12/17/2020 1:00:00 PM
Produced by Relativity, Stellar Women in e-Discovery is a monthly podcast spotlighting and celebrating female leaders making their mark in the legal field. All guest speakers are women nominated by industry peers and who have been invited to join hosts Mary Rechtoris and Mila Taylor to share tips, takeaways, and reflections on their careers, mentorship, and more.
Episode 37 of the podcast, Stellar Women in e-Discovery: Giving Yourself Grace with Rachel Billstein & Heidi Girod, features two stellar JND employees nominated for the Stellar Women in e-Discovery Award in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Rachel and Heidi joined Relativity virtually to discuss mentorship, professional development, the importance of giving yourself grace, and tips for navigating these unprecedented times in both your work and professional life.
Mary Rechtoris: Hey, Stellar Women, fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Mila Taylor: And, I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech today. We are joined by Rachel Billstein and Heidi Girod. Rachel is a content strategist and Heidi is a senior project manager at JND eDiscovery. Heidi, Rachel, so excited to have you on the podcast today. And for our listeners, Heidi and Rachel, both nominated for our Stellar Women program. So, ladies, welcome.
Rachel Billstein: Hi. Thank you.
Heidi Girod: Good to be here.
MR: Also, like Mila and myself, Rachel is a marketer. And I think as marketers, it's kind of interesting telling people that I do marketing for e-discovery. They're usually like, "What is e-discovery?" and I say, "I didn't know either." So, as a creative person now in e-discovery, what's something that surprises you about this field or something that you are really excited about that you don't know when jumping on board?
RB: I really love that it's an intersection of legal and technology. My background is in digital marketing so I'm more comfortable in that [technology] space. The nature of our industry lets me stay there a bit in my comfort zone. For me, a lot of the newness has been legal. It hasn't been as intimidating as I made it out to be originally coming into it cold, right? Even though I am marketing for e-discovery, I'm just itching to get into the software, into the tools more, and to actually do a lot of the things that are not within my job description. And then I don't have time. But I think it's fascinating. I love that I get to, at least at this peripheral, kind of high-level vantage point, paraphrase and sift through and explain a lot of the work that my colleagues get to do that I wish I was more directly involved in.
HG: Well, I think it's exciting because this is the first that I've heard that Rachel wants to see more about the software and what it is we do. So, guess what, Rachel? I’m going to be reaching out about shadowing because I didn’t know. I think that the cool thing there is that it'll make her a good marketer. You know, not good, but [I mean it’ll make her] a better marketer to be able to see what it is that we do and see how we use the tools. And then I think the appreciation there would go both ways so that we could kind of see how what we do can affect and help what Rachel does. I think that would be cool. So, Rachel, get ready.
MR: And Rachel, this is recorded. So, it is on the record.
HG: I would just like that snippet as a quote that just says, “I want to learn more about the software. Rachel, we are in it to win it. Get ready.
MR: Heidi, being on the project management side, can you tell us a little about what you love about e-discovery?
HG: I think the thing that I like most about e-discovery is the problem solving. I think, you know, naturally, nobody ever wakes up and says, “Hey, I want to do a 9 to 5.” But for me, there's a common thing where nobody wakes up and says, “Hey, I want to be an e-discovery.” You know, nobody goes to college and says, “I can’t wait to major in e-discovery?” I think oftentimes it's something you fall into, or you know somebody that is in it, and that's how you get in. But I think the problem solving is both a characteristic of people's personalities that they have an appreciation for. And then also you get this sense of satisfaction in it. So, whether your problem is something like, right now I have to review 125,000 documents in two weeks or it's, I need to find this particular item or document. I think it’s really about helping people. In e-discovery, everybody comes to the table with their own problems that they need to have solved, and just the ability to help people get through that problem solving, I think is probably the number one. And that's a characteristic that I've seen quite frequently in the lifers, so to speak, in e-discovery. They like to get in there, get their hands dirty, problem solve, and ultimately help people. So, I'd say that's probably the piece I like most about e-discovery.
MT: Well, thank you for sharing. Both of you. That is interesting. I always find it interesting what people have in common [in this industry is that] they like the problem solving. And, they like that it's changing, and they do like the fact that it's helping people. Along that line of helping people not so much in the day to day, but in the bigger scope of life, we like on this podcast to talk a lot about mentorship. Who has been influential in your career and how have you elevated other woman in the field? So, Rachel, we'll start with you. Do you want to talk a bit about mentorship and what that's meant to you during your career?
RB: Ben Sexton has been a mentor of mine. Scott Lombard has been a mentor of mine. Christine Mosely, who was at our Seattle office, has been a mentor of mine. It's just kind of about identifying your different subject matter experts and you create a support network. That's kind of what I would say for my experience at JND. So far, everybody's my mentor.
MT: I like that. Oftentimes, there is much pressure put on people on both sides, like you have to find this one career mentor who can you can bounce all your ideas off and they can help you grow your career. But in reality, it's kind of impossible unless it’s like your mom or sister or someone like that. It’s hard to find someone like that in life, and I kind of like that idea of having a support around you that you tap into for different reasons. So, yeah, that resonates with me a lot. And then Heidi, we’ll jump to you.
HG: We've all seen those movies where somebody makes a decision and then the movie takes off going in a different direction or the character has a choice to make at a certain point in time. And then, however they decide to go down that path ultimately affects two variations in how they could have lived their life. And looking back, from the time I was 18, and started working for a sole practitioner only because I had a teacher's assistant position in high school and met the nurse there, and I would go to her office and just do my homework during the day. She said, “Okay, I think you should come work for my husband.” I saw her at the bread aisle at the grocery store in summertime, and she said, “I think you should come work for my husband.” And I said, Okay. So, she wrote his phone number down on a piece of paper and handed it to me. And she said, “Give him a call Monday morning, 9:00 a.m.” And I said, “Okay, great.” When she walked away, I realized I had no idea who her husband was. I didn't know what he did for a living. I didn't know why she thought I should go work for him. But I just kind of trusted her and just thought, Okay, yeah, let's go down this road. Well, when I called that number at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning, it said, you know, “Good morning, Law Office of Gerald Walsh.” And in that moment, it was so fast. Number one, I just called an attorney. Number two, this is who I'm going to be working for. How is this going to work? And the panic set in. But within a couple hours, I had a job. And from there, you know, I went down those different paths. But in working for him, I ended up working for him for five years, he taught me skills that I take to this very day. [This includes] attention to detail, and how to organize things and file things. I had those things inherently, however, just teaching me skills that ultimately, I think some 18-year-old kids don't know. [This went] all the way to years later working for another attorney. And she said, “For your next job, I don't want you to seek any job that has assistant or secretary in the title. There's nothing wrong with them. However, your next job cannot have the words secretary or assistant in them.” And it was kind of a directive. Right. But at the same time, she found something to say. Don't just keep going for what's comfortable. Push yourself a little. Right. Taking that to heart, I started applying for jobs. I literally would just look over if they had assistance or secretary. If they had those titles, I would just keep going. From that that tiny push, that's how I first became a project manager. I got the title, and I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to be doing. I knew I had the skills because when I read the job outline, I thought, this is exactly me. I'd never read a piece of paper that basically described me as a person who I was and what I could do. But I think in that moment I realized, you know, just like that movie character, there were certain points in time where the road split and there was somebody who had influenced me in that moment to go down that different path. I do agree with Rachel that everybody can be your mentor. But I think, too, I appreciate the people who took the time, I guess, to learn who I was, what I could do, and then give of themselves to make me a better person.
MR: I love that. I have a similar experience in that I was doing customer advocacy type work. My team then was under the creative team, and I was kind of posed with this challenge or opportunity of, like, what do you want to do? This is kind of an opportunity to think through what I'm doing and where I want to go. And the brand director one day said it seemed like I could be a really good at being a producer. And, I said, “I don't know. I don't have any background in that.” I was like Googling what it really means. Right? Like, am I going to produce an HBO series? I read the job description and it described a lot of what I was already doing and where I wanted to go to a tee—project management, creation, and working with other teams. I was doing a lot of that and it just took someone to be like, you should really strive for this, and it was that kick that I needed to get there.
HG: I'm never shy to say, if I feel that connection with somebody, just to say, “Hey, what do you think I should do with my life?” If you have those people who know me and can say some things about myself that I can't see or I might be blind to, [they can tell me] what I might be good at. Because oftentimes people have insights about you that you're not aware of yourself. They might say, “I know this person who does this and you're quite like them,” or “You would be really good at this.” You know just who you are as a person, not the nuts and bolts of what you do during the day, but who you are and the things that speak to you. I think that's how you figure out who you really are.
MR: Right, you get someone like, “What’s your five-year plan? And you just start mumbling an answer.
RB: That is the worst question.
MR: You're sweating and then you feel like you're signing up for something you didn't even really think about. I guess I'm on this track and I have no desire to do this in five years. And, I love that you said that about someone else who sees your skills who can say, “I know people that have done this successfully and this could be an option,” versus the onus is always on you. You don't always know what's out there. So, I think it’s good to know there is.
HG: Yeah. There's nobody out there giving you a path or a map for your life to say this is how you do it. I think you just kind of have to take it step by step. But that five-year question, I don't think I could have ever answered that up until right now—I’m 39. Right now, and the goofy part is, if you ask me what my five-year plan is, I'd like to have a farm. If you would ask me, a few years ago, I would've never had said, “Hey I want to have a farm.” You know, it's just something that's been growing in my mind, like this little fog in the back of mind that it just takes over. It's just something that I enjoy doing on the side. So, for that five-year plan, I don't know what happens, but I always think about where do you want to be, whether it's one year or five years? Sounds cliched, but at the same time, like, what are you going to look for? Otherwise you're going to turn around in 10 years and you're going to be in the same spot, so is that where you want to be? Maybe that is [where you are now] and that’s okay.
RB: Women in particular, too, we certainly do rely on those external pushes at certain points, like there are push points. You're almost conditioned that should be comfortable or to be grateful for everything.
RB: Just always grateful, always grateful, always grateful. It’s more of the receptive or passive energy than an aggressive or assertive energy. I don’t always recognize those points at which there is an opportunity right in front of me, but as soon as someone says, “Did you notice that opportunity? That's got you written all over it.” Then it's like, oh, yeah... duh! I'm trying to train myself to see those and jump at those. And it's a shift. It's a gradual shift. And I do feel like that’s more characteristic of female professionals to need that push. And it's great when we can push one another.
MR: It's like a Heidi was saying earlier and we’ve said this until we’re blue in the face, it’s true. You read a job description and if you saw maybe one or two bullets, you're like, oh, I have no experience in that. I can't do this. I need to go back to what I excel in and what I know I can do. Sometimes having someone push you and be like, “You might not know how to do X, Y, or Z, but you can learn, and you are still very well equipped to take this on.” I think that's it, too, that we question our abilities. If we don't feel more than 100 percent certain that we can succeed, we're our own worst enemy in a lot of ways.
MT: I once got some good advice. I mean, it was probably from like a therapist because it was very, very good advice. But it was something like you should train yourself to think about yourself and talk about yourself and apply for jobs in a way that your best friend looks at you.
RB: One hundred percent. I got similar [advice from a] therapist.
MT: It's easy to give someone you love and care about advice through hard times, but it's so hard to give it to yourself. Yeah. And I do think that's a particularly female thing. Right. This resonates with me and I'm sure is resonating with a lot of people listening. And I want to just jump back to Rachel and Heidi. You were mentioning those push points. And obviously it's no secret that I feel like we are in some sort of inflection point in life, being in this pandemic. Whether some people wanted or not, it is pushing them to maybe adapt their businesses or adapt their careers in any which way. And I'm kind of interested, have you guys felt that with within yourselves? Have you been able to grow your career or stay kind of connected with colleagues during this time? Being in the middle of COVID—hopefully not the middle, but being in it—where do you see yourself moving forward?
HG: [There are a] few things that I've learned about myself over the last few years and I learned these lessons professionally. I took a brief stint doing some software development. I found that by trying to push out those changes and then understanding that some people like change and some people have a little bit harder time with change, I learned that I like change. Like, I don't need stability. I didn't know that. But it's interesting to me. It doesn't mean one way is right and one way is wrong. It's just to know for yourself. How do you feel about change and how do you adapt to that? So, a., it is knowing that, and then b., when I was 18 going off to college, I had that phone call in the beginning where they say, “Okay, here's your phone number for your roommate that you've never met before.” So, you're going to get one chance to call them before you become roommates for an entire year. And when I called her, one of the first questions she asked me was, “What's your horoscope?” And I said, “Capricorn.” But she goes, “Oh, you're a pessimist.” And I was like, oh, am I? And that’s how I took it. It wasn’t so much that she accused me of being a pessimist. But it was like, am I really? It was interesting because that was a moment of change for me to realize. I don't want to be pre-defined by being a pessimist. Now, I like how some people call me sunshine and rainbows because I'll attempt to find the silver lining in anything. But that's a choice I made, because when I was 18, I realized, oh, my goodness, I might be a pessimist. So, then I decided, I have to make a mental shift here to try to change. My point being, I try to find opportunities in things and then I'm okay with change. I don't know how I became that way, but I like it. When quarantine started happening, I'm a planner by nature. I'm a project manager, so I kind of freaked out. But at the same time, I'm seeing, number one, that I get to see my kids more often. I've always wanted that and I haven't had been able to because I’m working your typical office job. So, I see my kids more often, which I love. I have time to do hobbies that I've never had time to do before. It's not because I'm not working. It's because rather than taking the time at the watercooler or the lunchroom, I go outside and walk my dog over lunch. You know, some people can work that in during the day, but I couldn't before. The changes that I've been able to impact have mostly been low in my personal life, but they’ve greatly, positively impacted my professional life. I come to work and I’m happy and energized and excited because these great things are happening for me personally.
MR: Two big questions. I think that's awesome. My first one is more of a statement. It's not a horoscope because it's very contingent on your sun sign…
RB: Sun and moon signs. I figured out everything.
MR: Right? It's not that simple. And as a fellow Capricorn, we get a really bad rap. But I think we are really great.
HG: I'm feeling that I'm going to teach Rachel about Relativity and she is going to teach me on sun and moon signs. It’s going to be fantastic.
RB: Download the Co-Star Astrology app and add me as your friend.
MR: Moving on from horoscopes, I forgot the original questions. Mila let’s go back to you.
MT: So, I have like been trying to work out what my horoscope is. I still can't get a handle on my sun and moon rising and I'm also on the cusp of between Gemini and Taurus. Gemini is already between two personalities, so really, I’m like three.
RB: Hey. Me too. What’s up? I'm Taurus, but I'm like…
MT: I'm May 21.
RB: I'm May 17.
MT: Well, you know, some magazines tell me I'm a Gemini, and some magazines want to tell me I'm a Taurus. I can’t understand which one I am.
MR: Wrapping us up here, Rachel, why don't we go with you? And this is a very broad question, so feel free to take it anywhere you want. What's one piece of advice you would give to listeners, whether about working during this time or how to just navigate this new world we're in?
RB: I mean, I guess I'll say something that's been top of mind for me lately is doing some things that I normally wouldn't do that are certainly a product of quarantine. And, a lot [of that has to do with] unrest in our country right now. I joined an online women's conversation circle that operates kind of like a group therapy sort of thing. It becomes that just by nature of the participants wanting to help one another. They have conversation topics. Women from all over the country will join and discuss. And that was one thing that I kind of pursued as I was like, Okay, I'm holed up in my house. I need perspective. I need diversity. I need checkpoints, so it was really choosing the circles or influences that you have. I've become really aware of that. And so that was one way in which I was like, Okay, I want [to have] these kinds of conversations and this is a group of perspectives that I want to be influenced by. And similarly, I've changed all of my social media feeds. I wiped out the passive like, here's who I follow and what I'm paying attention to because it's been passed on to me or someone suggested it or whatever. And then I thought more like, “What's my goal when I'm on this platform? What do I want to know more about? What do I want to do here? When do I want to use it? When do I want to engage?” So, I’ve been changing what I subscribe to so that when I'm engaging with these different media, I am more intentional about the results. Something that hit me over the head and again in the beginning of quarantine … when you have all this time, and for me, living alone as a single woman, I don't have family, or I don't have whatever that is that I'm engaging with on a daily basis. You’re kind of in your head and in your thoughts. There is a need to manage and set those controls and boundaries for social media when there are all these headlines and updates and all the craziness going on the world. And you just feel like you aren't connected to everybody and you want to be, so it can be very easy to deep dive and get lost in all of the internet and social media. You use that as a band-aid for connection, which is what I felt to be happening in the beginning of quarantine. Once I started assessing my use points of when am I engaging with these things and what am I trying to get out of it, I started redesigning my interaction with those things to actually get the result I wanted. That has helped me mentally tremendously.
HG: That's brilliant. I love how you put that, because I totally agree. I still have a Facebook account and a lot of my friends will say, “I hate Facebook.” I say, “I love Facebook.” And they're like, what? And, I say, “well, mine feeds me Boxer dog pictures and things about chickens.” And when things start to get political or negative, I just mute the people and then they just go away for a while. But I like, Rachel, how you were just more mindful about how you're using things, because sometimes they just become a time suck. If that's where you're spending your time, just make sure that it's fruitful for you. So that's brilliant.
MR: Love that, and Heidi, going to you. What's one piece of advice you would bestow on our listeners here?
HG: Just give yourself grace. You know, nobody's going to do this right. Nobody has all the answers to this. Nobody who's alive right now has lived through this before. And if they have, they're probably too old to remember. So, give yourself grace. Give that to the person who is super gnarly for whatever reason. I worked with a wonderful person in e-discovery many years ago. She'll probably listen to this. And she said, “When people cut me off in traffic, I just think, man, they must really have to go to the bathroom.” I’m definitely not a super easygoing person. I can be a little high strung and sometimes I just have to remember, like, give myself grace. Do you. I'm just doing the best that I can. That's all we're really doing. And it's okay. Whatever it is that you're doing. You do you. Because at the end of the day, my dad always said at the end of the day, there's only one person you have to live with and it's you.
MR: That's applicable for everything. As we were talking about, women are really hard on themselves. I think human nature, you just look for validation a lot, whether that’s your friends or social media or whatever. But the only person who you should be happy with the at the end of the day is yourself. So, whatever it is that makes you happy, like just do it, as long as you're not harming other people. It took me also a long time to really learn that and stop thinking about what I was doing and its impact on how others would perceive it and being confident in the decisions I made. That’s a really cool piece of advice.
HG: You only have to live with yourself. And another thing that I heard recently was that you only have to decide for now. So just end your sentences with for now. This is what I'm going to decide to do for now. It doesn't mean you're going to make … well, hopefully you're not making any decisions that permanently scar you. But whatever you're doing, it's okay. Just end it with “for now,” because you'll make the right decisions for whatever it is you're trying to do for now. And I think that takes a lot of the pressure off, right? It’s not like, what am I doing? Am I doing this right? Am I going to make the right decision? Who cares? This is what you're doing for now.
MT: That resonates with me because I'm from Australia. My family's in Australia. People always are asking me, “How long you going to be in Chicago? Where are you going to be?” And I say, “I'm in Chicago for now.” Like, I enjoy being here. I don't want to lock myself into a life sentence that I’m going to be in Chicago for the rest of my life. I have no idea. But for right now, it makes sense, so I love that and will be adding it to everything.
MR: I’m in a good mood, for now …
HG: Because, I mean, let's be honest, what we're in right now, nobody could have seen this coming. It's very true that there are things that are out of our control. They're outside of our realm of influence. And you can't say [certain things] with any amount of certainty. I worked with the lieutenant colonel back at the Pentagon and he said there's no guarantee that you would know what's going to happen to you tomorrow. Do what you can today. Yes, plan ahead and that's wonderful. But, don't get disappointed if it doesn't work out. Just keep doing what you're doing for now.
MR: Heidi and Rachel, this was so, so fun to connect with you. Thanks for joining Mila and me.
RB: Thank you.
HG: Thank you for having us on.
MR: For Stellar Women, I'm Mary Rechtoris.
MT: And, I’m Mila Taylor.
Both: Signing off.