GoldieBlox CEO and founder Debbie Sterling shares her No. 1 tip for asking for more
Debbie Sterling is passionate, hungry and fearless -- qualities that she shares with the world's most powerful CEOs and leaders. So it's not a surprise that the Stanford engineering grad is the force behind GoldieBlox, an interactive toy company that introduces girls to the joys of engineering at a young age.
To say that GoldieBlox is disrupting the toy industry would be an understatement. After walking into a toy store and seeing what she calls the 'pink aisle' filled with dolls and kitchen playsets made for girls, Sterling realized that there were no toys catered to the 'maker generation' of young girls. Since its inception in 2012, GoldieBlox has sold over one million toys sold across more than 6,000 major retailers worldwide. And during that time, Sterling has collected some pretty impressive honors, including being inducted by President Obama as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.
We sat down with the 35-year-old founder and CEO of GoldieBlox at the Embrace Ambition Summit hosted by the Tory Burch Foundation, where we talked about her journey, mentors and everything in between.
AOL: What are the top qualities that you think a successful leader should have?
DS:You have to have so much passion for what you’re doing --- you really have to believe in it and put yourself out there and talk about it with everybody. I used to hate the word networking, I sort of still do, but as soon as I became an entrepreneur I realized the power of meeting as many people as you can and sharing what you’re passionate about because that’s how you go from being a lone person with an idea to a leader who inspires others to come and join them.
Another really important quality is somebody who is really self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I see so many times when leaders make the mistake of thinking they know everything. It’s so important to be able to bring in people to help you in areas where you're not as strong and to be willing admit when you don’t know something. I’ve found that my team respects me when I’m the most vulnerable.
AOL: We talk a lot about finding the right mentor in your career, but finding the right advocate -- someone who will stand up for you when it's time for that raise or promotion -- is just as important. Who are your mentors or advocates or perhaps people who play both roles?
DS: A woman that has been both a mentor and advocate is Heather Podesta. When I first met her, she fell in love with my vision and she invited me to a party with a bunch of influential people. She grabbed me by the arm and took me around the room all night introducing me to everybody and just talking me up. That felt like a step up from being a mentor because she spent the whole evening making sure I got face time with the most important people there. She also continued to follow up and facilitate those connections.
AOL: What is your No. 1 tip for women when it comes to asking for more?
DS: Try to get an understanding of what your worth and try to document in writing every time a colleague or boss compliments you. So when you go and ask for more, you have a case of why you deserve more. I think that helps a lot because it boosts your confidence as well. Sometimes when people come and ask for more and there’s no rhyme or reason to it, it falls a little flat. If you go in and build a case for yourself, it’s so much more powerful.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.