June 15, 2021
Interviews 18 December 2017
Interview: Valerie Martinelli
Alexis Ang

Today's interview is with one of our favorite guest posters, Valerie Martinelli! Valerie is the CEO & Owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting as well as the founder of Innovate 50/50. She is a Women’s Executive Business & Leadership Coach as well as a HR/ Management Consultant. 

Valerie is available to consult and develop innovative employee career coaching programs for your organization. She also offers exclusive one-on-one coaching for women who want to be more confident and strategic in their careers. You can check out some of the other great articles she's written for ProSky about the Quest for Gender Diversity and Women Leaders.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I currently live in CT and am passionate about my work and advancing women in the workforce. I enjoy speaking about topics that are directly related to leadership, management, coaching, anything HR-related that empower more women. I relish projects that urges more women into executive-level positions as well as inspires more of them into leadership positions. I hope to clarify HR functions for organizations to include gender diversity as a priority.

Tell us more about Innovate 50/50 and Innovate Women

Innovate 50/50 is the foundation I used to build my business. It is a mentorship and gender advocacy program for on college-aged women and up. Its focus is on mentoring in areas like entrepreneurship, financial literacy, leadership, government as well as STEM. This mentorship helps boost the areas in which mentorship can be most beneficial for women and acts as an advocate for gender equality. 

VMC also had a Twitter chat called Innovate Women. Innovate Women is a panel discussion in which the host (myself), a moderator, and the panel discuss specific issues, topics and public policies that affect women in the workplace. Innovate Women is important to VMC because it provides an opportunity to further engage our followers and community on the issues that deeply affect women in the workplace and prevent them from advancement. 

Who is it geared for? Is there a target age?

Innovate 50/50 is geared specifically for 18+ for age range for mentorship. These are usually young women who have graduated college and are at the early stages of the career level. 

According to you, what are the qualities that an HR & Management Consultant should have?

I’d say the most important qualities are:

  • Leadership 

  • Management

  • Innovation 

  • Willing to think on your feet

  • Deep knowledge of HR spaces

  • Organization 

What do you believe is the role of the HR department in relation to the mission, vision, and strategies of a business/company?

This differs based on the company because not each organization sees it the same way. In my opinion, it depends on how the company wants to employ the HR department. 

It can be one of the most powerful tools and assets a company has, but only if given the proper tools, knowledge, and skills by the company leaders. Not every HR department is given the chance to be all that it can. 

At full capacity, they can carry out the strategies and vision of the company. Their capability to work effectively really depends on Leadership trickling down and giving HR the right tools.

What do you feel is the role of the HR department in creating the company’s work environment?

I think HR departments play a critical role because organizational culture is indicative of your environment, and your culture isn’t something that can be changed at the flip of a switch. 

The power of the HR department is limited in what they can do by the leadership of the company. This sometimes gives HR a bad rep, but we need to realize that everyone gets an order from somewhere, and HR get their cues from the top of the company.

HR’s influence on the company environment depends on the leadership of the company. When someone creates a business they have to think about the leader themselves. Whoever is at the top will have the most influence on the company culture. 

How do you stay current with the HR industry and trends?

The 2 things I do the most of are reading and networking. It is important to understand what is noteworthy to the industry versus merely a social media trend. 

I write a lot of blogs, and I read a lot of the sites and newsletters that I write for. One of my favorites is called Talent Culture. In 2014 I received a message from Careers in Government saying, “We would love for you to write for us” and I thought it was a joke but they were totally serious! I have been writing for them 3 solid years and they have been there through all of my professional endeavors and growth; working for non-profit, starting this business.

What are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen with women in the workplace?

I’ve noticed a little bit less fear in asking for help and asking for feedback. Before, women were a lot more timid towards approaching their career. 

One recent example is I’ve been teaching women how to sell themselves when they are applying for jobs. A lot of women have expressed to me that males seem much more charismatic and outspoken and they just feel they are already dead in the water when competing for positions.

This seems so unfair to me that because of their gender, they can’t get a job they are qualified for because of their gender and not knowing how to compete for it. Luckily, this seems to be improving.

I also see more women who want to be in leadership positions now, which is great! You have to “want” to do things in order to ask for it and take steps to make it happen. One of the biggest missing pieces has been nobody has really said “I want to do this” and asked, “How do I do it?”

What are some improvements leaders and business can make to help get more women into leadership?

Coaching in the workplace would make a huge difference. Sometimes informal mentorship just doesn’t do enough because there is only so much people can do without it being formalized.

I would say leaders and business need to have a plan and a solid program in place to teach women that they can do things they want to do, especially if they ask for it. It starts with open communication and wanting to make a change. 

What are some Industry insights you can share as a result of your experience? 

I hear women that have dealt with sexual harassment. I’ve had some personal experience with this and I really hope we can get a handle on the issue soon. 

Change is happening right now and we have to keep doing this or women are going to stop asking. I think that we have created some momentum for women and there are women who are becoming somewhat less fearful of asking for help, speaking up, and making a change. 

Lastly, we need to try to get more women into government because that will have a direct impact on the types of public policies that are implemented both on a local and federal level. 

What does your average day entail?

When working for yourself, there really isn’t an average day! No two days are the same and that’s the fun part! It is important to be sure that you are driven and motivated to work hard each day and accomplish your goals. 

A few things I do each day are:

  • I work with clients. I make sure I’m spending as much time as possible with all the clients I need to, and that they’re always getting the attention they need.

  • I work with my assistant on a daily basis via Skype or Slack.

  • Client projects like resume writing or devising strategies for them.

  • Strategies on how can I keep growing this business. Strategy is big for me and I’m always looking for ways to innovate and to keep growing this business in order to give as many people what they need. 

  • Phone calls

  • Mundane tasks like Email, CRM. 

I work from home, so my days can get a little crazy but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

What is the definition of work-life balance for you?

That exists?! This is the hard part about working for yourself because I can work for hours on end. I have to assign myself a cut off time and tell myself to take a day off on the weekends because I love what I do. 

I think when you’re passionate you just dive right in. Sometimes I don’t realize how long I’ve been working. Work-life balance is one of the most difficult things for me. 

How did you get into this line of work?

I got my masters in public administration degree in 2014, then I started working for a non-profit in 2015. I ultimately decided that that line of work wasn’t for me and I wasn’t happy. 

I actually started running Innovate 50/50 when I was at the non-profit. I began planning my business around it which is a little out of the ordinary, but it helped me define my mission, values, and objectives, which has helped make VMC is what it is today. 

I believe that sometimes you have to hit a stumbling stone, then dust yourself off, figure out what you want to do and just do it. 

What are the different career paths someone can take if they want to enter this field? 

You can do so many different things! I went a completely non-traditional path. To me, it’s not so much about the career path, but where your mind and your heart is. I don’t think there’s always a clear path or one clear path for everybody. We find and make our own paths.

I also don’t believe your degree should stop people from doing what they want to do. If you’re driven enough, you can do whatever you want. 

Best and most challenging aspects of your job? 

Challenging: To be a female. There are days when just being female is enough to get yourself harassed. I hate saying that, but it’s true.

The Best: I love connecting with people. I love talking to them, hearing their stories, and being able to do something for them. I feel if you can have an impact on someone’s life, then it’s a big thing!

Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?

Yes and No. Yes, in the sense that I’ve had a few moments where I thought “Woah, this is really cool!” Once when I joined the Forbes Coaches Council, and then another moment was a couple of weeks ago when I was offered a radio show.

No is because I don’t want to sit back and get too comfortable. I’m really driven and I like to be challenged. 

Tell us something fun about yourself that not many people know.

*laughs* I can say so many things! A few that are worth sharing:

  • I love art and art history! Art history was one of my favorite college classes, I have a Pinterest board just for paintings. 

  • I know a little bit of Italian

  • I have a dog that is a German shepherd - black lab mix

  • I’m named after the holiday I was born on: Valentine’s day!

What’s the last thing you watched on TV or book that you read and why did you choose to watch/read it? 

  • This is Us - why did I choose to watch it? I must have wanted to cry, I’m addicted. It’s not the depressive kind of tears, it’s like a good cathartic cry. I’m also into crime shows like Chicago PD, Fire. 

  • I’m currently reading Option B. It’s a really great/authentic book and Sheryl Sandberg really opens her heart in it.