We all know that feeling. You know the exact solution for a problem that has been a pain in your … side for what feels like forever. But your solution costs money or time or needs sign-off from a boss or maybe even a CFO.
What is that secret to getting that buy in from the top? Well, if you listen to a conversation with Corinne, you’re going to find out. During our chat, Corinne takes us through her career in business development, how to craft the perfect pitch and how she learned to advocate for her own expertise along the way.
Blair Cohen: What made you want to go to law school?
Corrine Cartwright: I think it was the idea of advocating for people, understanding their scenario, and telling a story that ultimately gets you to an end result that is either equally great or equally terrible for both sides. The storytelling and the problem solving put together, I think, is what drew me to this field.
Oh, wow. And you do a lot of that, advocating and problem solving and figuring out exactly what people need in your current role.
Early in my career I was very much trying to make friends and figure things out. I was in a new city and making these deposits into my friendships, into my colleagues, into the projects and the work that I was doing and not really expecting anything in return. I read this book five or maybe ten years ago that a mentor gave me called Give and Take. It talks about this principle of giving your work, your time, your energy into your community, into your friendships, into your family, and not really expecting anything back. And what I found is over the years, it comes back in spades, right? You can’t put a price on somebody doing a favor for you. You can’t put a price on somebody taking time out of their day to listen to you. And you make a lot of friends along the way, living like that. So for me, building those relationships, being able to really help people solve their problems is something that I really enjoy.
What would you count as one of those “deposits” you’re making?
Say you know your colleague or your client or your friend or somebody or working on the project was complaining about something a week ago. Pick up the phone or open a Teams chat or text and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Is everything going alright?”
Another example is going the extra mile on a client’s business review; maybe they’re really nervous about presenting to their boss, so you can offer to help: “Hey, would you want to run that through with me?”
Just put in these investments of time and it brings a lot back to you as well, as the giver, to feel like you helped somebody. And the receiver, too; I know how I feel when other people have done that for me. I feel great when somebody calls me and says, “Hey, friend, you seem really busy and all over the place. Let’s chat for five minutes and catch up.”
Corinne, what would you tell someone who doesn’t feel like a natural storyteller or like they’re good at pitching, but wants to work in this field, successfully delivering solutions that blend technology and the law, like you do?
It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to start by thinking about your story, about your experiences, about what the audience you’re talking to cares about—and craft it from there. So if you’re a project manager and you’re looking to get into management, or you’re trying to sell somebody on using a new technology that’s maybe a little cutting edge for their conservative likes, go through your bank of stories, consider your lens on this problem, and be brave enough to say: I really believe that this technology is going to prevent a problem or make this project exponentially more efficient. Think about those experiences you’ve had, because that’s really powerful information to portray to somebody, especially someone non-technical, who maybe is scared of this tech or that risky endeavor to buy new software or try something new. If you have confidence in yourself and you rely on your experiences and you give them your lens, that’s really powerful. It’s about honest, transparent communication about why you believe this is going to be the right thing to do.
That reminds me of this idea of selling yourself knowing you’ll be hired for your perspective, your subject matter expertise. So show it!
Yes! I think women can have a really hard time with that. I’ve read studies showing we’re really good at advocating for other people and for our projects, but not necessarily for ourselves—which I think I definitely fall into that category. Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody and you’re complaining or talking about how things are going wrong, and you’re giving yourself bad advice? And your friend turns around and looks at you and says, “Is that the advice you would give me if I was the one with this problem?”
We need to give ourselves the confidence to see that our experiences are enough and they are important. I remember being a young project manager and thinking, “Well, we used that idea on that other project. But this is a big partner. He’s not gonna want to listen to me talk about this crazy technology.” But if you invest the energy to learn to translate it, put it into a language they understand, and be able to craft that message in a way that makes sense to the person who’s listening? That can be really, really powerful, and you can start to build yourself a reputation for being somebody who knows. And I think it’s something we don’t do enough of.
Blair Cohen is a brand program manager at Relativity, representing the company with enthusiasm, authenticity, and her flair for humor. When she isn’t shining a light on women in tech via Stellar Women or cracking jokes on the main stage at Relativity Fest, you can find her running around Chicago finding the best places to eat with her dog, Goose.