LRIWN: Luann Edwards ‘19

Strategic Marketing Consultant and Founder, Socially Professional

The Leadership Rhode Island Women’s Network interviewed Luann Edwards (LRI ’19), Strategic Marketing Consultant and Founder, Socially Professional. Her Top 5 Clifton Strengths are Strategic, Learner, Context, Connectedness, and Input – 4 of the 5 are in the strategic thinking domain.

What do you consider the 3 key skills for success?

Tenacity. I won’t give up until I have found a solution to a challenge. I’ve noticed that a challenge feels the most difficult right before I overcome it, so when I feel ready to throw in the towel, I know I’m close to getting it. There’s always an answer somewhere, I just have to find it.

Authenticity. My work has to align with my values and philosophy. It has to feel right. If I’m forcing it – a job, a project, a relationship – I won’t build the momentum to succeed. I’ve learned that I find more success – and more satisfaction – when I do it my way.

Community. Community in all of the ways you’d define it. There’s the online community that is central to my work. But it’s also the people with whom we build relationships, with whom we choose to collaborate and create, those who share our common interests and goals. One of the greatest blessings I’ve received is the community of peers, partners, and colleagues I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with throughout my career.

My mantra is….

Keep going! Everything happens for a reason, and the best is still ahead.

How did someone come to be a mentor to you?

I’ve been fortunate to have had mentors who supported me in different ways, but one thing was true throughout – they were mentors and champions. I believe having a champion is the critical ingredient – an influencer who will tell the world about your gifts, help you navigate the unexpected twists and turns, and give you some tough love when you need it. Some I have sought out for a particular time or challenge in my life, and others have found me.

My parents have always been my greatest champions. My father and I worked at the same company for many years (he was in IT, I was in Marketing), and he was my biggest fan at work and outside of the office. My husband, Mitch, is my champion and mentor in so many ways. And then there was the manager whose wisdom and guidance helped me create a career that I didn’t know could exist. I’m so grateful for the fellow entrepreneurs who cheered me on and shared their valuable experiences as I started Socially Professional. I remember fondly the writing instructor who helped me tell my story with the right words and who had introduced me to WordPress.

I hope to bring the legacy of my mentors and champions forward as a mentor and champion to others.

What challenges have you taken to get to where you are now?

Luann’s daughter Isabel drops in for an adorable “zoom-bombing” during a call this spring.

As I look back on my life and career, there’s a recurring theme: The path I chose was often different than many others. I studied at night and worked full time during the day to earn an undergraduate degree and two masters’ degrees. In 2012, I made a career shift from an established path to become my company’s first social media manager. I built a social media program for a large, global organization at a time when social media still felt new to many businesses. And in 2017, I left the corporate world to focus on a new consultancy – with a new baby!

I try to put myself in situations where I must learn something new, even if it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s an adventure, like rappelling down a waterfall, or an opportunity like stepping on stage to deliver a presentation to a group. That’s where the real growth happens.

In 2020, I have really challenged myself to be out there, present, and visible; my default is to be the “behind-the-scenes” person. In our new virtual world, that means putting on the camera during Zoom meetings, sharing more than I’d usually be comfortable with sharing, and showing a little vulnerability. I’m also working on getting better about asking for help when I need it. That’s a work in progress!

What would you tell your younger self?
Dream bigger. You have no idea of the possibilities that are out there. (Some of them don’t even exist yet!)
Don’t tell yourself that you’re not good at something – it might not be the right time to learn it.
And – make your own path. You really have the power to create your own life.

Luann canyoning on the Portuguese island Madeira in 2018.