Often, when we’re young, future career advice can sound like the following: work hard, study hard, finish school. Get a job. Work harder. Get promoted. Rinse and repeat.
But what happens when you achieve all of those things (and in short order)? For Pickering, Ont.-born Lauren Morrison, that meant quitting her steady, well-paying corporate job, selling her house, packing up her entire life and family and relocating to Los Angeles in a massive career pivot. The goal? To start from scratch and team up with little sis Shan Boodram to turn long-simmering dreams of collabing into a reality. (Shannon – sidebar – is the intimacy expert on Andy Cohen’s latest series, Ex-Rated With Andy Cohen.)
The thing is, the 38-year-old married mom of two can (and has) done many things throughout the course of her rich professional career, and her path to success and financial independence is not a linear one. For starters, she has a music credit for the TV series, ‘Da Kink in My Hair — an adaptation of Trey Anthony’s famous play, following the lives of women at a hair salon. She then switched gears and moved into the corporate world, planning projects and eventually landing the title of director of operations for a major corporation, before her big move to LA.
We caught up with Lauren to hear about how she got to where she is today, how she knew it was time for a massive reset.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the position of Slice.ca and any of its affiliates.
What’s your official occupation and salary?
What I call my ‘AM hustle’ is Career Performance Coach for Women of Colour, and my ‘PM hustle’ is Content Creation. My [combined salary from the two] is $231,000.
Tell us a bit about how you got yourself here.
I went to school for Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University [in Toronto]. While in school, I developed a passion for the business side of entertainment. I was working [as an intern] for a small music publishing house, licensing music for film and television.
During that same time, I was in a Destiny’s Child tribute band, doing a Beyoncé impersonation. So I had this air of creativity, and this air of production and music and art, but I also had this business focus.
If you remember ‘Da Kink in My Hair, I was actually the music consultant on that show. Being Caribbean, where music supervisors at the time didn’t have access to those catalogues, I came in because I had access to those catalogues; I had those relationships with artists in the music industry so I was able to bring up music that was suited for the show and to the production.
[Suddenly, the company shut down], and in a day, I went from having my dream job to being out of work. After that, and because the music industry and the entertainment industry [at the time] in Toronto was so small, it was really hard for me to find paying work, and when you’re in university, everyone wants you to work for free.
I ended up going to one of those temp agencies and doing the most random things, like answering phones for funeral homes or ordering sandwiches for car dealerships, filing boxes for a mining company and that was my entrance into the corporate world.
I landed a gig for a major healthcare project for a week, but they liked me so much because I was really good at filling out Puralator slips. I downplay it, but it can be hard to find people who are good at basic tasks. They liked me so much that they kept me on and I started to work on the communications team. I moved into project coordination, I moved into business development and then I moved over that skillset to [a major telecom corporation].
They gauged my interest and I said, “I’m an aspiring project manager, but I’m more like a project coordinator,” and so I ended up applying for an entry level project management job.
I kind of leaned into everything there… [but I was] trying to balance a family, and I couldn’t afford to work [long hours] because I had two small kids, so I was just like “what can I do to excel and accelerate myself?” because I can’t compete with single guys in the office who can show up here at 7 a.m. and stay until 7 p.m. I have to leave at 3:30 p.m. so that I can commute 90 minutes back home, so I could pick up my kids from daycare, so that I’m not paying a dollar a minute for every minute that I’m late.
As a result of some of those strategies, I was figuring out what projects I wanted to take, and what things I wanted to be associated with. So I was able to get promoted every single year.
I moved from a project manager, to a senior project manager, to a program manager, to a project executive, to then the director of a project management team, and I was able to do that within six years of my career. That was a rollercoaster unto itself. And then, I went from being the director of project management, and because I was so successful within a year of doing that role, they moved me into a more like chief of staff, director of shared services and business operations role.
While working for that company, I was just really trying to lean into things that I felt were engaging to me because based on my background, technology wasn’t it for me.
But you know, the people part of it — the leadership part of it — was really great for me, and finding ways to engage employees or incorporate diversity and inclusion. So those were the things I was always looking to incorporate into my role while also bringing the media side, because that’s what kind of started to set me apart; I brought media training to my presentations and they were just always on. I was able to do a lot of speaking gigs, and they would get me to MC certain events, but I could also bring creativity too. I was continuously trying to bring that forward also.
I also became the marketing and communications leader for Black professionals at [the corporation] as well. So I was just always doing business stuff but trying to integrate parts of my whole self into the job. That’s what kind of led me to this whole transition.
You recently made a major move to join your lil sis, Shan Boodram, in LA. What prompted that decision?
There was so much more that I wanted to give — so much more that I wanted to bring out in myself and I was kind of getting to a point where I was tired of waiting for other people to figure out my career path. I just felt I needed to be in the driver’s seat… because my ultimate goal was to cross over into the media division of the corporation [and] the higher up I got, you can’t cross over as easily because [those hiring] were like, “You don’t have subject matter expertise.”
I even got to a point where I was like, “oh, I’ll demote myself — I’ll take a demotion, I just need a change.” And after all the networking — so much networking — and everyone telling me “you’re doing all the right things,” and still not seeing results, I was like, “You know what? I’ve got to make a shift here — I’ve got to do something different. And if anyone’s going to show the world how to utilize Lauren, it’s going to be me.”
View this post on Instagram
And that’s where my sister and I have always kind of played with this idea of working together. That it always seemed impossible because I was so solidly in Canada, and she was never coming back from LA. And we just started figuring it out to the point where staying in Canada no longer made any sense.
How do you keep yourself motivated daily?
I think what comes up for me are Post-it notes. It seems a little cheesy, but it’s true. We can all kind of have goals that we articulate in our head or things that we want to be for ourselves. It’s scary because writing something down makes it almost measurable, right?
But writing it down and putting it in a journal that gets tucked away on a bookshelf can make it invisible. So the thing that I use are Post-it notes — bright fluorescent pink [ones] where I write down my goals and I put them on my bathroom mirror every single day as a continuous reminder of what I want to be and what I want to accomplish.
That is something that keeps me on-track during setbacks to be like, “oh, remember what this is for — remember what this is all supposed to lead to.” And then the gratification of taking [the] sticky note off the mirror and putting it to the side and on the ‘done’ pile. So that I have this catalogue of accomplishments.
Every time I started creating a new sticky note, it was like you could just start to see that gap closing just a little bit more each time so that the unattainable goal all of a sudden, was like, “it’s happening. It’s happening now.” I actually got that from David Goggins’s book Can’t Hurt Me.
You may also like: Best self-help books in 2021: Here’s what’s on our reading list.
You’ve been in LA for about a month now. What’s been your biggest lesson since your move?
It’s still very, very fresh. I think the biggest lesson since the move has been permission; giving myself permission to not be OK at times. Giving permission to be kind to myself when I feel like I’m doing everything for others, but still feel like I’m failing.
A lot of people I know, especially when you’re high-achieving, are just like, “I can do it, I can do everything. I could do it all myself.” …I feel like I have to remind myself that I’ve put enough in that bank to be able to make withdrawals every now and again.
View this post on Instagram
On your Instagram, you said you kickstart your day with early morning workouts. What’s the rest of your typical workday like?
[For work], I get started at 6 a.m. So from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. is when I do my coaching. Then I leave here, and go to my sister’s and work from there until about 4 p.m., and then come back home. [My sister and I] are producing 52 episodes of [a new podcast] and her social media platform (you can check out her YouTube). That’s kind of a huge focus, but also just kind of plotting out the next three years of growth of the [production] company.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your current role?
It’s just that it’s all new, right? There’s this anxiety that I’m carrying at the moment where it’s like “I’m learning.” Although it’s the first days on the job kind of thing, it’s learning the basics again. Going from executing bidding strategies or being really good at what you do to now learning the basics and feeling like you don’t know anything — that’s a challenge. The only skills that I’m leaning on right now for this new role working with my sister is just really curiosity, humility and critical thinking.
Thankfully, I do get the balance, because I also have the coaching business, which is blossoming and becoming more successful than I ever thought it would be. It helps to get that positive affirmation on something that you’re good at and have good command over, while the other side is just ramping up.
For your career coaching, why is it so important to create a specific focus on Women of Colour in your work?
If you looked at my career trajectory, you might say, “When were you ever held back?” But my difficulty in my career was not wanting or not seeing myself in [a leadership position]. Even when they wanted to promote me to director. I didn’t want to be [a director] and I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be that until I realized that people would look at me and ask why. Because when I look around at who I see in those positions, I don’t make sense. People who look like me don’t make sense. And it would have made more sense if my director, who was a middle-aged white man, chose another middle-aged white man, and nobody would dispute that. Because when the org charts go up at rallies or town halls, [those in director positions] don’t look how I look.
And even when I would go to customers or I would go to banks, there’s always this sense of “You don’t belong,” because you’re the Only — you’re always the Only. And it’s become really important for me too to start sharing my experiences, sharing my story and through doing that I found so many Women of Colour who just never believed that they could be anything above [their current position] because they can’t see it. And to me that was like, “OK there’s something here.”
And as a result of sharing my experience of my story, and the result of Women of Colour seeing it, there was this gravitation towards mentoring so many Women of Colour through my work.
So many women have come to me saying that they’ve been looking for coaches for so long, but never found someone who could understand their lived experiences because no one looked like them — so many coaches were white women, white males so they didn’t feel like that person could understand or resonate with their lived experiences.
So just because of the Black Lives Matter movement and so many corporations having this emphasis on elevating Black talent — but without those mental barriers being removed, so many women just didn’t see themselves in those roles, so they weren’t applying for them.
Systemic racism — it’s not overt, right? Like, no one ever told me you’re never going to be this because of the colour of your skin. But I didn’t need to be told because I looked around and it was obvious, right?
And so removing those barriers the way they were removed for me was so powerful and that’s something that I just wanted to give back to women.
What helped you navigate past those barriers?
For me, it was leadership training I was put through [at the corporation]. There was this exercise that we did where we had to go out onto the street and we had to ask people about the characteristics of a good boss or a bad boss and then come back and write all those attributes down. And one of the turning points for me was seeing all the attributes of what people viewed as a good leader. And for the first time, being able to see myself in that position because no one ever talked about age. No one ever talked about gender. No one ever talked about race.
It was about communication. It was about empathy. It was about empowerment. There were so many things on that list of leadership that I was like “I can see myself in that position.” That was kind of the starting point to getting over those barriers, and because of that experience I started to lean in.
What advice would you give someone starting out on their career journey?
Leap before you’re ready. We can get so caught up in planning and trying to make something perfect or it being the right time. But sometimes you just have to start imperfectly and learn as you go.
When I launched my coaching business, I had my first client — I didn’t wait until I was “ready.” Otherwise, I might still be sitting here with you today talking about a business that I plan to launch, just waiting for the website to be perfect, waiting for my certification process to finish, waiting to get my audience to this number, because that way, when I launch it will be perfect.
It’s like the difference between motion and action, and motion is like the strategizing and the planning, and action is the doing. And if you have motion with no action, then really motion is just a fancy word for planning, and it becomes a fancy word for procrastination. You need action to move it forward.
Do you and your partner talk about money?
What’s your biggest expense?
We’re buying a house in LA.
What’s the one area of your finances you wish you were better at?
Strategy. I lean a lot on my husband in terms of strategy, but kind of knowing the ins and outs of where we need to put our money. That’s I guess the way to play smart. At the beginning of the year, I started to dedicate a lot of the readings to money mindsets and being more strategic with money. I just want to be better in those conversations with my husband.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far about being an entrepreneur?
It’s on you. It’s the one job where if you slack off, no one is going to be mad at you, right? You’re the one giving yourself a performance review. You’re the one giving yourself bi-weekly check-ins. And if you miss a deliverable? You might be the only one who cares. But it has to matter. Like, I’m enough to be accountable to myself.