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A Culture of Care

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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Alumnae News February 24, 2020

Coaching Women on Living Their Best Lives

Helen Krug von Nidda 90
Photograph by David Noles

Over her 20-year career in human resources, Helen Krug von Nidda ’90 has increasingly seen the need for better strategies and resources for women to manage their ​​personal and professional lives. That’s why she founded Rise Collective, a New York City–based boutique coaching and training business. “I saw a need to support women in their quest for a more fulfilling life,” she says, “and I also realized that a lot of women were lacking the tools and support to identify next steps.”

Helen Krug von Nidda ’90 has held senior positions in human resources for a number of international organizations, most recently as HR strategic partner at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP). Here, Krug von Nidda talks about her hopes for her coaching practice, what she has learned through her professional life about the needs of women in the workplace and how she transitioned from working for an organization to working for herself.

RISE COLLECTIVE COACHES AND TRAINS WOMEN in career and/or life transitions; that is, women who are either looking to change or pivot careers, returning to work after a long absence or simply exploring next professional horizons. Rise Collective also works with organizations to support team and leadership growth. 

BEING INTERESTED IN COACHING AND PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL GROWTH, two years ago I decided to pursue a doctorate in adult learning at Columbia University. Having immersed myself in human resources—primarily recruitment, learning and development and talent management—I wanted to deepen my knowledge of adult learning and leadership principles. The program emphasizes transformative learning and development for adult and organizational change in many different settings. I was immediately hooked and it sparked my decision to start my own coaching practice.

ONCE I HAD IDENTIFIED WHAT I WANTED TO DO, it was a question of figuring out what my practice would look like. I was fortunate to have an incredible circle of international female friends with whom I was able to brainstorm, and my spouse was an incredibly supportive and thought-provoking sounding board. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a network of people supporting new uncharted ambitions. I did my research and lots of homework.

THERE ARE ALREADY COACHES DOING A LOT OF WORK WITH WOMEN ON SELF-ESTEEM, professional growth and leadership development, but it’s still not enough. I have seen few coaching businesses that cater to women from diverse cultural backgrounds who have navigated the international development, humanitarian world. Also, I have witnessed little crossover between women from the private sector and women in the humanitarian world. How can we learn from each other from these different professional paths?

A COACH CAN GUIDE YOU WHETHER YOU ARE COMPLETELY STUCK OR KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. It’s like a sports coach. Athletes have coaches to propel them to the next level. No one can do it alone. How do you find a coach who is right for you? Make sure you choose a certified coach; however, the single most important aspect is the coaching relationship. All coaches offer a complimentary coaching session, so you should try a coach on for size as they all have a different approach. Whom you choose will boil down to the chemistry you have with the coach and your goals.

I ASK PEOPLE WHO ARE STUCK IN THEIR CAREER, “ARE YOU PREPARED TO INVEST IN YOURSELF?” Often, people who say they are stuck don’t give themselves a space to get off the hamster wheel. You need to do some personal homework, take stock of your values, beliefs and skills. I’ve asked people to talk about what they want to experience for themselves in the next year or two—not what they want to do because that often makes you think about an action, but what do you hope to experience? For instance, you may want to experience what it’s like to be a chef. Exploring these types of questions can be quite enriching. 

AS A SPEAKER AT THE SMITH WOMEN IN BUSINESS SUMMIT, I would like to see a few points explored: I think women like ourselves, who have had the privilege of an education need to continue exploring ways to pay it forward wherever possible. I also think there’s a little bit of the Queen Bee phenomenon that goes on where women at times tend to hold on to their own throne—we need to be better advocates and sponsors for each other.

I LOVED MY TIME AS A THEATRE MAJOR AT SMITH. It was a transformative experience on so many levels. I learned about the power of expression and the strength of connection. Smith gave me license to be and filled me with courage. Most importantly, it gave me lifelong friends. I have been very blessed to be in the company of incredible women both personally and professionally. Our interactions and stories form a huge part of who I am today.