Lee Moulton, head of strategic partnerships at the startup Breather.
Location: New York, NY
Job: Head of Strategic Partnerships, Breather
Education: B.A. in Political Science, Amherst College; HBX Core: Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, Financial Accounting, Harvard Business School
I started my career as an analyst on the interest rates products team at Goldman Sachs. My mentor at the time was a managing director there and encouraged me to apply for the position. The most important lesson I learned during my six and a half years there was the importance of being consistently excellent, even when no one was looking or paying attention. I also learned the value of giving and receiving constructive feedback in order to improve my professional development. Feedback is so essential when working in any team environment, especially one as predicated on collaboration and open exchange of ideas like Goldman Sachs.
I often describe Breather as Zipcar for meeting spaces – we are helping our users access a very expensive and high-maintenance commodity (in our case, commercial office space) by the hour, and placing our commodity as close to them as possible. We serve meeting planners, executive assistants, photographers, videographers, workshop facilitators, and even therapists. We have spaces of all types, layouts, and sizes, so no matter what you desire, there is a Breather that can serve your space need, flexibly and at an affordable price.
As head of strategic partnerships, I spend the majority of my day trying to solve really hard problems that face a rapidly growing company. I collaborate with various stakeholders across the organization – from real estate to tech to marketing – and come up with strategies that help us achieve our growth goals. The remainder of my day is spent engaging with Breather's top clients, either at events, on the phone, or via email, to make sure they are pleased with our product.
The word that comes to mind is "invigorating." Waking up each day to move a mission forward that you really believe in – and that is solving a real need – is a rare privilege. There are challenges and roadblocks, and change can happen rapidly, but if you can turn change into opportunity, you will always be in the driver's seat. Breather has grown pretty quickly. We recently surpassed 200 employees globally and have locations in 10 cities and three countries. Being able to walk around New York City knowing you can unlock hundreds of Breather locations with your smartphone is a feeling we take great joy in providing to our users. Soon there will be thousands to choose from. That’s pretty exciting.
Be adaptable. Markets and business climates can fluctuate without warning, so it’s important to focus on your skillset. Also, take risks, even in discomfort – therein lies personal and professional growth. Leaving Goldman Sachs was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It showed me that if you have conviction and determination, you find success is places you may have found foreign.
I was raised by a single mother who immigrated to America to escape the civil war in her home country of Liberia. Her experience and resilience informs much of who I am and how I look at opportunities.
Find your optimal energy. Your body is like a battery, and sleep is the human equivalent of plugging your battery into a charger. Figure out when your body is at its peak performance and carve out that time to do your most meaningful work. Also don't be afraid to decline a meeting or request not to be interrupted if you’re working on something creative. People will understand, and the interruptions are most likely not that important.
If you're a nice and genuine person who also has a strong intellectual capacity, you'll be a good fit anywhere. People often make the mistake of hiring nice people who can't do the job or mean people who are super smart.
Seeing Breather featured as “App of the Week” in The New York Times. That was mind-blowing. I grew up reading The Times with my mother and it was always viewed as the most respected newspaper in world. Seeing Breather as App of Week – an app that I was helping to share with the world – was surreal, and an affirmation that we were doing something right.
Contagious by Jonah Berger. It’s the best book I've read about how to grow awareness about your brand.
"Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
– Robert Frost
Images by Meryl Natow