March 1, 2022
How this multihyphenate HDO alum supports women, uses her HDO education daily and the piece of advice she has for women beginning their careers in 2022
Leslie M. Dill
Business Development & Marketing Coordinator, HDO
To kick off our celebration of Women’s History Month, we sat down with the very accomplished, multihyphenate HDO alum and Advisory Board member Cyndee Blockinger Lake. Cyndee graduated from the HDO program in 2015 and serves as the Chief Purpose Officer and Co-Founder of Blank Page LLC, coaching organizations and individuals to create real connections and results. Seven years after graduating from the HDO Master’s program, Cyndee continues to apply its curriculum every day in her career, and has some refreshing insights on women’s empowerment.
How did Human Dimensions of Organizations shape your understanding of the world and workplace?
CBL: Coming into the master’s program, I already had a pretty good grasp of some topics from a technical perspective, but HDO really rounded out the artistic and more wholistic elements, which brought the bigger picture together. HDO brings a practicality to situations and processes that many people find really challenging. Many struggle every day at work to figure out the “why’s” and “what’s” of their organization, whereas HDO teaches “why, what,” and just as important, the “how.” Other programs only teach one of those, maybe two, and some teach the philosophies behind them, but not all together and certainly not how to implement them with the knowledge and understanding that HDO provides.
Who are your professional and/or personal female heroes?
CBL: I have two; first, my Mom. With my Dad in the Navy, she really had to operate as a single parent much of the time. She also had this amazing career, and seeing her navigate being a great mother, wife and career-woman was powerful. It shaped my work-ethic and allowed me to have this really wonderful, rich life without constraints. Seeing my Mom do all that really showed me life is not about “either, or,” it’s about “and.” That power of “and” was really amazing, I never felt that I had to choose one thing over another.
The second woman is someone named Sharon Brady, my second manager in my career. She made such an impression on me. I was a young, twenty-two year old manager, and she made time to sit down and coach me. Back then, the working world was very different for women to navigate and she was so ahead of her time in the way she thought about everything. I continue to aspire being like her in my every day life.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle holding women back in the workplace?
CBL: Honestly? Themselves! I think the narrative that women tell themselves things, mentally, so often that they don’t challenge it and believe it, eventually. They then miss out on subsequent opportunities. Oftentimes, they’re also not activating or making use of their seat at the table. Rewriting the narrative in their head, finding their voice and using it makes the biggest difference. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have had a board of directors hold the mirror up and force me to the best version of myself, and women need those types of networks. They also fall into a trap of thinking they are alone or have to go about their goals alone, and they don’t! Change that unsure, inner narrative, find your voice and use it!
Considering the great strides women have made in the workplace, do you think women entering the workforce in 2022 face greater or fewer obstacles than in previous decades?
CBL: I don’t know if it’s fewer or greater, but there’s an assumption that today it is all better. There’s this common practice of not challenging assumption and unconscious bias. Many people want to believe that we’ve solved the problems. While the numbers are better and on paper it looks like they have, the goals haven’t been reached yet. I talk about this with the executive teams Blank Page LLC works with all the time. They’re so concerned with getting women at the table and more diversity of backgrounds, but they often can’t answer what they’re doing with it once the seats are filled. While the problems and obstacles may be quieter, we still have to figure out how to make those voices heard. We still have to work hard to take the initiative to create that inclusion and make it a habit, and it isn’t a habit yet. There’s lots of good intention out there, but we need to work to create that habit.
There’s an assumption today that it’s all better…there’s a lot of good intention out there, but we need to work to create that habit.
CBL: The best way is to first and foremost understand for whom you’re being an ally. I can’t be an effective ally if I don’t know what your passions, talents and goals are, so knowing that, networking is really powerful. To be an ally you need to be invested. You also need to be willing to give feedback, to gently pull someone aside after a meeting if something went badly and talk about it. Celebrate those people when good things happen, and be willing to provide feedback when it’s necessary, that’s being an effective ally.
If you could give one piece of advice to your yonger self or to young women just starting out in their careers, what would it be?
CBL: Figure out early what your passion and gifts are and follow and invest in those. Do not try to be something you’re not. I believe the reason I’ve had the chance to live a life that has that “and” in it, is because I invest in the things I love every single day. Sometimes that can translate to a 15–20-hour day, but if I didn’t love what I do, the “and” would be sacrificed and I’d be filled with regret.