Member Spotlight: Emily Landis Walker
Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Emily: Success needs to be personally defined: Is it making money? Is it having a family and ensuring your children are successful? Is it doing things you are passionate about and making a difference in the world? In my experience, success was achieved by saying “yes” to opportunities that meant moving globally multiple times, taking leaps of faith in the future, and forging ahead to deliver innovative results with no certainty of the outcome – personally, financially, or professionally.
My most important accomplishment was raising two global, interested, intelligent, motivated, and caring daughters.
Secondly, it was making a difference which stemmed from two “‘defining moments”’ in my life: 9-11 and the tsunami of 2006. As a 9-11 survivor, I had the privilege of working on the 9-11 Commission where I spearheaded the National Standards for Emergency Preparedness for the Private Sector that culminated in an international standard for companies’ security and resiliency. In addition, I was liaison to the families of the victims of 9-11, working with them as they engaged tirelessly to understand what happened to their loved ones. I recently had the honor to visit the 9-11 Museum at ‘ground zero’ with one of the instrumental family members – Mary Fetchet, mother of Brad and the founder of Voices of September 11 – who helped create a lasting legacy for the victims.
During the tsunami of 2006, I was asked to find a way Citigroup could assist with the disaster. I created a partnership between Citi and the United Nations World Food Program and set up a global emergency network for private sector contributions that was launched in Davos 2007. It was a hugely rewarding experience to have spent time in the field with the WFP in Asia and Africa and see the tremendous work they were performing in disasters and for the hungry.
Q: How have you grown your professional network? Explain.
Emily: My extensive professional network was developed through working with people all over the world, being compassionate and accepting, and delivering quality results. The people I know and whom I count on today were developed through a long process giving 1000 percent in whatever I did. When I ask them to assist in an effort today or they call me to work for them, they remember the times we worked together and the positive outcomes of our efforts. In addition, I believe that caring about the people you work with, being interested in their lives and their families, is equally important and impactful for future relations. In addition, growing and maintaining this international professional network required proactive participation in events and follow-up. This is the reason I joined “‘the Club”’ while living in Palo Alto working for a nanotech firm, and continue to participate.
Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?
Emily: I am fortunate to have learned under some great leaders in my career. One common observation is that they all conducted business in a way that was not intuitive for me, but made sense when the outcome was achieved. I sat in the chair representing the United States at the International Monetary Fund under Jacques de Larosiere during some difficult discussions with Viet Nam on their arrears to the IMF. Vietnam blamed the U.S. for blocking their assets and thus explained their inability to pay back the IMF. When it came my turn to speak, I repeated the U.S. diplomatic position. How Mr. de Larosiere handled that meeting with diplomacy and finesse demonstrated leadership to solve an intractable issue. Following that, I learned from Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady who took a position on the Latin American debt crisis that was fundamentally “‘outside of the box”’. Instead of adding to the debt, he created the Brady debt bonds to reduce debt. His confidence level in his innovative logic was unwavering and his skills at selling the concept with patience taught me great lessons. The bi-partisan leadership that Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton demonstrated producing a consensus 9-11 Report was hugely politically insightful. When I would have thrown the towel in, they persevered and maneuvered to deliver a truly bi-partisan readable report that was acclaimed as a definitive account of that tragic day. Jim Morris, head of the United Nations World Food Program, was an inspirational leader who wrote personal notes on framed photos of WFP’s work to all the leaders of the world. He changed the WFP mentality to create partnerships with the private sector to supplement their mission in a way that had previously not been thought of, let alone implemented.
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Emily: It is possible to “‘do it all”’, but with organizational skills, paid help, family support, personal sacrifice, energy, and financial means. Both of my daughters get asked the question frequently, “How did your mom do it?” Honestly, I had no choice as a single mother providing the full financial and development support for my two girls. What I did was organize the household, hire a personal PA, maid, driver, and gardener, ask family for help, attend the important events whatever it took, made the important decisions and delegated the rest. I involved the girls, taking them to all important events, globally, explained what I was doing and as a result taught them to be independent with knowledge of the hard work it takes to succeed. I did not have to explain; they were witnesses and carry this forward in their own careers. Critical to this ability, however, was having the financial means to pay for the required assistance without which I could not have accomplished this story.
Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?
Emily: My areas of expertise to offer other CLUB members includes working overseas, transitioning between the public and private sector, navigating the Middle East, strategy implementation, capital raising, and family/work-life balance.
Q: What do you like to do to unwind?
Emily: As CEO of my own consulting business, I travel globally for a living so it is not easy to find time to unwind. However, my favorite things include spending time with my daughters, sharing special moments with friends, swimming, spinning, reading, walking on the beach and enjoying the sunshine and sunsets in Naples, Florida with a glass of chardonnay.
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