Fairygodboss was excited to get to know the inspiring Tami Forman, Executive Director of Path Forward, this week. Tami’s journey is about finding her career fit and learning how to promote yourself in (and out) of the workplace. Today, this former software marketer is working to empower women to follow in her footsteps, and the advice she has on how to find new opportunities will give you the edge you need.
Fairygodboss Of the Week: Tami Forman
Executive Director, Path Forward
Greater New York Area, NY
FGB: Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
TF: I started my career in book publishing. I went into it, as many young people do, because I loved books. I quickly learned that is the worst reason to try to make a career in publishing. It’s a really hard profession and loving books is not enough to make you successful. At least it wasn’t for me. In 1999, I made the switch to digital publishing, which eventually led me to a career in marketing for a software company called Return Path. At Return Path, our HR department piloted a program to empower women to restart their careers after caregiving through mid-career internships. It was so successful that other companies began to reach out to our CEO Matt Blumberg to get help on starting their own version. That prompted him to start a non-profit. When he told me his idea, I asked if I could run it for him and here I am!
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
TF: I’m really proud of getting Path Forward off the ground. In less than a year we’d incorporated, launched our website and obtained 501(c)(3) status. We then launched our fall program in Northern California with six companies and quickly followed that with a spring program in New York and California with another seven companies. I’m also extremely proud of how well the program works for women restarting their careers — 80% of our graduates were offered ongoing employment at the company where they interned and 90% were employed within six months of the end of the program. While I can’t take all the credit for that accomplishment (these are amazing women who work hard every day) I’m very proud of the conversion rates of the program and am working hard to improve them.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
TF: I think figuring out that book publishing wasn’t going to be the right career for me was a big challenge. I had this fantasy of what being a New York City book editor was going to be like and it took me a long time to realize I was never going to achieve that fantasy and I needed to let it go. Interestingly, once I did give up that dream, I felt so liberated! I was able to explore different options until I found a better fit. And I’m still doing that — I never quite imagined myself starting and running a non-profit organization but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
TF: This might sound very simple, but just keep going. I think a lot of women get discouraged when they don’t get a job or a promotion or they hit some other stumbling block. Unfortunately, our culture tends to patronize women and their ambition which I think makes it even more likely that women will give up. I always tell people that I’ve heard “no” far, far, far more often than I’ve heard “yes.” I’ve been turned down for many more jobs than I’ve gotten offered. I was even turned down for jobs at Return Path after working there for nearly a decade! But I just kept asking, kept raising my hand. When it was the right time and the stars aligned I’d get the next, better job — but that never would have happened if I hadn’t kept asking. And this is something that I think is particularly important for women because people often assume that women, especially women with children, don’t want the bigger job. If you aren’t constantly asking for more, too many people will assume you are okay with less.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
TF: Oh, so many reasons! First and foremost, I love the mission we are on. Working with women to empower them to restart their careers is just an awesome thing that I get to do. And also, working with amazing companies to help them spot and nurture female talent. I’m lucky that I love both sides of my job. And I really, really love my team. Between our staff and our Board we have a group of phenomenal women and men who are working hard to change the world by changing how women are valued in the workplace.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
TF: Matt Blumberg! It might be funny that my Fairygodboss is a man, but there is no one I’ve worked with or for who has been so willing to give me a job that, on paper, I was completely unqualified to do just because he believed I could do it. He’s also spent a lot of time over the years coaching and mentoring me. There’s no way I’d have felt ready to be a founding chief executive at Path Forward if it weren’t for him.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
TF: I have two children, ages 9 and 7, so my non-work hours are consumed by them — happily! I make family dinner a priority and we have great conversations around the table. On the weekends we like to explore all the wonderful cultural institutions of New York. Our current favorites are MoMA, The Museum of Math and the zoos. And bookstores. Can’t get enough bookstores.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
TF: Julia Child, for a few reasons. First, I think it would be great to have a meal with someone who knows good food. Second, Julia Child was an extremely driven woman at a time when women weren’t supposed to be and she wasn’t always nice about it! I’d love to ask her about that and how she overcame the expectations of the culture. Third, she achieved a lot of her success late in life and I’m always fascinated by people who build rich and meaningful careers over the course of a long life.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
TF: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. I know, I know. I’m an 80s girl. And a small-town girl. Living in a lonely world.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
TF: I really enjoyed “The September Issue” though I’m not sure my takeaway was the one I was ‘supposed’ to get. I really love strong, unapologetically ambitious women and Anna Wintour is a very strong, very unapologetically ambitious woman. I also think the movie shows her ambition is in service of something bigger. And I love the parts with her colleague of 20 years, Grace Coddington, and the relationship between them which is clearly based on mutual respect and affection. I think if you watch that movie with the right spirit you will see much more than the dragon lady that Wintour is often portrayed to be.
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
TF: “How To Survive on a Deserted Island” by Tim O’Shei.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
TF: I’m am currently very addicted to MM.LaFleur. I would probably buy the Etsuko in every color if that didn’t seem like a poor financial decision. If I won the lottery, I would get a lifetime pass to Drybar.