Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.
On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we talk to RV Media and Technology Senior Vice President Ladan LaFitte. We discuss her over 20-year career in the tech industry, the early days when she was the only woman in the room, and what it’s like to balance work, her family, and a global pandemic. Check out her conversation with Content Designer Jessa Hanley below.
Ladan LaFitte joins Red Ventures from the CNET team, which she’s been a part of for 16 years. Anyone who knows Laden would call her a trailblazer in the tech industry, paving the way for women to rise and thrive in the workplace.
Just ask Edy MacDonald, a member of Ladan’s team and the person who nominated her for this month’s Empowered feature. Edy says she nominated Ladan because of the ways she inspires her as a leader.
“She leads from a place of compassion and empathy,” Edy says. “As a trailblazer in the industry, she has significant business acumen and credibility, but it’s who she is as a person that sets her apart.”
Edy says Ladan fosters a culture of innovativeness, sincerity, and inclusiveness.
“Ask any of the Business Intelligence (BI) team, and Ladan will be described as ‘awesome,’” Edy says. “The BI team knows Ladan always has their back and supports them to grow and do their best. During the first few months of the pandemic, Ladan worked extra hard to ensure the team stayed connected and our mental health was a top priority.”
Edy says Ladan is honest about the balance of work and motherhood. Often, Edy says, she’ll see Ladan’s daughter pop in on Zoom meetings.
“As a working mom,” Edy says, “Ladan brings empathy to her role as a leader. This translates to the team feeling valued and results in greater performance overall.”
Jessa Hanley: You’ve been with CNET for over 15 years, correct? What’s your primary role, and what does an average day look like for you?
Ladan LaFitte: I’ve been with CNET for over 16 years. I originally started as the Data Warehouse Product Manager back in 2003. I took an 18-month hiatus and went to work for Yahoo. I returned to CNET in 2006 to build out the Business Intelligence team.
Fast forward to 2020. CNET was acquired by Red Ventures. I am now part of the Media and Technology (M&T) organization as the Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence. The team consists of 30+ incredible individuals who support the insights and data infrastructure needs of the M&T Product, Editorial, Sales, Marketing and Finance organizations.
My average day is filled with approximately 7.5-8 hours of meetings. When asked what I do for a living, I often joke and say that I am a professional “meeting attender.”
In Silicon Valley, the average tenure for a tech worker is approximately 3 years. People are often shocked to hear that I have been at the same company for 16 years. I always say that there are three things I look for in a job: working with great people, being challenged, and seeing my footprint on the organization. CNET and now RV definitely meet all of those criteria.
JH: We heard that in the early days, you were often the only woman in meetings. What was that like, and how has that shaped you as a leader?
LL: I entered the tech world in 1999. At that time, technology was a man-dominated industry. I was often the only woman in the room. In my early days, I felt like I wasn’t taken as seriously as my male-identifying counterparts. I had to prove myself to gain respect. The industry has come a long way in the past 20 years. Today, I look at my team and our company, and I am proud to see more gender diversity. Don’t get me wrong, we have a LONG way to go, but we have also come a long way.
JH: Diving deeper: What are the biggest obstacles you’ve faced as a woman in your field? And what are the greatest rewards you’ve experienced?
LL: One of my greatest challenges as a woman has been learning to express myself and my emotions in the workplace. Adjectives such as “aggressive,” “emotional,” and “too soft” have negative connotations when it comes to women. Earlier in my career, I was given feedback that I was too “aggressive.” It was identified as an area of opportunity for me, while my male counterparts were applauded for being “effective.” If I got upset, I was called “emotional.”
I always felt that I was overthinking what to say, my body language and how my words would be perceived.
It took years and mentorship from an amazing boss for me to stop caring about the chauvinistic adjectives often used to describe women in the workplace. I am human. I am passionate about my job. I express my emotions and thoughts. All of those contribute to me being good at my job and an effective leader.
During my 20+ year career, I hope that I have contributed to a movement that has reset the glass ceiling for my 7-year-old daughter and the younger generations. My hope is that the day she enters the workforce, her gender, sexual orientation, skin color, hair color, and eye shape do not determine her career success, payscale, and brand. I hope she is judged by her contribution, hard work, and the person that she is.
JH: What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while balancing the demands of work and life during a pandemic?
LL: At any one time, I am a terrible mother, wife, daughter, employee, boss, or friend. I wish I could be Superwoman and be there for everyone during this difficult time, but I am not. Like many others during the pandemic, I am doing the best I can. Some days my best is adequate, while other days, it falls way short. I have learned to forgive myself and not be so self critical.
I have also learned to concentrate on all the blessings in my life as opposed to everything that I wish could be different. The last 12 months have been very difficult, but they have also been filled with wonderful memories that my family and I have created and will cherish for a lifetime.
JH: What advice would you give other moms, and parents at large, as they navigate work from home?
LL: During the pandemic, my greatest challenge has been drawing boundaries. I am always on as a mother, a wife, and an employee. Previously, I was an employee when I was at work, and mom and wife when I was home. I find that work has crept into my home life. I am often glued to my phone or my laptop and do not feel present.
A couple of months ago, we implemented a “no phones or laptops after 6 p.m. rule.” It has helped redefine the boundaries. I won’t lie — I have cheated, but I definitely make an effort to be present when I am with my family.
JH: You lead a diverse team at RV — what’s your strategy for hiring people and how does diversity, equity, and inclusion inspire your decisions?
LL: I am a first-generation immigrant. My family and I escaped the revolution and war in Iran and migrated to the United States when I was 8.
Every person on our team has a story. They come from diverse backgrounds and bring different perspectives, life experiences, and skill sets to the team. I believe that a team who represent diverse perspectives makes better decisions. Our backgrounds and experiences have contributed to our team success. We are better as a team than as individuals. We are also an extended family who help each other rise and take great pride in each other’s success.
When adding new members to the team, we look for people that embrace our team culture, our passion for diversity, and bring a different perspective. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people who have inspired me and taught me so much throughout the years.
JH: Now, a few fun get-to-know-you’s:
What’s your favorite food?
Sushi or steak (can’t decide)
What’s your favorite place that you’ve visited?
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Your favorite movie?
The Shawshank Redemption
What’s one thing you’d take with you to a desert island?
And what’s one thing you can’t wait to do post-COVID?
JH: Lastly, if you could sum up what it means to be empowered in the workplace in one sentence, what would it be?
LL: To be empowered means that one is given the confidence, opportunities, knowledge, and resources to be the best that they can be and succeed.
Loved this Empowered Feature? Don’t stop here – keep the uplifting vibes rolling and check out our previous conversation with RV Digital Designer Natalie Brown.