Lisa Skeete Tatum has had many career highlights: she broke into the world of venture capitalism and became a general in two years; she serves on boards in a variety of industries; and started Landit a company that unlocks the talent and brings to fruition the dreams of others. Here she shares how her own experiences inspired her to create Landit and how every job she’s had before prepared her to run the company successfully.
What originally inspired you to launch a company to help women and a more diverse talent pool navigate the job marketplace? How has your focus evolved?
I founded Landit as a result of my own personal experience. After over a decade as a venture capitalist, I found myself at an inflection point and found the process of trying to figure out what’s next to be challenging. I knew what I didn’t want to do, but it wasn’t clear how I would marry my passion, interests, and experience with my next step. Everyone (including myself) expected me to have all the answers and it was really uncomfortable.
I realized that I wasn’t alone — there are millions of people around the globe that find themselves at a career inflection point, whether they are looking to excel in their current role and company, looking for a new opportunity, or looking to re-engage in the formal workplace. They all face and ask the same question: Where do I start? Despite having the talent, motivation, and brilliance, women and diverse groups are not progressing in the workplace. Most companies focus on intake —which is certainly important— but equally, if not more important, is what happens when they get there. Do they stay, thrive, and progress? Across all organizations, we see a thinning out of diverse groups at higher levels in the organization (and the board room), as a result of access, not capability. Landit’s mission and focus remain the same: democratizing career access and success so that work actually works for everyone.
What areas of your business are you most involved with? Where do you think you have the greatest impact?
As any startup founder knows well, you’re involved in all aspects of the business — strategy, fundraising, business development, and product. I have the greatest impact in two areas: (1) supporting the amazing Landit team as they propel our offering forward to serve our members and, (2) partnering with our enterprise customers to craft a successful program to meet their talent, DEI, and ESG priorities.
Particularly during this time when every organization is trying to navigate what talent management has to be going forward in a hybrid environment, there is a recognition of the need to invest more equitably in all of their colleagues. Our ability to partner and provide a scalable solution with metrics and analytics is both impactful and powerful.
How have your previous jobs prepared you for your current founder role? I’ve been on all sides of the table — investor, customer, and entrepreneur. I am also always striving and pushing to be the best version of myself through learning and growth, and serving those in my community. I’ve worked for two Fortune 50 companies in product supply and product launch; raised two funds as a venture capitalist, and funded numerous successful high-growth tech companies; worked for two startups; and served on numerous world-class boards focused on creating access and delivering excellence.
When you’re developing a product, you have to understand the pain points and perspectives of each and every stakeholder. You cannot be a nice-to-have. You also have to know how to tell a story. It’s a superpower. You’re always enrolling others in your vision and journey. Everything I have done in my life has prepared me for Landit — it’s the hardest thing I have ever done but it is the most rewarding.
Companies are becoming more proactive (or we hope they are) in hiring a more diverse workforce. What positive changes stand out the most to you? Where do you think companies still fall behind? It is a great thing that organizations are making diverse hiring a priority. When you couple that with the ability to hire talent from anywhere and the increased acceptance of remote workers, this creates more opportunity. The danger is in stopping there. Success metrics that go beyond the surface are key. Intake/recruiting is one thing, thriving progression and promotion is another. Companies have to invest earlier and more consistently in their diverse talent. They have to provide sponsorship (not just mentorship) and insist on diverse panels for all opportunities. What gets measured gets done, so accountability and clarity of both goals and values are foundational and required for success.
When is it an advantage to be a woman in your business? Often when entrepreneurial businesses are being evaluated, people believe it’s about product-market fit. I believe it’s really about product-market-founder fit. I understand the challenges that Landit is addressing because I’ve lived that experience. I have gone through the journey of having to give 200%, of not having a roadmap or connections, of success not being easily accessible, and the challenge of not always being seen or valued. I am fierce about changing this narrative and reality for others. I want to change the landscape of the workplace for the better of humanity.
What’s missing in your line of work or one thing you would change? How would you fix it?
We often encounter organizations that want to invest more equitably in their talent but they are often missing the urgency or they are operating in systems that make it hard to move. In a time when many employees are disengaged because they are not being supported or are leaving organizations and the workplace, action is imperative. I would address this by having each leader of the organization be clear and obvious with their commitment to DEI and empowering their leaders with the support and resources to act and then hold everyone accountable.
A business mistake you made and what you learned from it:
Hire slow, fire fast.
A business culture priority for you now is:
Radical candor. Making sure each and every person is invested in the collective success of each other. Let’s celebrate the wins but also let people know when something isn’t working. Be in the learning mindset so that we can all continue to evolve and strive for excellence. One of my biggest concerns (and that of most leaders) is making sure each person speaks their mind and brings their ideas and perspectives to the table. Nothing feels worse after a stumble when someone says “I was noticing that or I was feeling that way,” and didn’t speak up!
Your advice on how to give and receive feedback:
Seek feedback often, early, and in the moment. It’s the best gift you can give yourself. Be invested enough in someone else’s success to give them candid feedback. Make it specific, timely, and actionable (leave out the emotional, personal, and vague).
Was there ever a time your career was at risk? If yes, how did you overcome it?:
Too many times to count! Here are just a few: (1)Leaving a successful career to go back to business school for the 1% chance of breaking into venture capital. (2) Leaving venture capital after over a decade as a partner to do something that was not defined. (3)Starting a tech company with a chance of being in the 2% of black women to raise capital.
It’s a misnomer that you can’t be afraid and act. My mantra is that I can be nervous and uncertain of success, but I take the leap anyway. I am always focused on the true north goal. I win first by declaring the goal, and then I figure out how to get there. I don’t believe in having a “plan b” because it gives you an out. You won't go all-in if you’re looking for an alternative.
Hyper Prioritization: Get all your tasks and to-dos all out in one place and prioritize into 4 buckets:
Urgent and important: # 1 Focus of to-dos
Important and not urgent: Next set of focus tasks
Urgent and not important: Delegate
Not urgent and not important: (don’t do these no matter how tempting or easy!)