Everyone has a superpower…. We’re here to uncover it.
Deborah Wahl - Take Calculated Risks. Fearlessly.
On this episode of the Superpowers podcast, Bill and Chris talk with Deborah Wahl, Global CMO at General Motors. Growing up, Deborah earned the nickname “Big D” from her siblings for her go-getter attitude and unrelenting pursuit of success.
Deborah was born and raised in Detroit. Her father was in the auto industry and she did her first internship at GM back in the 80s. She told Bill and Chris, “I looked around and said ‘wow, this is a tough industry for women.’” Undeterred, she pressed on and triumphed. She received her MBA from Wharton and spent four years in the world of finance, travelling the world while working at Chase Bank. Later, she worked in Paris on a project for an anti-allergy bed sheet company that taught her important lessons on how to grow and develop a business.
After 3 years in Paris, Deborah returned to America to seek out marketing jobs that would benefit from her global business perspective. She took an interview back in Detroit at Ford. “They picked us up from the airport and took us directly to the test track,” she told the hosts. The excitement drew Deborah back into the auto industry. She asked to be placed in Latin America and was offered a job as an Advertising Manager in Brazil.
Deborah’s passion for marketing led to jobs at Mazda, Mercury, and Toyota. In 2007 she joined Chrysler and moved back to Detroit. That fateful decision changed her career course after the financial distress Chrysler faced the following year, causing Deborah to leave the auto industry for ten years. In 2014 she joined McDonald’s as CMO. Deborah told the hosts, “I couldn’t resist the challenge. It was an American company that needed to transform.” For three years she oversaw health changes in the menu and the implementation of “All Day Breakfast” – a move some considered key to the fast food giant’s turnaround in the 2010s.
After McDonald’s, Deborah returned to the auto industry as the CMO of Cadillac in New York. A year leader, she took on her current role as the Global CMO of GM. Deborah has been instrumental in putting safety and electric vehicles at the forefront of GM’s branding. With her guidance, GM is making swift innovations to pursue its goals.
Before leaving, Deborah shared advice for young women tackling the auto industry: “Watch who speaks to the room… often women don’t speak up. Take a seat at the table and don’t be afraid to speak up… listen to the other women in the room and build on their statements.”
The hosts decided that Deborah’s superpower is the global perspective she’s brought to her hometown, the auto industry, and Detroit, as well as her willingness to take calculated risks with a tenacity that many people are too scared to do.
Lizzie Widhelm - Trust is Earned. Not Given.
On this episode of the Superpowers podcast, Bill and Chris bring on Lizzie Widhelm, SVP Ad Innovation and B2B Marketing at Pandora. Lizzie is a witty and influential executive in media technology whose experiences as a mother have helped guide her career and vice-versa. As she told the hosts, “Raising boys is like running a sales team. You set clear expectations.”
Lizzie grew up living the surfer lifestyle in Newport Beach, California before leaving to study finance and accounting at University of Arizona. Her career path was unique. Lizzie worked as a Hooters server until her early 20s with plans to dive into the finance world post-graduation. Just before going off to New York City to take on Wall Street, a friend urged her to apply for a job at CBS Interactive. She interviewed for an assistant position at CBS Sports Line and took it. That marked the beginning of Lizzie’s media career.
“I was pretty good at asking the right questions,” Lizzie told Bill and Chris. That mindset soon guided her to Viviendi Universal, where she worked as Sales Director and met her husband. Together, they left Viviendi together and dove into the world of ad tech. “I’m never focused on my feet being in one spot,” Lizzie said. It doesn’t serve you very well.”
After two brief stops elsewhere, Lizzie joined Pandora. Soon after, the CEO of Pandora invited Lizzie to meet at their Oakland HQ. “It was a disgusting office,” she told the hosts, but underneath the surface Lizzie also saw the company’s potential. “The listeners kept coming… I wanted to be where people were.” She developed a strategy for using Pandora as a platform for high-value ad buys. “I felt like we could sell at TV level CBMs if we got the user experience right… I bring that spirit into work today.”
Lizzie has worn many hats in the 15 years since she joined Pandora. She climbed from VP of Sales for the West Coast to SVP of Ad Innovation and B2B Marketing. She also leads a small sales team for Pandora’s beta products. “I’ve never let go of my love for being in front of clients and selling products,” Lizzie told the hosts.
After hearing Lizzie’s personal and professional story, the hosts determined her superpower is her ability to trust others and gain trust from her colleagues. She’s a decisive leader who achieves goals by driving productivity and innovation with talented people.
Howard Lindzon - Social Intelligence and Self Understanding
On this episode of the Superpowers podcast, Bill and Chris talk with Howard Lindzon, Founder and Partner at Social Leverage. Howard is a kind-hearted Canadian entrepreneur, author, and investor whose superpower is his social intelligence and self-understanding.
A product of his Jewish upbringing in Toronto, Howard calls himself a “Larry David meets venture capital.” He had a lot of side hustles as a kid and tried his hand at stand-up comedy as a teen. Eventually he earned his MBA from ASU and started his career as a stockbroker in Dallas.
One day Howard cold-called an entrepreneur to pitch stocks, but the conversation took a turn. He ended up partnering with the businessman on a stress ball startup called, “The Grip.” That experience taught Howard valuable lessons in running a business, which he applied when founding a hedge fund shortly after, only to discover quickly that he preferred the lifestyle of angel investing. “I had a pretty good eye for picking winners,” Howard told the Bill and Chris.
After one of Howard’s investments flourished, he built a relationship with the founder and collaborated with him to build StockTwits, a platform for investors. As Howard described, “It’s basically Twitter for investors.”
A year later, Howard founded Social Leverage to advise and invest in promising tech startups. He wanted to invest in the things he cared about that make a positive difference in people’s lives. Social Leverage’s core goals include elevating the conversation on investing and educating more people on how to navigate startups.
Ian Rapoport - Follow the Passion. Not the Dollars.
In this episode of the Superpowers podcast, Bill and Chris bring on Ian Rapoport, author of the Boston Herald blog, “The RapSheet” and National Insider at the NFL Network.
Ian had aspired to follow in the footsteps of his favorite writers at sports-centric publications like Sports Illustrated even before attending Columbia University, where he covered sports for the institution’s storied student newspaper. “I always loved sports,” Ian told Bill and Chris before cautioning young writers who want to follow in his footsteps: “You have to like the writing more than sports.”
Ian takes a creative approach to his work that led to the 2008 creation of The RapSheet blog at the Boston Herald, which adds a level of personality and humor that’s often lacking in traditional sports news coverage.
Ian also writes daily about the New England Patriots, using every ounce of his creativity to get answers from the Patriots’ notoriously tight-lipped, legendary head coach Bill Belichick. “We came to an understanding pretty early that there are always questions I’m going to ask and he’s either going to answer or he doesn’t… I was also never shy about asking.” Through trial and error, building connections without crossing boundaries, Ian became “a nonstop source of Patriots information.”
In 2012, Ian’s reputation as a talented reporter landed him a job at the NFL Network. The transition to TV didn’t come to him naturally. “I was really bad at the beginning - one time I completely blanked on the air.”
Over time and with support from the network, he polished off his TV presence and has become an NFL celebrity. Ian’s superpower is his ability to see the patterns in his reporting and apply his social awareness to sources to get top tier information.
Matt Lombardi - Grit.
On this Episode of the Superpowers Podcast, Bill and Chris talk with Matt Lombardi, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of beam, a CBD wellness startup. Matt went from winning two NCAA Division I Hockey championships at Boston College, to a brief professional career in the NHL’s minor leagues, to becoming a passionate entrepreneur.
Matt shared his experiences playing hockey at BC and how discipline and practice played a massive role in his personal growth. The lessons he learned from his athletic career have helped shape everything that came after. “Sports are the ultimate life metaphor. You learn how to be a part of a team, work towards goals, and leadership.”
After suffering a severe concussion while playing for a Pittsburgh Penguins minor league affiliate, Matt left hockey, but took his personal drive and enthusiasm with him to launch a career in business. In 2014, he co-founded DRIVN, a virtual coaching platform that became an essential tool for college hockey teams. However, Matt’s involvement with the venture ended when he had a falling-out with his partner and co-founder. “I was still learning how to be a communicator,” He told Bill and Chris.
In 2016 Matt co-founded Grander, another platform for athletes and coaches. Two years later, Matt partnered with his friend and fellow former BC athlete, Kevin Moran, to start beam.
Matt shared his experience as an athlete struggling to find natural pain relief treatments. “We saw an opportunity to reimagine the CBD space by creating a more wellness-focused brand.” beam’s uniquely transparent and holistic approach to CBD helped Matt and Kevin raise $5 million this past fall.
Jeff Nicholson - Success is a Journey. Enjoy It.
In this episode of the Superpowers podcast, Bill and Chris talk with Jeff Nicholson, the charismatic and fiercely passionate CEO of the data processing platform, Tracer.
A Boston native and former basketball standout at Babson College, Jeff has an entrepreneurial spirit that led him from starting a small lobster business with his dad to becoming a top name in data software.
When his first post-college job in finance failed to inspire, Jeff had an epiphany: He didn’t want his career to “be sitting in a cubicle with no direction.” So, he joined an MIT incubator and over four years, developed two successful AdTech companies that sold for millions. He then moved to New York to help build Social Code, an AdTech firm that became the first-ever Facebook Ads API partner, pioneering digital-first marketing.
Jeff was still eager to do something bigger, and soon began building the platform that became Tracer, which helps clients join disparate data sets in order “to answer the questions you want to answer.”
Buoyed by Jeff’s superpower – his endless, focused hustle – Tracer’s team success is deeply personal to its Co-founder and CEO: “I want to make people know I care about them,” Jeff told Bill and Chris. “I sat at those cubicles at those jobs and I knew no one cared about me and it was the worst feeling in the world and so I try to make it the opposite. I try to meet their parents if I can, I try to invite them to my home. Everyone knows that I care.”
Great concept! Have a watch!