This is a story about my friend, woman and all-around badass, Elizabeth Tabak, but it begins in the cornfields of Illinois where I got a job in the Kinesiology department -- a word I could hardly say let alone define – at the University of Illinois. My job was managing students in a research lab (AKA herding cats) and recruiting participants for diet and exercise studies. I felt highly underqualified especially when I learned our lab performed muscle biopsies, a procedure that entailed removing a chunk of one’s thigh muscle. Some days I’d get so overwhelmed I debated saying ‘screw it’ and walking out the door. In these moments of self-doubt, some might look up to the sky and ask WWJD but I often caught myself thinking one thing, “What would Elizabeth Tabak do?” Despite being four years younger than me she remains one of the best leaders and managers I have ever worked with.
Elizabeth and I worked together when she managed various fitness studios in Los Angeles. She managed trainers, clients (high-maintenance ones at that), scheduling, coordinating partnerships, merchandising and marketing, for multiple locations. It was a serious undertaking and the fact that she could do it all with a genuine smile was beyond me. She’s as impressive as they come and has a wealth of knowledge on what it means to be a successful millennial woman. Today, she manages the long and impatiently awaited Glossier store in West Hollywood which unless you’ve been living under a rock, is the cult beauty brand with products to make your face so dewy you could put a three-month-old baby to shame.
We recently met for lunch in West Hollywood and I asked her about her professional journey and some other fun questions. Here’s what she had to say:
“My only experience has been in start-ups, it’s been controlled and exciting chaos but chaos nonetheless. I was always interested in companies that needed help organizing and I knew that I could really make an impact.
I moved to NYC from LA for a job at Glossier and no offense to Californians but I always found myself feeling, for the most part, like the most ambitious person in the room. I wanted to be challenged. Glossier stood out on many levels - their success, their team, the thoughtfulness of their hiring process - but also because I immediately saw how they would challenge me in ways that I needed to grow as a leader.
If you had asked me straight out of college how I handled being a leader and having difficult conversations you would see I how terrified I was to be “mean”. Now I have more experience and see that the kinds of leaders I respect most are the ones that gave me the most feedback and showed they were invested in my best. I think on the spot feedback, positive and negative, has dramatically changed my leadership style instead of overthinking it or not saying anything at all, because at the end of the day how I handle difficult conversations is a reflection of my work and the kinds of relationships I want in my life.
If I had to pick one of my biggest learning experiences it would be when I was fired from a previous job I thought I put my all into. It was a humbling experience. It gave me the time and tools to reflect and be honest with myself about what I could have done differently. Reflection wasn’t something I ever did, I always moved too fast. Now I take my time. I’m more intentional in the things I do.
Working in a predominantly female company is very empowering. The founder, Emily Weiss, has created an environment that is inclusive, supportive and honestly really fun. Glossier is creating an image of the beauty industry that is accessible, non-intimidating and representative of everyone.
The best thing about being a woman today is getting to work with younger women. In the store, I get to see how girls carry themselves. They are confident and it’s not a fake sense of confidence. They are all shapes, and all colors and sizes and they are just working it, being who they are. You know, I didn’t feel that way about myself when I was 20 and these girls genuinely believe in themselves and it’s amazing and I love that I get to be a part of that every day.”
Q&A Quickie with Elizabeth Tabak
1. What advice would you give your fresh out of college self?
Be confident, make slower decisions, don’t underestimate yourself.
2. Best piece of beauty advice?
3. What blogs do you follow?
4. What industry outside of your current one most interests you?
Consulting. Anything that involves developing teams and team leadership.
5. If you had a boat what would you name it?
Sapphire was the name of our first poodle and as ridiculous as that is I think I would name a boat in memory of her, an ode to my dog…and because it sounds like a big ass boat.
6. If you were a type of beverage what would you be and why?
Aperol Spritz because I’d always be having a good time.
7. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No, it’s a wrap.
8. If you had to get a tattoo what and where would it be?
When I was 16 I was going to get “ET” on my lower butt cheek in Barcelona, but thank god I didn’t do it.
Me: “ET” like the movie?
Elizabeth: No, like my initials but I guess also like the movie too!
9. Screw, marry, kill: Tim Riggins, Coach Taylor, Post Malone.
I think it would be really fun to screw the coach? Obviously, Tim would be my forever and sorry Posty but you gotta go.
10. Worst fad you’ve participated in?
I was really into the matching two-piece outfits. I was getting a little too"California." It’s not that it was the worst fad in the world it was just the worst fad I personally could have participated in. The fringe and the hats, it just didn’t work for me.
*Editor's Note* I found Elizabeth's belief that hotdogs are wraps to be appalling and frightening because they're freakin'sandwiches.