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Impact Lunchtime Talk with GT Alumni, Lara Hodgson

Reflections from our lunchtime talk with Lara O'Connor Hodgson, President and CEO of NOWAccount and co-author of ‘Level Up’.
GT Alumni, Lara Hodgson

GT Alumni, Lara Hodgson

We were honored to listen in on an important conversation between two stellar Georgia Tech alumni, Lara Hodgson and Chuck Easley. If you missed the event, we strongly encourage you to view the recording. CEO and author, Lara Hodgson, provided inspiring advice and unique perspective as a leader who walks into many board rooms and panels recognizing that the challenge of being a different tech CEO is the very thing that gives her an advantage. Her talk was packed with powerful and memorable pieces of insight.

Here are a few quotes from Lara on the importance of innovation on impact:

  • We are in an entrepreneurship crisis in the country. The majority of the start-ups are jobs, not businesses. They’re starting a job. If a large number of those jobs don’t scale to create other jobs and create another business beyond the founder, that could create a problem. Stacey and I were both reluctant entrepreneurs.
  • Innovation comes from what you notice, not what you know. Allow yourself to have confidence in the ability to notice, not the ability to know. Stacey and I have an insatiable curiosity.
  • Focus on the “so what” rather than the “what.”
  • There are some unwritten rules. If you know they’re there and if you can figure out a way around it, you’ve just innovated.
  • We (Lara and Stacey) were already focused on the outcome rather than the authorship of the credit. Not being perfect but giving perfect effort. How to prepare for business and look for chances to fail.

One of the most powerful messages from Lara was the story of how her and her business partner, Stacey Abrams, took the opportunity to address bias in the boardroom head-on. They come from vastly different backgrounds and ideologies. Lara is an extrovert, Stacey an introvert. What always matters for them is their shared goals and respect for one another. This was and is the guiding standard of their relationship. One of the stories shared in their book really highlights Lara and Stacey’s commitment to this. After giving a pitch to a room of real-estate developers that Lara felt had gone well, Stacey fell silent in the car as they headed to the airport. When Lara asked her how she felt about the meeting, Stacey pointed out that every question was directed towards Lara even if the subject fell in Stacey’s area of expertise. Additionally, Stacey grappled with frustration with Lara for not noticing. The two of them willingly embraced the challenging conversation and came up with a plan to prevent this bias from ever hindering a presentation again.

Chuck Easley, Georgia Tech professor, VP of Business Development, and Board Advisor for Quantuvos, was a wonderful moderator and supporter of Lara’s work. If you are a Tech student, be sure to check out his classes in leadership. And please be sure to check out Lara and Stacey’s new book, Level Up: Rise Above the Hidden Forces Holding Your Business Back.

You can watch the full conversation on ILSI’s YouTube channel, along with some of the other outstanding Impact presentations from this and previous seasons.

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact is an interdisciplinary institute that promotes servant leadership and social innovation that contribute to a more just, caring, and equitable world.

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