The Path profiles people working in what we think of as “dream jobs,” living their best professional life, and looks at the people and practices that helped get them there. We talk to these amazing folks about how goal setting, great managers, tough conversations, and key moments of praise helped set them straight or lift them up at instrumental moments and take them where they are now running the show.
If you’re a working professional today, then you’re most likely no stranger to LinkedIn. The platform has revolutionized many facets of professional life—from job searches to building and keeping in touch with your network.
But LinkedIn is doing a lot more than just helping modern workers manage their professional identities. In 2018, Ezra Zimbler and Ty Heath, the Global Lead at the B2B Institute at LinkedIn, spearheaded a new initiative called TransformHER, a conference for professional women of color in technology that brings together women of color along with their allies. The initiative was designed to provide a space for women of color in tech to build relationships, leverage resources to advance in their careers, and have necessary conversations that can help create cracks in the “concrete ceiling” that women of color face.
In addition to his role as TransformHER co-founder, Ezra is a Senior Talent Insights Consultant at LinkedIn, a position that has allowed him to move abroad to Dublin, Ireland. After years of working in sports management — including for the New York Mets — Ezra joined LinkedIn, a move that he says “changed his life.” We caught up with Ezra to learn more about what it’s been like to get to this place in his career, be an ally to women of color in tech, and why he no longer thinks that applying to several jobs at once is a good strategy.
What did you go to school for? And what did you want to do at that time in your life?
I am a sports fanatic, so naturally I wanted to spend my career working in the sports industry to help to transform it, so I was a Sport Management major in college.
How did you end up getting hired for the position you’re currently in?
At the end of 2016, my wife and I decided we wanted to move abroad and work overseas for some time. Therefore, over the next two years, I had been looking for the right role at LinkedIn that would help me to achieve this goal. In October 2018, I was at Talent Connect (LinkedIn’s flagship conference) and was talking with a woman who had recently joined a new team. She told me they had opportunities overseas and that I should explore the possibility. A month later, I was given the chance to join the newly-formed Talent Insights consulting team and move to our Dublin office from New York.
Tell me about someone who’s made a significant impact on your career trajectory—whether that’s a mentor, a manager, or someone else crucial to your success.
My co-founder of TransformHER, Ty Heath, has had an immense impact on my career. Her belief in me to ask me to join her in creating this conference has changed my career and life forever. She is now a person I call a friend and has helped me to navigate many career situations both within and outside of the TransformHER movement. Having such a smart and strong person to bounce ideas off of and work with has made me raise my game to a whole new level.
What are some daily habits you absolutely make sure to schedule into your day? (I.e. a lunch break or a physical to-do list)
There are two parts of my day that I try to make happen every weekday. The first is to wake up at the same time every day to keep my sleep schedule normalized. The other is to eat lunch at 11:30 a.m. and try to get as many people on my team to go with me.
What do you love most about your job?
This is an easy one for me: the people are what make my job amazing. Whether it’s my direct team here in Dublin, the clients I work with on a daily basis, the global teams I am a part of, my sales partners, or the people I get to interact with in the LinkedIn office, it is all about the people for me!
Has there been a time when someone took a chance on you? What happened? Do you think it’s important to take chances on others?
Similar to the person who had an impact on my career, Ty took a chance on me to help her create TransformHER, a forum for professional women of color in technology. It has been an amazing experience for both of us as we head into year three with almost 1,000 attendees at our conference. I think it is very important to take chances on others. Showing faith in someone can do wonders for their confidence and help them reach heights they never thought possible.
How do you integrate critical feedback and praise into your work?
I am a big fan of feedback. I think the biggest learning for me around critical feedback is to take it in and not react right away. It is always hard to hear something negative about yourself, so make sure to give yourself some time to self-reflect and find the parts that will be helpful moving forward. On the flip side, it is great to be praised for your work, but naturally I do try to show gratitude for the recognition.
What’s been the biggest learning lesson in your career so far?
If you don’t go for it, it won’t happen. I think this has been a big lesson I learned and one I try to impart on others. Your life and your career is more in your control than most think it is. Therefore, you need to go after and make things happen that you want in your life. Most things in life won’t be given to you, but are achievable with strategy and hard work.
What do you think makes a good leader?
There are two things I look for in a good leader. The first is having a vision that they be articulated and that people can buy into. The second is to be in it and willing to roll their sleeves up and do some of the dirty work that they are asking their team to do. These two things can get a lot of buy-in from a team and help leaders achieve things they didn’t know they could.
How do you approach difficult conversations with your team and other colleagues?
As someone who is very non-confrontational, this is something I am continuously working on. The biggest part is empathy and coming from a place of understanding, not judgment. If it is clear you are having a conversation because you want the best for that person, it does make it easier.
Has goal-setting played into your career?
I like to give myself a mid- to long-term goal. My two most recent ones were to move overseas and to get promoted. These were goals I was looking to achieve over a six month to two year time frame. My goals help frame the things I say yes to and the networking opportunities I seek out.
What do you think managers and leaders need to be doing to create better workplaces?
This is where empathy and really knowing your people is so important. If you can be in it with your team and understand what environment will help them thrive this is key. On a broader scale, making sure you create a diverse team so that as many views as possible are considered when making big decisions. This is something we have been very intentional about with our TransformHER teams. We, of course, want our target demographics for the conference of Black and Latina women on the team, but also bringing in allies to help expand the conversation further has been crucial.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
One of the biggest career mistakes I made early on was to apply to as many jobs as possible. I have learned that this is a bad strategy. It is really about going deep for a few jobs that really call to you. Doing your research, networking with current employees, and finding the right role for yourself within your dream organization is the best way to break into the job that you want.