Lydia Kearney Carlis is the Chief Eyemagination Officer at her company, Eeyemagination Enterprises, LLC. She is an extraordinary educator and photographer who has photographed C-Suite executives around the company, including me! Dr. Lydia is also the official photographer for the Flourish Leadership Conference for Women.
Lydia earned her Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Howard University, her Master’s degree in Bilingual Special Education from The George Washington University, and her PhD in Special Education from University of Maryland, College Park.
Since we both highly value education, I’d like to start by learning about your experiences with education. Tell us about your educational background.
“I was a horrible student as an undergrad! I had not learned to study before college, and I chose a subject I was naturally good at but not at all interested in. This taught me two things: first, that my work ethic and integrity will get me further than my natural ability, every time, and second, that it is a lot more fun to work hard on things you enjoy! Find what you love and put in the work. It will pay off eventually.”
Both are valuable lessons that require ambition! What does ambition mean to you? What role has it played in your life?
“In my thirties, I’ve built a career and begun a business. I started and completed a PhD program while working full-time and attending most of my daughter’s soccer games. As I’ve thrived, I’ve had to go through some challenges as well. Having it ‘all’ is possible, but not usually at the same time.”
“Supporting my staff, studying for my doctoral program, and being there for my daughter meant less time and attention for other activities I enjoyed. I eventually had to put weekly lunch dates on the calendar with my husband to ensure we had some time to nurture our relationship. I also gave less time to health and wellness as I focused so intently on my education, career, and family.”
“Figuring out how to balance thriving both personally and professionally has been a huge challenge! I recently turned 40, and this year I plan to make peace my primary pursuit. I don’t know what that entails just yet; it’s not something I’ve actively worked toward before, but it is my goal, so I am going to do some research, create an attainable and sustainable plan, and get to work. God’s word says His desire for us is to prosper – financially, physically and mentally, and in our souls.”
Jesus said ‘Beloved, I wish above all things that you would prosper and be of good health, even as your soul prospers.’ This year, I’m getting ambitious about peace!”
Allowing room for your definition of ambition to change as you grow is fantastic. Tell us about your career and your company – Eyemagination Enterprises, LLC.
“I am a DC-based education-researcher and photographer who loves to travel for work and pleasure. My work in education focuses on ensuring educational equity for students most at risk when schools fail them, and my photography highlights the opportunities afforded through effort and educational excellence. I am especially passionate about capturing women executives, entrepreneurs, and creatives.”
“I am also launching a nonprofit, Eyemagination Foundation, that will fund practicing educators from low-prestige minority backgrounds to do service learning in developing countries with low-performing school systems. As we continue the push toward a global society, we must remember the opportunity-gap for many educators of color when it comes to international travel. It is more challenging for schools to develop ‘global citizens’ when no one in the classroom has experience outside his or her own city or town.”
“I am so blessed to be able to fuel my analytic and creative passions in my daily work! I’ve been working on my business for two years now, and I am thrilled to be starting my forties doing this work!”
This is thrilling! What fuels your motivation?
“I have always been motivated toward social justice. I’m always in the corner of the ‘underdog’, those we put at risk and oppress by unfair practices, policies, and systems. My education work focuses on the children who are most at risk when schools fail them. In the United States, these are black and brown children, children living in poverty, and children whose families speak a language other than English at home. With photography, I prioritize helping women leaders show up as their best selves in our global marketplace.”
Your work is inspiring. What have you accomplished, created or built that makes you the most proud?
“I’m honestly most proud of developing a team of people who collaborated, cooperated, and debated our way to an instructional model that is helping thousands of children each year to close the achievement gap before kindergarten. The product is a result of the people, and the synergy that came from their great minds creating something that was greater than the sum of any individual partner in the work. I use my learnings from the experience in my work daily!”
Collaborating with individuals whom you respect is a great way to building confidence in yourself and your work. Have you ever struggled with confidence?
“I am a shy person, so I always struggle with entry into groups, and sometimes even entry into a one-on-one conversation. I don’t think I lack confidence, though. I am also someone who gets nervous before a confrontation or argument, but I don’t lack the courage to have the tough conversation anyway. I think that growing up in my extended family, where children were listened to and a good debate was just as fun as a game of dominoes or spades, helped me to understand the value of hearing and discussing different viewpoints.”
“Growing up in the deep south, where even legal segregation was just one generation removed from my experience, I understood that doing nothing is not a choice I can make for myself, because I would ultimately be imposing the consequences of that choice on future generations.”
Great point. People sometimes forget that inaction is a consequential as action. Tell us about one of the toughest things you have had to do in your professional life and what you’ve learned from it.
“One of the toughest things I had to do was leave the comfort and security of my nonprofit role for the excitement and uncertainty of solopreneurship. I’ve learned that relationships are just as important to your success as the hard work and integrity I spoke about in a previous response. I’ve learned to value and guard my time, unapologetically. And, I’ve learned the importance of down time, but not too much.”
Transitioning from employment to entrepreneurship is certainly a journey – managing cashflow is critically imporant to this process. What have you found helpful in managing your cashflow?
“As soon as you start one contract, you should be sure to leave enough time in your schedule to be actively sourcing the next one. Also, I think that entrepreneurs should, to the maximum extent possible, move from being paid for time to being paid for deliverables. Step away from the timesheets, people!”
Such thoughtful answers. Now, I have a slightly silly question: what’s your favorite word and why? Feel free to share your favorite curse-word. 🙂
“My favorite word is ‘foolishness.’ My parents didn’t curse, at least not that I’ve ever heard, so the closest I heard was when my dad would describe someone or something as ‘foolishness’. Said properly, it can cut better than any curse word I’ve ever heard!”
‘Foolishness,’ I love it! What’s coming up that you want our readers to know about?
“I hope all of us who are concerned about the future of our country will be active, vocal participants in our democracy in whichever ways are meaningful and sustainable to them. I pray we will teach our children the many lessons to be learned from this last election, galvanize, organize, and sustain.”
How can our readers keep up with you?
“I’d love to have readers visit my education website at www.eyemaginED.com and follow me on Twitter @eyemaginED to see what I’m up to, and even find ways to partner on meaningful new education projects! They can connect with me via email at Lydia@eyemaginED.com.
And, please follow my photography on the web at www.eyemaginationimaging.com!
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @eyemaginationimaging and @csuitepics!
You can also read monthly C-Suite Pics interviews of amazing female leaders on my Huffington Post blog
As always in our MogulMoxie® Maven interviews, Dr. Lydia’s life story is filled with golden nuggets. Here are a few key lessons from her journey that you can implement into your personal and professional life, starting today:
• Leave time in your work-schedule to find your next opportunity. Dr. Lydia says, “As soon as you start one contract, you should be sure to leave enough time in your schedule to be actively sourcing the next one.”
• Stay vocal about the issues that matter to you. Dr. Lydia shares that she cannot be silent, “because [she] would ultimately be imposing the consequences of that choice on future generations.”
Now that you’ve been inspired by our MogulMoxie® Maven – it’s your time. What are you going to do differently in your own life or business? We want to hear about it!”