12 Jan 2017
Personalizing Women’s Path to Success
A new website for professional women provides tools and services to navigate their way forwardRe: Mark Tatum (MBA 1998); Sheila Marcelo (MBA 1998); Ron Marcelo (MBA 1998)by Jill Radsken
Photos by David Kelly Crow
Many women hit a point in their career when they are unsure of which path to take next or even how to move ahead. For some, that inflection point comes mid-career or after a successful run; others are simply hopeful for a smooth return to the workforce after a child-rearing hiatus.
Lisa Skeete Tatum (MBA 1998) has designed what she calls the ideal “playbook” for those situations, and more, with Landit, a technology startup that offers personal brand and network building, skill development, coaching and resume services, and connections to opportunities. Landit also serves companies that are trying to attract and retain high-potential diverse talent.
The challenge for women, Skeete Tatum says, is not one of motivation, capability, or track record, but rather of not knowing where or how to start the process or how to manage the continuum of their career. “Many of us are suffering in silence. We don’t want anyone to know we’re feeling a little less than certain—or even vulnerable,” she says.
Skeete Tatum speaks in personal terms about Landit, in part because her own experience inspired the idea for the company.
After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in chemical engineering, in 1989, she worked at Procter & Gamble in engineering and product development, and then in product supply, as the company started buying cosmetics businesses.
When a New York–based startup recruited her in 1994, Skeete Tatum recalls the experience as the moment she caught the entrepreneurial bug. She realized she was passionate about solving problems with new and innovative solutions.
Three years later, the newly married Skeete Tatum applied to HBS to pivot to venture capital, and convinced her husband Mark Tatum (MBA 1998) to join her. “He was the best study group partner,” she says.
“Moving from consumer products to venture capital was a pretty hard pivot. I was 30 years old and pursuing a not-so-easy industry to break into,” she admits. “However, HBS gave me an incredible opportunity to craft what I wanted to do, and a plan for how to get there.”
A year later, she met Sheila Marcelo (MBA 1998), who was also attending with her husband, Ron Marcelo (MBA 1998), and a friendship blossomed as the two women bonded in the experience of being married students. (Marcelo would go on to launch and run Care.com.)
“HBS impacted my life in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. I formed lasting friendships, and have received support and guidance from peers, professors, and amazing staff,” says Skeete Tatum, who, as a student, was president of both the venture capital club and the African-American Student Union. “In many ways you don’t know what you don’t know, and that navigation unveiled itself at HBS.” As an alumna, Skeete Tatum has served as president of the HBS Alumni Board, and she and her husband recently joined the Board of Dean’s Advisors.
After graduation, Skeete Tatum joined Cardinal Partners—an early-stage venture capital firm managing more than $350 million—where she focused on health care technology investments. She was general partner, serving on many private, public, and nonprofit boards, while also raising two boys, now 13 and 15.
But after 20 years in the corporate world, Skeete Tatum found herself “stuck.”
“I found the process of trying to figure out ‘what’s next’ to be really challenging,” she recalls. “I knew what I didn’t want to do, but it wasn’t clear how I was going to marry my passion, interests, and experience with my next step.”
In 2012, she accepted a Henry Crown Fellowship, a two-year program at the Aspen Institute founded in honor of the iconic Chicago industrialist, which supports entrepreneurial projects that give back to the community or world.
“I realized that project was me,” Skeete Tatum recalls. “There are millions of women who are looking for how they can bring the full measure of their talent and skills to the workplace, but still honor what’s important to them personally. Unbeknownst to me, Sheila Marcelo ended up in my same fellowship class. We decided to join forces to address this massive and universal pain point for both women and businesses. This is not a supply or demand issue. It’s a market failure.”
Upon completing her fellowship, Skeete Tatum had the framework for Landit. The company and website officially launched in March 2016, generating buzz in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other media, and it already has a diverse member base of women who, she says, cross all geographies, industries, positions, ages, and ethnicities. Landit also serves a wide range of corporate customers, who use it to discover and develop talent.
“Our secret sauce is the ability to seamlessly knit together the key elements for success that give women what they need when they need it,” Skeete Tatum explains. “We combine the leverage of technology with the human touch points that are critical in managing a career. This enables us to level the playing field for women in the workforce by bringing access and know-how to those on the platform.
“For companies, we are a scalable, measurable way to invest in the development, retention, and promotion of their talent,” she adds.
“The level of personalization and the caliber of the offering really resonates with women,” says Skeete Tatum. “When I tell people the Landit story, without exception they say, You’re talking about me, or someone I love, or a challenge I have within my company. Landit is focused on action and driving you to a result.”
Class of MBA 1998, Section E