Women in Business Q&A: Lynda Weinman, Co-Founder and Executive Chair, lynda.com

Lynda Weinman has always believed in the importance of education; in fact, at fifteen-years-old she convinced the headmaster of a private high school to accept her as a scholarship student. Her time at that high school laid the ground work for an entrepreneurial journey that would lead her to become an author, teacher and eventually the founder and CEO of lynda.com, one of the world's largest online learning companies.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was the oldest child when my parents divorced and even though I was quite young, my siblings were younger. We lived with my grandparents who didn't really want us, and later with a stepparent who wasn't expecting to raise us. Though it was rough and I didn't get to be a kid in the same way my friends did, it taught me how to lead, to put others' needs above mine since I was often worried about my siblings' well being, and to be fiercely independent. All of these traits have double edges, but I was definitely able to turn lemons into lemonade, and that's a life skill for which I will always be grateful.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at lynda.com?
I was 40 years old when I started lynda.com, and almost every success and failure up until that point has played a role in shaping my perspective. I convinced my grandfather at age 23 to loan me money to start a gift store. It lasted for four years and went through many ups and downs, but crashed and burned in the end. I thought I would never have another success or failure that big, but I was so wrong. The lessons I learned from the failure were more valuable than if I had been successful out of the gate. I was one of few women working in the special-effects industry, and became interested in computer graphics as a hobby at first. The journey to becoming a teacher was unplanned, but through my innate passion for teaching others I had amassed close to a decade of experience before I wrote my first book and started lynda.com with my husband and co-founder Bruce Heavin.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at lynda.com?
While the acquisition of lynda.com by LinkedIn is an amazing highlight, it's really gratifying to hear on a daily basis how lynda.com has impacted people's lives and careers. There is no drug better than that! The challenges are too numerous to briefly describe, but I have been lucky to have my husband as my partner, a great team to help build the business and many wonderful friends, family, and colleagues who help me through the tough times.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
You always get into murky waters when you talk gender differences, but as a generalization I would say it's tougher for women to prove their expertise and credibility. I found in my career that I had to set very high standards for myself to prove to others that I was trustworthy, credible, and valuable. I definitely learned to fake it until I could make it, but I put in the hours and the years to become an authentic expert and teacher. I would say that I used my communication, nurturing, and survival skills to their fullest advantages, and discovered that it was novel to be a woman in a man's field because there were fewer of us. I found very few voices in the computer education field that knew how to guide and comfort students and de-mystify technology like I did.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
That I will always seek to improve myself and learn from my mistakes. As a teacher, an entrepreneur and a lifelong learner, this journey will never end--there is always more to learn.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am much better at it today as an empty nester than I was 20 years ago. Juggling being a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a teacher, and a business owner means you don't really have much time for yourself. Today, I make time for my health, which means I do yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and swimming. There are always periods of high stress because it goes with the territory,
but those activities keep my stress levels under control most of the time.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Again, murky stuff, but I think we communicate differently than men. I am a very emotional and passionate person and sometimes this works in my favor and other times it totally backfires. I can really only speak for myself as with 500+ employees I see a huge spectrum of behaviors and cannot say any are distinctively due to gender.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I haven't had a lot of mentors to be honest, but I rely a lot on my own intuition and on close friends and family to get me through. Within lynda.com, we place great value and importance on professional development and learning and I try to guide/mentor employees when I can.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have numerous female leader friends, but none are famous so I'm not sure it would be meaningful to call them out here. I admire Gloria Steinem because she has stayed so true to her authentic self, she is so brave, smart, and passionate, and she has empowered so many people. I respect that she charted her own path and paved the way for others.

What do you want lynda.com to accomplish in the next year?
When Bruce and I started lynda.com 20 years ago, our goal was to inspire people all over the world to become life-long learners, build their confidence to remove barriers to personal and professional growth and to establish lynda.com as a household name synonymous with empowerment and self-directed learning. Now, as part of LinkedIn, we have an incredible opportunity to connect people all over the world to the relevant skills they need to advance their careers and positively impact the global job market and economy.