Lisa Duerre spent twenty-five years working as a Silicon Valley executive in, “The good ol’ boys club of tech.” But she was tired of the productivity burn-out that had become such a hallmark of the tech world. She decided to stay in tech, while striking out on her own, to help ignite leaders in tech to get real results with high-performing teams, that weren’t built around such toxic work cultures. Her company RLD Group based in Portland, Oregon does just that. Today she’s on a mission to show tech leaders that they don’t have to sacrifice their personal lives in order to achieve business success.
Duerre’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
This is the part where I could give you my formal bio information and talk about how I was a kickass female Silicon Valley tech executive for 25 years with zero engineering background. I led high-functioning teams known for awesome global-impacting results and faster decision-making. But that’s not the whole picture. I could also tell you how I’m the CEO and co-founder of RLD Group. I could mention how I’ve helped over 25,000 employees grow their careers, make a greater impact at work, and build a more meaningful connection between work and home. That part – building a healthier, more meaningful connection between work and home and making an impact through strategy, clarity, and heart – that’s what gets me fired up.
Tech expertise will only take you so far when it comes to building a great business or being a better people leader. That’s my greatest success: showing other leaders in tech how to escape burnout, pursue a kickass impact with their teams and organizations, and not destroy their families, mental health, or life at the same time.
I recognized a need to change the conversation for leaders in tech from inevitable burnout in the always-on, never-good-enough, we’ll-replace-you-today tech industry. This is my opportunity to show others how to be an amazing leader in tech without sacrificing family, sanity, or life along the way.
Success is when you have the freedom and drive to pursue what truly matters to you, not just someone else’s expectations for your life and work. Your success can’t be defined by someone else’s life or perspective. I’m on a mission to show leaders the way to lead with their heads and hearts. I believe leaders in tech need world-class insight to get kickass results at work, build high-performing teams, and be present for the moments that matter. It starts with reflection and emotional intelligence (self-awareness) and being curious about each of your employees, their career, life goals, what inspires them, motivates them, and even what pisses them off. As a personal brand, leaders in tech trust me to help them stop burning out in their careers and personal lives and ignite their impact.
Probably the biggest and toughest situation I’ve had to face personally up to this point was losing my mom. She needed hospice care and we moved her into our home for her last months of life. I had to choose how I wanted to structure my work and life to be present for the moments that matter. It wasn’t too long after that decision when I decided to Ctrl+Alt+Delete out of the tech exec role and start RLD Group.
One of my most important role models is my coach and mentor Denise Brouillette, who was a lifesaver for me when I first started in tech and throughout my career. She was a true advocate and coach who saw my potential in me well before I saw it in myself. Denise helped me realize my true gifts and talents and I am forever grateful for her impact on my life. I was attending a Leadership Development program at work — Denise was leading it — and I was the only female participant in the program. When I had my one-on-one coaching meeting with Denise, I started to cry in our meeting about how hard it was being the only woman and a non-engineer on the leadership team. At that moment, Denise started showing me how to cut through the bulls*** and focus on bringing my best self to the rest of the experience. Before we finished, she helped me check my makeup and get back out there. When I asked her if anyone would notice, she told me, “Oh, honey, they’re all too busy focused on themselves to notice your makeup has changed. You get out there and show them what you can do that nobody else brings to the table right now.” Everyone needs a Denise sometimes.