Monthly Archives: March 2018

Career Contessa CEO Lauren McGoodwin discusses career development and the women’s rights movement

For International Women’s Day this year, I had the great pleasure of chatting with founder and CEO of Career Contessa (CC), Lauren McGoodwin, to discuss women, their career development, and this pivotal moment in the women’s rights movement.

Lauren Sato (LS): Lauren, I have been so excited to come across your work, and find such great alignment with how we’re thinking about career development here at RealSelf! “You Own You” is our mantra for both our consumers and employees, and I see this ethos throughout Career Contessa.

What advice do you give to women who are just learning to truly own their career/growth?

Lauren McGoodwin (LG): I learned the hard way what it means to not be in the driver’s seat of my career. I would encourage all women to learn how to advocate on your own behalf and it can be as easy as starting with something small — like the opportunity to sit in on a meeting —and grow into something larger like asking for a new role, a raise, and more. No one goes out and runs a marathon on day one — owning your career can be done in steps as well!

LS: That’s such great advice. I meet so many women who are overwhelmed by tackling this issue, and starting small is actually very empowering. So, switching gears a little bit, it looks like you have built a team of badass women over there at CC.

What guidance do you have for women managers on finding and developing great female talent?

LG: Look for women that truly believe that amazing things happen when women support each other, and work together! It’s also great for managers to really hone the art of feedback and how to lead by inspiring the women around them.

LS: Completely agree.

On the flip-side, have you ever been mean-girled? How did you handle it? Do you have advice for women dealing with that kind of thing at work?

LG: Definitely. My tips include trying your best to look at the situation as objectively as possible. I know it’s hard not to take it personally, but think about why this person might be lashing out. Consider whether this is a single occurrence or recurring issue. Killing the mean girl with kindness can help you feel better about not sinking to her level and, next, be very selective in what you share with her. Lastly, see if your manager will bring in an expert to distribute personality assessments and exercises. I had this happen at work once, and by the time it was over my enemy and I were friends since we understood why the other person reacted or worked a certain way.

LS: Oh my gosh, I have been through the exact same situation. And, I don’t think it’s that uncommon. What is encouraging is that we’re starting to see a cultural shift highlighting the importance of women having each other’s backs.

What do you think is needed to move the #metoo #timesup conversation forward in terms of creating safe and empowering workplaces for women?

LG: Having non-biased resources and policies in place where women can report abuse in a safe and supportive way is very important. A lot of women never told anyone because the only option was HR—a team that has been historically biased on the side of the company. Continuous training and clear guidelines on sexual harassment, gender equality, fairness, and safety will also create better workplaces for all people. This must be something that companies invest in and don’t just check a box.

LS: Right! I can’t tell you how challenging it’s been to fight the bias HR stigma, and demonstrate that whenever an issue is raised it is addressed effectively and respectfully—never shamed, dismissed, or swept under the rug. We need to build new muscle memory around this as employers, but it starts with ensuring all of those foundational things you mentioned are in place. What you’re doing to support companies in actively and intentionally developing women and creating environments that women can thrive in is the perfect next step in this work. I’m so excited that you’re leading the way on this and look forward to continuing the conversation with you.


Career Contessa is the only career site built exclusively for women.

We help women cultivate successful careers through expert advice, interviews, and videos; one-on-one mentoring; online skills-based courses and resources; and a curated job board that speaks to our audience. Everything we do comes straight from the best kind of experts—real women who’ve been there and successfully done that.

By helping women and the companies that support them, we’re here to build a better workforce for the future.


RealSelf is the world’s largest online marketplace for people to learn and share experiences about elective cosmetic procedures and connect with the right providers. Offering millions of photos and medical expert answers, 10 million people visit RealSelf each month to find out which treatments and providers live up to their promise of being “Worth It.” From simple skincare to highly considered cosmetic surgery, RealSelf makes it easy to discover what’s possible and find the right provider.

Women make up the majority of our consumers as well as 60% of our employee population. A RealSelf mantra that we hold dear is: “You Own You” – a call to be at the helm of both your beauty/wellness decision-making and your career development. We put our money where our mouth is on this, offering a wide range of tools and training that support the whole person: from self-defense classes, to financial wellness and transparent career pathing. Women come to RealSelf as consumers and employees to take charge of their lives.

A look back at a year of ‘Not today, motherf@#!er’ with survivor Kelly Herron

Last year, RealSelf employee Kelly Herron made headlines for bravely fighting off an attacker while she was on a run in her Seattle neighborhood. The attack happened just weeks after RealSelf hosted an in-office self defense class, and Kelly fought back using the training she learned in that class.

Following the attack, she coined the phrase “Not today, motherf@#!er!”, which has been adopted as a rallying cry against violence. In 2017, RealSelf hosted a free self-defense class by Fighting Chance Seattle to teach the same skills Kelly had learned a few weeks prior.

Now, more than a year after the attack, RealSelf again partnered with Fighting Chance Seattle to offer another course. More than 70 people attended.

Participants learned how to identify red flags, protect themselves and escape potentially threatening situations. Whether it’s striking soft places with hard bones, or using their voices to be loud and fight hard. The class is designed to empower participants with the skills they need to respond in threatening situations.

We talked with Kelly about what her past year has been like.

You’ve had a busy and intense year. What have been the high points?

While the last year of my life has been the most challenging, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I had the opportunity to speak on the topic of resilience at a running retreat and share my story with hundreds of women. The speaker lineup included Olympian Alysia Montaño, journalist Erica Hill and running influencer Kelly Roberts.  

Preparing for the event allowed me to reflect on my life that led up to the day of the attack and made me realize that resilience is cultivated over a lifetime, not something that is born overnight. Every setback in my life prepared me for overcoming the trauma inflicted by the assault.

Tell us about running your first marathon.

Training for the Chicago marathon with my mom was a life-changing experience. We logged miles in the mountains of Oregon, city of Seattle and ranchlands in Montana. She was so supportive and encouraging and let me feel all my feelings, even when most of them were expletives.

When I met my running inspiration, Olympian Carrie Tollefson, at the Chicago Marathon, it was surreal. After being on her podcast last March, she emailed me every week to help me with my training schedule. Her belief in me made me believe in myself.

The marathon itself was an absolute blast — at least for the first 15 miles. It’s like running through a huge party with every nationality represented, music and a crowd that cheers nonstop.  

I was surprised to have people recognize me on the course and tell me how much my story inspired them. It kept me going! I will always have the memory of being with my mom through the whole thing, it was really a metaphor for the whole experience. No matter how hopeless it seems, you just keep going.

My motivation to continue training for the marathon was initially because I refused to let my attacker take anything from me, including the pursuit of becoming a marathoner. A switch flipped when I crossed the finish line. I quit looking back at what happened to me and started looking forward at how I could help others with my experience and inspire then to discover their own badassery.

You really shared your story, especially online.

The assault was a few minutes of my life, but I am more than a catchy headline.  Sharing my story with an audience allows me to shed some light on the experiences that led me up to that day, and the work that it took to recover.

To me, the difference between being a victim and a survivor is not about winning or losing, but about how we respond when our world is pulled out from underneath us.  

The best part about sharing my story is seeing people realize that they can write the ending to their own stories, and we don’t have to be defined by our past or suffer alone. Kind of like running a marathon.

You advocate and do events to teach people how to defend themselves. What is best part of doing this?

Getting to talk to people afterward. They often tell me that they don’t think they could have survived.

I believe that anyone could have survived what I went through if they have baseline knowledge of self-defense, and they permit themselves to unleash the most savage part of themselves when they need to. Survival is an instinct and adrenaline is powerful, but it is also important to know how to effectively channel that power or else you are just flailing.

What have you learned most from this year?

I have learned that the key to survival is a super support network, and for me that came in many forms. My friends from work came to my home to clean up and make me food, and help me go through my thousands of online messages. My running coach got me back out to train, and, of course, my mom was the biggest supporter of all. Every parent fears the phone call from the hospital that their child was hurt. She has handled all of this and my recovery with a grace and strength that I admire greatly.

I have learned the importance of self-care, and this was not a lesson quickly learned! Self-care can come in many forms, like going to therapy, getting fresh air and setting boundaries. There is so much noise in our lives that we can’t always hear our own needs. I tell people all the time now to give themselves a break. We put so much pressure on ourselves to keep going and be strong and sometimes you just need to eat candy and have a good ugly cry.  

Anything else?

When I was marathon-training early last year, I had been meaning to take a self-defense class, but I never prioritized it.  When it was offered at RealSelf during the day, I had no excuse not to. This one small decision would change the course of my life.