Exchange Grads: Exchange, On!

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Completing 55+ hours of management development on top of demanding jobs is no small feat!

On Monday night, we celebrated the fourth graduating class of Exchange – our leadership program – with participants from WordStream, Grasshopper, CitiCenter, Smarterer, Intrepid Pursuits, Raizlabs, HubSpot, and TurningArt.

Exchange Program 4 PhotoThroughout the six full-day Exchange sessions, managers developed key leadership behaviors, learned new management tactics, and created close peer relationships to take their skills to the next level. From digging deep to realize their unique growth opportunities, to supporting each other’s goals along the way, this group truly excelled together.

Putting a fiscal value on organizational health is hard to do, which sadly often leads companies to wait too long to invest in their high-potential new managers. Emerging leaders are invaluable, and more often than not, the skills that make a great leader – assertiveness, ability to motivate, and make decisions – need to be cultivated to truly flourish.

“Exchange is the best thing to happen to me professionally.”

The managers who joined this Exchange class are people who motivate and empower their teams, confidently making decisions and facilitating company growth. Today, we’re confident that these new Exchange grads have become true leaders and we can’t wait to see what they achieve next in their companies.

So, congratulations to Program 4–your dedication to becoming more effective leaders has truly impressed us, and we encourage you to take the tools you’ve learned and continue applying them in your everyday lives. Keep on Exchanging!

Exchange Program 4 Companies


From Sports Pro to CEO:
Sydney Atkins Mason Tells All

Sydney Atkins MasonAt this week’s Exchange, we were thrilled to bring in Sydney Atkins Mason, Investment Advisor at Goldman Sachs and founder of Synergy Inc. Sydney is truly a Renaissance woman; she has sailed professionally in Europe, won two Women’s Lacrosse NCAA Championships, taught high school biology, and became a CEO when she founded (and later, sold) Synergy Inc.– a sports-focused leadership development program for youths– all by the age of 21.

So how did she do it all? Her energy and zest for life’s curveballs definitely play a role, but she attributes her success to overcoming fear, building the right team, and having a Personal Board of Directors.

Deal with your fears

As a young CEO, Sydney admitted that she made a ton of mistakes, but she grew in spite of these challenges, because she kept her goal in mind. As Sydney said, you can’t sail right into the wind. Sometimes life doesn’t make it easy to progress toward your mark. You’ll need to take risks as a leader, and that can be terrifying, but as long as these risks are optimizing velocity toward your goal, they’re risks worth taking.

Know yourself, know your team

Fireside Chat w/ Sydney Atkins MasonFor Sydney, building the right team was the biggest challenge of being a new leader. She asked herself, “How do you know who you need when you don’t know who you are?” She had to become very self-aware about her own strengths (and growth opportunities) in order to determine who could supplement, not complement, her own style and skills to create the strongest, most diverse team. Success is not defined the same way for every person, and each team member has different values that motivate them to do their jobs.  Your team can’t meet their true potential unless you are able to fully understand and support them.

Personal Board of Directors

No one is successful in isolation. Sydney argues that a successful leader needs three specific valuable relationships:

Coach: A coach provides a working relationship where there are “no stupid questions.” Everything is valid, even questions about where to hang your coat and find pens.

Mentor: A mentor will never dole out the same piece of advice to two different people; mentorships are reciprocal relationships in which the mentee evolves over time.

Sponsor: Sponsor relationships are linear, and the sponsor helps the sponsee achieve career success. The most important part? Pay it forward and become someone else’s sponsor!

Stay tuned for more about the building your own Personal Board of Directors!

Her last piece of advice: Know what you want before you take your first step. People won’t follow you if you don’t know where you’re going.

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist

Leadership Lessons: Ralph Folz


folz__ralphLast week at Exchange, we had the good fortune to be joined by Ralph Folz, CEO of WordStream. Ralph got his bearings as a nerdy engineer, before getting bit by the entrepreneurship bug at age 26. As a leader, Ralph is genuine, honest, and deliberate about his strengths and limitations. He has a deep understanding of his communication style, and his sense of self-awareness and thoughtfulness make him an incredibly approachable executive. Wordstream was established just seven years ago, and has rapidly become one of the most respected high-growth search marketing software companies around. His secret? Embracing diversity, laser sharp focus, and goal simplification.

Hone Your Strengths

In Ralph’s words, “There are different flavors of people.” Leaders can maximize team success by targeting each team member’s specific “flavor” or strength. You can’t make employees into something they’re not; all you can do is hone in on what each person can bring to the table, celebrating the diversity of skill sets among your team. For all you Red Sox fans, Ralph described it like this: if you had nine Manny Ramirez’s in the field, you’d hit a million home runs, but you probably wouldn’t win.Ralph Folz Key Takeaways


No matter how large your company is or how quickly you’re scaling, maintaining a focus on your core values is critical. Ralph noted that clarity about your core values not only creates direction, but can also help frame difficult conversations. He humbly admitted that in fact, he isn’t perfect; owning that helps him create the right team. For so many startups, growth is hectic and not easily planned. Strongly aligned values keep teams rowing in the same direction, as the environment around them rapidly changes. Transparency and conviction in upholding the culture that makes your team unique are key to developing a thriving business.

It’s all about 1’s and 0’s

In a successful team like Ralph’s, all members have the same core values, so when problems arise, everyone is able to keep their eye on the common goals. At Wordstream, the executive team shares four core goals, which allows the team to approach conflict more objectively. Alignment of goals helps the team to embrace healthy conflict with rich debate before choosing the best course of action. Ralph is an engineer at heart, which means everything can be measured. He quantifies goals as simple 1’s and 0’s. I know what you’re thinking–really? We’re bringing math into this? Fret not! Ralph assured us that success can be determined objectively, with each person focusing on three simple, measurable goals. At the end of each quarter, goals can be defined as a 1 or 0–either they were achieved or they weren’t. If there are 0’s present, the goal needs to be defined more clearly. Clear goals and values drive decisions toward success and keep the team hungry for that sense of achievement.

His last snippet of advice: Have a mentor and a network. Overcommunicate.

Thank you, Ralph!

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist