We had the good fortune of connecting with Jackie Lamping and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jackie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Early in my career, I was relentless in my pursuit of proving my worth as a professional, achieving financial independence, and building the life society had told me I wanted. I worked incredibly long hours and put my relationships with family and friends on the back burner while I put effort into achieving a laundry list of accomplishments — get an MBA, pay off my student debt, get married, become a homeowner, be ready to have kids — all before age 30. The people I spent the most time with were colleagues who nicknamed me “Turbo Jackie” and the “Energizer Bunny” as I checked these items off my list. And suddenly, there it was, my 30th birthday, staring me straight in the face. I remember distinctly, looking in the mirror and wondering why after all those accomplishments in life, why did I feel so… unfulfilled, and honestly… lonely? In hindsight, it’s obvious. I was living someone else’s life. That harsh dose of reality began the process of inward reflection and self discovery toward understanding what I truly wanted out of life, versus what I thought I wanted. My husband and I never fought, but we also hardly knew each other. I was craving deeper connections and meaning. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I could feel in my gut that I was on the wrong path. I began unraveling the things that felt hollow or sucked energy from my life — my marriage, some of my friendships, my career decisions — and began making room for things that filled me up. I traveled, met new people, took risks personally and professionally, and gave myself permission to not have a specific outcome in mind for a while. Slowly I rebuilt every aspect of my life. I learned the things I was no longer willing to accept in relationships. Today, balance means feeling grounded in knowing who I am and being unapologetic about the things that don’t work for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve worked in marketing for 15+ years building brands, accelerating growth and driving digital adoption of technology in companies including Twitter, AdRoll, Sojern, and Wells Fargo. I set myself a goal back in college to become a CMO of a company I was proud to work for and I’ve been pushing towards that goal ever since. With a BA from Stanford University in Human Biology and an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, I was off to a good start.
There have been some amazing highlights such as being named to the DMA Top 40 Under 40 and Brand Innovators Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing but also some real low moments along the way. At the start of 2020, I had just signed on for a new gig as the Chief Marketing Officer at a high-growth startup whose founders, stage, and credibility were everything I’d been looking for. Less than a month into the job my new employer had to lay off roughly half of its workforce, including the entire marketing department, due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. And in all honesty, I was gobsmacked. I recognized that the pandemic would have major implications…. But until it happens to you, those hypothetical impacts almost feel surreal. But now we were in the middle of a global pandemic, layoffs were happening everywhere, and I found myself agonizing — Is anyone out there hiring? How long will I be unemployed? How long can I afford my rent? Will I have to move back in with my parents at the embarrassing age of 36? Am I even allowed to feel grief about this when so many others are physically contracting and dying from this virus? It’s difficult to describe the weight of the shame I felt about losing my job.
My career is an enormous part of my self-identity and the way I value myself. I grew up in Michigan with hard-working parents, and learned in my youth that work is a virtue and I should always strive for financial security and independence. Next to death and public speaking, being jobless is my deepest fear. For me, the clouds parted when I stopped to consider what else I’d been through and that this in hindsight would pale in comparison. I’ve been through divorce, I’ve been through many forms of sexual harassment, and I’ve personally failed at many things over my life. Each of these experiences individually were brutal but collectively built my armor for moments like this. Failure has always made me turn inward, separate what I could control from what I could have done differently, and set my sights higher and double down for the next phase. I knew I had to be quick to catch CMO leads if there were any out there at all. I began texting my inner circle of professional contacts best connected in the startup world. As luck would have it, one of the friends I texted that day connected me with Alyson Friedensohn, CEO and founder of the mental health benefits startup Modern Health—where I would (spoiler alert) land the CMO role the following month. The hard fact is that most jobs aren’t posted online, especially in the C-suite. So rely on your networks, swallow your pride, ask for help, and don’t waste time. I started as Chief Marketing Officer at Modern Health in late April and after only six months I can confidently say it’s the best career move I’ve ever made. Actually, I told a friend the other day, it feels like I was born for this job. Every day, I wake up motivated to make a difference in people’s lives and to help promote mental health on a massive scale. Modern Health’s mission comes through in our actions every day. In response to Covid-19, our teams organized more than 100 community support sessions tailored for clients and the public at large. When the world grieved as we all watched George Floyd senselessly murdered by police, Modern Health mobilized our provider network to host Healing Circles for the Black community and for allies who wanted to take action. Through some of the hardest events of this rollercoaster of a year, I log on each day with a sense of purpose, knowing if I help connect even one more person to the support they needed, I’ve succeeded. I feel truly grateful. There are so many things that could have prevented me from every being connected with the team at Modern Health, and that led me down this journey of both personal and professional fulfillment. We’ve all heard about post-traumatic stress, but there’s another possible outcome, too: post-traumatic growth, wherein people report their lives changing for the better following a period of trauma. If you let it, hardship can be a source of strength to catapult you into even better opportunities than you ever thought possible. Depending on what we make of it, 2020 just might be the year of pain and growth we didn’t know we needed.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When I travel, I avoid the tourist destinations and try to experience the area like a local, so that’s what I would set up for a friend. We’d go for a morning hike or walk (I’d recommend Muir Beach, north of SF, Hawk Hill as well as Mount Sutro), have a bite to eat at a neighborhood cafe (my favorites are Le Marais Bakery, Rose’s Cafe, Brazen Head and Wildseed), browse art galleries or people watch and absorb the local feel, enjoy a leisurely dinner, and tack on a nightcap at a speakeasy. A few days I’d plan surprise adventures — maybe a seaplane ride, trip to a winery, overnight in nature, or an insider tour of something off the beaten path. For the grand finale, I’d host dinner and drinks with friends at my place so they could get to know more of my inner circle. I get such a kick out of connecting people with other like-minded people and watching their friendships grow.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
None of my personal or professional growth would have been possible without a) reaching my breaking point, acknowledging I needed help, and seeking therapy for the first time, or b) the support network of my friends and family. I grew up with strong values of self-reliance and felt shame and guilt over not being able to fix the problems in my life on my own. Now I know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Research has shown that the strength of our social support systems (including emotional, informational, tangible, appraisal, and companionship) is a significant driver of happiness in life. They also say you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so make sure to choose wisely.