Keri Laine in Red

My Fast Laine

January 20, 20239 min read



Two measures of success I believe in and hold dear, but so hard to measure, and even harder to achieve.

 I’ve had a tremendous run in the corporate/entrepreneurial world, I’ve learned so much and met so many incredible people. I’ve seen organizations fly high against the wind and fall down from massive unrecoverable gusts. Leaders and teams, the same. 

I’ve been front row with popcorn for 3 companies who went public, and through 25+ mergers and acquisitions. I have taught MBA students, bachelor level students, and learned just as much from them as I hope they did from me. 

I earned my degrees while planning a wedding, and having my first child. I earned my first 6 figure promotion through raising an infant, flying across the country and back in the same day to not miss a beat in my role, or “too much” time with my 7 week old. Standard at the time. 

I reached C level before 40, while raising a 3 and 5 year old, during the beginning of a divorce.  

I learned how to navigate the C suite that first year while also realizing what it meant to be a single working Mom. The only single parent on the team. I learned what it felt like to not use that as an excuse, to not ever showcase it, and how little it mattered compared to “results” anyway. My kids were so young. So was the company. Both had to be nurtured, raised, cared for, protected, and built to survive. I loved them equally, in different ways.

2 months into that role, my father passed away. I didn’t miss a day of work. I felt the pain and impact of not giving myself more time over a year later. That is where I learned taking a breath is often disregarded, so necessary, and how pain is so easy to burry in the name of focus. 

I’ve traveled the world, feverishly pounding away on a computer for 10 hour flights, keeping up business affairs across and sleep/wake schedules across multiple time zones. I’ve had 3am calls with other countries, meetings that last 48 hours with no sleep. Weekends and holidays blown to attend board meetings or prep for some kind of other meeting. I’ve woken up countless times not knowing upon opening my eyes what city I am in, time zone it is, day it is, or agenda I have to face because every week, it was different. I lived with rotating suitcases, one packed at the door, one being packed for the next trip after that, and one needing to be emptied. My Oura ring often reminded me, my average night sleep was 3-4 hours. My new year’s resolution to go to bed before midnight has been a trailing one. 

I’ve never missed a flight. Or a “first” anything for the boys. 

I tried to make breakfast and dinners a family affair, but spent many of them rushing in the car heels in hand, messages dinging, the phone ringing, a chorus of “Mom! Mom! Mom!” escalating, while the waffles popped from the toaster and I piled kids, their backpacks, my suitcase in the car …. already late, only to have the gas light turn on. Tank empty. We blared our favorite morning songs and sang top of our lungs on the way to the gas station in spite of all expectations we wouldn’t meet, including the morning bell and that one meeting. Sieze the day, and the reality. I learned what was important in the midst of chaos, what could wait, and what couldn’t. An empty gas tank was a definitive stop. The rest, our choice how we handle it. 

I’ve also paused many songs to take calls, where my kids recognize colleague voices and the colleagues recognize theirs. A collide, or beautiful cohesion, or co-mingling priorities…. Yes to all. Work life balance isn’t balanced… it’s all one total weight, one bag of all the things, shaken up and poured out into every day dealings. 

I’ve benefited from gazillion travel points and all the statuses, had wonderful meals with some of the most fascinating and influential people in business. I’ve built and broken down teams, and whole businesses. I’ve hired, and fired, dozens of C-level execs. Two of which I knew personally and called close friends, which made those final discussions gut wrenching. I reached my 1,000th person employee layoff threshold more than 5 years ago, I remember crying myself to sleep, then vowed to stop counting because it was too overwhelming…. And yet still remember every single one. 

I’ve been hated, feared, avoided, ignored, cursed at, sent hate mail, and hired 24/7 security after, sometimes undercover and others overt… (the Black Panther death threat ordeal and full guns out security patrol walking through cubes for 2 weeks comes to mind). That was interesting, yet I don’t blame any one of them for their response. I also learned to treat people with the most dignity in the worst delivery of news, what escalates and how to de-escalate… and one time had a 5 star Glass Door review for delivering an “incredibly humane termination, the best!” Who knew that could even happen. 

I’ve seen all sides of employment lawsuits, at one point carrying 14 at time, from sexual harassment to discrimination to ADA to death benefit retrieval. I’ve learned there’s multiple sides to every story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle, and never to assume or judge without unwaivering evidence. I’ve also learned how to find that truth out of protection for every party involved. I have been in depositions that made my ears red with anger, and held investigations that made my cheeks flush with the absolute most embarrassing, ridiculous, yet required, line of questioning. 

I’ve seen corrupt business, leaders, situations, and walked from it all. I’ve also stood firm against it all, unwavering, because it was the right choice and I didn’t care about the risk. Integrity, honesty, and truth always prevail. I’ve also seen desperate heart wrenching attempts to make something right work, leaned in relentlessly, and watched it succeed when no one thought it would…. then shared tissues when it actually did. 

I have seen terrible employees become super stars. I have experienced some of my employees and some of my own leaders become the best kind of lifelong friends. 

I’ve volunteered hours and hours to learn, pilot ideas, grow my network, and experience the swell inside that comes from giving back. I have served on many boards, and grew Working Moms Work Together with a fantastic team of volunteers to a global platform with 7k members over the last 8 years, all starting from the need I had for support when my first was born and not finding any resources. They have done more to get me through all of this than I ever imagined when it was formed. 

I’ve experienced the climb and skinned knees to the top, and validated how lonely it can be there. I’ve built massive HR teams from the ground up, and programs that were featured in the Wall Street Journal because of their abilities. I’ve had the honor to be witness to hundreds and hundreds of promotions, thousands and thousands of job offers. For 20 years, I have sent flowers for company babies, weddings, surgeries, graduations, birthdays, and funerals. 

I’ve been the only female executive in an entire industry, on a team, in a room, at a client. I’ve been judged, gawked at, propositioned, accused of using my looks to gain status, role, compensation. I’ve also always been the youngest. Turned down for countless opportunities both being female, and too young. I’ve been told “good thing you are smart because I got a lot of flack hiring you just because of how you look,” on the heels of being offered a raise. Erm, thanks?! But really, you’re welcome. 

I’ve blown all the glass ceilings in primarily male dominated industries and broken the “good ole boys club” code. I’ve never baked for a pot luck, I wore pant suits to be “unseen” early on and then raging colorful stilettos once I reached the point of not caring what the club thought because I knew what I brought was needed and seen more than a wardrobe or a gender. I have thanked the many women before me, alongside me, as well as lifted many after me to do the same. We’ve all stuck together. Minus those who didn’t help lift crowns when they tipped over…. we wished those kind well, but moved on without them. 

I have also had to learn how to own my own beginnings. To not be afraid to share some of the weaker moments. To understand those moments have become part of my story, my strength. The most pivotal being my choice – which I have only shared with a small few – the one to drop out of high school in 10th grade. 

I hated it, didn’t fit in, had mediocre grades, and took an alternative diploma choice at the adult high school program offered at night, which paved the way to start working full time. That experience years later turned somehow. I didn’t just find my way. I became President of the international honors society in college, and eventually became a professor teaching graduate students. The uncertainty from each point, wild with curves, dead ends, blind spots and freeways ….. that made quite the trip. It is a period of life I will always treasure with wonder, a “secret” I spent years ashamed of and scared to admit.  

It is also where I learned that my two biggest mentors and unconditional supporters were my parents. 

With that choice, hard as it may have been for them to support, they did. I learned to be accountable for my decisions, that I needed to know with clarity what I wanted, why, and to have a plan for where I was headed because nowhere was not an option. I learned how to make my own path, find the way forward, ignore judgment, focus on what mattered most, brave the unconventional and non traditional, work extremely hard to prove I had what it took (to myself and others), walk straight into the unknown and come out scathed, but thriving. 

As I reflect, all of this history matters more than I ever realized it would. 

Over the last year as I transitioned out of corporate life, I look back in tearful awe. 

So. Many. Moments. 



I’ll be taking all of this with me on the next journey that has been a dream decades in the making….

My own firm, built on the foundation of these experiences plus so much more. 

Finally a reality. 



Two goals I have had since before I knew exactly what it would take to earn them, or where they would take me. 

It’s here. 

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Keri Laine, MHR, CMS

Keri has held C-level roles in various size organizations, public and private. In the past fifteen years, she has specialized in helping technology, manufacturing, and engineering companies disrupt their sector with entrepreneurial, innovative success across the globe. Keri has led organizations through employee growth of 100 to 4,000, both public and private with revenue stages from $40m to $5.6b. She has facilitated 27 mergers and acquisitions globally, spearheading the talent and human capital perspective as well as the business integration, strategic planning, internal communication, and change management. She is a former global Chief level Executive that has taken three organizations public. Keri is a keynote speaker and author. Keri earned her undergraduate degree with a focus on Organizational Behavior from the prestigious Rollins College, where she also earned her Masters Degree in Human Capital Management, and now teaches Graduate level coursework related to strategy, planning, talent optimization, culture building, and more. She is also certified in Change Management, and is a Certified Executive Leadership Development Coach who has coached more than 200 of the top executives and entrepreneurs.

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