Emmy Nominated TV Host & CEO on The Secrets to Balancing Motherhood & Career
EPISODE: 48 | DATE: June 24, 2021
“I think Carl Jung nailed it when he said, “Nothing has a more disturbed influence psychologically on children then the unlived life of the parent.”
Can you tell us a little bit more about your passion for that part of your career in journalism and maybe why you ultimately pivoted toward entrepreneurship and what you’re doing right now?
- I got started in TV basically because every college I wanted to go to turned me down!
- I was from a small town in Missouri and I got into the University in Missouri. I went into journalism.
- They had one of the most world renowned broadcast journalism programs and it very much fit my life long learner mentality, my curiosity, my storytelling and how I loved to connect to people.
- From there I spent 15 years in the field, first as a medical reporter and the moving on as the noon and morning anchor at KARK, an NBC station, and then as the national political and entertainment reporter for Comcast based out of Boston.
- It was there that I had the opportunity to really meet some of the most amazing thought leaders of today.
Do you remember any interviews that were particularly impactful on you?
- I got to cover presidential campaigns and then I got to sit down with all the big movie stars like Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Meryl streep.
- In fact, the lights went out during my interview with Meryl Streep so I got an extra 10-15 minutes just to shoot the crap with Meryl Streep and it was awesome!
- Those interviews were fascinating because you get to experience how these major stars live up to the reality of their image.
- But the stories that I really remember the most are from my first job out of school.
- I was a TV medical reporter at a local CBS station. Every single day I had to put together a new medical report. It had to be 3-5 minutes long and I had to come up with the idea, go out and interview everyone across town and then bring it back on air by 5pm.
- When you’re constantly doing medical stories, you walk away with a few really profound insights.
- And one of them for me was the fact that you realize that no matter what you have to be your own health advocate. That is not the job of a health professional.
- I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who told me, “The doctor said I was fine but there was just something that didn’t quite seem right. But they said I was fine so I thought I was fine.”
- I remember the most profound story. I went down to a small town in southern Illinois doing a story on Alzheimer’s.
- I spoke with a couple, both of them college professors. They had spent their whole life teaching and they had saved every single penny for retirement.
- They had huge plans: they were going to travel the world. And then he came down with Alzheimer’s. It came on very aggressively.
- And I remember as I was leaving the interview, the wife grabbed me by the arm and looked me in the eyes. She said, “We saved our whole life for retirement. We dreamed every single summer of where we were going to go, what we were going to do. And now I’ll never be able to do any of it.”
- I remember thinking that they did it by the book! They did what they thought they were supposed to do! They worked hard. They saved their money. They helped other people.
- And then boom – something happened that robbed them of the whole reason they had been working so hard.
- I thought, “I do not ever want that to happen to me.”
- It helped me see that you have to live in the moment, you can’t wait for the fun, you can’t wait for the love, you can’t wait for the experience.
- Those are the stories you remember and cause you to live life a little differently.
You’re the CEO and the founder of Beyond Board and as you’ve put it, you’re the relationship curator. What does that look like?
- Beyond Board is a national network of board directors. These are the people who sit on the boards of Revlon, Coca Cola, Warby Parker, etc.
- As a relationship curator, I bring in my journalistic background because I’m constantly interviewing millionaire and billionaire investors like Tim Draper, I’m talking to Ashton Kutcher about tech investing, I’m talking to Arianna Huffinton, etc.
- So in my role as the relationship curator at Beyond Board, I not only get to continue with that storytelling aspect of journalism, but also now I do it for a community of nationwide board members who are trying to steer the direction and set the tone for some of today’s most important companies.
- A relationship curator is a fun little name that I came up. I see my role as building relationships vs networking.
- I think there is a distinct difference between the two.
- I also happen to think we’re all curators of our own relationships.
- And I actually don’t think we do that well enough.
- And I think it’s really more of a mindset for every person that you come across, which asks the question: what is your thesis for human interaction? How do you choose who you invest in? What’s the difference between being friendly with everyone and being friends with someone?
- The answers to those questions are how we curate relationships.
- So I think it’s really more a mentality that we’re all kind of our own curator of our relationships and editors of our lives.
- When you really think about what impacts who you are – how you view the world – it’s the people you surround yourself with.
- As the saying goes: you’re the sum of the 5 closest people in your life.
- Who are they? What do they look like? Are they pointing you in the right direction?
- You have every right and duty to edit those people.
- You don’t cut out family. Well, you can and I can understand people who have had to do that.
- But that’s not what this is about. It’s about understanding who are the people you lean into, get inspired by, vibe with, etc.
- And I think it’s important that we’re constantly looking at those relationships in our life.
When did you make that switch from being in journalism, TV and producing to Beyond Board?
- I was doing television and then I moved internationally and had my daughter over in the UK about 2 ½ hours west of London.
- I couldn’t be on TV there in the UK especially since I didn’t speak Welsh.
- So I did some off camera work, and some media consulting at the London Ballet and things like that.
- When I went back to the states, instead of going back into the traditional on-air role, I reinvented myself.
- I wanted to do something that allowed me the flexibility to still be with my kids and to be able to raise them but also be able to work and create a new path.
- So I ended up going to work for a couple of young Harvard Business school students on their start up building out a national thought leader and investor relations program.
- I got to bring in all the great speakers and got to meet these great CEOs.
- After doing that for a while, I really pivoted and created this company, Beyond Board, when I saw that it was really the board that sets the tone for what’s going on with companies.
- This was the time when Uber was kicking Travis Kalanick off his own board…and Travis was Uber! And so I realized oh wait – that’s who is in charge!
- From there, after speaking with the head of the national association of corporate directors, he told me that 75% of companies and up to 90% of public companies find their board members through who they know.
- I remarked to him that all the board members looked like him!
- So I wanted to create a community of amazing, diverse board members that included women too.
- This way, companies could start giving women and diverse talent more opportunities in an effort to start doing better business.
Can you think of an example from the beginning of when you started the business of placing someone on the board where the company just kind of took off after?
- There have been a lot of successes, the greatest of which is that we have built a national community.
- By building that community, it has given us a great database of talent and we took a really unique approach to board placement.
- Recruiters charge $50-100K to bring you a great board member.
- We didn’t want that. We didn’t want there to be any cost barriers. We didn’t want there to be any excuses for a company not being able to find a great woman or African American guy or amazing Latina for someone’s board.
- This unique approach to placing board members is causing many of the companies, both private and public, to invest in mission driven consumer products. This is a fantastic result.
In your opinion, are there any obstacles that mothers may face when given the opportunity to join a board? Are there things companies are doing to help facilitate mothers being able to join a board in a way that supports their life as a mom as well?
- In general, if you’re working for a company that is supportive of those kinds of leadership opportunities then they are supportive of the woman’s talent and everything that she comes with.
- Also, you don’t get to that level of having a board position until you’ve had a very successful career with high visibility, or you’ve already run a company.
- So really, mothers were doing all the hard work when the kids were really little. They were balancing it all. They were planting their seeds and they were cultivating it.
- It’s ok when you’re having a baby and the kids are little to kind of slow down and take a step back.
- For me personally, it was important just to never stop. I needed to keep doing something. A little producing project here and there. Something to just keep my feet in it somehow. Something to let me keep my mind activated, to let me be producing and working on something.
- That’s partially my personality too.
- That’s where I felt there was an important distinction between being productive versus just feeling busy as a mom.
- At the end of the day – working moms in an office and working moms at home – they both fall into their bed exhausted!
- But I think there is a difference between feeling productive or just busy.
- I always wanted to make sure that there was some element of being productive.
- As kids change and grow older and they are a little bit more self-sufficient, that productivity can really shift and evolve.
Did you take any maternity leave when your kids were younger?
- I was working in high paced television when I had my first.
- I would work all week. I was in Boston and I would fly to New York for the weekend, work all weekend interviewing different movie stars, then come back and be in the office Monday morning. Or I would do the same to LA. It was pretty intense.
- TV is not known for being a very forgiving industry.
- During that time, I had 5 miscarriages and went through 4 rounds of IVF.
- I was really fighting to have a family while I was having this career that I was also fighting very hard for. It’s competitive.
- When I was pregnant with my first, I was put on bed rest at home for 9 weeks before he was born.
- When the doctor told me I couldn’t go to work, I didn’t understand what that meant. I was like I don’t think you understand – I’ve got a show that I’ve got to do so this isn’t really working for me.
- And he told me, “No, I don’t think you understand!”
- That’s when it really started to set in and I thought, ok, there will be another show. There will be another job. There will be another opportunity. Even if you get fired from this one.
- You have to really put it into perspective. So I was very thankful that I got that opportunity to safely bring my son into the world.
- After my son was born, I went back after your typical 10-12 weeks.
- I was back full at it. But then 10 months later, we moved internationally and then I had my other child. So at that point I had 2 kids under 2 ½ years old and I took a little bit of a break there.
- After a few months, I did a producing project. That just made me feel like I was doing something for my future while still being very in my present with my kids.
- My kids are 11 and 13 now. And honestly when I look back, that has been the blessing. I feel like there was a higher power that gave me the gift of slowing down, to take a little bit more time. Because without the bed rest and the move, I probably would have just rushed off to work again.
- That’s just how it happened to unfold for me.
You already kind of answered this, but how does a woman preserve the connections that she’s making in her career as she has to take a step back from her job to have kids?
- I think the idea is that you want to stay engaged in life.
- You want to continue learning.
- That can be hard when you’re just consumed and exhausted with these small beings that need you and that you want to be there for.
- And so I think the key is really what can you do that makes you feel productive versus busy?
- What can you do to make you feel like you’re still learning while you’re living this life?
- Sometimes maybe you just need a break!
- In reality, how many times have you seen that one of the reasons why women aren’t making as much as men that are their same age is because of how child bearing years and children have set them back? And those are sacrifices you may have to make.
- But you can make the decision to try to find something to be productive, engaged and still continue to learn.
- You have to say that nothing is beneath you.
- Like when I had this TV career, I had killed myself. I had been at the top of what I wanted. I was the first one to get my job out of school. I worked full time at Comcast while I was getting my Masters degree at BU. I killed myself.
- So to think that I did all of that so I could just sit home and change a diaper…I didn’t want to diminish my child there.
- But I had to also say – you know what – this is my right now. This is not my new forever.
- I think it’s important to really take that time and not feel this unbelievable angst that you have to go back and work.
- It is what it is right now. Enjoy it. Because it will change.
- Maybe you’ll be hungrier when you go back out there. Maybe you’ll have a clearer idea of exactly what it is that you want to do.
Yes and the other side of it with work is that our identities shift so much when we have a child. I had so much guilt that I associated with being at home and not working. But there was also the guilt of not showing up for myself. My identity was tied up with what I was doing.
- And that’s what I think women need to understand: you are responsible for your life. And that means you need to sit down and figure out how you define value in your life.
- How do you define being productive? And I think sometimes we don’t do that.
- So then we’re frustrated because we don’t feel like we’re where we should be or doing what we should be doing.
- If you sit down and decide that being with your family is what’s most important to you, then I think it helps alleviate the kind of guilt you’re talking about.
- Or maybe you value being a lifelong learner and so maybe this is an opportunity to take a class on the side while you’ve got a small kid at home that you would never be able to do otherwise.
- There are different ways to stay engaged,to learn and to feel connected if you don’t want to be raising children 24/7.
So get creative and define what you value.
- Right! And that’s your responsibility!
- And nothing can be beneath you!
- After having this TV career I was like – do I really want to go and start over? At a startup with a couple of young guys right out of Harvard business school?
- I had never made so little money. I was literally working with kids right out of college. I thought, “I had a career!”
- But then I realized that this was part of my phoenix process of rising from the ashes and reinventing myself.
- I desperately wanted to create new opportunities that were more family friendly with my kids, yet that were more entrepreneurial.
- And had the kind of excitement that I liked. I could still travel across the country. I was still meeting great names. I was still interviewing great people.I was building a different kind of network.
- But I didn’t have the complete rigidity of a TV schedule.
- But I had to be willing to start at the bottom. And most people aren’t. They have an ego and they’re not willing to do that because we have this idea that we always need to be moving forward and it needs to be a better job, it needs to be more money.
- That’s not how it works. Maybe you have to step back! Reinvent yourself! Take 2 steps back so you can take 10 steps forward.
- I wouldn’t be running a company right now if I would have thought that going to work for these 2 younger guys was beneath me.
- To do that kind of pivot, you need to do what you’ve never done before.
Do you have any parting words about a mom trying to juggle her career and her kids and be present with both of them? Do you remember anything that was particularly helpful?
- I think Carl Jung really nailed it when he said, “Nothing has a more disturbed influence psychologically on children than the unlived life of the parent.”
- Any parent feeling resentful because they didn’t get to go back to work, unhappy because they didn’t get a chance to pursue something, can’t believe that they spent their time doing XYZ instead of XYZ.
- Nothing hurts a child more than when they see the one major figure in their life living an unlived life.
- And so it really goes back to that – know who you are. Take care of yourself. Figure out what makes you happy. What your boundaries are. Do the work on yourself and everything else will show up.
- Nothing you do or choose should come at the expense of an unlived life.
Sarah Zapp is an entrepreneur, award winning journalist and relationship curator.
She is the CEO and Founder of Beyond Board. Beyond Board is nationwide community of today’s best board members and board eligible executives with live events, virtual offerings, board placement opportunities and a mission to place more women and diversity on boards.
In 2019, Brown Brothers Harriman named her one of the 19 “Women to Watch”.
As a relationship curator she currently advises, consults and sits on the board of advisors for various start-ups. She’s also a speaker and panelist on the topic of building relationships and board diversification, recently featured at national TED Women’s conference, Goldman Sachs Women’s Symposium and in Harvard Business Review.
Formerly, she was the Director of Strategic Relationships for IVY where she built a national thought leader and investor relations program for 20,000 young professionals.
As a TV host, reporter and producer, Sarah earned multiple Telly awards and 8 Emmy nominations. She worked for Comcast as their national entertainment and political reporter interviewing some of today’s biggest names in entertainment and politics. She also executive produced and hosted her own weekly talk show, “New England Newsmakers”. She spent time in local news at WB56 in Boston and anchored the morning and noon news at KARK (NBC) in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and holds a Master Degree in Communication Studies from Boston University.
Instagram: Beyond Board: https://www.instagram.com/beyondboard.co/
Resources mentioned in this episode
Quote by Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Quote by Carl Jung:
“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.”