Name: Lydia Kearney Carlis, PhD

Current Role: Chief Eyemagination Officer for eyemaginED

Length in Current Role: I had the benefit of a full planning year before officially starting eyemaginED, and have now been consulting full time for one year this July.

Favorite thing about what I get to do everyday: I love being able to say “yes” or “no” to projects based on how well they align to my vision for my company, and ultimately with my passion for educational equity. I am motivated by innovation and creativity, and serving as a consultant allows me to help organizations use their “eyemagination” – seeing what is, imagining what could be, and working creatively to get there, together.

Person/Place Thing That Best Exemplifies Me: A person whose work I follow and admire greatly is Dr. Julie Washington, who I now call a mentor, friend and colleague. Julie put her stake in the ground early in her career, that she would focus on the needs and priorities of African American children in her field (speech-language pathology). And, Julie has continued to be a thought leader in that area, while also expanding her research and reach. Finally, she does all of this with the right balance of research-to-practice. She ensures that her work is relevant, accessible to key stakeholders, and sustainable, by staying connected and involved in what’s happening on the ground (in real schools and classrooms). I want to be like her when I grow up!”

What’s your superpower: My superpower would have to be “truth-telling”. I am always willing to ask tough questions, challenge ideas and assumptions when I believe it’s important to do so…even if I’m nervous (or just plain scared). I’m not sure everyone else knows I am often nervous about how my questions or challenges will be received!

Best lesson learned from a mentor or someone I admire: An idea without funding will always be just an idea.

What I do to make lemonade out of lemons on my toughest days: Refocus myself, and others when possible, on why we are doing this work, and for whom. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the adult issues and lose focus on the children it is our mission to serve. I think about the little and big wins I’ve supported, and try to chunk big goals into manageable activities so I’m ready to move forward again.

What education equity means to me: Education equity, to me, means that more public and philanthropic resources — financial, time, and human — are strategically channeled to the children most at risk when schools fail them. And, it means that ed ‘reformers’ do the hard work to create schools to which they would happily send their own children.

My favorite thing to do to relax and rejuvenate: Learn something new and interesting!

The practices/habits that help keep me grounded and maintain perspective when I’m feeling stressed, overworked, or unmotivated are: I can’t think of a major thing I’ve done where I haven’t sought out wise counsel from my amazing tribe throughout the process. So, when I’m feeling stressed, overworked or unmotivated, I say so. My husband is also a tremendous support in getting me to “stop and smell the roses” (metaphorically, since I’m severely allergic to almost everything environmental :-)).

Who I turn to for advice or guidance when I need career direction: I am blessed to have an amazing tribe of education leaders to glean from. My most consistent guidance comes from my MasterMind group, and I happily count Alicia Robinson as a member. It’s not unusual for us to communicate 20-30 times per day via text or email, sharing support, resources, advice and honest feedback. My MasterMind is invaluable to me!

The advice I’d give to someone trying to find their career sweet spot: I would ask for reflection on a couple of key questions: If you could afford it, what work would you continue to do for free? Who does it help (why does it matter)? Who can you work for or with to ensure your efforts are maximized? What kinds of environment help you be most productive, or safe to make mistakes and grow?  I think your career “sweet spot” converges at the place where you are doing work you LOVE that is your “highest and best use”, with people and within environments that allow you to be both effective and vulnerable as you continue to develop.

Learn more about Lydia’s work at http://www.eyemagined.com/ and connect with her at lydia@eyemagined.com.