Elena Valentine is all about celebrating "the world of work." Despite losing her mother at a young age, Elena has thrived under the guidance of strong and supportive women, including memories of her mother. That network, along with her resilience and perseverance, led her to to co-found Skill Scout, which gives job candidates better access and exposure to jobs they may never have considered. This Fairygodboss is truly making a difference!

Elena Valentine, Fairygodboss of the Week

CEO and Co-founder, Skill Scout

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

I'm the #unpolished servant leader of Skill Scout. We're a media company that helps companies large and small communicate their jobs and company culture through video as a way to increase talent recruitment and retention. I founded Skill Scout with my better (business) half Abby Cheesman. Abby and I are former design researchers who came together on a project aimed to tackle the national challenge of 7 million young people not in school or in the workforce. What we saw early on was many young people lacked access and exposure to jobs—you cannot be what you cannot see. So we set out to build a better way to expose candidates to jobs they may never have considered. The results of this work prompted us to start Skill Scout grounded in a new vision—a new way to hire and celebrate the world of work.

What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

In March 2017 we moved into our first "big girl" office in Chicago's southside Bridgeport neighborhood. There's something about having your own brick and mortar that makes what you do real. You can touch it. People can visit and congregate. For me it symbolized our independence to pave our own path. As we were building Skill Scout. I had always dreamed of commissioning a graffiti mural to represent who we are and where we came from. I'm proud to say we have that mural and it's the pinnacle of our office: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49-pKTve9-A&index=8&t=26s&list=PL6JF2uKk8s2TdtcXFTbdByvpneK6Ea10O

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

My mother passed away 10 years ago. For those of us who've gone through such a loss, especially at a younger age, there's nothing quite like it. When that happens you can either get swallowed by the grief or calmly persevere. I chose to persevere backed by a supportive circle of strong women. Her death, her legacy, and more importantly her spirit continues to guide me every day. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for her whispering in my ear, "It's okay, peanut. You got this."

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?

My Fairygodboss is Paula Froehle. She is the founding dean of Tribeca Flashpoint college, and now executive director of Chicago Media Project, an organization that aims to drive impact through documentary storytelling. When I was a wee media student, she took me under her wing and mentored me in all aspects of my life—even when I don't solicit it. I affectionately call her my second mom, and she treats me as such. I love her because she genuinely shares in my joy and my frustrations. More importantly, she has lived through a lot and enables me to carve a path informed by her wisdom.

What do you do when you're not working?

I watch and go to movies. So much so, I should buy stock in AMC. But really, my husband and I both love the dinner and movie combo. Last great film I saw? Black Panther of course. #WakandaForever

If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?

Frida Kahlo. She's lived quite the life and wouldn't shy away from taking tequila shots in between courses.

Lightning Round

What is your karaoke song?

Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine."

What is your favorite movie?

Steel Magnolias

What book would you bring with you on a desert island?


What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?

My shopping vice? Adidas shoes and independent streetwear designers.
If I won the lottery? A personal chef.

What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?

Be prepared to raise your sleeves and do the work- all aspects of the business from the mundane to the glamourous. And, even when you get to a certain point, no task—especially if it's your business—is beneath you.

Why do you love where you work?

Besides the fact that I helped build Skill Scout from scratch? Ha! Skill Scout combines everything I love: video storytelling, social impact, and the people business (a.k.a. human resources). Every day is a new story, and a new challenge.

What's more we give ourselves rope to experiment, fail, and try again. I learn so much from my colleagues, who continually amaze me with their craft and ability to push our video practice.

Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.