23 | Tailored Support for Female Professionals | Marlene Ditzig Li-Mei


Marlene Ditzig, a former top manager, founded a coaching business to empower women in their careers. Recognizing the need for tailored support, she leverages her expertise to help women navigate challenges and advance professionally.

Marlene Ditzig Li-Mei: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marleneditzig/

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Alternate Titles For The Algorithm:

Marlene Ditzig: Empowering Women Through Career Coaching
From Top Manager to Women’s Career Champion: Marlene Ditzig’s Journey
Marlene Ditzig: Breaking Glass Ceilings with Personalized Career Support
Navigating Career Challenges: Marlene Ditzig’s Expertise in Women’s Advancement
Marlene Ditzig: A Trailblazer in Women’s Professional Development
Advancing Women’s Careers: Marlene Ditzig’s Mission and Expertise
From Boardroom to Mentor: Marlene Ditzig’s Transformation to Career Coach
Unlocking Women’s Potential: Marlene Ditzig’s Coaching Business
Marlene Ditzig: Pioneering Change for Women’s Professional Growth
Tailored Support for Female Professionals: Marlene Ditzig’s Impactful Coaching

Show Notes

Speaker 1: Hey, you all. This is your host, Elyse Robinson with Nobody Wants to Work No podcast. I hope these stories will inspire you to switch careers. I was an auditor in my past life and now I’m in tech and let’s get to it.

Speaker 2: We are Switch into Tech. Tech resources to.

Speaker 1: Accelerate your.

Speaker 2: Career in information technology. Monthly classes on tech topics. We offer free or discounted exam vouches, scholarships, free Udemy courses, free events, free boot camps, and more.

Speaker 2: You can find us at www.switchanddetect. Org.

Speaker 1: Hey, you all. It’s Elyse Robinson with Nobody Wants to Work the podcast. Today, we have Marlena. She is in Singapore. I think she’s our fourth international guest, so I’m excited to have her because she’s way on the other side of the world. Go ahead, Marlena, and tell us where you live and where you were and what are you doing now?

Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely. I was in San Francisco and then previously New York for the last six years working in sales, selling into enterprise technology organization. If you think about Fang and all of those wonderful orgs, you probably know my past clients. But these days I’m back home in Singapore with my family. I decided that come 2023 to go back to my roots a little bit, get back closer to home. I am spending these days reconnecting with people, but also I’ve started my own career coaching venture for women. Helping them figure out how to make sense of the whole mess that is the workplace for other women.

Speaker 1: That need your services.

Speaker 2: Call me. We’ll spend time after this.

Speaker 1: But I get you on the roots because my family moved back to Texas, and that’s where my grandparents are originally from. So yeah, it’s like… And they hate California. And so I always preface with, I’m from California, but I understand the culture because my grandparents are from Texas. It’s different. But let’s see, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Speaker 2: So many things and all over the map, which is very true to form to how I ended up as an adult, though I never took on any of these jobs. The first thing I wanted to be was an actress and then a nun, which was more like I wasn’t good at school. And I figured this was the one way I didn’t have to worry about my grades. I would have room and board paid for. And then I wanted to be a lawyer, so I went on the other end of the nun spectrum. And yeah, I I would say those are probably the three main things.

Speaker 1: I’m like, I’ll be a nun in my old age because it’s like you said, you get free food, room and board. I’d be around a bunch probably because women all live men so my husband will probably be dead and so I could be a nun. But I get you on that. I do. Hopefully, I can just go sightseeing all day long so I get you on that. Let’s see, what was the catalyst that made you leave San Francisco, go back home to Singapore, and leave your sales career?

Speaker 2: I think for me, it was a mix of things. I think being in COVID, especially in California, I’m a half Asian woman and most of the people around me, at least white people, definitely would look at me and be like, You’re Asian. You’re not like me all the way. And so I felt very viscerally the Asian hate and the sentiments of being there. So that made it eye opening. I then ended up in an organization which was a great organization, but I was the only woman in the executive director level, and I was the only non fully white person at that level as well. And that was a very illuminating experience being the only, only in the room. And I think as I spent time doing that, I had this moment of, I don’t need more money. I don’t need another promotion. What do I really want for myself? Like all of these things I spent 10 years amassing, like getting to VP by 30, things like that, that at one point meant so much suddenly in the grand scheme of things, really didn’t excite me, fulfill me, or mean anything. And so I thought, Let’s come back home.

Speaker 2: My mom’s getting on with age. I’ve always been very close to her. I always said I wanted to spend time with her while she’s still in good health. So that was part of it. And then the other part of it was, I think, wanting to say, I want to do something meaningful. It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out how to be a woman in the workforce, especially a woman that is in cookie cutter fits into the box that everyone is looking for. And I wanted to really test myself and see how I could bring that to other women.

Speaker 1: No, I talk about this all the time on podcast. One of my catalyst was my ex boss when I was the auditor for the military. And she was like, Make sure you figure out that this is something that you want to do before you get the golden handcuff. You start making all this good money and you can’t really go away from it. Now that I’ve made good money and I went away from it, it’s like, to me, it wasn’t that hard because I could always go back to it if I wanted to. When she said that, I started making plans to go overseas and stuff because I was like, You know what? I never left the country. I want to go see things and do things, maybe learn another language. S he was somewhat my catalyst outside of my mother passing away. But yeah, it’s meaningful stuff. I wanted to show other black Americans like myself that there’s other things outside of the world to an extent, too. Because just off the fact that most Americans don’t have passports is crazy. That means most of them never leave the country. But yeah, no, I totally get you on the meaningful part.

Speaker 1: And so did you have support? What did your mother say? Did she say you were crazy for wanting to leave San Francisco and just turn down all that good money?

Speaker 2: Yes, she 100 % did. I had this idea at the start of 2022. I was really frustrated thinking back about my experiences in the US. When I first went there, I couldn’t get a job, so I tried to deliver food for a minimum wage. That’s how I broke into tech, which everyone thinks is nuts. When I say I broke into tech by selling sandwiches, it’s reductive but true. She never agreed with my move to the US initially and then finally got on board when she called it me getting a real person job, which was selling market research at a global organization to fan companies and then moving up to head up a tech vertical for heuric and struggles on demand talent. And so she’s finally on board with that story. And then I came back and I’m like, I am so frustrated. The women in the runs below me, they are sitting at meetings being like, Is this just white men celebrating white men? I have nothing to say but yes. And I was like, We have to do something about this. And I say this because I think she, as a mother, was just trying to protect me.

Speaker 2: So it’s really easy for a lot of people to sit there and say, How can your mom not support you? She’s an Asian woman who came up in the 70s, who had to fight all of those battles tooth and nail herself. Why wouldn’t she be like, Yeah, go do this. But she’s a business owner and has been an entrepreneur for 30 years. Her guidance me was like, Don’t do it. Who’s going to pay you for this? You have no credibility in this face. You’re a very typical Asian tiger Chinese mom trying to protect her baby cub. Me being a version of her said, Fuck it, I’m going to go do it. I’m going to go do it. I’ll figure it out. I have to do something with my negative energy and make it positive. I got my coaching certification and it just happened that the support I ended up getting were from my own clients. It was all inbound. I never started a website until three weeks ago. And so over the course of the year, people just rally. And I think part of that is if you are sincere about wanting to support and help people, they in turn look for those opportunities.

Speaker 2: I will say we are now, a year past that conversation when she was like, do not do this. And she has definitely gotten on board. She has gotten on board. And all of my friends have been super supportive. So I’m happy I’m not doing it alone. I don’t know.

Speaker 1: Sorry, my asthma is kicking my butt. If you all see me on camera, it’s over here coughing, allergies, everything is kicking my butt. But I’m curious to know because I’m a US citizen. I’ve done the immigration thing in another country and it was easy. P robably because I was a US citizen. But I’m curious to know when you came over, how did that work? Did you come over on H 1B or what?

Speaker 2: Great question. I actually had a dual, which I renounced recently. Now I’m just a foreign citizen.

Speaker 1: Got you. Because you did tell me before about… I think it was your father. Father is a US citizen. Okay. I was curious to know. Yeah. And you ain’t got to tell me why you renounced it because I already knew. Probably tax reasons because I’m ex IRS. I’m ex IRS. And one thing that happened while I was there was FATCA. Fatca, they were basically trying to force people to show their bank accounts and their taxes and things like that. And literally people were US citizens through… Their parents never stepped foot in the US. And they were like, Yeah, you owe taxes. And from 18 to whenever. And we were getting bank statements from Greece and China. And of course, no one speaks Greek or Mandarin. So it’s like, okay, how are we going to handle this? But yeah, I’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve definitely thought about it when I become a Mexican citizen. That’s a whole another podcast. We can get deep into that, too.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I wish it was something as groovy as that. Unfortunately, it’s just the Singapore government doesn’t allow a dual. And so they asked me to choose and naturally it was home or the US. And so I chose home.

Speaker 1: Got you. That’s sad. That’s sad because I’ve talked to quite a few people that had to give theirs up because of their home country. But yeah, I don’t know. But I definitely thought about giving up my US citizenship for sure. Let’s see. All things come at a cost. What did it cost you to leave your executive position and start your business?

Speaker 2: Yeah. I have to say I don’t think it cost me anything. I think the real cost that I realized that came over the course of my career of trying to go from someone who applied to deliver food for seven bucks an hour to being an executive in tech, earning 300K, all of that stuff, over five years, I think that was really the cost on me. I spent 14 hours days and seven days work weeks. In the process, I had lost sight of taking care of myself. It also meant that I never spent time to take a moment and say, Why am I doing this? All of my career moves were reactive. It was either a toxic workplace or an inability to grow or a leadership change or pay inequity, which is a whole topic in and of itself. And I think at the end of the 10 years of chasing that back to back, the real cost just came that I was burnt out. I was tired. I was disconnected from myself. And I lacked compassion because I was angry. I was angry, I was bitter. I was jaded. And that is what I’ve gained in walking away and saying, I’m not going to do anything that I’m not excited about.

Speaker 2: I’m only here to help other people do what they are excited about. I haven’t discovered a cost yet. I would say, yes, there are definitely days where I wake up and I’m like, Oh, girl, what did you do?

Speaker 2: Oh, my God. Am I really doing this right now? It’d be really nice to have that cushy paycheck. But I am fortunate enough that I had would have been planning for this for a year. And so I saved up last year and made sure I had a nice little nest egg. And I had slow rolled my own client base over the course of that time. And I was really lucky that when I left the US, I had a couple of clients from my previous jobs at tech companies who actually reached out and connected me with people in Asia who were doing similar things. And so now I’m in several different partnerships. It’s not as lonely as it seems, but I would say if I had to choose a cost of right now, that would probably be it. Is the occasional spiral and little gremlin voice that comes in and says, What makes you think you can do this? And you don’t have a team around you that’s going to sit there and cheer lead you. And it’s nobody’s job to do that. My happiness isn’t anyone else’s duty. So it’s having to pull yourself up on those days and being like, You got this.

Speaker 2: Whether or not you believe it, you got it. I have to.

Speaker 1: Say entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. You have to get you an entrepreneurial partner. That’s what I call them. I met them what, four years ago. Shout out the Christian. He listens to my podcast and stuff. One of my biggest supporters. We pretty much talk every day. We bounce ideas off. He’s the entrepreneur too, so he gets the struggle and things like that. But you have to find someone that gets it because I don’t want to call people worker bees because I’m still one. But worker bee doesn’t understand the struggle and they just don’t. But you have your mother too, so she’ll understand to an extent. But yeah, I don’t know if she’s in the world of social media where you have to do all that stuff and websites and things like that because that’s the most difficult part. And like you said, not having a team is like, I got to do that, but I don’t feel like it today, so I’ll wait till tomorrow. You touched on the process. You said you got a coaching certification. Did you take any courses? Did you go to any meetups, reach out to anybody and try to get any advice, and pump your head up and say you can do this?

Speaker 1: What was the process on leaving your position?

Speaker 2: I think it was a slow process. I don’t think I intended it to be a process, but now that I look back on it, it actually was. So yeah, getting my coaching certification, that was actually not an intention to become a coach. I did that because I was frustrated and I felt disempowered to be a good leader for my team because I lead a team of six other mixed bag of women from different ethnicities, and I wanted to protect them from the parts of the culture that they were reflecting back to me where they didn’t feel recognized. And so I want to become a coach so I could be a better leader internally. And in the process of that, they force you to have practice clients and to put yourself out there. And so that’s how it started forming. Outside of that, I think it’s been having connecting talks with other people. I think I’ve probably learned the most and been pushed the most by the partnership. Your point, Elyse, about having an entrepreneurial partner is so critical. Whether or not you’re an entrepreneur, but even if you’re just trying to start something new, having a partner that, one, holds you accountable, and two, says, You got to go do this because you agreed to it, is super helpful.

Speaker 2: I have a partnership right now with a team in Hong Kong called Make Meaningful Work. Dan and Joe are the two founders. And when I meet with them, they’re like, We’re going to launch our program right now. And we just wrapped up our first focus group. I don’t think I could have seen all of that happening in two months after landing in Singapore, but it did because they kept pushing me. So the process is a mix of go out there, get yourself the tools, have conversations with people, grow and deepen your learning and knowledge of whatever subject you’re in. Then two, go find other people to push you and keep yourself open to whatever influences, impulses come so that it’s not rigid. It’s a mix of having a process and then also being wide open to what comes.

Speaker 1: Being wide open to what comes. There you go. There it is. Oh, gosh. I forgot I was going to say it’s past six o’clock, so bear with me. I wanted to touch on something that you said. Gosh, I can’t remember. We’ll just move on to the next question. What are some positives and some negatives of your new career?

Speaker 2: Yeah, the positives are super easy. I get to help other women do what they want to do. It is so unbelievably rewarding to be able to see people thrive. I have to say, I have spent years in a sales position, like closing pretty big deals. And there’s always a thrill there. So obviously I’m a bit of a thrill seeker. But I have never felt something as rewarding as seeing someone bounce back from a layoff or someone pivot careers and say, I think I found the thing for me. Or someone leave a toxic workplace or someone get 50 % more in their salary. And understanding now the new value and that their values determined by them. There is just something so gratifying about that. Those are all of the positives. Those are all the stories of my clients, and they are the only reason why I now wake up on Mondays excited. The negatives, like I mentioned is, yeah, it’s up and down, but not up and down because of the business, up and down because of mentally how we are as people. I have to spend a lot more time really prioritizing myself, showing up for myself to make sure that I’m keeping my mind in check just so I can show up for myself and for my clients.

Speaker 1: Got you. That’s what I was going to say about the coaching. People tell me I should be a coach because I have all this experience and I tell great stories and things like that. I do training. I hold training once a month. That’s about the most I can do at this point because that’s my gift back. I make sure those are free every month. And sometimes I have paid seminars. But my whole thing is I’m scared to give out advice because when somebody comes back, you gave me bad advice. How do you deal with that?

Speaker 2: That is so real. And here’s the thing. I think the common misconception about coaches and also, I guess, probably negative is that there are some people who… There’s a lot of people who just think that they want to be coaches and that are doling out and telling you what to do with your life. One of the main coaching tenets is you trust your client to know. It is all about asking the right questions, holding a safe, non judgmental space. The acronym that my coach used to use was YAAC, which is you always know. So trust that your client can get there because any piece of advice you can give is great. And that’s why mentors are super necessary in all of our work lives.

Speaker 1: But.

Speaker 2: Simultaneously, a piece of advice only works if it’s contextualized into that person’s life and how they can actually action on it. The nice part about being a coach is you just got to ask questions. You just got to let people get there. And sometimes it is harder. So that’s where the framework and coaching tools help. But yeah, I definitely have that moment from time to time. And it’s good because I have to manage my fixer and step back and be like, Nope, I am not here to be a sage on a stage. I’m just your guide by the side. That’s all. So I’m going to ask questions.

Speaker 1: Yeah, I see. I’ll ask all the questions. He’s like, I didn’t think of that question. You guys ask good questions and stuff like that. That was hidden. I’m like, you’re not asking the right questions. This is the whole point right here. I don’t really care to do the coaching part of it because people are like, Yeah, I need individual help. I’m like, No, I do classes. I don’t do individual. So yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do because I don’t care to do individual stuff. What are some traits that make a good coach?

Speaker 2: Yeah, curiosity, obviously, with asking the right questions. Two, I think ability to hold back from judgment. So being able to separate yourself, your personal life, your opinions, which is probably one of the hottest parts of it because the reality is we’re all human, we’re not always going to have a great day. So having that level of objectivity. I think the third part is being able to communicate and communicate the tougher parts. Because as a coach, you are also about holding someone accountable and you have to help them drive forward in their own goals in the moments where they may feel like their gas tank is empty. And so you have to read the room well and say, Does this person need a little tough love right now? Do they need some soft loving? What do we do? How do we drive accountability with them on their terms? So I think it’s probably three. I’m sure I could name 20 million other things more, but if I thought about the key top three traits, that would be it. Yeah.

Speaker 1: And I guess the other thing is I’m blunt and I don’t think that’s a good trait for coaching. I could be blunt in training, all that good stuff. I like to be animated and playful, which isn’t probably good for coaching either. But yeah, very blunt. I’m not judgmental. I’m old enough, I’m mature enough to understand that people have been through things. I’ve been through things, so I get it. People walk their own path, but I don’t think the bluntness works well with coaching either. Last question. What are some tips and tricks? You touched on a lot, but anything final words on just switching careers in general, coaching, whatever?

Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely. But I want to say, Elyse, you totally would have a spot to be a blunt coach. I’m a blunt gal, too. I am still like East Coast on the inside from my time growing up in Highland, New York. I think, like, tough love works. There’s a space for being blunt and when you approach people with respect, they’ll feel that. They’ll know that you’re doing it with tough love. But yeah, to give you my tips and tricks with career switching. If I thought about this plan in my career, I started as an arts programmer in Singapore in my early 20s, where I traveled around the world, brought in different productions, brought them out to Singapore. And I saw a glass ceiling after my two years where I didn’t see any more opportunities for learning and for growth. I also wanted to just get out there and test what I was made of and leave the safety of what I knew. So that’s how I ended up in New York and had the harsh reality that people didn’t know what to make of my background or someone who was in the arts from Singapore. And I would get the question all the time in my interviews, like, why is your English so good?

Speaker 2: Fyi, for anyone who’s wondering, in Singapore, we all speak English. It is our first language. We’re taught it. That’s why our English is good. But then I spent almost eight months being broke and almost homeless. And so I was like, I’m going to go deliver food. I never got that job because I didn’t know how to ride a bike. But they ended up putting me in their customer service team where I answered phones and I was like, I’m going to do this to make ends meet. And three months later, I ended up in my first sales position, something I thought I never wanted to do because it was like, salespeople, no thanks. But when you got to eat, you got to eat. So I was like, if I was going to deliver food, I can sell. And I am like, slepting sandwiches across New York in the summer heat in heels and a cute little dress trying to sell to these larger organizations. I’m telling the story. I promise it has a point. Eventually, I become the head of account management. I do that for two years, then I leave, and I think I only want to work with good people.

Speaker 2: So I choose a company that bought sandwiches from us called Gerston Lerman Group, GLG, because they had really nice assistants. They were really nice people. I didn’t know what they did, but they were really nice people. And so I applied and I ended up getting a job on their sales team selling into their largest tech clients. And I worked my butt off. I threw up every morning having mad anxiety, being like, people are going to find out I’m the girl that sold their sandwiches, that did their catering, and now I’m here selling next to them these market research solutions to the biggest tech companies in the world, like, boy, what am I going to do? I mention all of this because I think there’s two parts of it. Choose well, because there’s no point in making a good choice poorly, but you cannot choose well if you are only choosing from your rational mind. And what I mean by that is I would have never gotten to selling into tech. I would have never gotten the ability to have a nice little nest egg to go do this for a year by myself without a job and not worrying.

Speaker 2: If I hadn’t taken that chance to go deliver food by responding to a Craigslist ad. So keep your mind open to it. It’s in the peripheral vision. All the interesting opportunities come up. But simultaneously, think about where you want to land. The best decision I ever made when I was pivoting away from selling sandwiches to Gerston Lamin group selling research was I made the distinct choice. I only want to work with good people, good, kind people. And that’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been at a job for two years. Once I got past a year of all of the anxiety of throwing up every morning, I loved my team. It was the best boss I ever had in my life. And so that choice, 100 % would make it again. So that’s my advice. Sorry, that was very long, but I wanted to contextualize it. It works.

Speaker 1: No, that’s perfectly fine. They say the best advice you can give is with a story. So you can ask my entrepreneurial friend. He’s like, You always got a story. I was like, Yeah, that’s how you sell it. You got to have a good story. When you said in your rational mind, that spoke to me because after my mother passed, of course, I wasn’t in my rational mind. I quit my job and all this stuff, and I’m going to Mexico? Where do they do that at? Luckily, I had savings. I was getting unemployment, couple of hundred dollars a month. I was like, Well, I think that’ll make ends meet in Mexico. Then I’ll figure it out from then. It just felt right. I didn’t have any strife or any problem. I was like, This feels so good and right. That’s why I stayed. I just had to figure it out along the way. But yeah, no, the rational mind was real deep. I like those words. Marlena, tell us where we can find you.

Speaker 2: Yeah. On LinkedIn, you can look me up by my name. It’s Marlena, spelt like Marlene to a lot of people, ditsick. Or on LinkedIn, the dash ish, I S H, which is the company that I run now on Instagram, the ish, T HE, ISH. Online, and that’s what our website is as well. So reach out, send me a note. I’m always looking to just have conversations with people hearing their stories. We’re also test running a bunch of new programs coming up where I could use some free participants who are keen to think about how to elevate their career, how to make work work for them, or if you just need a little bit of help. I’m here. I’ve got a ton of friends who are also looking to help. So keen to hear from anyone.

Speaker 1: All right. Thank you again, Marlena, for being on this show. My name is Elyse Robinson. I’m with the Nobody Wants to Work, Go podcast. Please subscribe to the newsletter. We send it out weekly with updates on my blog, the podcast, and the seminars that come out that I conduct trainings on. We’re on Google podcast, Apple podcast, and Spotify to do all the popular stuff. O f course, we’re on YouTube if you’re watching. P lease subscribe there. T hank you for listening. And next time. it..