Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Kate Isler began her career at Microsoft at its beginning, ready to respond to the energetic, nuanced business environment of a rapidly growing tech company. Her independence and can-do attitude led her to both early success and recoverable failure, further fueling her drive to succeed. Kate’s career allowed her to travel extensively through the Middle East, exposing her to a range of cultural and professional challenges as she navigated post-Gulf War Dubai as a woman in a male-dominated industry. For Kate, these were opportunities to grow herself and the company at large.
In this inaugural episode, Kate tells Liz when she realized what her Third Act would be and how her inspiration for it stemmed from the power of celebrating International Women’s Day while working in Europe. Upon her return to the US, Kate quickly launched her own celebration, tying it to the need to advance gender parity. Launching the event sparked her passion to drive gender parity through a more coordinated effort, launching her startup Be Bold Now and her women’s ecommerce site, The WMarketplace.
As Kate puts it, “I’m only 50% finished!” Tune in to hear about Kate’s border-breaking career and her incredible drive toward gender parity.
(00:34) Introduction to Kate Isler
(01:12) Taking a chance on Microsoft
(04:36) The GUI: a good old mistake
(06:56) 1992: The Middle East
(08:48) What were you most afraid of as a mom, woman, and professional?
(10:38) Selling in Syria: a culture clash
(16:01) What was your main takeaway as you walked away from the job in Syria?
(17:52) Did you ever experience gender parity at Microsoft?
(21:17) Coming and going from Microsoft
(25:07) Building YOU, not just your career
(26:16) How did you start scaling International Women’s Day?
(29:59) Act 3: Be Bold Now
(33:05) The W Marketplace
(34:00) Finding your passion after you pivot: why not?
(36:01) Breaking Borders: inspiring women to take chances
(37:06) What aren’t you done with in your life?
Contact Kate at kateisler.com or bboldnow.com. Shop the WMarketplace at https://thewmarketplace.com. Follow @IslerKate and @beboldnow0308 on Twitter, and subscribe to The Third Act at thirdactpodcast.com.
Liz Tinkham (00:18):
Hi, this Liz Tinkham, and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends but your show’s just not finished. Today, I’m excited to be talking to Kate Isler, the CEO of Be Bold Now, a conscious consulting practice whose mission is to inspire, empower, and support people to accelerate gender parity. Kate pivoted from her international career at Microsoft to become the CEO of a digital health startup and now to Be Bold Now.
Liz Tinkham (00:55):
So, Kate, welcome to Third Act. Although, for you, I think it’s like your fourth or fifth act.
Kate Isler (01:00):
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
Liz Tinkham (01:02):
So, let’s start with your background at Microsoft. And you started at Microsoft in what year?
Kate Isler (01:10):
The end of 1989, if you can believe it. Microsoft was a little-known, sort of mid-size tech company. And you never would’ve heard of it unless you were a developer. Bill Gates was the CEO, and he had a vision. There was a huge effort to rally and change the way business was being done. And he had that vision. And so, at the time, the company was very energetic, very young, and very driven to make that vision a reality. And that was kind of the qualification to get in is you had to have lots of energy and lots of passion. And it was a really interesting thing. They were looking for all kinds of skills of all kinds of people in really diverse ways that they didn’t know what they needed because we were kind of making it up as we went along. And I was fortunate enough to work at the company in a time where everybody was taking chances. And if you were willing to try things, the company was willing to support you to do that. It was really an incredible time.
Liz Tinkham (02:25):
What were you like then?
Kate Isler (02:28):
Oh my goodness. I came from an advertising agency, and I started working at Microsoft by accident. I had someone who worked at the agency that I had never met that called me. I had taken her job. And so I knew her background and I knew her handwriting really well because I’d taken on all her clients. She went to work for this tech company, and she called and said, “Are you interested? We’re looking for people at this tech company.” And so I went, and I was very nervous. But I thought, “Why not try it?” And so I had no tech experience. I didn’t really have anything except communication experiences. And I thought, “Okay, well what’s the harm? I’ll just jump in and try this.” And it really ended up to be such an amazing experience in my life. It changed my life. And that support that I got from the company, between us, in terms of I was willing to do things and there was a culture of, “If you’re willing to do it and you’re taking a chance, we will support you to do it,”… And so-
Liz Tinkham (03:39):
When you started there, and maybe it was after a few years, did you have any idea where you were headed within the company, or did you have an aspiration of doing something there?
Kate Isler (03:49):
I had no idea where I was headed, but I was always ambitious. And I’m a little bit of a risk taker and an adventure seeker. And so early on, within the first few years, I made some enormous mistakes. So, I was in charge of the hardware business and the communications and ads for the hardware business, which at the time meant mice. And mice were sold only with a specialized program because you didn’t need them because you didn’t have Windows and you didn’t have a reason to have a mouse when you were word processing. And so Windows 3.0 was going to be announced, and it was the first time Microsoft was introducing a whole new visual what they called a graphical user interface, which meant multiple layers of Windows on your machine, and you’d need a mouse.
Liz Tinkham (04:42):
Right, the GUI.
Kate Isler (04:44):
The GUI, that’s it. I actually announced that six weeks before it was formally announced in the press.
Liz Tinkham (04:54):
Oh, my goodness. Was this when you were in the US or overseas?
Kate Isler (04:58):
No, it was when I was in the US. And my heart dropped. I saw it in a magazine. I was traveling for the company with a bunch of people, and one of the people pulled up the magazine and opened it up to this double-page spread in a computer news magazine. And it was of the mouse with Windows 3.0. And the launch date from Windows 3.0 had been pushed out and pushed out, and I had forgotten to pull this ad insertion. And so there it was.
Liz Tinkham (05:27):
Oh, my goodness.
Kate Isler (05:29):
I went back to my office, and I had only been with the company probably five months, six months. And so I called my husband and said, “My career has been really fun, although short, because I’m sure they’re going to fire me.”
Liz Tinkham (05:40):
Time for a pivot.
Kate Isler (05:42):
Oh, my gosh. And I ended up having to make a mitigation plan and email everyone, including the head of Windows, which that guy’s name was Steve Ballmer, what I was I going to do to fix it. There was nothing to do. It was already distributed in thousands of magazines. And so I did my mitigation plan, packed up my office and went home for the weekend and though, “Oh, my card key probably won’t work on Monday.” And it did, and I was told, “Pay attention. Never do this again. But keep moving.” And so I did. And within a few years, there was a man that worked at the company that we had similar skills. And his career was moving a bit faster than mine. And he was transferred to Paris for a job. And I went, “Oh, my gosh, if that guy can do it, I can do it.” So, I raised my hand and said, “That’s what I want to do,” and started talking to people around the company. And that was, at the time, about 3,000 people, so it was not a large company. And shortly after that, a few weeks later, a colleague said, “Okay, well there’s a job open in the Middle East.”
Liz Tinkham (06:58):
So, what year is this now?
Kate Isler (07:00):
This is 1992.
Liz Tinkham (07:03):
Lots of blondish, curly-hair women going into the Middle East in ’92 if I recall, right?
Kate Isler (07:13):
Right after the first Gulf War. If you think about it, it was a time where all of business was changing. So, we were computerizing all over the world. And this place in the world had a bunch of money and a bunch of desire to be westernized in terms of business, so the opportunity was there. And I talked my husband into going to look and see what this would mean. And this would mean an upheaval in our entire lives. We were a very classic two-income family with a baby, and all was going well. We had bought a house, and we were kind of building a life. And instead, we went and decided, “Why not try this?” And so went to the Middle East. My husband quit his job and was the only male non-working spouse I am very sure for thousands of miles in the Middle East.
Liz Tinkham (08:05):
Kate Isler (08:06):
And I became the sole breadwinner. And there I was in the Middle East with 16 Middle Eastern countries to look out for and had so much fun.
Liz Tinkham (08:17):
Do you remember back then because that’s an unbelievable story. I’ve moved as well with my husband, and I can remember the conversations about moving. But that would be moving from Chicago to New Jersey or Chicago to Seattle. Moving from Seattle to… You went to Dubai, is that correct?
Kate Isler (08:37):
Liz Tinkham (08:39):
To Dubai. That’s a much bigger thing. Then, getting there and being in a foreign country, in a Middle Eastern foreign country as a woman. Do you remember what you were most afraid of when you were there?
Kate Isler (08:51):
Oh, my gosh, everything. I felt pressure for sure to perform really well, to do better than my male counterparts. Because I think that there was a spotlight on me. I was feeling under pressure and terrified that my son wouldn’t think of me as his parent anymore because I was taking on such a different role. I mean working mother went to the extreme. And I was just afraid of how I would be received by my male counterparts both within the company and the people that we had to talk to. Because Microsoft’s business model for sure then was not a direct sales model. It needed distributors and a retail channel.
Liz Tinkham (09:36):
And partners, right?
Kate Isler (09:38):
Yeah. And that was a really interesting thing. But I will say, again, I can’t tell you how much support I had. Because right after I arrived there, I was probably three weeks in, and we had the equivalent of CES in the Gulf Region, in Dubai. And we had executives from Microsoft that came and there was a big meeting of all of our partners, and they had come from all these countries. And the then vice president of international at Microsoft stood up at that meeting, introduced me and said, “Whatever she says is what Microsoft and Bill Gates wants you to do.” And that was a ticket.
Liz Tinkham (10:18):
Kate Isler (10:18):
That was my ticket to success right there because that showed such support and such backing for me that I was successful from that point on.
Liz Tinkham (10:28):
And empowerment, and it totally empowered you.
Kate Isler (10:31):
Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Liz Tinkham (10:33):
So, you’ve told me a great story about going into Syria.
Kate Isler (10:38):
Yes. You have to remember that the Middle Eastern culture is vastly different than ours. And we can’t assume because we are Western that they are going to respect our culture, which is fine. But there was some interesting things because I was a little bit of a novelty. Besides me and doing business, and there was interesting things. So, at the time Syria, you couldn’t take certain things into the country. And so to get there, driving was the way to go versus flying because there was such restrictions on air travel in that part of the world.
Liz Tinkham (11:14):
So, your job was to sell what into Syria?
Kate Isler (11:18):
Everything. And mostly-
Liz Tinkham (11:21):
Anything Microsoft had to sell at that point, right?
Kate Isler (11:24):
Exactly, yeah. And we just had begun developing Arabic language version products, so they were not the staple. So, it was mostly English-based products. And we had business development people put in to different countries in the Middle East. And we had a distributor, which was our partner, in Syria, in Damascus. And so I was scheduled to go and meet with that partner and some of the government officials that were actually going to buy our product, some of the backend products that we had and some of the Windows and Office products that we had to run their government. And so I was going in for that meeting. So, I went to Amman, Jordan, and I got with our business development guy from Jordan in the Levant. And we got in the car, and there was a series of cars that you had to take. So, there was one car that took you to the border in the Golan Heights. And then you had to switch cars to go over the border. And that car had compartments to hold all of your electronics because they were banned in Syria at the time. So, even my laptop computer I couldn’t take.
Liz Tinkham (12:35):
You couldn’t take anything in?
Kate Isler (12:37):
Liz Tinkham (12:37):
Kate Isler (12:38):
And then there was another car after you crossed the border that took you into the city of Damascus. And so we got in the first car, and it was uneventful. And the second car, we pulled off the side of the road, it was waiting for us, and there was all these compartments. And so we were taking my laptop and actually a satellite antenna to our partner there who had ordered it. And it was the custom that you would order things outside of the country, and then someone would courier it in. So, indeed I was couriering electronic equipment into the country to Syria.
Liz Tinkham (13:10):
In these compartments?
Kate Isler (13:11):
In these compartments. And so, then, there’s a series of guards. And so you were stopped at every bit. And once the guards figured out who I was and that I was an American and that I worked for Microsoft… Because they began to know who Microsoft was by then because of Windows, and so you couldn’t move past them unless you gave them something. And something I mean, I had mouse pads and I had writing pens with logos on it, and I had just a little bit of collateral here and there and giveaways. And so every time a guard would stop, every time we’d stop we’d give them something. It was crazy stuff.
Kate Isler (13:53):
And then we got to the border, and you had to get out of the car and walk into an immigration building and have your passport checked. And so we got out, and they were supposedly going to search your car, hence the compartments. But I don’t know the extent of which they were going to search the car, so we had to take our bags. And we went into the immigration office, and you handed your passport like you do across a desk and across a window like everybody’s done. You hand it across, and then they motion for you to back up. And so you do. And so I was backing up, and the process was your passport moved through a series of people that were behind those counters, and it went down the path to lots of people.
Liz Tinkham (14:38):
Kate Isler (14:39):
And then they would call out a name. And instead of standing up and you walking up to the window to retrieve your passport, they would simply just throw it over the partition. It was amazing.
Kate Isler (14:54):
I was definitely sort of an odd man out, let’s just say, in this place because I was young and had very long, blonde, curly hair.
Liz Tinkham (15:02):
Oh, my goodness.
Kate Isler (15:02):
I stuck out for sure because they were wearing dishdashas, traditional dress. And I don’t believe there were any women around except for me.
Liz Tinkham (15:14):
Kate Isler (15:14):
And they were very respectful and nice. But then when my passport came, the scrum kind of cleared and they threw it.
Liz Tinkham (15:21):
They kind knew who Kate Isler might’ve been, right?
Kate Isler (15:24):
Liz Tinkham (15:24):
Kate Isler (15:24):
And so I kind of, yeah, walked up and picked up my passport off the floor. And so they all stood and watched me, and then walked out the other side of the door.
Liz Tinkham (15:33):
Oh, my goodness.
Kate Isler (15:36):
And my traveling companion, the BDM, followed me out when he got his. And we got in the car and then continued to give out our pens and things as we passed. And then drove a few miles, got in a different taxi and went into Damascus.
Liz Tinkham (16:02):
Your resilience and fearlessness is just unbelievable. As you walked away from that job, because eventually you finished in the Middle East, I mean what was your takeaway?
Kate Isler (16:12):
So, you know what? As I walked away from that job, I actually walked into one where I lived in a different place. So, I moved my family to London, and I took on all of Africa and the Middle East, and India. And so I walked into sort of a bigger, more diverse group of cultures. But the thing that I took away was really how energized and exhilarated I was from working and having all those experiences that I think they were not really physically scary to me because I was so interested in it. And I still, it’s curiosity and it’s people, and that’s what engages and makes me sort of fearless. It’s like the alternative would be not to have those experiences and not to learn those things about people. I’m not good at fitting in and living like everyone else. I’ve never been. It’s always been, “I think there’s more. I think it’s more interesting to do something.” And so I am a big proponent of, “Well, why not try it?”
Liz Tinkham (17:17):
Kate Isler (17:17):
And I walked away with that really energized and kind of ready to do it over and over again and kind of continue the adventure basically.
Liz Tinkham (17:28):
So, as I think about the job you have now with Be Bold Now and gender parity, and we’ll talk about that more here in a few seconds, but were there any inklings of, “Hey”… I mean obviously you saw probably very disparity among men and women in the Middle East. It sounds to me though like you were well supported by your male allies, bosses, at Microsoft at the time. But were there any sparks of, “Hmm, there’s something with gender parity,” back then?
Kate Isler (18:00):
Absolutely. The fact that it was such an anomaly always gave me pause.
Liz Tinkham (18:06):
That you were such the anomaly?
Kate Isler (18:08):
Mm-hmm. Yeah, that it was so surprising for people to have a woman in that position. I think that, at the time, we didn’t articulate. I think about this. 25 years ago, we didn’t articulate the disparity between men and women.
Liz Tinkham (18:23):
I would agree.
Kate Isler (18:25):
But it always sort of struck me both in a work environment and in a social environment. Both my husband and I had to kind of write our own playbooks to function. Because he was at home with the children, which was not done at the time, and certainly not done as an internationally-assigned family for a corporation. We were most definitely… In all of our school and social situations, people would say, the first question they would ask us both was, “What does your husband do?” In effect, “Why are you here?” And then when I would say, “Well, it’s my job, and I work for Microsoft,” they would say, “Really? Okay, and did you bring your family with you?” That was the other interesting thing. And I was like you would never ask a man in that situation, “Did you bring your family on an expat assignment?”
Liz Tinkham (19:19):
Of course not.
Kate Isler (19:19):
Because it was assumed that you would.
Liz Tinkham (19:20):
Kate Isler (19:20):
But for me, as a woman, it was really an interesting thing. And so I started to kind of get that vibe of, “What we need to do is bring other women into this experience so that it is not so strange.” And the rest of the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8th every year. And it is a 100-year-old holiday. And it is much broader to celebrate and acknowledge women’s contribution than Mother’s Day is what the US celebrates. And I was always intrigued by that. And I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a female colleague to talk about some of this or to celebrate and kind of get engaged?” And so that was where my passion for bringing women together and talking more about gender parity is that it needed to come into the consciousness of people certainly across the board. I was well supported for most of my career at a company, but it wasn’t a big deal to talk about women’s equality in that way at that time.
Liz Tinkham (20:28):
Right. I feel the same way with my career, that I was working, I was well supported, I was doing well, I had my husband as well staying home taking care of our kids. We were in the US maybe so it wasn’t quite as much of an anomaly, although it still was. And it was in the back of my head. And probably the same way with you, you kind of get used to it. You walk into a room, it’s 20 men, it’s you. You’re like, “Whatever.” It doesn’t even phase you after a while. But what I love about what’s going on today and with today’s generation and millennials is they’re just so much more conscious of it and trying so much harder or calling it out as to being wrong, right? Like, “This isn’t the right thing to look at.” So, one more thing about your career at Microsoft. You left Microsoft twice, true?
Kate Isler (21:20):
I did. Yes, very true.
Liz Tinkham (21:23):
Okay. When and why, I should ask.
Kate Isler (21:27):
So, I spent my years overseas and decided to come back to the US. And just really the average routine of climbing the ladder in corporate America was just not who I am. And I needed some more adventure. I tried really hard to fit in and do what I was supposed to do and came back to the US and had a great job, and just was bored to death. And so I thought, “Okay, I need to do something new. I need to do something different.” And so I left Microsoft and thought I had the flu, and I had a third child. And so, oops.
Liz Tinkham (22:10):
Kate Isler (22:10):
And so I had more than the flu. And then I started working for a couple of startups and just did a bunch of different things. And Microsoft kept calling me and saying, “Are you going to come back? Are you going to come back? We have things, interesting things.” And finally, they did have an interesting thing. They said, “We’re developing Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and so how about that?” And so I thought, “Oh, I could live in Munich. And again, a really hospitable place for women. Why not?” And so that when I went back.
Liz Tinkham (22:47):
Kate Isler (22:48):
Liz Tinkham (22:48):
Oh yeah, Germany, right.
Kate Isler (22:50):
Yeah. So, we went back, my husband and, at the time now, three boys.
Liz Tinkham (22:57):
Oh, my goodness.
Kate Isler (22:57):
We packed up and moved to Germany. And I worked throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia and had a great time. And again, it was a different… So, this is 2003 when I moved there. And the EU structural funding was going into Eastern Europe and so it was a time of lots of change and lots of opportunity there.
Liz Tinkham (23:19):
Do you feel like Microsoft rewarded you for taking… I still think it was a bit of a risk professionally and personally in some ways as well.
Kate Isler (23:30):
Yeah. In some ways, I feel like they did. In some ways, I think that they used to scratch their heads and say, “We don’t really get you.” It was a really interesting time. And I wasn’t your traditional, “I’m going to go here and be promoted and do this and this and this.” And I think some of that was there are not a lot of women leaders at the company and there are certainly not a lot of women leaders who take positions like I did outside the US.
Liz Tinkham (23:59):
Were there any women? I mean there’s probably a few. Not as many as they have today but…
Kate Isler (24:04):
Interestingly enough, in Eastern Europe there were some women leaders. There was a woman leader when I first got there who was very powerful and very inspirational, and I learned a lot from her. But in terms of the corporate hierarchy of the company, there were very few. And so Kathleen Hogan was kind of coming up at the time. And gosh, there was a public Gerri, and I cannot remember her last name right this minutes, who was public sector VP. But few and far between. It was an interesting time. And I really do believe I was supported but there was a lot of head scratching in terms of they didn’t know what to do with me. And I think that there was a disparity for sure between men and women’s career, and the trajectory and speed of that career was very different. Because I had male counter-
Liz Tinkham (24:57):
Kate Isler (24:57):
Yep. Yeah, I had male counterparts that moved much faster with less experience, broad experience, than I had.
Liz Tinkham (25:07):
Kate Isler (25:09):
No. I took advantage of opportunities, and I made choices in my career that involved a lifestyle choice not just a career trajectory. Because I think that if I had been very focused only on my career, I might’ve managed it differently. But that’s, again, not who I am. I’m a whole person, and I enjoyed and was very curious about learning about how people did business and what are these cultures doing and how could I make a difference. And I really appreciated that in roles that I took internationally, I could see the impact that our business was having on the ground.
Liz Tinkham (25:53):
So, you talked about the day to celebrate women and how you saw that going on internationally. So, in 2016, you and a couple friends started this just small event around International Women’s Day here in the US that now fields 400 or 500 people at Seattle Symphony Hall, Benaroya Hall. I wake up in the morning and think, “I’m going to do a podcast, and I’m going to script it, et cetera,” and that’s going to be a big victory. You, on the other hand, wake up and maybe a few months before decide, “Hey, you know what? In the US, we’re not celebrating, so why don’t I just rent a hall, grab some sponsors and some friends and try and rustle up a few hundred women,” and it happens. So, how did that get going?
Kate Isler (26:41):
We always think that our career and our lives are on a upward trajectory, and that’s rarely the case. And I am a case in point for that. I had left Microsoft, and I was running a digital health care startup. Sounds super easy because why wouldn’t you? Health care is so easy to break into.
Liz Tinkham (27:01):
Kate Isler (27:01):
So, I was doing that and trying to raise money. And we know how that goes for women in ventures, and especially mature women in ventures. I was asked oftentimes, “How much longer are you going to work?,” or, “This is so surprising that you’re doing this business and it’s not a women’s business like fashion or interior design.” And it was just like-
Liz Tinkham (27:20):
Like health isn’t a women’s business.
Kate Isler (27:20):
Liz Tinkham (27:20):
Kate Isler (27:23):
It was just painful. And so I was lamenting with a friend of mine who had moved from Europe. And it was January, and we were kind of like, “Gosh, what are we going to do?” And she said, “Well, why don’t we have an International Women’s Day event?” And I was like, “That’s a really good idea. It’ll make us both feel better.” And so we did. We kind of got together and put it out on our social networks.
Liz Tinkham (27:48):
We’ll do it for ourselves.
Kate Isler (27:50):
Exactly. That was it. And so we went to Costco, and we got wine, and we got snacks and thought we’d have a few people. And 85 people showed up at the basement of WeWork where I actually had an office. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is fun.” And so the next year, people started emailing us asking if we were doing anything for International Women’s Day. And so we kind of got organized and partner with another nonprofit in town so that they could help us. And we were like, “Sure, we’ll do something. Okay.” And we ended up with over 300 people and had to move venues several times because we didn’t have any place for these people. And so it has grown, and we decided that it was so much more fun to engage women and to celebrate and acknowledge women’s contributions.
Kate Isler (28:34):
And what we do is tell stories, have women tell their stories that are relatable and inspiring. Because what happens when we tell each other stories as women, the first thing is we find common ground immediately. And the second thing is we look at those storytellers and say, “If she can do that, I can do that,” and we motivate women to stand up and kind of follow their dreams and their ambitions. And that’s the premise that we work on. And we have people that talk about running for office. We have people who are business successes. We have people who have achieved education success. And success in my book is you can have success at the highest heights in terms of financial or career or success could be for you getting out of bed and getting the kids to school that day. And we need to celebrate women across that spectrum and support one another always. And that is a day to mark that. But every single day I spend my days talking to people and doing that and bringing them together. Because we are 50% of the population, and we could be amazing if we got together and concentrated our efforts in terms of creating more gender balance.
Liz Tinkham (29:58):
Your International Women’s Day event morphed into your business in a way, Be Bold Now. And so how did you decide that you wanted that to be more of your full-time gig?
Kate Isler (30:15):
I really did kind of have to make the decision whether or not I wanted to continue to follow that scripted, “Let me run this company,” or follow my heart that said, “Gosh, there’s a need for this.” And I really did make that scary choice again and step up and say, “You know what? I really am more fulfilled by this mission to support and bring women together, and so I kind of want to do that.” And the International Women’s Day is our flagship sort of pillar, that very public promotion of women. But we’re innovating every day. And so we’re now in the pandemic time, and we are at a time in our history where… I think about it every day. We are in the year of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which granted women in the US the right to vote. And in practice, it was not all women. And, in fact, all women in practice were not given that right to vote until 1964.
Liz Tinkham (31:21):
Civil Rights Acts.
Kate Isler (31:22):
So, the Civil Rights Acts, right. So, in practice… And I think, today, we still have so far to go. We do not have an equal rights amendment ratified in our Constitution. And women, again, are a huge economic, cultural, and political engine of this country, and are not being given that equal platform. And so I think that there is so much work to be done to bring women together that I feel like this is another pivot that I’m doing in terms of how do we move forward as a community of women. And it doesn’t matter how old or what your profession is or what your skillset is but now is the time. Let’s come together, lock arms, and make some changes for gender balance.
Liz Tinkham (32:11):
It’s amazing to me that, and this is why I wanted to interview you, that you have this step-up culture or step-up job at Microsoft with all the great adventures and unbelievably atypical career with the international work. Then, you become the CEO of a startup company, which a lot of people start up a company, run it for a few years. It may or may not work out. But then they usually go back to a corporate job or maybe take a COO position at a startup company or try another CEO position. But you, on the other hand, decide to take on a mission. And in a typical adventure, curiosity-seeking Kate, it’s not just some small thing. I mean so the 500 people at Benaroya was just the tip of the iceberg, if I know what’s coming, correct?
Kate Isler (33:04):
So this is a time where it is imperative that we support women. And I looked around and thought “How do we get money into women’s pockets immediately?” And looked what the world was going online and buying online. And I thought, there is no eCommerce site for women-owned businesses and professional services. So why not start one? So that’s what I did. TheWMarketplace is an eCommerce site where we host women merchants and professional services. Women like to buy things with relationships. We can buy napkins and makeup and whatever clothes and jewelry. And we can also look for someone to do our taxes and give financial advice and attorneys, all in one place.
Liz Tinkham (34:01):
Finding your passion after the two journeys of Microsoft and Daysaver, having the courage to make that pivot, I mean what’s the lessen? Is there a piece of advice that maybe you could give me on this?
Kate Isler (34:16):
Yeah, I think that women, all of us share the self-selecting out constantly. We decide that we don’t have the right network, we don’t have the right skills, we don’t have the right education, or that we have a family and so it precludes us from following our dreams and really kind of searching out our passions. And I am a firm believer in, “Why not?” Ask yourself why not. Because if you are searching for something or you know what that passion is, you are going to be a better person for following that. Ask yourself who you want to be and why not follow that? Surround yourself and seek out people who will support that. You are one of those people for me. And I think of it like my council.
Kate Isler (36:05):
I have my council of people that I go to when I need support and when I need to say, “Gosh, I’m having some self-doubt,” because you always do. Everybody does. “What do you think about this?” And those people will be honest and genuine with you but will support that. Find that council and ask yourself, “Why not try this? Why not follow this? What could happen?” And I have been very fortunate to find that council. And that council grows sometimes and it needs different team members. But I am a perpetual why not kind of a person. I’ve always been. And I’ve tried so hard to live like everyone else and do the normal thing. And I just am so not successful at it.
Liz Tinkham (35:54):
I think you’re more successful in not doing the scripted thing than doing it. So, a couple last things. You’ve got a book coming out next year.
Kate Isler (36:04):
Liz Tinkham (36:05):
Kate Isler (36:06):
I do. I have a memoir coming out. Yep, absolutely. And the title is Breaking Borders: A Remarkable Story of Adventure, Family, and a Career that Exceeded All Expectations. And that is coming out early 2021. And so more information will be at kateisler.com on the release dates and updates on that book as we get closer. I never imagined the life that filled those pages. And I am so happy to look back and hopefully inspire women to take those chances and do that. Because I can tell you that I think of the book as the first few chapters, as you said, but I’m not over.
Liz Tinkham (36:57):
Kate Isler (36:58):
I’m still having that life, and I’m still having that life. So, maybe it’ll be more than one book. Who knows?
Liz Tinkham (37:01):
Who knows? I know. It’s going to be a series. So, you kind of alluded to it, but I thought about naming this podcast I’m Not Done Yet because that’s the way I feel. So, I mean, what aren’t you done with?
Kate Isler (37:15):
I’m not done with any part of my life. I’m learning things that make me more interested every single day. I’m not finished with business success. I feel like, gosh, this marketplace for women and women-owned businesses is sort of an economic engine for women and women at the core I think. I’m not finished with that. I have been married for over 30 years, not finished with him. I have three wonderful sons and one daughter-in-law. So, our life expectancy is getting longer in some senses so, gosh, I might be only 50% finished.
Liz Tinkham (37:52):
Oh my gosh. Well, thanks so much for coming on to Third Act. We look forward to the publishing of your book. We’ll put that in the show notes. In addition to kateisler.com, where else can we find you?
Kate Isler (38:05):
You can find us at bboldnow.com, so bbold, and that is the site that is for women, and it will give you stories and inspiration there. And we are, both of us, @kateisler on Twitter and @bboldnow on Twitter. So, we’re there. We’re across social media, and I would love to engage with your audience. Happy to.
Liz Tinkham (38:34):
Kate Isler (38:34):
I’ve enjoyed talking.
Liz Tinkham (38:36):
All right, well you’ll be back for act five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. But thank you very much. Take care.
Kate Isler (38:44):
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.