Real Talk With Kim Lane, COO of The Conductor
To say Kim Lane is a grounded, ambitious woman isn’t really saying enough. She’s an integral part of multiple companies and organizations, and she’s not afraid of the hard work. Kim gave me a detailed look at her life, shared her beyond-wise philosophies on women in the workplace, and inspired us to do whatever it takes to make our career goals a reality. She’ll inspire you too!
Name: Kim Lane
Location: Conway, Arkansas
Title: Chief Operating Officer, The Conductor; Lead Organizer, 1 Million Cups Little Rock; Director, Startup Grind Little Rock; Startup City Leader, Global Entrepreneurship Week Little Rock
What it is: The Conductor is a public-private partnership driving entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development in central Arkansas through high-impact programming, one-on-one consulting, and collaboration.
Educational Background: BA in English and a minor in Anthropology, Hendrix College
How on earth do you manage to balance working on One Million Cups, Startup Grind, Global Entrepreneurship Week, and (previously) Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub?
I have a lot of to-do lists, drink a lot of coffee, and work with amazing people. We have so many talented people in our community who will step up and work together to move the needle. Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 14-20) was particularly exciting. It was a week’s worth of seeing ideas come to fruition and the culmination of months of planning.
But I work with so, so many supportive people. A word of encouragement from a passerby, the look of accomplishment on a high schooler’s face, a mentor showing up at a big event, a co-worker who helps move tables and chairs—that support means everything, and makes it all possible. And worth it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up around 6:30 a.m. and go for a run, then start answering emails over a fresh pot of coffee. (Full disclosure: Some mornings I skip the run and opt for extra coffee.) I spend many of my mornings attending meetings, coordinating with program partners and team members, managing social media and Eventbrite accounts, calling and emailing collaborators for future partnerships, seeking funding for various events, etc.
I eat lunch with my mom (a major role model of mine) around noon—we eat together almost every day. We always have—and she used to eat lunch with her mom every day. Most afternoons, I’m either catching up on emails or tying up any loose ends for the night’s event: Ensuring that the food and beverages, venue, team, social media, and speaker are ready.
I run a number of nighttime events and often get home around 9 or 10 p.m. and unwind with my boyfriend over pizza and a glass of merlot. I typically answer emails and get ready for the next day at night and crash around midnight or 1 a.m. But really, every day is totally different—many include speaking engagements, high school visits, one-day road trips, etc.
Your resume is so impressive! Looking back, what was the key to obtaining so many different and noteworthy jobs?
Something I wholeheartedly believe in is that details matter. How you interact with people, how you treat yourself, how you handle adversity, how you dress, etc. I’m probably overly meticulous with things, but, it’s important to me. It’s worth the extra time to do things the right way.
My dad always says that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. It’s true. Find what you love and stop at nothing to make it happen. Also, everyone has been turned down by a job or encountered adversity along the way–don’t let that stop you. Defeat is a great exercise of mental toughness.
What was it like working for The Everygirl and Brit + Co?
Brit Morin, the founder of Brit + Co, has a fascinating and inspiring story. She founded the company when she was 25—taking photos in her dining room on her iPhone—and now the website has more than 10 million viewers a month. It was awesome to see the interworking and brand-making of a high-growth company, with freelancers all over the world influencing a new generation of tech-focused females.
The Everygirl was also very cool. I was the Careers Editor, so I wrote for career-focused women. It was a great opportunity to speak to young female professionals.
They each were interesting in that they were completely remote positions, and both high-visibility companies. It gave me insight into how different digital media companies work. Many of the skills I learned influenced my approach as a director and editor at Arkansas Money & Politics magazine.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your career?
There are so many. The first things that come to mind: Do what it takes to get the job done, be persistent, don’t take no for an answer. There will always be hurdles to overcome, but do what it takes to make things happen—stop at nothing.
I played several sports in high school, and so much of work and life can be related to sports. Hard work isn’t easy. It takes grit and determination and perseverance (and yes, occasionally, blood, sweat, and tears). Some days you win. Some days you face adversity. Don’t think you’re above anything or better than anything.
There have been many times that I’m rearranging tables, carrying chairs, breaking bags of ice—all while clad in a dress and heels—then quickly freshen up in my car before greeting people at the door and hosting an event with 50+ people. You do what it takes, and you stop at nothing to make it happen.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started your career, what would that be?
Be open to change. You never know what might come your way.
You had a lot of internships in college. How did those impact your professional path?
One of the greatest things you learn in an internship is that you’re entitled to nothing. If someone asks you to re-type an article from a 1992 news story, you do it. If someone asks you to edit a stack of old manuscripts, you do it. If someone asks you to write a speech for a VIP reception happening in 5 hours, you do your research and you write it. There are a lot of character-building moments in internships, especially when you’re just starting out and you’re observing everything and envisioning (and sometimes reevaluating) the rest of your life.
I had my first internship when I was 19 years old, and had at least one internship every year after that until I graduated from college. I had incredible internships at Heifer International, the Clinton Foundation, and the Arkansas Times, among others, and they largely impacted me.
Also, I can’t overstate this, I really have had so many amazing role models and mentors along the way (professors at Hendrix College, bosses, my parents), and I seek advice from them regularly. I worked for inspiring people (many of whom are now my friends), who took me under their wings to teach me about their worlds and tell me what they’d do differently if they were in my shoes. It’s a great way to experiment with different career paths and think about where you fit in.
If you didn’t have an internship and don’t have work experience [by the time you graduate], try to volunteer at different organizations you care about, and take on different roles at those organizations. Try everything: Marketing, writing, sales, etc. You never know what you might fall in love with.
What advice you would give to young female entrepreneurs?
There’s a certain vernacular about female professionals, and entrepreneurs, that we’re fighting an uphill battle or we have something to overcome. I ignore all of that. If you work hard and do the right thing and treat people well, you will forge your own road. If you spend too much time thinking about the odds that are against you, you’ll waste time that you could be spending on developing your business.
I’m not saying there won’t be obstacles in your way—there will be—but you tackle them head-on, keep going, and don’t look back.
What are your tips for looking professional on a budget? What about having a creative yet professional wardrobe?
I buy the overwhelming majority of my clothes from Old Navy and Target, and I pay attention to deals (30% off, bonus cash, etc.) To me, the trick isn’t to spend a lot of money on clothes, but to make it a priority to look sharp every day. I keep a blazer in my car (it was probably $20 or less), and save it for emergencies. It comes in handy often. It’s also important to wear clothes that reflect you and your personality.
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
I love that on a daily basis, I’m helping people turn their dreams into realities—people who are willing to risk stability and security to make things happen. Of course, some days are more challenging than others but there’s something endlessly fulfilling and genuine about helping people strive for their passions.
What does success mean to you?
I love poetry, and often reflect on Emerson’s “Success,” which ends in “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”
Of course, society believes certain ideas about success, but I think it’s whatever fulfills you, whatever motivates you to wake up in the morning, whatever you believe in. If you can do those things on a regular basis, and if you feel confident in yourself and your work and if you’re able to give back to others in the process, that’s what it’s all about. When things feel right, they usually are.
What are your hobbies? How do you unwind and have fun when you’re not working?
I run on a regular basis (there’s no substitute for fresh air and self-reflection). I also love spending time with people—catching up over cheese dip and margaritas, talking to my mom or sisters, etc. Also, my boyfriend and I go camping on a lot—we always go to Petit Jean Mountain.