The 3 Things These Female Leaders Look for in an Ideal Candidate — and Why Cultural Fit is Crucial

Sponsored by Stride Consulting

Photo Courtesy of Stride Consulting.

Debbie Madden, Chief Executive Officer of Stride Consulting. Photo Courtesy of Stride Consulting.

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June 23, 2024 at 5:57PM UTC

Chief Executive Officer Debbie Madden started Stride Consulting almost six years ago. It’s the fourth company she founded, but she takes great pride in the uniquely empowering culture she’s built there. When asked what makes Stride a particularly great place for women to work, she had a lot to say about the company’s transparent policies that encourage inclusivity and trust.

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“A supportive culture starts at the top, and our leadership team is the best I’ve ever worked with. They have high trust and create a truly safe and inclusive space for all individuals,” she told Fairygodboss. “We have a zero-tolerance harassment policy. We have true equal pay. Employees have both managers and sponsors to enable support from multiple people as you grow in your career.” 

Chief Revenue Officer Chloe Summers has a similar outlook on the leadership practices at Stride: empowering people to be their best is the no. 1 priority. 

Chief Revenue Officer Chloe Summers
Chief Revenue Officer Chloe Summers

“My goal is to empower my team to act as leaders within the company,” Summers said. “When coaching my team, I give advice on how I have handled similar situations (successfully and unsuccessfully). When broaching problems, I reiterate the desired outcomes and clarify the constraints; with this in mind, we can talk about various ways to tackle the problem.”

“My mantra is simple: Any conversation I have behind closed doors I would stand behind if it were published on page one of The New York Times,” Madden said of her own personal leadership style. “I treat every single person equally. Period.”

Like in all things, employees are equally encouraged to fail at Stride, empowering women to take risks they may not take anywhere else. 

“One of my favorite practices at Stride is our quarterly Toast to Failures. We gather as a team and celebrate our learning from failure,” Madden shared. “Hearing that others have faltered and then found their way is comforting, and leaves us all knowing that our team has got our back as we learn and grow.”

Clearly, Stride’s leadership principles and cultural values are working. Director of Engineering Kelly Wu was first drawn to apply to the company due to its “dedication towards maintaining a positive, collaborative and open culture.” Now, she hires valuable members of the Stride team herself and she knows the importance of each and every person contributing to the Stride culture. That’s why she takes certain candidate characteristics into special account during the hiring process. After all, the firm is a team — and they’re all expected to chip in. 

Director of Engineering Kelly Wu
Director of Engineering Kelly Wu

“We aim to come together in a safe space, and hold each other accountable for achieving amazing outcomes,” Madden said. “And, we balance this by knowing that sometimes, life throws curveballs and when a team member needs help, we are all here to lift that person up.”

Beyond the willingness to lift others up and contribute to a safe, inclusive work environment, what do these female leaders look for in job candidates? We spoke to all three women about their current roles, what job seekers should know about Stride and what they look for during job interviews. 

Describe what you do in your current role. 

Madden: I am the chairwoman, founder and CEO of Stride Consulting. 

Summers: As chief revenue officer, I develop and drive Stride’s strategic vision into action by working with clients to actualize impactful work. 

Wu: I work on strategic company initiatives that involve supporting our consultant group. On a tactical level, my work is very diverse, ranging from working with recruiting on our hiring process, to attending sales meeting to learn about client’s technical needs, to working on our internal growth and mentorship program.

What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about your company? What about those who are in a more advanced career stage?

Madden: Regardless of experience level, individuals who thrive at Stride share one common trait: they excel at learning. This means that you are excited about trying things out, whether that be related to technical skills or soft skills. You constantly seek feedback from others to learn what you are doing well and how you can improve and have the humility to accept both your successes and failures with grace.

SummersStride has done a great job hiring the smartest people within our individual networks and creating a fostering environment for learning. For young job seekers, it is a great place for finding mentors and experiencing different tech cultures and learning how to improve them. For more senior people, we genuinely care about our people and are constantly striving to evolve as individuals and as a company. It’s a great place to build something.

Wu: Everyone is passionate and wants to make a positive impact. It’s not just a job where people clock in hours for a paycheck. Everyone strives to improve the teams, the product and the companies they work with.

What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate?

Madden: The ability to learn (from both failures and successes), humility and integrity.

Wu: An eagerness to learn, an openness to new ideas and an embodiment of the Stride values — humility, respect, willingness to help others, honesty and the ability to learn from failure. 


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