As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Betsy Tucci.
Betsy Tucci serves as the General Counsel of InStride, the global leader in Strategic Enterprise Education programs, where she oversees all legal affairs.
Betsy previously served as Associate General Counsel for The Boston Consulting Group, one of the largest multinational strategy consulting firms. She also served as Principal Counsel for the Disney Parks Digital team for approximately 10 years.
Betsy obtained a law degree from UCLA and a BBA from Idaho State with High Honors.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
You should be a lawyer. I heard this more than once during my childhood, and it planted a seed. I was naturally curious and liked to debate (both of which are true), but put more directly, I liked punching holes in other people’s opinions and arguments. (This approach did not always win popularity contests). It’s not that I wanted to embarrass anyone — I simply enjoyed the process of calling popular beliefs into question with lesser known facts, or putting facts together in creative ways. My parents have always been tremendously supportive and never complained, however as a parent of a child with similar personality traits, I am now certain I tested their patience regularly.
Growing up, I did not have anyone in my close circle of friends and family who practiced law. Though determined to be a lawyer, I did not have a sense of what I was getting into, which resulted in launching a career path that had benefits and challenges of being a blank slate. Since I’ve enjoyed the road less traveled, my in-house career has been based on a string of “firsts,” as nearly every in-house position I’ve held was a newly created role for the organization. I accidentally ended up in technology law starting in the mid-2000s when there were very few women in that space. It’s been rewarding to carve new paths and face those challenges. Working at InStride, with its mission and groundbreaking way of approaching workforce education, is incredibly fulfilling and keeps me on my toes!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Every day at InStride is exciting! Our mission is to make education accessible through employer-sponsored programs that change lives in meaningful ways without the burden of student debt. There is an absolute spotlight on workforce development and education right now — we have an incredible opportunity for impact.
According to the latest Federal Reserve data, borrowers owe more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, and for borrowers with student loans, each owes more than $37,000. Next to housing debt, student loans comprise the largest form of debt in the U.S. The challenges people face with higher education extend beyond the cost: Do they have the academic support they need? Is the institution reputable? Is their course of study meaningful? Will it help their career goals? How do I find the time to work and go back to school? At InStride, we have the opportunity to partner with forward-thinking employers and quality academic institutions to tackle these and other challenges. Through these partnerships, thousands of employees participate in these popular education programs. Our favorite question that comes from employees when we launch a new program is: “Is this real? Is my company actually paying for my degree?” Being able to launch new employer-funded strategic education programs and celebrate graduations is incredibly gratifying.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I was recently a panelist in a discussion about leadership for InStride’s Women in EdTech, which is a forum for our team members to come together and talk openly about a variety of topics and challenges. The advice I shared during that session, and that I find myself most often sharing with female leaders, is: Be ok with being imperfect. Just because you do not have all of the answers does not mean you have none of them, and making mistakes does not mean you cannot problem-solve to address them. It sounds basic, but surprisingly, I know many women who struggle with perfectionist tendencies (myself included). However, as leaders, when we are open about mistakes we have made and what we don’t know yet, it supports a culture of transparency and collaboration. At InStride, lifelong learning is one of our core values. We can be confident that we are all going to work together to find solutions, and it’s ok to go through that process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Success is definitely a team sport, and I have been blessed with an incredible team. My parents top the list with their unwavering support and confidence in me. They consistently modeled hard work, integrity and loyalty for my siblings and me. My dad, who is nearing his 80th birthday, still works 50+ hours/week. It was not unusual for my mom, now retired, to work 80 hours/week. Even with that workload, they managed to stay closely involved in our activities — helping with school projects, sports, scouting, PTA, church, and so much more. We are an extremely loving and close-knit family because of their example, and that solid foundation has given me the confidence to carve new paths and manage the unexpected.
I am also blessed with an incredibly supportive husband, who also has a demanding career. While we have our areas of expertise on the home front (I am Chair of Health and Welfare, and he is Chief Maintenance Officer, for example), we can step in for each other somewhat seamlessly, and without guilt, when our respective jobs dominate our time and attention. We are not perfect — which is ok! — and I love our partnership.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each).
On my desk is a sticky note that sits next to my computer keyboard. It says:
- People first.
- Lead with patience and kindness.
- Ask before judging.
- Calm and confidence.
- There is more than being right.
People first: We are at our best when we feel supported and heard. Period!
Lead with patience and kindness: We typically have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives — or at least not the complete picture. Take the time to get to know your colleagues and understand their challenges and motivations. We absolutely have expectations of performance that need to be met and enforced, but when we lead empathetically (rather than through threats, criticism, guilt and shame), we not only show our humanity, we develop productive and lasting relationships with our colleagues.
Ask before judging: Quick judgments and answers can be easier (and sometimes, unfortunately, are necessary), but they can also be inaccurate and ultimately undermine the trust of our teams. Take the extra few minutes to ask and learn — the best answer is often another question. This approach also has the added benefit of engaging the team to problem-solve rather than relying on their leader for answers.
Calm and confidence: I learned this lesson in sports, and it has translated to every organization I have been involved with, whether as a leader or a contributor. Errors are catching, but so is confidence. Stay calm, and move on to the next play.
There is more than being right: This has been a lifelong struggle for me. I take comfort in standing by convictions that are supported by solid, verifiable facts, and I have never been shy about speaking up. Through trial and error, and a lot of difficult conversations, I have come to understand how this impacts my relationships. I need to stand by my convictions, speak up when it’s vitally important and put people first, lead with patience and kindness, ask before judging, and remain calm and confident. It’s a balance that, for me, requires an intentional attitude each day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The number of ways we can make an impact are nearly endless. Grand gestures are not necessarily required. Something as simple as giving away a meal or picking up a piece of trash makes a difference and can spark a movement. The critical piece is to identify what you are passionate about and pursue it with conviction, and others will follow your lead. Education was a priority in my home as a child, and we spent a lot of time as a family helping each other edit papers, study for tests and build science projects. I feel so fortunate that through my work at InStride, I am part of a larger movement — a movement that speaks to me and is consistent with my values. On a daily basis, I am inspired by the team’s commitment to put the learner first and make workforce education accessible for all. When we enable more people to continue their education with support from their employer and quality academic institutions, we change lives.