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On the Brink with Andi Simon

Jan 15, 2024

Hear about perseverance, pivoting, and putting yourself out there

In today’s podcast I bring you Gemma Toner, former media and telecommunications innovator and one of the 102 amazing women leaders featured in our new book, Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success, co-authored by Edie Fraser, Robyn Freedman Spizman and myself. Gemma and I talk about not being afraid to take a job or head up a project even if you think you’re not 100% quailified. Believe in yourself and offer yourself as a smart person who can grow—that’s when amazing things can happen. Listen in!

Watch and listen to our conversation here

8 takeaways from Gemma for your own journey

  1. Just start. And then keep going. This the best advice Gemma received from one of her mentors.
  2. Everybody makes mistakes. Learn and start again.
  3. Find people that are like you that can support you, in good times and bad. We all need a support team.
  4. Don’t forget where you came from. Remember your roots.
  5. Be open to lateral moves. There are many ways to build your career. Even roles you don’t like can lead to great opportunities.
  6. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Be open and curious.
  7. Share your wisdom and experiences with other women. As you rise, lift others.
  8. Don’t let setbacks limit you. Handle the disappointment, learn as much as you can from it, then let it go and move on.

To connect with Gemma, you can find her on LinkedInFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and her company website Tone Networks. You can also email her at

For more on becoming the best you can be, here are some of our favorite podcasts:

Additional resources for you

Read the transcript of our podcast here

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. I’m Andi Simon and as you know, I’m your host and your guide, and I love doing podcasts so that you can see, feel and think in new ways. Why is that important? Well, these are very fast changing times, and regardless of who you are or where you are, something is pushing against you a little bit and you’re not quite sure. Do I like it? Don’t I like it? Most humans hate change. It creates pain in the brain. But it’s time to change. And the sooner you make change your friend, the more happy you’re going to be.

My job is to get you off the brink. So today I have an amazing woman here. Gemma Toner is a fabulous woman. She’s part of our book Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success. You can see behind us, and I’m going to show you her picture. And each of them provide five wisdoms. And what I love doing is sharing their wisdom on the podcast because sometimes it comes alive even better. Gemma, thank you for being with me today. You’re smiling, I love you.

Gemma Toner: I am so grateful to be here. Thank you.

Andi Simon: Gemma and I are going to have a great lunch after our podcast. But first we have to get through our podcast. Let me tell you about her so that you, our viewers and our listeners, know why you should listen up because it’s important.

Gemma is a media and telecommunications leader known for driving innovation. In 2017, she created Tone Networks. And we’re going to talk about Tone today as a SAS microlearning platform designed for early- to mid-career women. Although as I looked at them, I think it’s for all women to stay in advance in the workplace. She’s been a board member of publicly traded companies including Sandvine, and is currently Co-Chair of the Women Business Collaborative.

Before founding Tone Networks, Gemma held executive positions in media and technology for AMC and Cablevision Media, running the fastest ISP in the country. We’re going to hear more about that in a moment. She’s been granted patents for data analytics, and she proudly serves on the board of the global humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide. Don’t you love that bio, audience? I think this is a wonderful time because you had that great article in February of 2023 about The Great Breakup. So here you’re going to hear about Gemma in the corporate world and then founding a new company to help women do even better. And this is something that is extremely important to me and to her. Tell us about your journey. How did you get into corporate? What was it like? 

Gemma Toner: All right. Let me tell you about my journey, because it is not one that people immediately think of or hear. And that is that. I think of myself as a mother and a wife and a business person, a technologist, and I’m a data geek, but I’m also an immigrant. And that’s important because it’s such a strong part of my identity. And it’s also kind of driven me throughout my whole life. And so you ask how I got into corporate? Well, I’ll tell you.

My parents immigrated from Northern Ireland when I was about 4 or 6 months old. When you’re an immigrant, and this was back in the 60s, your family actually became your friends. And at least for our family, we were packed up every summer and spent time with all our family that my parents had left back in Ireland. So I have this kind of bifurcated life which sometimes I didn’t always appreciate.

You ask me again how I got into corporate. Well, I kind of looked at my dad and saw what he accomplished, and I was the oldest in a family of three girls. I thought, well, I’ve got to do better because he came here literally with nothing. He had very little money, very little education, but he had the dream that the American dream was possible. And you know what? It really was for him. And he became wildly successful here in the United States. So I had some big shoes to fill. And my dad didn’t go to college.

So the first step for me to get to corporate America was actually to get to college. And so I did. I got into Villanova and had a great experience there and ended up studying accounting. That wasn’t necessarily the most strategic. I happen to be really good at it. I happen to also be one of the few women in the room, and I didn’t mind that. So it was a great school, great experience. And I popped into corporate America and my first job was at a great company now called Ernst and Young. And I got to spend a lot of time at Time Inc. and again, this was again for this immigrant girl, this was corporate.

America was not something I grew up with. I did not know about mentors or sponsors. I didn’t even know that those names or terms existed. I certainly didn’t know anything about networking. But what I did know was that, keep your head down and work really hard. So I got to see corporate America kind of in its heyday. When you’re working for those types of firms, you actually get to see the world at a pretty high level, even though you might be doing pretty mundane things as an entry level employee.

But what it turned me on to and what I’m very grateful for was I got to really learn about the media business. And I realized pretty quickly that, Hey, this is actually where I want to be. And so I came home to my father, who had worked so hard and given us so much opportunity and said, Dad, I really don’t like this accounting thing very much. I think I want to try something else. And he said, Gemma, you can do anything. And he didn’t make me feel bad that I had just spent four years studying accounting, which is a great degree. I highly recommend it. Working at Ernst and Young was a great experience. But, it was time for me to make the jump.

You’ll hear often in my career, I kind of jump off cliffs and eventually fly. It doesn’t always go seamlessly, but it happens. And so I jumped. And so it wasn’t easy to have someone to have a media company hire an accountant, because certainly they didn’t think I had a marketing background and I didn’t, but I was entry level. And so it was a great time to kind of jump in and make a career switch. So I was fortunate enough. I actually started out at a company called Rainbow Advertising. So I got to see the world of advertising. And then I landed this fantastic job working for a woman. Her name is Katie McEnroe at AMC Networks. And that was where I had that first moment of: I see her, I want to be her.

Andi Simon: Ah.

Gemma Toner: And she was president of this network. We were in heavy distribution and marketing mode. And it was run by Josh Sapan at the time, another fantastic human being to work for. And it was probably one of the best experiences I could ever have. I got to see so much. I got to do so much. We were all so supportive of each other. We were very aggressive, but in an okay way, at a time in the telecommunications industry where it was really a bonanza of creativity and technology and distribution, it was just all these new things that were coming out.

And so from there, that was sort of how I landed in corporate, and then towards the end of my time at AMC Networks, I got really fascinated with this thing, I’m going to date myself a bit, called New Media. And I was always a bit of a geek. And, you know, I love computers and machines and things like that. And so I was able to persuade my boss at the time to create a new job, which was, how do we create content for this new medium, the internet. And more importantly, it wasn’t just about the internet because this was, again, where you had to dial up. It was really about this next thing that was coming, which was high speed data, which most people didn’t even know the name of.

So I got to create content. We learned, we made a lot of mistakes. I learned very early on that the programming and the content had to be really short. And this was way back, like in 2000. We knew it needed to be short. So we made a lot of mistakes along the way. But it was a great ride, and I share that because that transitioned me to yet my next gig, which was, I got asked to interview for this job working at a company here in New York called Cablevision to run this fledgling product called Optimum Online. And at the time it had a lot of optimism. And the CEO of Cablevision and President wanted someone that had a really good branding background. And if there’s anything AMC Networks can do, it really teaches you how to brand and how important it is and to understand your audience. And all of that will follow through as we talk about Tone Networks.

So anyway, I was fortunate enough to land the job, and at the time, I’ll just say, so for anyone that ever has had this experience, I landed the job, I got married and then ended up becoming pregnant all within like three months. So I thought to myself, what in the world have I just done to myself? But I did it. So I jumped again, jumping into a big cliff or off a big cliff. And it was probably the hardest job I’ve ever had. You know, it was, now I was working at a cable company. It was heavy in the technology space. We were also in a place where people didn’t know what high speed access was and they kind of liked that old dial up sound. So it was quite a challenge.

But it was really the beginning of a fantastic career journey at this cable company because not only did I get to be a part of launching and building that, but I also got to be a part of launching other new technologies at the company, namely Optimum Voice. I got to be a part of that team, as well as Optimum WiFi and then again at Cablevision. It was very entrepreneurial, even though we were a publicly traded company. It had great visionaries at the top and mentors.

Quite honestly, I got picked to solve a problem. And the problem was, Here we were, this company that had all of this data, and this was again early, before it was even called big data. And what could we do with it? How could we monetize it? How can we make products? And so I got to do something that I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would do, which was to run this data analytics team. And they were brilliant. And, again, it really speaks to you may not have to know how to do it. You just need to know how to lead and have some vision.

Because truly, Andi, you and I were talking about one of my main criteria was, I needed a social anthropologist. We needed to understand what all this data and behavioral data meant. But we had data scientists. I mean, it was just an extraordinary time and we ended up creating new products. We ended up getting some patents. And so that was really my life in corporate America. And it was a wild ride. It was not easy, I want to be really clear. I think so many people come on podcasts or do media and interviews and they don’t share that. It was hard. It was really hard. I cried a lot, I want to be honest. I cried myself to work some days with the pressure and everything that was coming at me.

But, you know, I think one of my mentors always said, keep going. And I think that is something that I want everyone to remember. Just keep going. Keep going through it. You’ll get through it. And so I stuck with it. I had this great opportunity, and then I had something very personal happen. And that was, a very good friend of mine who I had watched struggle with colon cancer for five years, passed away. And I went into the office after she had died. I watched her fight day in and day out for another day with her boys. I had this great gig. I got picked for the really cool stuff. It was the hard stuff. But I loved the hard stuff. I had an executive coach.  I got to go to Stanford. I lived 20 minutes from my job. You couldn’t have asked for a better dream job. But I walked in and I was like, I’m done. And I didn’t know it was very emotional. So I wouldn’t say, go do this, but I did. So I’m just being honest and vulnerable. But, I came home that day and I spoke to my husband and I said, I don’t know what it is, but it’s just not this anymore. And so I retired.

When you retire, when you’re kind of at the top of your game and you have a really great gig, people look at you funny. So again, I will let you know that people are like, Why are you leaving right now? You know, here you are a woman, you’re at the top of it, it didn’t make a lot of sense. But what I knew inside was that I needed something different. And that’s all I knew. I did not have a strategic plan, so I recommend others have a strategic plan. Mine was a very emotional decision, but I also needed to take a break.

And so what I did was having had an executive coach, which is truly life-changing and transformative, I knew enough about myself and my own neuroses and my A-type that I am, that I might squander this gift that I had given myself, which I thought was retirement. And I thought, I need to have my executive coach help me through this because the last thing I want to do was to lose this time worrying about what’s next and not use it. I’ve worked for as long as I can remember. Well, we had monthly meetings, and she really helped me keep on that path of taking this time for yourself, rediscover yourself. I also had a girlfriend who gave me a book, which I highly recommend. And Brené Brown, if you’re listening, I want to be your best friend, which is daring greatly.  And it was really about vulnerability. And that really resonated with me because I did not grow up in an environment where I felt I could be vulnerable. Making vulnerability equate with courage really spoke to me. It really sung to me.

And so during my retirement, I got asked to be on those boards, which was fantastic. And I have another story which will take way too long, but it is about saying no. So we’ll save that for the next podcast. But that was about how I ended up getting on those boards and how that snowballed, which was fantastic. And then during my, I guess you would call it a sabbatical, I got asked to serve on the Board of Concern Worldwide, and I hadn’t heard of it. They were happening. They were looking for someone with a data analytics and marketing background. So I just happened to get lucky and interview for that position, and I thought this was for me, Andi. I thought, this is it. I want to give back. I need something more. I’ve done the corporate America thing and I thought, okay, thank you, thank you God, here it is. And so that’s how I proceeded.

Now, as being a board member, I was supposed to go to Haiti and go on a trip. And at the time, Haiti became too unstable for us to go. And so that trip was canceled, and I got to speak at a women’s leadership conference because I was able to say yes to that. And I was very vulnerable. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was for women in cable and telecommunications. And Maria Brennan, who was the CEO, called me and said, You need to talk about career pivots at the senior leadership conference. I was like, Marie, Maria, I’m in a personal pivot. Why would anyone want to hear from me? It’s like, that’s exactly why you have to. So I think Brené Brown is playing in my head and I think, I have to go and be brave, got to be courageous. And so I go and that blows my mind.

This is a senior leadership conference in an industry where there’s a lot of access to learning and great organizations that deliver education. And I was like, why are these women, some of them I know, why are they who are here to talk, going to listen to what I have to say? So I said, here’s how I did it. And I was retired. So I had some headspace and I’m walking back to get the train home. And I thought, I’m no different than all those women that were in that room. So what was it that made me able to make the jumps that I did? And all these super talented women are struggling, and I thought I had access. And what does that mean, access? That means, for better or worse, somehow, because I didn’t know what a mentor sponsor was, I got access to a mentor, I got access to role models, I got access to sponsors, I got that executive coach.

And all of those things are scarce resources. Right at the end of the day, there’s not enough of them. Not everybody gets that. I understand the economics of executive coaching. It’s really expensive. And so I started to think about, what can I do about this? And I was like, Hang on, I know how to build software, I know content, I know data analytics. Wait a second. And so then I just started rocking on what could this be? And there you have it. So that was a very long-winded story of my drift from getting into being an immigrant, getting into corporate America, and then actually starting to create the idea of what a company could be.

Andi Simon: But, I mean, remember, our job is to help people get off the brink. And you are an extraordinary role model, because in many ways, it wasn’t as if you had a destination. You were curious and that curiosity and trust in yourself, and you can call it vulnerability. But that’s a word that often doesn’t mean anything. So just a cool word. Just supposed to be vulnerable. Well, what does that really mean? But what you found was that if you trusted your own feelings, calm instincts, you made some good decisions. Doesn’t sound like you had many detours along the way, but you might have. 

Gemma Toner: Oh, I did.

Andi Simon: Yeah, I know we won’t talk about it again. I want to be honest.

Gemma Toner: I made lots of mistakes. You know, those were the highlights. You know, everybody makes mistakes. And so, again, I just like to be practical and honest. If you’re not out there swinging and you’re going to miss a lot, you’re not going to get some of those peaks, right? I think that’s really important for us to communicate because none of this is all hard. 

Andi Simon: Well, you’re talking about chance. You know, it could have been luck, yes, but life is a series of showing up. People say, How did you grow your business? I say, I showed up because who knows what’s going to happen in the elevator when you meet Renée Mauborgne and she becomes a blue ocean strategist? I mean, the conversations are trusting that there’s some magic here that’s going to be, I don’t know, magical. And so you have moved along without saying, I need to go help women, but you had an experience.

And I want to emphasize that to our listeners. There was something experiential that said, Ooh, what is it? I could help those women because they need to see things through a fresh lens, and have the trust that this is why they feel the way they do?

Why don’t you begin your next story? Talk to us about Tone Networks because I am intrigued by how we can help women become the best they can be. I like men too, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a guy or gal. I’ve coached both. I have many of them as clients but they all come and the brain hates change. It creates cortisol that says, This hurts. Help me do it. How am I going to help you do this? Because you need to do it. We need to figure out a way for you to see yourself in a new fashion, try some new things.

So Tone Networks. And I’m not even sure how to understand the name of it because it’s not physical. It’s not toning you up, but it is toning you up. Um, so I’m curious. I’m curious. Out of it came this platform that is helping people, women in particular, become the best they can be. You share with us. How do you see it? How did you create it?

Gemma Toner: You know, it’s so funny yourself. It really is. Everything that I learned throughout that long-winded story I just shared with you really is used in the creation of this business. And so the data geek in me, how do you start a company? You know, again, I came from corporate, where I had started lots of new products. And so I knew my process which isn’t necessarily what most startups do. So I was starting up as someone with corporate experience, so I don’t know that I did it the right way, but I did it my way and my way was to start to really understand what the challenges women had. I didn’t want to just trust my own self.

And so we went out and did research and we did primary research. We did a national study, and we asked questions like, What stands in the way of your personal and professional development? Because long before the pandemic shone a light on the challenges that women have, I was a firm believer in my personal life did not get left at the threshold of my office door, that my personal and professional life were deeply intertwined, and the technology was going to make it even deeper.

And so if we were going to solve and try to help women, I think we had to acknowledge that you didn’t have clear boundaries. An example would be, I’m just about to go into a meeting and my daughter would text me. You know, Mom, I need you. But I mean, it happens to everyone. And whether it’s a child or a parent or whatever, the gift of technology is we’re more connected. It also interrupts us in some ways. So that’s what we really looked to solve and what we did tons of research on, and I love research. So again, this is the geeky part of me.

And what it bubbled up to were a couple of things. And it was when you asked women, all different ages, quite honestly, not just early- to mid-, all different types of women in different types of business categories. And it was this time factor. I don’t have time to do sort of traditional learning. Access was made for me. I don’t have time to go searching for everything and I just make it what I can. It’s just for me, make it feel like it’s just for me. And then the last, which is sort of the saddest, but it’s a reality. It was confidence. And tucked under confidence was permission. And that whether we like it or not, the majority of women that were part of this study, and it was a statistically significant study, we’re like, I need permission to take care of me. And I’m like, okay, so if that’s what we need to do, then let’s figure out how we can do this.

And so that was really the beginning. And that became the pillars of Tone Networks. And so what Tone sets out to do is use microlearning. I am not a learning and development specialist. I know what it is to build products and content that engage audiences. And so that’s really how we’ve created this learning tool. We’ve created it more like you would create a media experience than an education experience. We have no textbooks because what we’re really looking to be is your TikTok for your personal professional development.

So instead of going into that death scroll of Instagram or Snapchat or whatever, you can just jump on Tone and do something good for yourself and really enrich yourself. And so that’s really our goal. That’s how we make an impact. And what’s really cool is we use technology to make it very personalized. So we ask you what you’re interested in. The last thing I want to do is waste your time because I know how precious it is, because I’ve been there and I do not want to serve you things that you’re not interested in. So if you are not a working parent, a working mom, we’re not going to send you progressive parenting videos because that’s not respectful. We need to be respectful of your time so that if you only have 3 or 5 minutes today because honestly, you just can’t breathe, you can’t catch a break, it’s okay. We’ve got you.

And so that’s really how we developed the product. But we also developed it knowing, and again I know you’re expert in this, behavioral change. And how do you know the nudge theory of behavioral change? So we’ve listened to women and they say, Make it for me. Make it easy. Give me a one, two, three because the last thing I want to do is write an essay or get homework, I have a long enough to-do list. And so what we did was, we made these really short-form videos, and at the end of every video we have your Tone Takeaways, which is kind of your one, two, three. The system actually sends you positive reinforcement the next morning and says, thank you for watching. Here are your Tone Takeaways. Why not? Because I’m being polite, but I am a very polite person. But because I want to remind you, you did something good for yourself and here you go.

You can tell we worked with neuroscientists as well. We can pull that information out and recall it. And you know what, maybe you can take that first step or maybe you’ll just watch it again. That’s okay. Change is hard. I’m so with you when you say that, right? It is so hard. So that’s part of the way the product works for the end user because we were designed to be both a consumer platform and a B2B platform. Right now we’re working on the B2B front, but trust me, I want all women to get access to this, whether you’re in corporate America or not. But today, that’s where we are.

And so what we can also do is help inform our business partners, the companies we work with, with a new data set. But this comes back to, my data geek days are anonymized. Why is it anonymized? Because if you won’t watch, my boss is a narcissist. If you know that your company is tracking you. And you know what, if you have a boss that’s a narcissist, you should know how to handle that. And I’m okay with that. If you don’t have a boss, you have someone in your life. Everyone’s got a narcissist somewhere. I mean, it’s just an upward trend in our society.

But the game plan here is to add value and new insights and to really be a contender. We are not looking to be your typical learning and development platform. There’s plenty of companies out there doing that. We’re really looking to deliver the knowledge that you get from having access to executive coaches and experts. The really good stuff that you get deeper in your career. Why shouldn’t women have that earlier? Because my goodness, it really is life changing.

And so that’s really how we set out to do it. It was really listening to the audience talk about mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. It took us a long time to get the format right, to get the tone right. We’re in a good place now. I have to brag a little. We do have an NPS of 66, which is pretty darn amazing for such a young company.

Andi Simon: So just saying, are you better with an NPS?

Gemma Toner: Net promoter score? And so that’s when you just have a simple question. You know, Would you refer a friend or family member to this? And the good news is, a majority, and that’s a really hard number to get, of people are saying, Yeah, I would. So we have 95% of our business clients renewing. We know we’re hitting it. And I think we’re hitting it because, again, women don’t have much time. And we have to really redesign and re-engineer how we run our lives, and you know how we are.

Andi Simon: You know, Gemma, I’m listening and smiling because I share many of the same purposes and passions of wanting to take what we know and multiply it so others can rise with it. Sandra Quince says, As I climb the ladder, I lift other women with me. And I said, What a beautiful way of talking about what all of us are really interested in doing, not simply being acknowledged for accomplishments as you were and staying there, but thinking, I mean, your sabbatical was a growth period for you, but it didn’t stay there. It wasn’t just me on board. It was what I learned that I can now share and multiply joyfully so that I can lift others. And that is not inconsequential. And yeah, you can go speak, but when I walk out of the room at the end of a gig, as I know I want them to do one small win, you know, do an Oprah, one small win to lead you forward. But when will that be? How will I change? And it is purposeful and passionate. But you’re also having a good time, aren’t you?

Gemma Toner: I am, and I have to also credit my mom and dad for, again, you know, being immigrants and coming here with not much in their pockets. I think what they instilled in us was, and I saw it, there were so many people that helped them along the way and I recognized that but I didn’t know the terms. But the people that I would say helped me along the way, those mentors and sponsors, I don’t forget them. And what I recognized when I had a moment to like, think and take a beat, was that not everybody gets that. And so that’s where I think my father would always say, Never forget where you came from, always put out a helping hand. And that’s the truth.

And so I think, it does for me, it matters about my humble beginnings and being able to help more because we live in this country and we’ve been really fortunate. That means you give back. Let me clarify, I’m a capitalist. So this is not a nonprofit business. I believe in capitalism. And I also believe capitalism is probably the most effective way to create social change and upward mobility for women. But that’s why I’m doing this.

Andi Simon: You don’t have to justify yourself.

Gemma Toner: It’s just, I think it’s really important because someone says, Oh, is this a non-profit? I’m like, no, no, we’re not.

Andi Simon: You know, I met someone who’s trying to change the way kids understand debt and it’s not a not-for-profit. She’s finally made herself a for-profit. And I said, That’s good. It’s okay to make money and to spread it. It’s okay to remove the guilt factor because I’m in here for some profit. I don’t quite know why we’ve given that such a bad name, but I do think there’s something else about you as a woman leading others.

People ask me, Do women lead differently? And I say, Well, I’ve had dozens of clients. And I was in corporate life for a long time. And are women different from men? Yes. But leaders need followers, and they don’t follow people casually. They follow people they trust who can get them someplace together and who they believe are authentic and want to be accountable to. Do you find, you’ve had some good women bosses and men bosses, and do you think that women are leading differently or are we just women? 

Gemma Toner: I think it depends, and I think it’s, men, women, it really depends on the individuals. There’s some great male leaders. There’s some great women leaders. There’s also both not so great, so do I think I led differently? Probably not early in my career. I would say I, probably just like the female role models that I was emulating, they were leading like men. And so I would say as I became more comfortable as a leader,  I definitely had a different approach. I actually sometimes, early in my career, when I was running a region, when I saw my old team, I apologized to them. And I’m like, Thank you for still being my friend because I was really rough around the edges as a young leader. And you kind of grow into, at least I did, grow into the way you want to lead.

Andi Simon: Well, I do think that the value you brought to everyone along the entire way was your curiosity, this kind of openness to see things through. You wanted to bring a social anthropologist on because we know that out of context, data do not exist. What does all this data mean? Well, it can mean anything. I want it for myself. So which data do I have to do? And then how do I interpret it so that it makes the most sense. So it’s really interesting.

I think you and I could talk a great deal for a lot of reasons, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Thank you for sharing with us today. For our audience, one or two or three things you don’t want them to forget? What would be some real good takeaways?

Gemma Toner: You know, I have to say, the takeaway, as much as I was long-winded is, You don’t forget where you came from. You know, always look back. I also think some of the takeaways that I had in the book really are important to me. And that is, Get out there and just start, raise your hand. Even though I can tell you, most of the big opportunities I had, I was not the first choice. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be the consolation prize because it’s what you make of it. And they were great opportunities. Two of my big opportunities, I was not the first choice, but I hung in there and I didn’t have all the skills they wanted. But, last man standing, I got it, you know? So I think that’s really important because so many of us are just like, Oh no, that’s over my head. No it’s not, give it a go.

I think the other is, Just keep going. It’s hard. Let’s not kid ourselves and let’s not mislead each other with, sort of saying, it’s all perfect. It’s not, but you will get through it. And I think what’s really important about that is, and it does take a little time, and I didn’t always do this myself, so I want to be really honest about finding people that are like you that can support you. So it’s having that personal board of directors. It’s also having a few friends and friendly faces that can help you when you’re just having a really tough day and can also celebrate with you as well.

Andi Simon: Well, we’re people and we need others, and they need to be trusting and trustworthy. And trusting is important, that we have folks we can turn to and can I just vent? You know, it’s not an uncommon call I make to my favorite friend, can I just vent? Then by the time I’m done, she says, You feel better? I said, Oh, that was perfect. I just needed a safe and an executive coach. But even there, sometimes you just go talk to your friend, let it come out.

You know, we had an ERG presentation the other day, for Eightfold, a company out on the West Coast, a software designing company. Really cool folks. One of the women said, you know, do women really have to check off all the boxes before they can move up? And all of us, there were three of us, said, That’s not how you’re going to move up. The move up really comes when you really don’t know what you don’t know, because you can’t possibly ever have all the boxes checked. Believe in yourself and offer yourself as a smart person who can grow. And those are better words than, Am I ready? You’re never ready then. You know, I never became ready.

Gemma Toner: And I like to remind my team, We’ll figure it out.

Andi Simon: Yes, we’ll figure it out. It’s a complex problem to solve. That’s exactly right.

Gemma Toner: Figure it out and just know you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. You can ask a lot of people to help you.

Andi Simon: Yes, and you won’t ever be exactly right. Perfection isn’t really necessary. And so all kinds of wisdoms. This is such fun. So let me wrap up. I do want to thank you, and the National Association of Women Business Owners, who owns the trademark on our book Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success. And we always like to recognize them and thank them for the use of their title for our book, Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success.

And as you can hear, Gemma Toner is one of those extraordinary leaders. And our conversation today was to help you spark your success. Get off the brink. Keep going. Be perfect. The books are all on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My three books are there, with the third one, Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success, co-authored with Edie Fraser and Robyn Freedman Spizman. I hope you have fun with them. I actually had somebody shoot a picture of one of my books on the beach where he was reading it and I went, Oh my gosh, a beach read. I didn’t know I had a beach read!

Gemma Toner: Andi, can I plug one event that we have coming up? It’s going to be in March. It’s a pay equity event that’s free for all women. So all of your listeners and men are welcome. LinkedIn will be promoting it everywhere. It’s really about getting women particularly equitable pay. And this will not be about talking about the stats. This will actually be practical tips as to how you make sure you are getting paid fairly. So mark your calendar in March.

Andi Simon: Sometime in March though, we have to come back to Tone sometime in March.

Gemma Toner: It’ll be on the day. Yeah, it’s actually, we’re just waiting to get the actual date. March 15th, something like that. It’s on Pay Equity Day. It’s something, again, you talk about purpose. It’s very important to us.

Andi Simon: Despite the fact that Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Law in January of 2009. It’s not always true that women get paid what they should get paid for the same job that the guy is, much less at the same time. It’s really tough. Oh, boy, we can keep going, but we’re not. We’re going to sign off, say goodbye. Come again. Send me your favorites so I can bring them on. And I have a lot of great women and men to share with you coming up. It’s been wonderful. Goodbye now, and thanks again. Bye bye.



WOMEN MEAN BUSINESS® is a registered trademark of the National Association of Women Business Owners® (NAWBO)