October Consultant of the Month
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Christiane Hile (aka CHile) left a successful career as a litigation attorney and transitioned to the US and tech startups. As she was jumping into consulting, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and soon passed away. Based on her personal experiences, she authored a book to help older women seeking relationships use technology wisely.
What are you currently working on?
Christiane's Keys to Success
- Going "all-in" into projects
- Deep self-reflection and goal setting
- Constantly learning and growing
- Strong networking skills
- Paying her experiences forward
I am contracting with GoDaddy doing market research, both qualitative and quantitative, and consulting on product marketing strategy for their website builder. We're trying to understand why customers are choosing the products they're choosing, and also looking at purchase propensity, needs, behaviors, and attitudes.
What path did you take to become a consultant?
I was a litigation lawyer in Canada for over eight years. I found that it was very combative, whereas I'm collaborative by nature. I was constantly in conflict, posturing, bluffing, jumping off cliffs to save the likes of drug dealers - it was very exciting, and then I burned out.
When you come home, it's hard to turn that off and have a healthy romantic relationship, and a heart-centered life. I went on a two-year journey of course correction. I hired a career coach, did testing including Myers-Briggs, went on the road, took stock of what made me happy, and decided that law wasn't for me.
One big decision I made was to move to the U.S. My dad was American. Every time I came to the US, I sensed joy and opportunity, and a lot of "can do-ness." I also decided to go into technology, which I knew was more collaborative than law. I wanted to make an impact, be paid well, hang out with smart people, and have a product to show for it.
As a safety net, I took and passed the California state bar. Then, I got an offer to do DUIs in Beverly Hills. I asked myself, "Do I really want to be in the courtroom and do this for the next 10 years?" The answer was no, and I left law for good.
I worked in business development with a startup called Firstuse.com, transitioned to Intacct, which then became oDesk, and is now owned by Sage. After two startups, I decided that I wanted better marketing skills around leadership and process. I moved to Intuit and worked there as a contractor and employee for ten years. The last year at Intuit was an intense year. There was turmoil and senior leadership change in my business unit; my role changed three times, and we'd been working really hard in the wake of the big recession. I needed a break, and I resigned.
Consulting became a lifeline... I found that it was a good fit for me at a difficult time.
I was immediately tapped by The Seidewitz Group, a marketing strategy firm we used at Intuit, to work as a consultant. After becoming certified as a focus group moderator, I enjoyed traveling throughout urban centers conducting qualitative market research for a large variety of technology companies. Soon after I started working for them, my husband was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and sadly, passed away very suddenly.
Consulting then became a lifeline. It was something to focus on besides wrapping up the estate and tying up loose ends. I found that it was a good fit for me at a difficult time.
In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
I would not have gone to law school. I don't have a lot of regrets, but that's probably one of them. Nothing bad came from being an attorney, except that I felt like I spent too much time learning skills in law school that I never used or becoming good at litigation tactics that didn't serve my personal life well.
I feel so strongly that the future's in technology. It's where you should go if you'd like to be paid well for the thought and work investments that you make; if you are collaborative; if you're curious and forward-thinking; if you are interested in being at the cutting edge of society's progressions and cultural shifts, and even how our brains are going to be firing in 10 years. I'm so drawn to that. In contrast, I find some traditional careers, especially law, are jurisdictionally tethered and slow to change. My advice to anybody who is choosing a career is to do deep informational interviews before you commit to it.
What was your favorite project to work on or work you are most proud of? Why?
My favorite work project was doing qualitative market research on a concept for a Fortune 100 company. Without giving too much away, the concept would have been a predecessor to the operating system that could tell you whether you're sitting, standing, what you're going to do next. At the time, it was very futuristic. It was so interesting because of the differences in the respondents between cities like Portland and Atlanta, Georgia - everything from whether they showed up, on time or not, what their hobbies were, or how they spoke. Everyone on the project was engaged, and we were collaborating on groundbreaking work.
Personally, I recently took a year off to write a book called One Plus One is Greater than Two: The Online Dating Guide for Women. It targets single women over 50, many of whom are not digital natives, and provides a map and safety measures for using online dating sites. It has a philosophical layer that suggests that online dating platforms and the power of "numbers" now provide an incredible opportunity to meet interesting, unique people like you - this Baby Boomer generation is no longer dependent on introductions from friends and family, church or activity club members.
I had to write that book, based on my own dating experiences, and because I saw so many women doing things that I thought didn't make sense. Although I had been a criminal lawyer and had worked in market research and technology, I too was caught by surprise by a few men who would write endearing emails, preying on my emotional state, on the fact that I was a widow. They would mirror my tragedy by saying they were widows too. Then they would trump the tragedy by adding their child had died, or their parents were killed in a car accident. These are typically imposters and they engage in really predatory behavior.
I wanted to educate and help others recognize and overcome these risks, or at least give women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, a journey line on how they could leverage technology to build, "real" offline relationships if they wanted to take that direction. After launching the book late last year, I started a media campaign with a publicist in New York, and did a TV circuit in February and March that was a really great experience.
What do you love about consulting?
It lets me focus on balance and creating the life I want. I have the opportunity to put out to the universe that I would like to work 20 or 30 hours a week. Every time a contract comes my way, I have the choice to say yes or no. Since you're not married to anything for a long time, you can experiment with new products and work with new people. You can also have enough time off to exercise, play, and devote to your relationships or travel.
How do you market yourself?
For me, marketing is mostly by word of mouth. It's calling somebody, or sending an email to two or three people, and letting them know I'm ready for a new project. For a broader audience, I would say use LinkedIn and get into EM Marketing. I love the opportunities that are coming across our desks every week. Either way, it's important to be very clear about what you want.
When I left Intuit, I was considering becoming a shoe designer because I love shoes. I knew of an exclusive fashion school with a shoe design program, FIDM, in Los Angeles. I also found an obscure Italian school, called Arsutoria, a 10-week program for $30,000. Was I going to be able to come out of there and actually get a job and design shoes?
I cold-called a guy I found on LinkedIn who was from New York who had done both FIDM and Arsutoria. We had a great talk, and he told me, "Hands down, Arsutoria." Separately, I learned that Nike shoe designers make $30,000-45,000 a year. For various reasons, a shoe design career never panned out. But the takeaway is, LinkedIn is fabulous. Pick a company you want to work for, find somebody who knows somebody. Just work it, tell them what you're looking for, ask them to think of you, and reciprocate however you can.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
The work never slows down for me. When I'm not traveling or working, I'm a real estate investor. Right now I'm buying a house on Vancouver Island, and selling an 1881 cottage in Houston that's in the National Registry of Historic Homes. My sweetheart and I both cook. I've joined a virtual Facebook sourdough bread baking club. My digital marketing partner is the head of it. Here in Houston, 1,000 of us are making bread from scratch using a sourdough starter that we feed every week. There's no bread machine involved, and it's the best bread I've ever had in my whole life. I do a morning bootcamp. I have a standard poodle that I walk every day. I do a lot of art. I'm a skier. I write on Medium.com - I have one article on there about online dating - but I have a long list of magazines that I want to write for.
What's one tip you would give to new consultants?
If you have clear goals, everything will follow. I update my personal goals every year. I'm specific about what's important to me, and it makes it easier to tell people what I'm looking for. I can look back and say, "Gosh, I've had a great year," because I got what I wanted and know what works and what doesn't. Be as ambitious as your heart desires, because if your goals are clear, opportunities will find you.