Erin Dertouzos, head of talent and culture at Meetup, fulfilled her career goal of leading an HR team by the time she was 30 -- “which meant I needed to start dreaming a bit bigger,” she says. Even though she’s killing it, she remains humble. Her career advice? “We all need to start our careers somewhere,” she says. “If you learn how to make the best copies, schedule meetings the most effectively, run the best errands--whatever it may be, you will become a more valuable employee."
Fairygodboss of the Week: Erin Dertouzos
Head, Talent and Culture - Meetup
New York, NY
FGB: Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
ED: I grew up in a single parent household, losing my father when I was very young, but my mother always taught me that education was the ticket to success. When our high school curriculum wasn't strong enough, she pleaded with our church to pay my tuition at the local Catholic high school. From there, I was the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
I serendipitously fell into an HR internship while in college through my aunt's friend...serendipitous in that I desperately needed a summer job and my aunt's company desperately needed help in their HR department. It was then that I realized that Human Resources was something that was both challenging and interesting and what I wanted to do with my life.
I'd always known that I wanted to be in New York, so I took the first full time job offer I received, which was from the New York Public Library. I worked my way into a manager role and then realized that I wanted to be in a smaller, more innovative and tech-focused environment. Meetup was my siren call: it was a small startup of only 50 people, not yet profitable and, well, really cool - everything the library wasn't.
Over the past ten years with Meetup (!), I've moved from being a junior/mid-level recruiter into various different roles in Talent & Culture. I'm now leading a team of four diverse, enthusiastic and driven people, who have helped scale our wonderful company to nearly 200 people, and I sit on our executive team, alongside six brilliant minds, two of them women.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
ED: When I entered Human Resources, my end goal was to lead a Human Resources team. I was able to do that by the time I was 30, which meant I needed to start dreaming a bit bigger.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
ED: Late in 2016, I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my face and what was initially thought to be a very small amount turned out to be much larger than expected. Emotionally, it was devastating and the surgery resulted in a large scar that left me more insecure than I've ever been. We had our company holiday party a mere four days after my surgery and two of the women on my team came to my apartment to get ready, urging me to get my makeup done professionally as a treat for the first time in my life. Even though I am their mentor and manager, they've been my strength and light though this process.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
ED: I think this is where I'm supposed to talk about all of the amazing volunteering I do, social functions I attend and hobbies I have which often makes people like me feel like my weekends are a total waste of space. So I'll get real on this one...
When I'm not working, I'm sometimes thinking through work challenges that I don't have the time to focus on when I'm at the office. Or just having general anxiety about how I don't have enough time to do everything I'd like to do.
On a less serious note, I enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow (true story: I won't make social plans on Monday nights because they interfere with my ability to watch America's best British knock off). On the weekends, I'm usually running errands, spending time with my husband and trying to keep our small, Brooklyn apartment reasonably organized.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
ED: I have a physical reaction to the idea of karaoke. We had a surprise birthday party for our CTO last year and went out for karaoke, where I spent the first solid 45 minutes drinking wine, physically uncomfortable. Everyone thought it was hysterical.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
ED: The Beach, circa 2000. I was lucky enough to visit the actual beach where the movie was filmed, Hat Maya in Thailand in 2015, which was a true dream realized (15 years in the making!)
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
ED: Can I bring a lifetime supply of National Geographics instead?
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
ED: I have a soft spot for luxury purses but I almost always sell one of mine if I want to purchase a new one. I strongly believe in quality over quantity so you'll only find a few purses in my apartment at any given time.
I don't play the lottery but if there was some weird windfall that happened, the first thing I'd acquire is the advice of a brilliant financial advisor.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
ED: We all need to start our careers somewhere. I once had a part time job in college where I had to stuff thousands of envelopes. It was physically painful, mind numbing and awful, but I did it with enthusiasm (mostly faked) and precision. That led to more responsibility and inevitably a sweet gig. If you learn how to make the best copies, schedule meetings the most effectively, run the best errands--whatever it may be, and continue to learn, grow and push yourself, you will become a more valuable employee.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
ED: I work with leaders I trust and a team that genuinely believes in the mission behind Meetup. Even on the most trying of days, I know that our platform enables people to make their lives better.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.