I’m a CEO: Here’s how I taught my daughter, from a young age, to thrive as a professional

My daughter had a live-in career mentor growing up. I wrote a book for those who don’t.
My daughter had a live-in career mentor growing up. I wrote a book for those who don’t.
Image: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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When my daughter Danielle started her first job out of college, she quickly realized that she somehow knew things her peers didn’t. She knew how to conduct herself in a meeting, how to survive office politics, and how to ask for a raise. Her friends would come to her for advice. It finally occurred to Danielle that she had a developed a competitive advantage because she grew up with a live-in mentor—her mother. She joked that she had a Mom.B.A.

That’s how the idea for my book began, although it took many years before I actually sat down to write it.

The lessons I taught Danielle about business and careers began as early as kindergarten. When she was six years old and wanted to have a sleep over with her best friend Rachel, I made them develop a business case on why they should be allowed to do this and present it to Rachel’s mom and me. When they kept talking after we had agreed, I told them, “don’t sell after the close.”

Danielle and I would play “the interview game” as we drove in the car, and I taught her how to negotiate by taking her to the stores along Canal Street in Manhattan, where haggling is pretty much mandatory. Over coffee at the kitchen table, I’d share my stories about difficult bosses and sales challenges, and by the time she started working, Danielle had amassed a set of business skills that she didn’t even realize she had.

Not everyone, though, grows up with the competitive advantage of having a CEO for a mother.

Most of the lessons I shared with Danielle I learned along the way. My parents didn’t go to college, and they weren’t in a position to teach me how to navigate the professional world. I wanted to be an elementary education teacher until I fell into my career in market research and started my journey as an entry- level project director, taking on positions of increasing responsibility over the course of my career. I was appointed CEO this past March.

Today, Danielle is a very successful business woman in her own right, applying the skills she learned to her business, and even teaching me a few things. I didn’t realize how much I had learned throughout my 30+ year career, not just about business, but about life and balance, until she suggested to me that the lessons I had taught her growing up might be helpful to others.

And so, I started working on Mom.B.A. As soon as I started writing, it became a labor of love.

Reading a book is not quite the same as having a live-in mentor, but I hope that it will make the sort of advice that comes from it more accessible to everybody.

Karyn Schoenbart is the CEO of The NPD Group and the author of MOM.B.A. Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next.