Be yourself. I think a lot of us feel like we have to fit into the mold of what we think someone in our position would be like, and while we should always be professional, being authentic matters. Who you are matters. If you try to squash that into some arbitrary mold, you’ll be unhappy, and the world won’t benefit from you.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hollay Ghadery.
Hollay Ghadery (she/her) is the VP of Communications at ConsumerCoverage, and has been working in communications, content creation/management, brand development, and digital strategy for over 17 years. She’s passionate about social justice and equality, inclusivity, and language. Hollay is also the author of three books: the first, FUSE, — a memoir on mixed-race identity and mental illness — published in 2021, and the next two are set for publication in spring 2023 and spring 2024.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wanted to work with language. As far back as I can remember, language — a great story — has always enraptured me. Equally important, language as a means to communicate, and unite has been a passion of mine. Probably because I’ve always felt a little misunderstood and misrepresented. My heart has always gone out to people who live with similar sorts of delegitimization. But words and stories provided me with a way to make myself seen. To speak my own truth, irrefutably, in my own voice. So, when it came time to choose a career, I knew I wanted to be a writer. However, the state of the arts being what it is, I learned early on I wasn’t going to be able to eke out a living with poems, essays, and stories. Or at least not the kind of living I wanted. I applied for a position as a writer at a digital marketing firm, completed my MFA in Creative Writing, started working as a consultant, and eventually ran into the team at ConsumerCoverage, and the rest is history! Almost two decades of history — slow, plodding, hustling history — but history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
After years of working freelance, I was used to hustling. Deadlines, tight turnarounds, last-minute changes, urgent after-hours emails — these were trademarks of my professional life. But things were different suddenly when I started working with ConsumerCoverage, and I didn’t know what to make of them. Everything was relaxed. We still had deadlines and expectations, but I wasn’t constantly feeling rushed.
I expressed my unease to our CMO, Adrian Lee, and he told me something I’ll never forget: “This business is more of a marathon than a sprint. You’re efficient and no one here is going to penalize you for your efficiency. If there’s nothing more that you can do today, take off. Get some ice cream with your kids or something.”
It was such a transformative moment for me: to realize I was working with people who believed that great work is the result of balance, and that’s okay because that time should also be filled with just as much heart as hustle.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is easy. Years ago, straight out of university in one of my first gigs as a writer, I hit reply all to an email that…well, let’s just say my reply was NOT meant for all. It was a humiliating and humbling experience, and I learned a valuable lesson about due diligence and, even more importantly, being mindful of what I put into writing.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We’re passionate about enhancing the lives and livelihoods of consumers in the U.S. Our goals are to increase financial literacy and lead to more conscious consumerism so that people can better account for and nurture their resources, and their well-being. Taking this out of the financial realm, we apply the same principles to our social initiatives, using financial literacy and conscious consumerism as a springboard to share and showcase our hope for and commitment to the future. After all, whether it’s insurance or any other kind of financial planning, we’re ultimately thinking about the future.
Recently, we’ve developed a program called Regenerative Futures — a national initiative that aims to amplify the voices and support the efforts of individuals looking to create a brighter, more sustainable world. The program is set to launch in January 2023 and will be awarding $6,000 in total over the course of a year to students who are studying for green careers or entrepreneurs who are running sustainable businesses.
I’m exceptionally proud of this program, and how everyone on the team has come together to support its existence.
More news coming on this soon! I recommend following us on Instagram @consumercoverage or any of our other social platforms for the latest news.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I believe we are closer to each other than we are to the systems that govern us. Across political divides, most of us want the same things: comfort, happiness, and freedom to be who we are without fear. We want community and compassion. I think that if we listen more than we speak — really listen — and try to see our similarities more than our differences, we’d come a long way to unifying against human-made climate change, which is an intersection of so many other issues, like poverty, social injustice, and so on.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think leadership is the practice of recognizing one’s own limitations and nurturing the strengths of others. Leaders are often portrayed as people who know more than others, and while I think leaders can know a lot, in my experience, the best leaders are people who know enough to excel at surrounding themselves with people who are more talented, in specific fields, than they are. Great leaders position themselves as support staff for their team.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Ask questions. Of course, you should try to answer them yourself if you can, but if you’re spending too much time looking for an answer, ask someone. It doesn’t make you stupid. Reaching out for help is one of the smartest things you can do!
2. Be yourself. I think a lot of us feel like we have to fit into the mold of what we think someone in our position would be like, and while we should always be professional, being authentic matters. Who you are matters. If you try to squash that into some arbitrary mold, you’ll be unhappy, and the world won’t benefit from you.
3. Don’t over-explain yourself. I used to feel like I had to justify every professional decision I made, and while some explanation is a good thing, my lack of confidence in my opinion was evident in the epic emails I’d write justifying the smallest acts. I couldn’t even take a sick day without writing a novel explaining why. It was unnecessary and exhausting.
4. Trust your gut. If something feels like a bad idea, it probably is. This is good life advice in general, really.
5. Tell people you appreciate them. Again, good life advice in general. Whether you’re in a leadership position or not, I think it’s such a powerful act to tell your co-workers you appreciate them. Only if you mean it, of course!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think Regenerative Futures is a microcosm of what I’d love to see on a massive scale: companies throwing their support and money behind people who are trying to make this world a better place. Let’s go back to what I said about leadership: exceptional leaders are people who see and support excellence in others. I’m not the first person to say this of leaders, but it always bears repeating.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Time erodes such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage.” — Louisa May Alcott (From her novel, Little Women.)
Marmee, the mother in the book, imparts this advice to her daughters and it’s so powerful. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetic trappings of life, and while I would not argue that these things — how we look, dress, and the possessions we have — are devoid of pleasure, I also think it’s so important to remember that these so much of our tangible lives is fleeting, and there almost infinitely more to us that is not so easily held, lost, or dissembled. We should invest more heavily in the “wonderful workings” of our minds. These are the qualities that can truly change the world.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Cat Stevens! I grew up listening to his music, and appreciate his joy, wisdom, and creativity.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn at Hollay Ghadery. https://www.linkedin.com/in/hollayghadery/
You can also find me on our company’s social media accounts!
@consumercoverage on Instagram and TikTok
ConsumerCoverage on Facebook and LinkedIn
@We_GotUCovered on Twitter
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you, only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Author Hollay Ghadery Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.