Meet Neylan: CEO of Better Days 2020

I had the honor of meeting Neylan and am her BIGGEST fan. She started an incredible organization called Better Days 2020, and I am so obsessed with their mission.

Be sure to also check out Neylan’s incredible Ted Talk.

Tell us a little about yourself and your career

I was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but moved across the country to San Francisco after college. There, I got into digital marketing in Silicon Valley, working for six years at Walmart.com. It was an amazing education, especially for a New York kid who first thought Wal-Mart was Walgreens! In addition to in house marketing work, I worked at an advertising agency in Salt Lake City as a brand strategist and was the CMO of Brain Chase, an educational technology company. I love understanding the audience psyche around a product or a movement, and then shaping their response through messaging and design.

Two years ago, my partner Mandee Grant and I started Better Days 2020, which popularizes Utah women’s history through education, legislation and art. Utah was the first place where an American woman voted, and we think people should know that! The year 2020 marks important anniversaries in our women’s history, so we’re making sure it’s a big deal here in Utah.

How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to hone in on what I’m good at, and be humble about what I’m not good at. Although I think it’s important to always work on our weaknesses, it’s also important to acknowledge we can’t be all things to all people. I love seeing where the women on my team excel and fill in holes I have in my skillset. They support me by doing their job beautifully when they’re awesome at something and I’m not. The collective strength of many people working cooperatively is really amazing. I also appreciate how they’ll hear me out and offer great perspective and ideas. Being a leader of a team can be lonely, and it’s so helpful to know I don’t have to pretend to have all of the answers all of the time.

What is your vision for Better Days 2020?

Our vision is to infuse women’s history into every part of Utah culture, from our education to our arts to our legislation and decision-making. We have a remarkable history here – the first American woman to vote, the first woman elected as state senator, the longest-running suffrage newspaper – and this history shows that our state was founded on the idea of advancing and supporting women. By becoming more familiar with that history, we naturally ask ourselves what we’re doing today to honor that legacy. Utah today is not known for its strong advocacy of women, so learning our history is a positive and motivating way to change that.

What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?

Be patient! I graduated from college ready to take on the world and I didn’t realize how much I still needed to learn about the working world. Life is long, and along the way I’ve had such terrific experiences and teachers. But my career hasn’t followed any kind of trajectory I would have ever imagined in my younger years. Half the things I’ve done I didn’t even know existed back then! By being curious and open to risk, and by being honest about my strengths and weaknesses, I’ve been able to get myself to a place where I’m fulfilled and challenged and feel like I’m doing some good. But it’s taken 20 years.

What is your career-related mantra?

I just finished reading the new biography of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court. She has a fabulous line in there that I feel totally sums up what I’ve been trying to do in my career. She said, “For both men and women, the first step to getting power is to become visible to others. And then to put on an impressive show.” I was raised by an opera singer with a highly dramatic flair, and my background in marketing taught me to “put on an impressive show”, so those may be reasons this resonates with me so much. When I read this line, I knew this is what I have been instinctively doing my whole career. It’s my new mantra!

About the author, Brittany

Britt Larsen, Creator and Host of Livlyhood, is a champion of women in the workplace. She created Livlyhood to celebrate working women and to help them find joy in their jobs.

By day, Britt is a Vice President at an award-winning marketing and public affairs firm in Salt Lake City. She loves working with clients to help them refine their message and encourage people to engage civically. By night, Britt runs Livlyhood and freelance writes for several publications, including Verily and Entrepreneur.

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