I remember the first offline meeting Joyce Sullivan and I had. It was a sunny afternoon in 2010 and we met in Madison Square Park. The conversation flowed easily because we had chatted for ages online—it just took longer for us to move that online conversation offline!
Joyce, like me, started her professional life in the world of office towers, IT departments and tenure-based promotions. We’ve watched that world turn upside down and embraced the evolution along with digital natives and the innovators creating the future. Joyce’s super power was revealed amidst all the economic and technological upheaval: working with the most senior leaders who, through no fault of their own, are no longer sitting on top of their worlds. With attention to detail and the utmost of care, Joyce brings them back to realizing they still matter, they still count and they have so much to offer the world. This core of Joyce’s company, SocMediaFin, is to take everything that made these leaders fabulous and extraordinary in the second-wave post industrial revolution world, and reintroduce them to the third-wave information age arena.
Joyce is also an extraordinary mentor, having worked with young professionals over the arc of her professional career. Even though she is building her own company, she continues to mentor through teaching at Baruch College in the School of Public Affairs, supporting #WomenInTech initiatives and working with men who ‘get it’.
Q: I love your quote – “We are all the executive producers of our online lives.” Tell me how it came about.
A: On April 6, 1995, I opened my first online account. That one act cracked open the window to my not-yet-known future. What began as a hobby eventually surpassed my traditional second-wave industry career. Over the next 13 years, I worked my way through a variety of senior global financial services roles while spending my off-hours speaking virtually to people around the world. In 2008, when the financial services industry came crashing down, and with it, my global financial services banking role, my online and offline worlds began to merge.
With the traditional working world in disarray, I grabbed the opportunity to shape my “what’s next” by putting into action my nurtured network. I provided pro bono services to the Financial Women’s Association to become their first chief digital officer creating their social media presence. With the emerging world of social media, I pitched and got picked up as a featured speaker and moderator for regulated industry events. My persistent fascination with connecting evolved into my new online life and world. The power to create your own ‘show’ puts you in the executive producer seat of your online life.
Your own career has been reinvented by social media. Is this why you are so passionate about professionals harnessing the power of social at every stage of their career?
When I realized the power that online connecting and learning gave me, I was passionate about showing others they could do it too.
When I was in executive outplacement following my 2008 job loss, I quickly realized I knew more about online connecting than those who ran outplacement services. The world had changed dramatically that year and there were legions of out-of-work workers pouring into executive outplacement offices. These former senior executives had the wide-eyed look of disbelief upon learning their jobs had vanished. Though I was at first shaken when my own job disappeared, I quickly found that I relished going into the outplacement office, knowing there was a way to engage an online network that I had nurtured for years. At the same time, I wanted to help my fellow colleagues to know there was hope and the beginning of the next chapter of their lives through the power of online connecting. By creating and running sessions to teach how to connect online, I dove into conducting these training sessions. I was thrilled to be able to help, so I did what came naturally to help those who did not know where to turn.
I recently learned from a trusted colleague from my outplacement days that my nickname was “The Mayor.” I guess I did shake a lot of hands, just so thrilled to meet all these new people by helping them to learn how to navigate and to connect with those they wanted to reach.
Given the power of my online network, I quickly secured another traditional financial services job in early 2009.
Though I was very grateful to have found a new role in a similar firm, this persistent tug of the online world kept drawing me in. The percentage of my energy spent online continued to get bigger. In my spare time as a spokesperson for this professional networking organization, I began attending and speaking at industry events as a featured speaker and moderator. Balancing my traditional financial services job with my rapidly growing social media role began to tip, until my online efforts consumed the majority of my time. Finally the roar of the online crowd had me admitting to myself that my true calling was to jump full time into a social media career.
In 2011, I founded SocMediaFin, Inc. a boutique consulting firm specializing in social media strategy and leadership training for industry executives, not-for-profit leaders, unique businesses and regulated industries. My passion is working with industry leaders who have had storied careers and find themselves at a crossroad with social media and the online world. By crafting reinvention steps customized for each executive, we give them an easy entry into the social media world. It continues to be an amazing ride and one that fuels me everyday with the ability to show others how to reinvent themselves through the power of connecting online.
I am also honored to be on the faculty of Baruch College, City University of New York teaching college undergraduates and public leaders how to use social media professionally for connecting with industry leaders they want to reach.