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Brilliant Women: Courtney Young-Law Transforms Lives Through Career Coaching

by Shirley Chan {{"2015-10-21T12:00:00.000Z" | blogDate:'MMMM d, y'}}

Madison Reed celebrates phenomenal women who are making a positive impact on the world. Let’s celebrate their accomplishments and the possibility for all of us to make a difference!

Meet Courtney Young-Law, CEO and co-founder of Fundamentum. She shifted from higher education to start a company to help people identify and achieve their dream careers. As you can imagine, she has some great advice to share.

What does your company, Fundamentum, do?

We coach people to take control of their careers by advocating for themselves and finding a place where they’re not just making paycheck but really thriving.

We’ve built a curriculum, of course, but it’s also about building relationships, really connecting with clients, and helping them understand what they really want to do.

What inspired you to start Fundamentum?

I have a doctorate in education and a lot of experience doing this kind of work with college or university students. My husband, who had always been an entrepreneur, got interested in the transition from college to career. That’s my area of expertise, so I jumped in.

It’s interesting how the company has evolved. We started working with recent graduates, but it has shifted to helping more mid-career folks and moms. These are people trying to figure out how to re-enter the workforce or what the next move is to advance.

How has this change affected the way you work?

The big surprise is how similar the groups are. Whether they’re just starting out or further along in their careers, folks often have not taken the time to ask themselves the hard questions. Giving people the space to do that is a huge value to them at any stage in their careers. 

I was working with someone who had been an executive at a very large company for a long time
and she knew she wanted to make a change. Originally, we were really looking at taking her executive skills and moving them into a startup situation. Through the process, she discovered that the ability to make a positive impact for social good was a key factor for her. That hadn’t been a thought for her before. 

It’s really about opportunities for growth. Career growth is so much informed by personal growth. 

What are the main challenges of building your own business?

I’ll share two of my favorite quotes. “Everything is sweetened by risk.” (Alexander Smith) and "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). 

It’s not that failure is fun, there are a lot of things that aren’t going to work. But it’s about making sure every time that happens, you learn and redirect. That’s been a huge part of the process. 

The big secret about entrepreneurship is that nobody knows what they’re doing. They’re all learning and growing every day. For me, that was very comforting and gave me courage because there’s no secret handbook that I don’t have! The secret is to try and keep trying.

Photo by Damien Miller at Sapient Studios

What keeps you motivated and excited to keep trying?

Changing people’s lives. For the folks that I work with, it’s not just what they do for a career but how they see themselves. 

I worked with someone who was only thinking about an incremental change. Through the process, she was able to see herself in totally new way and able to claim her right to be in the job she eventually got. It was a complete change in career and a big step up.

That’s not something that happens every time, but it feels great to have facilitated that.

That’s incredible! What about you? Do you encounter any difficulties as a woman and entrepreneur?

The big thing for me is the ratio. I’m used to being an educator where women are the majority. Now I go to events and conferences, and I really feel the absence of women. I think that speaks to what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur: to feel like one of a few. 

But there’s more every day! One of the reasons I really pushed to be a founder on this project was seeing an infographic about how few women and people of color were on the founding teams of startups. I thought, “I can’t personally change the percentage of people of color, but I can change it for women!”

I raised my hand and said, “I’m doing a lot of work, I’m ready to take this on.” Now the business has changed, and I’m running it.

What advice would you give other women who are changing or building their own careers?

For me, finding the courage to say I wanted to be a founder really reinforced that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t raise my hand.

It’s about making space for yourself to identify what you want and how to ask for it. That’s a huge part of what I’m empowering others to do and in myself as well. 

What keeps you centered on the things that are truly important?

I am incredibly blessed to do the things I love and be with the people I love most of the time, which is not the norm for many people. It’s something I’m grateful for every day... well, most days! Let me be real, some days I have a pity party for myself. It happens to everyone.

The two governing principles to keep me centered are having a growth mindset, believing you can learn and get better at anything, and gratitude as a practice. Together, they give you everything. You’re grateful for what you have, and you also keep striving to do better. 

That’s really wise. What’s the most recent thing that made you smile or laugh out loud?

My daughter is 4 now, and she is perfecting her mad smiley face! She stomps her foot with her hands on her hips and winces up her face into this mad face, and it’s hysterical. She starts laughing, too. She knows she’s being ridiculous.

What makes you feel beautiful?

I just completed my first triathlon. I had on this tri suit that was all lycra and not flattering, my hair was a sweaty mess, but it didn’t matter. When I finished, I sprinted the last 25 yards and I just felt so strong that I had used my body well. I felt beautiful in that moment. 

I did it with a group of moms, and we all got medals. Someone’s daughter asked, “Are those participation medals?” and we said, “No way, we finished, these are finisher medals!”

It was quite a journey and supported my own self-discovery. I had to tell myself to keep going, just put one foot in front of the other. 

Congrats on that experience! So, for those times you aren’t running a triathlon, what are your tricks to looking polished in a hurry?

Lip gloss and, I swear this isn’t product placement for you guys, that smoothing styling stuff Tame. It’s amazing! A low ponytail to pull it together, and you can’t tell if I didn’t wash my hair that morning.

What are your tips for beauty on the go?

Lip gloss again, it works for everything! I keep it in the change pocket on my wallet so I can always feel a little more put together when I want. 

You can also rub it on your cheeks to get a glow. It perks you up for the afternoon without wearing a lot of makeup.

What are your quick and easy travel tips?

I’m constantly changing modes: entrepreneur, mom, athlete. So I keep a little bag packed with emergency makeup, bandaids… a secret stash of necessities no matter what role I’m in, and it fits into my computer bag, mom bag, clutch, all of them. That’s made a big difference. 

And of course, the iconic advice to always wear sunscreen.

Sound advice never goes out of style! Thanks for sharing your story, Courtney.

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