I might be looking at some FC since 90 season tickets, not that I don’t love them already, but just the willingness. And I think if more leaders can model that behavior that you’re saying of owning that failure and making it something that is allowable and that actually empowers us and grows us all, versus holds us back and something worth hiding, modeling that behavior and having those kinds of conversations it’s just, it’s only going to help us all.

    Maria Giudice
    So yeah, thank you. I want to share a story, so that kind of underscores this. So you know again, like I told you, I was the overachiever and I never failed big and this Autodesk thing was like felt like scarlet letter on my career. Sure, Suddenly, everything that I did up into this time didn’t count right.

    Amy Vaughan
    And I was right.

    Maria Giudice
    Marvel stories and I was. I got laid off in like November, and then I was scheduled to do a closing keynote for the invisible conference in San Francisco and the and in that talk I was supposed to talk about all of the accomplishments that I had achieved as a VP of design at a 33 year old tech company. Like I was going to tell the story of how, how successful I was. And here I was laid off. Nobody knew, nobody knew. And and so I, you know, and I, you know, I spent the. I spent the winter, you know, spent Christmas holidays like sitting in a no sitting, staring at an ocean, reading, running around books, running my soul Right, as a lot of women do. And and then I was like, ok, how am I going to handle this? And I was like you know what? But radically honest, I’m just going to like come out and tell people I’m fired. I’m going to like, I’m going to like with the world that this overachiever, so brave that can, oh my God. And and so I changed my entire talk and I didn’t tell them. And I’m getting on the page and I’m talking about and I summarized all of the great things that were happening at Autodesk. Yeah, and I tell the story of how Carl steps down and my boss quits black screen Nobody, no, no leadership sponsor, no champion. Yeah, I got shown the door and then I said and I, and then I, I honestly expressed and said I’m. These are all the emotions I’m feeling right now and honestly, don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life as a 55 year old woman.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yeah, wow. What was the response like?

    Maria Giudice
    And one of the that visible like audible gasps in the room, right, I’m like closing keynote model of success. And here I am telling people that I’m wounded and hurt and angry and I don’t know what I’m going to do. And and I asked the question, how many people in this room were left a job when it wasn’t their choice? And I want to say like 75% of the people at hand, but it was it that was there. That was their invitation to, kind of like, speak their truth. Yes, without chain, I love it. And again, that’s an example of claiming your power and bringing it back.

    Amy Vaughan
    Absolutely and now.

    Maria Giudice
    I no longer had a secret and now use that. I could use that as a way of telling people. I have experienced this like you, and I see you and I feel, but you’re, you’re going to figure, you’re going to figure it out, right. I love that need to be an executive coach, but that was that moment where you just I love it. That’s your story.

    Amy Vaughan
    Thank you so much for sharing that and you know, as you’re speaking, we summon Brunet Brown yet again on the podcast. Someday she’ll be a guest someday. Universe. But yeah, I mean, how much shame you owning your truth and speaking your truth in a in a forum such as that. How much unburdening does that do in the sense of?

    Maria Giudice
    like relieving your shame.

    Amy Vaughan
    You know it’s like when you think shame, I think, oh, it was take a Brunet. So yeah, yeah, yeah.

    Maria Giudice
    Right, it freed me and it also it, and then it also gave me again. The gift was now I can help other people when they lose their job. Yes, oh yeah. As a coach, I know what it feels like. I know stories they’re telling themselves. I know that it’s going to take time, like a lot of life experience. Yes, being I’m like going to be 61 years old in February, that’s crazy. You know and you know.

    Amy Vaughan
    I need your skincare regimen.

    Maria Giudice
    In my late fifties, I was, like you know, really worried about aging, especially being in tech. Yeah, then, when you hit your sixties, like I did last year, there’s there is this weird female power that comes back. Oh, yeah, and it’s just like I have lived a full life. Yes, I know where the bodies are buried. You can no longer question whether or not I know what I’m doing because I’ve lived it. Yes, exactly, and that gives me. That gives me so much energy and like there’s so much power and wisdom. Yes, so much power, yeah.

    Amy Vaughan
    When you live.

    Maria Giudice
    I live in the Bay Area, but I grew up in New York, yeah, and. But you know there’s there are so many women in their sixties that I look at now who are such bad asses. Oh, absolutely.

    Amy Vaughan
    Absolutely. That is like prime time We’ve actually had a conversation. It might have been before. We did this as a podcast. It was still just a webinar. We talked about menopause and women and their careers and how really you know you’re going back to your pre-pubescent self once you’re post menopausal and all of those kind of effects of your kind of cycle up and down left and right and then every which way that it goes during menopause.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah.

    Amy Vaughan
    I know I’m pre-menopausal. It’s a load of fun. I know it’s going to be great.

    Maria Giudice
    So much fun, but after that, yeah, you’re, you’re like, it’s like you’re reborn and you have this new energy.

    Amy Vaughan
    And if you have children, you know they’re. They’re usually grown in, out of the house If they hate to say, if you’ve got elderly parents, they may be gone by then or in somebody else’s care, and so there’s this whole sense of freedom and opportunity. And then what sucks about it obviously is our society penalizes you as a woman. The older you get, right, yeah, you’re not more experienced or seasoned, but absolutely you are, and I love what you’re saying about and I think it’s so true. So many amazing books, podcasts, conversations like these coaches, you know, talks have been born from the shit that you go through. So I agree with you so much that sometimes the the hard parts of life that you are in realize that once you get and if you can’t, you know, once you get and if you can get yourself beyond and you will get yourself beyond that what you have now is a whole new set of skills that you can share with others to help them through that process or maybe to even avoid the process and the deal altogether.

    Maria Giudice
    And so many role models, whether you know them personally or not, or out right. So my co, my co-author, christopher Ireland, as I mentioned, she’s about 10 years older than me and and she was a CEO she was one of the few women CEOs in tech yeah, wow, the few women CEOs in tech back in the day. So we were we always kind of like bonded, like okay, like what are you experiencing? What kind of like, you know, prejudice or, you know, are you experiencing as a woman leader? And or how are you doing X, y and Z? So we were always able to share, but I’m always looking at where she is right now. Yeah, you know, she’s actually doing yoga while I’m, while I’m, while I’m working. She’s doing, but I’m, I look at her and I’m watching her live her life. Yep, and it’s just so inspiring. Oh yeah, to have role models, and I always say look for great role models, yes, and I’m so much from them and it gives you hope.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yes, Absolutely. This might explain why many of my closest friends are in their fifties because I’m I’m 42. Yeah, so it’s one of those things I feel like I can always look and sort of talk. I have my peers also, which are obviously a great source of power and support. Yes, but those that are women that are just a little bit ahead of you in life it is. It’s so great to be close to them and understand and know the intricacies of what’s ahead for you. We did get a question from one of our live listeners, from Anna, so I wanted I want to make sure we ask it and then we’ll get on to the next few questions. With such so much experience, how would a person know where to direct their time in order to rebuild themselves? Or do you do everything and see what sticks? Interesting question, Anna.

    Maria Giudice
    Question and I really appreciate the people who’ve dialed in live, yeah, the most important people in the room right now, right. So you know, that is like a really hard question to answer, especially from somebody like me who is interested in literally everything, and it’s really it’s a work in progress for me. And as I get older, well, this is just really interesting. That’s happening to me again, turning 60 and my mother just died, and you know, like when you hit your 60s, people that are people are close to you start dying. Yeah, and it is. It is brutal, but there’s. So, again, there’s a gift in that. Like, what’s the gift of witnessing all these people in your life who are starting to leave this, this earth, and be in the spirit world? Yeah, it gives me a Gave me perspective that you know I have like maybe 20 good years left, you know, before my body just starts giving up on me. I might live longer, but you know it’s not gonna be like I’m not gonna be able to go rollerblading down right, right, so. So that has given me newfound Perspective for me to appreciate. Every day I wake up breathing and healthy mm-hmm and the and to be in the present moment, not necessarily the future, or or try to relive the past and to ask myself what’s going to give me joy today? Mm-hmm, how can I make the most of this day? How can I miss the best day ever? I love that and and and so I, you know, love that and I try to live that life, to try to be present and appreciate every day I’m breathing and I’m healthy mm-hmm and I also am thinking about Arm. Am I making the right choices in? Am I doing things that I want to do, or am I doing things that I think I should be doing? Yes, in order to feed my ego, which we all have ego, yes, bad things. Just what’s in our head, mm-hmm, or feet, or feed my like, my, my, my professional story, my professional self and all these things. So I’m constantly checking with myself.

    Amy Vaughan
    I love it.

    Maria Giudice
    I’m saying yes to this. What am I saying no to?

    Amy Vaughan
    and am.

    Maria Giudice
    I okay with that. Yeah, so that’s that’s the advice I would give, was it, anna? Uh-huh? Yeah, anna, to make sure, like if you’re one of these people who, like me, who is interested in a million things, start looking, taking stock and saying is this what I really want to do? Is this what my heart is driving? Is this is? Is this something that I, that I truly want, that’s gonna help me grow, that’s gonna give me life, energy, positive energy, or is it a burden that I think I have to do because it’s it’s gonna feed something else?

    Amy Vaughan
    right.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons do it for the right reasons and and recognize this is so important is, if you’re saying yes, we’re also saying no to something else. Such a good point, and you live with that.

    Amy Vaughan
    Mm-hmm and how often do we slow down and take the time to really reflect on that? I think we kind of just fly through life we. We live our lives by our to-do list and we don’t slow down to really think about. You know, what are the things that make me feel fulfilled, that make me feel inspired? We do a goal getters Workshop here together, digital the start of every year and kind of continue it throughout the year, and one of the things we do is an energy audit where you look at your calendar and you market. Red, yellow, green. Red for the things that zap you. Yellow for the things that are kind of okay, yeah, green for the things that really energized you, because I don’t think we take that time to really notice when we’re and how we tend to be in our zone and feel our best, because that’s also typically when we perform our best, yeah. So I think taking that time to reflect at any and all times is such a good thing to do. And I think one other thing I wanted to share I love sharing therapy Therapist hey, beverly, if you ever listened, she talks about decision-making and I think this has been really helpful for me. So hopefully Anna will be helpful for you, because I see the member and I do know Anna a little bit Is that we all kind of fall into this like a little inverted triangle of decision-making. At the very top are the explorers, people who love To constantly be looking for and exploring ideas, and it can almost feel overwhelming sometimes because you see all possibilities in all avenues but you’ll never make a decision because it’s all about the exploration. At the very bottom of that triangle are the researchers, people who kind of focus and hone in on one possibility, one Opportunity, and we’ll just research it to death and it has to be perfect before they’ll make a decision. Yeah, if they make a decision, yeah, the folks that sit in between which, apparently, is where I fall are the very time-based decision-makers. What’s great is that they’ll kind of tap into exploratory, they’ll kind of tap into the research, but they won’t make a decision until, like, their feet are held to the fire or it’s the exact right, opportune time. It’s, yeah, timing, and actually, less about is this the better choice? So, maybe, anna, spending a little bit of time reflecting, doing some of the things that the Maria advised, and then also kind of exploring and Understanding what your decision-making style is. Make sure you just stop falling into any of those traps, don’t I?

    Maria Giudice
    am.

    Amy Vaughan
    Analysis, paralysis. Gal will spend a lot of time in that space, but I’ve tried to lean into more of my time-based decision-making to really kind of get myself past Passed that. But thank you for the question. That’s amazing.

    Maria Giudice
    Two good tips. You know and I do energy audits with my clients all the- time.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yeah, I love it. Let’s talk about that too, because you are an executive coach and I scroll past my question. Here we go.

    Maria Giudice
    What are some?

    Amy Vaughan
    patterns or struggles do you observe among leaders, and how do you help guide them through some of those challenges?

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, well, the, the I am an executive coach now. Again a gift out of that failure. Right, because, because, remember, when I stood on that stage, I Didn’t know what I was doing next, and when I got through the grief and I was in that neutral zone and I started thinking about what’s possible, I, I Started thinking about reflecting on my life and looking for, like, the through line. Yeah, what were the things, if I look at my whole arc of my career, where I get the most joy? Yes, and it was lifting people up, working with people and helping them be Better versions of themselves, and that’s that was that insight that I never would have gotten to if I didn’t go through what I went through, to realize that this is what I should be doing now and so. So that’s what I do and I work with people and I like to tell people that I’m really good at helping people quit their job. I.

    Amy Vaughan
    Feel like I might be okay that too yeah.

    Maria Giudice
    Whether they know it or not, right, right, no, but you know. And so a lot of people come to me. A lot of people are in transition. Right, we all go through transitions and and you know whether you’re really young and you’re questioning whether you want to stay in tech, whether you’re older and you realize maybe you don’t want to be managing people anymore yeah, these are people who you know. Again, they’re like this is my career, this is what I should be doing. Here’s the ladder Mm-hmm. And I remind people there’s no such thing as a career ladder, it’s a career trampoline. Oh, that’s fun, I like yeah and Right, that’s comes from rise of the do and and so I really like, and so a lot of the Coaching is really to help people to build self-awareness, mm-hmm, of themselves. Who are they when they are at their best? What do they like when they’re at their best, energetically, um, behaviorally, what kind of habits do they have, what kind of things do they do? And how are they when they show up? scared and Interesting what yeah, and and when they’re. You know when they’re because we all have the reward response and the threat response in our mind.

    Amy Vaughan
    What does that tell them when you’re asking them about like what, what, what?

    Maria Giudice
    the second part, the, the fear here because you have to know, because when you’re up, when you’re threatened mm-hmm, or when others are threatened Mm-hmm, how is? How is that different than when you’re at your best? What? What behaviors do you have down? You fight, flight or freeze, yeah, yeah, okay, and Do you? Does your body change? You get tightening in the chest, mm-hmm. And how does that energy impact the other people in the room?

    Amy Vaughan
    100% because?

    Maria Giudice
    because Emotions are contagious.

    Amy Vaughan
    Yes, that was an empath, I agree, but yeah, that’s great. So how you show?

    Maria Giudice
    up really matters, mm-hmm. And then, are you living your life more in fear, or are you living your life in Like curiosity and creativity?

    Amy Vaughan
    Oh that question about to undo some people. I.

    Maria Giudice
    Help people like understand who they are and why they get when they get triggered, and yeah and also, you know, helping them step into the things that they want to do. But are afraid to do.

    Amy Vaughan
    Oh, I love that. Yeah, that’s so great. I Want to make sure I ask this too, because we haven’t dropped it in the chat yet. But if folks are interested in your executive coaching services, where should they go?

    Maria Giudice
    They could. You can go to hot studiocom. That’s my website. It’s really old. Don’t judge me, because I don’t really enjoy doing.

    Amy Vaughan
    We got some people that can help you with that. Maria, amazing ladies that can help you with that.

    Maria Giudice
    Yeah, yeah, or you can contact me on LinkedIn, okay. All of those are Ways in which I can. You can reach me, okay.

    Amy Vaughan
    Awesome. I’m trying to think we’ve got just a few minutes left and I want to leave a second for questions, If anyone in our live listening audience has them as well. So I’m trying to decide of my last few questions. Which one I want to ask you because I could just keep you here the rest of the day. But you’ve got some stuff to get to.

    Maria Giudice
    Let’s nobody’s knocking on my door kicking me out of my head. That’s good. So we’re good, we’re good.

    Amy Vaughan
    Actually, let me do this. I’m gonna kind of cheat code it right as we’re as we’re waiting it to see if there’s any other questions from our audience is We’ve talked about a lot of everything from design thinking to to leadership, to change, to being a woman in tech. What, if? Is there anything that you don’t feel like we’ve maybe said or covered, or what would be sort of your Last piece of advice for our listeners to kind of take away from today’s conversation?

    Maria Giudice
    Oh, like I said, I am so Happy the universe made me a woman. Yeah, I think as women, we have so much power 100% and and which is why Certain genders might want to try to hold us back, because they’re afraid of the power and I feel bad, because I do love men, I love you, but I’m talking to my ladies and I really do believe that we are we are still always have to work twice as hard to get what we need to get. That is the reality that I grew up with and it’s it’s, unfortunately, still the same case today. There are more women in leadership positions, which is really encouraging, yeah, but it is a. I always say the best measure of success is progress. As long as we keep making progress, there will be setbacks, and we have seen some of these setbacks recently in politics for women and women’s health. Yeah, and it sucks, but that just means we have to be more resilient and stronger and we nevertheless will persist. Yes, and we keep pushing forward 100%. And you know, I am just. I love being a woman, I love being a woman role model. Yep, and I want to see more and more women step up to the plate and show their power, because they have it in spades.

    Amy Vaughan
    Right and I think we have 100% agree, and as soon as, the sooner we can all start to realize that the better the whole entire world is going to be right Exactly. I think that’s the difference of. You know people talk a lot about power from versus power to. I think women tend to kind of lead because we’re more community minded, where we’re reared that way, we’re wired that way to give more power to. So when we receive power, we give power in return, which is exactly the point of this podcast and our together digital community, which is why I was so excited to connect with you and have the opportunity to bring you on to the podcast. I think definitely everyone who’s listening. If you want to hear more from Maria, follow her on LinkedIn. Check out hot studios website, get the book. Change makers of the rise of the DEO. We do have two questions. One that’s directed at you, maria, so I’m going to go ahead and answer that and then, if we have a minute, I’ll come back to the one that was actually directed at me. Okay, let’s see, as a woman in tech, what advice would you give to a younger woman who may need help in the future or as they bring you back to the world? And what advice would you give to a young woman who may need help in the future or?

    Maria Giudice
    as they begin their professional career. You have a long way ahead of you, right? So, and and really just don’t get scared. If there’s things you don’t know, you are young and you’re not supposed to know, because you have to go through the life experience. Find, when you’re young and you’re starting out, there are so many great women or other, or even men, met male mentor, who are more than willing to help you. So you got to seek them out and find them, and and that, and they will be guideposts for you as you kind of grow and learn how you build your story in tech. And you know it can be. Tech is not, cannot could be a friendly environment, but more often than not it’s not very friendly. And I don’t know. You know it depends on your discipline. You know, if you are designing, your closer to people, if you’re an engineering, you’re closer to the pixels. Just make sure you find the humanity in what you’re doing and people that you’re working with.

    Amy Vaughan
    I love that. I love that. That’s such great advice. I think I read a stat somewhere that like 30% of women who started tech leave it before the age of 30. But that number changes drastically when you surround yourself with peers and mentors and champions and sponsors, people who will speak your name in the rooms that you’re not in, will give you the opportunities and the projects that maybe others think you’re not quote unquote ready for yet. Because it is. It’s a long and bumpy road and I think the best way to do that is not to go it alone, right, Not to make you feel like you’ve got to figure it all out for yourself and you know, again, put perfection aside, have that learners mindset and you’ll be okay. All right, we’ve got like a minute. I will try to answer this question for you, for our other listener. It says can you share more about the decision making process you mentioned earlier to help with analysis paralysis? I don’t know. I’ll have to look around and see if there’s actually any sort of. I’m sure there’s research and papers out on this, because she kind of just explained the sort of inverted triangle and the decision making sort of understanding. What is your decision making style? There might even be quizzes online. I’ll do a little research after this and and get back to you while we can maybe include it in the show notes of you know just understanding what is your decision making style so that you can see the traps right, you can see the mind traps, you can see the gaps in which maybe you might be getting stuck. So you know that might be even understanding why you struggle to make a decision. Is it because you’re exploring constantly and you’re not coming into it? Is it because you’re waiting for the exact right time, or is it because you are just too busy focused on one potential possibility? So those are kind of the three ways you can kind of think about how you typically make especially big decisions and where you fall, and then sort of from there begin to sort of understand how to get yourself unstuck. But yeah, I will do some, I’ll do some research in that analysis. Paralysis I think we hit a nerve there.

    Maria Giudice
    And I talk. We talk about decision making in our book. Change method Perfect, there you go.

    Amy Vaughan
    Answers are in the book. That’s right, fantastic. Well, this was so wonderful, maria. Thank you again. I hope we get to hang out soon.

    Maria Giudice
    I know we’re not in the same country.

    Amy Vaughan
    but you know what, at some point it’s bound to happen. I feel it, yeah that’s right.

    Maria Giudice
    I mean, I I like to say yes when people invite me to come out and, do you know, talks about my book.

    Amy Vaughan
    So any of you out there want to go to Ohio.

    Maria Giudice
    Yes, community people who willing to pay for my travel. We got it.

    Amy Vaughan
    We’re going to work on it in the middle of the winter, right? Yeah, no, we wouldn’t do that to you. We wouldn’t do that to you. All right, wonderful, well, thank you again. So much Save travels. Good luck at your workshop next week, and thank you all for joining us and listening. This has been wonderful. We will see you all next week. Take care and bye, bye.

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    Together Digital is a collective of influential women in digital who choose to share their knowledge, power, and purpose—making meaningful connections and deeper conversations happen. We are a safe space to speak about and seek out the changes we want to see in ourselves – and the world.

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