Miriam Illions is the Co-founder and CMO of Hometalk. Since its launch in 2011, Miriam has grown the site from the ground up to 21 million monthly visits, while cultivating Hometalk's community, positioning it among the highest engaged home and garden social channels on the web.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in a religious environment at home and in school that required a disciplined following of established codes of conduct and behavior. That created in me a foundation of doing "the right thing." As my self-awareness and dedication to leadership grew, I experienced a personal transformation and found a softer and more empowering approach with myself and others. I utilize the discipline I grew up with to apply this approach both personally and professionally to help access true potential and to create an environment that allows people to flexibly grow and give their best.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Hometalk?
One particular experience, where I traveled from Israel to Atlanta alone and opened a fully operational new office in six weeks, which seemed almost impossible, taught me how to break out of my comfort zone and not allow my perceived limitations to dictate what I can and cannot do. As a startup, every milestone brings with it a new challenge, but that prior experience helped me have confidence in my own capabilities, even when I don't always see an immediate solution or when something seems impossible.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Hometalk?
The early days at Hometalk were challenging, as we struggled to crack the formula of why and how people would be compelled to share DIY projects and answer questions on Hometalk. A major highlight was hitting one hundred thousand tutorials on the site earlier this year (we sure cracked the code!) and a more recent milestone of one billion tutorial views! Having a positive influence and impact on the lives of millions of people on a monthly basis is the most incredible thing in the world. It's especially pronounced when we receive emails from people letting us know Hometalk enabled them to accomplish something they always wanted to do in their home, or when a Hometalker posts an amazing DIY project that was inspired by another Hometalker.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Believe in yourself and don't let fear hold you back. One of my favorite sayings is feel the fear and do it anyway.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I've learned to take ownership over my circumstances to affect change. It's very easy to blame external factors when something isn't "working," but doing so hinders positive change and growth.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I haven't fully cracked that code yet, but prioritizing non-work activities has helped me achieve a better balance. I make a conscious effort to unplug and be fully present when I'm not working, and try not to get preoccupied with work worries. It's refreshing and empowering, and I return to work feeling sharper and more energized.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I feel very fortunate to work in a company where I don't experience issues as a woman in the workplace. In speaking with others with experiences unlike my own, I realize how fortunate I am and find it appalling that any woman shouldn't be recognized as an equal in all regards for her ideas, skills, and contributions to the organization she works for.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of key people in my life throughout my journey. I read Energy Leadership by Bruce D. Schneider a couple of years ago, which focuses on transforming your workplace and life from the core. I was lucky to find an amazing Energy Leadership coach and have been able to experience the transformation firsthand.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire female leaders with strong inner confidence who use their strengths to help and empower others. My Aunt, Wendy Silverstein, was the Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Acquisitions and Capital Markets at Vornado Realty Trust. She lost her husband at a young age and rose to become the top female executive at Vornado, while raising two children. I am proud to be her niece and she has influenced my own career path in many positive ways. Louise Hay is also a role model to me for the way she helps so many people tap into their creative powers and true potential for personal growth and self-healing.
What do you want Hometalk to accomplish in the next year?
As the world's largest DIY platform and community, Hometalk is changing the way people improve their homes, by empowering and inspiring them to DIY. As we continue our explosive growth, and with the Hometalk community as the driving force, we're excited to continue building out our platform to provide more value to Hometalkers and become the end to end destination for all their DIY needs.