Words of Wisdom with Della Gilleran, Principal, Marketing by Design

Della GilleranAt Metro EDGE, we know true mentors are hard to come by these days and that our members are eager to learn what it takes to be successful. Words of Wisdom is a new series featuring some of Sacramento’s brightest CEOs, executives and leaders sharing their advice with the region’s young professionals. Flip your brain over to sponge mode and soak this up.

Della Gilleran
Principal, Marketing by Design

What are some things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career:

These are things I find important. Naming them doesn’t mean I’ve mastered them!

1. [Don’t procrastinate.] Complete (each phase of) your work ahead of schedule. It allows time to incubate, revisit and improve it.

2. Pay attention to red flags (raised by your intuition).

3. Learn about business and money — from bookkeeping to financial statements. Keep your business and personal debt to a minimum, because it becomes an albatross and closes your mind to new options.

4. Remember this version of the Golden Rule. “Don’t do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”

Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the most important piece of advice they gave you?

I did not have a mentor regarding my career. In life, my ‘mentor’ is my older sister. She mentors me by listening, and absolutely not by ‘giving advice’. Other mentors are individuals (friends, clients, vendors) who have shared issues and challenges they are facing. There are lessons and things to be grateful for everywhere!

How did/do you handle work/life balance?

Not well. Being self-employed, I have always felt compelled to say yes to as much work as I can manage with the resources (talent, bandwidth) that I have available. At each end of the pendulum swing is sleepless nights: a slower workload causes worry about the livelihood of people I care about, and a heavy workload causes worry about overloading staff and harnessing other resources to keep my agreements with clients. The sweet spot, of course, is the middle.

For any working mother/parent, it’s challenging to not feel like you’re doing several things poorly as you hear the ‘tapes’ in your head: “I should be doing XYZ with my kids.” “I should be doing XYZ with my spouse.” “I should be doing XYZ for my business and employees.”

To this day, I don’t relax well, but exercise, physical labor and time with my extended family at our cabin are wonderful ways to replenish.

Do you have any suggestions of books, articles, websites, etc. that might help a young professional?

Without a doubt, learning new things is important. Gaining competence in your field is critical. Gaining wisdom in your relationships with others is essential personal growth. The specifics of how you do that vary for each person by industry, time of life, and frame of mind. Reading magazines and books, learning by hearing and seeing (like field trips) and taking classes are all great options.

I like context for business information balanced with life ideas. A favorite book for life perspective is Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, who is an oncologist and a therapist. The book is a collection of short reflections about life — written by someone who is helping people face (the possibility or imminence) of death.

Though I am not Catholic or particularly religious, I appreciate the perspective, insights and simple ‘aha’ moments that land in my InBox from ignatianspirituality.com and values.com.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region?

Everyone is on a path shaped by things you have control over, and things you don’t have control over. Life is a constant process of finding a balance: figuring out what’s working and what bothers you (because it feels like it’s not working); figuring out what you can’t affect (which then requires an attitude shift) and what you can affect (which requires useful action); figuring out what’s important to you in how you are in the world — as demonstrated by how you spend your time, treat others, and collect things (possessions, recognition).