The following post is part of a series of student and alumni perspectives leading into the 26th annual Tuck Diversity Conference, taking place from October 30 through November 1.
January 2020 was a monumental month for me as I gave birth to two babies: my daughter and my company, ThyForLife, for thyroid patients. The former was an inspiration to building the latter, my company, as a fully distributed workforce. Why?
I had two primary motivations for building a fully remote organization. First, to access talent no matter their location. We have team members based in Canada, the U.S., Austria, and Ukraine, and employ a diverse range of nationalities including those of Chinese and Peruvian descent—a couple of them are Tuckies! A native Ukrainian myself, I have lived ‘permanently’ in eight countries across three continents, and have traveled to 70+ more; thus, I’m no stranger to working in multicultural environments and managing international teams. The second inspiration was my daughter who further reinforced my desire to never be tied to an office again.
Thankfully, being fully remote left us well equipped when COVID-19 caused havoc in people’s lives. Recruitment, meetings, socializing ... everything was and still is done via video call! Although we have never physically met each other in person, focusing on giving adequate attention to each individual has enabled our team to forge strong long-lasting bonds.
Having a newborn on my hands when I launched meant that the time I could initially spend on ThyForLife was completely unpredictable. She’s now nine-months-old already and has a much more predictable schedule enabling me to more easily plan out and distribute my workload. All this to say, having the flexibility to work whenever and wherever I want is a massive perk (for me) and has always been my dream. As our team continues to grow, I recognize that those interested in such working arrangements (having full autonomy on how to construct one’s day) self-select this kind of an environment.
My leadership style is situational. While culture plays a certain role, the more fundamental driver on how I lead my team is based on the crossroads of an individual’s competence and confidence with each specific task. I strive to give each team member as much ownership and responsibility as possible only stepping in as and when required. This kind of approach was fundamental to how I used to lead teams during my time as a former manager at Bain & Co as well.
Empowering each individual to take charge, have a voice, and lead in their own way is the ethos of our company. Tuck’s leadership courses and learnings I accumulated during my MBA ingrained in me to put relationships first. Forging strong relationships by enabling each individual to reach for the stars in their own way has become my mantra.
On a final note, as an immigrant myself having moved countries several times, I have developed the grit to integrate and accommodate. I recognize the self-constructed societal borders that exist in our world today, and I sincerely wish for equity, equal opportunity to flourish, and inclusivity, no matter the background, for the generations to come. My daughter reminds me of this every day.
Natalia Lumen T’14 is the founder & CEO of ThyForLife, a mobile platform helping people thrive every day despite having a thyroid condition. Inspired by her own experience of surviving thyroid cancer and living the pain of tracking her own health data, Natalia is passionate about providing a solution and peace of mind to the more than 400m people around the world who currently suffer from a thyroid condition. Prior to founding ThyForLife, Natalia was a manager at Bain & Co, a leading strategy consulting firm, and led a successful career at the World Bank and European Bank. A 3x entrepreneur, Natalia holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, US, and is based in Vancouver, Canada.