“You can’t do it alone”Tuesday, December 04, TwinWest members and guests gathered at the Minneapolis Marriott West to hear Caringbridge CEO Liwanag Ojala share her journey to leadership and success. To open the presentation, Ojala stated “You can’t do it alone” and that Brian Epstein was right, “All you need is love”. Through her presentation, Ojala shared personal and professional stories about getting to where she is now; each revolved around those she was surrounded by at that time in life.
“I believed as a kid I could do anything… my parents mentioned that there wasn’t a female lawyer in my family. That was it. I was going to be the first,” Ojala recalled. Making this her life plan, Ojala enrolled in the University of MN law school, and credits her family for supporting her through it. From financial assistance to ramen stashes, she couldn’t have done it without their support. Side note, according to Ojala, adding celery and carrots to ramen makes it exponentially better.
After getting married, and personal conversations with her husband, it was determined one of them needed to stay home to raise children. Ojala was relieved knowing that was a task he wanted to conquer, allowing her to pursue professional goals. Without his support, she wouldn’t have been able to climb her way to CEO of Caringbridge, where she now credits the team of 43 employees for running a 24/7 national non-profit organization, comparing it to Facebook’s 2,500 employees.
“The heart of our business, and my personal journeys, is the people,” Ojala states, “Magic of relationships are strengthened and illuminated when things are tough.” This goes for personal endeavors and professional snags. You have an opportunity to find out what your team is made of when things are tough, and the best way to understand who your teammates, coworkers, neighbors are is to take the time to get to know them. “Leaders have a huge opportunity to listen and learn about your employees, and it’s good for your health,” Ojala claimed. Studies have shown that isolation and loneliness is as poor on your health as smoking and obesity, making relationships that much more important in daily life.
So how did she get to a point of success in her career? “Success is still TBD,” she said. It all depends on how you measure success and what it means to you. There are so many different ways: moments, decades, relationships, financial status, friends, career title, data points. “It’s a continuum for me …There is no work-life balance for me,” Ojala continued. That would indicate that she had to make a trade-off to achieve that kind of balance. Writing own your metrics for success can help to hold you accountable and allow you to find the tactics to get there.
Ojala left attendees with this message, “Your success isn’t determined by you. It’ll be determined by those in your life, analyzing the impact you made.” The relationships you build and foster are what ultimately bring success and what strengthen lives, personally and professionally