Darrah is both an entrepreneur and a writer. She owns two companies: Equitable Payments, a merchant services provider, and Network Under 40, a relationship development network. In her writing career, she contributes networking and entrepreneurship content to Forbes, as well as authored her own financial literacy book for elementary school-aged children. She brings a sense of community to every relationship – learn more about her experiences, lifestyle, and values below.
Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, top three drives to succeed, three preferred methods of stress management, and a selection of values acquired from upbringing, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial Phase II survey.
What are the most influential factors from your upbringing on your professional mindset?
My parents are very much the 50/50 of why I am who I am. My dad is in financial services and my mom is a lifetime entrepreneur, so I became the hybrid of the two of them. My father was always very open to conversation around financial wellness, and planning for the future and financial responsibility. My mom was always very intentional about creating programs in our home, so that we as kids could learn, for example, allowances from Kindergarten on, how to invest in the stock market as middle schoolers, or setting up our Roth IRAs when we turned 18 and helping us understand how compound interest works and how to get the most from it. We had structures around chores so that we were earning and would have models about how to save and work towards financial goals. We learned about giving back over the holidays and chose charities we wanted to give to with our own money. I also had front row seats to the ups and downs of creating and running your own business.
You said you had a strongly supportive educational experience – what was that like?
I guess even back in high school going to a Baltimore County public school people think that would be not so supportive. But I think you get out what you put into things, and you can find what you’re looking for if you look. I always gravitated towards teachers and professors that were very supportive and wanted to have one-on-one or small group interactions for deeper learning experiences, and would become mentors. Some have remained that over the years. In college, too, there was a greater community of people who had a like-mindedness around learning, growth, and exploration that catapulted me into the real world, recognizing that I could design a what I wanted in the world, rather than just going to college and getting a job.
Tell me about your innate drive to achieve.
It’s just always been there. I don’t know any other way. I live by the idea that if you’re not growing you’re dying. That’s not necessarily achievement focused, however, working towards goals and growth feels like achievement to me. I have a growth & curiosity-minded orientation and that’s just how it’s always been.
What does a good leader look like to you?
I think leadership is very personal. We often espouse this view that we need a strong leader out in front leading the charge and telling people what to do. In the last few years I started to learn that leadership is also, and just as importantly, empowering others to be the best version of themselves as well. You can step into the background and empower people more quietly, as well as being the person in the spotlight with the loudest voice. So I think that there’s a lot of dynamics in leadership, and one individual may have different proclivities to one style or another and that’s fine. But I think there’s also ways you can put on different leadership styles or hats in different environments and scenarios.
What do you feel is a healthy work life balance? What are the barriers to achieving it?
I believe in integration more than balance. If you can integrate things together it’s a way to not only do more, but not feel as stretched because everything’s working more synchronistically. It’s not like everyone has to be obsessed with the thing they do, but if you can pull out from what you do the things that really make you vibrate, because they’re pulling on your strengths and gifts, then that’s really wonderful. And if you value certain activities, like doing yoga and having your friendships, you can invite a friend to go to yoga with you to integrate two things in one. Or if travel is important to me, but so is my business, I’m going to make sure that the way I structure my work is flexible so that I can travel. So that way I feel balanced but I’m not seeking balance itself, but seeking myself more wholly in these environments so that the integration feels more natural.
What are some of the most meaningful experiences you’ve had at your job(s)?
The stories I hear about the relationships we’ve been able to help create with Network Under 40, whether it’s new ideas, best friendships, movements, dating relationships – these are very meaningful things in people’s lives. And with the book, having parents tell me about these lightbulb moments where their kids realize that money and responsibility go hand in hand, and that it’s not “you get it and you spend it”. Those moments are hugely gratifying.
To me making an impact matters. I don’t want to do something that’s just for the money. I’d rather do something that’s both complimentary to my skills as well as make some meaningful impact or contribution to people.
What is one change you would like to see in today’s workplace?
For me it’s always been important to design my lifestyle before I design my business and make sure they work in tandem. So much of our working world is based around specific hours, days, and frameworks, and I don’t think that works for as many people as it wants to. I think there are plenty of industries that could be more malleable to facilitate that.
“Work/Life Balance” was the 2nd most important professional value to HAMs in our Phase I research. Darrah’s own ideal balance is to feel that her interests and ventures are integrating with each other, which is a major priority for her. She also emphasizes that across workplaces in general, organizations should consider adopting a more flexible approach to accommodating people’s differing lifestyles in their culture. Do you feel that you’re attaining your ideal work/life balance?