I’m Lori Niles-Hofmann and I’m 45. I grew up north of Toronto. Now I live in Toronto with my husband but I spend about 40% or more time outside of the country. I have been doing EdTech strategy within global companies for 20+ years mostly in banking and management consulting and in the last year and a half, I’ve pivoted to doing it independently, working with clients in Spain and the UK. My life partner is German so we’re back and forth between Toronto and Germany visiting his family who still lives there. We don’t have kids and that’s been defining for us in term of career and life. So we’re at a different stage. We decided not to pursue aggressive fertility treatments in favour of adoption and that didn’t go so well. We were trying for about 5 years. We were looking at older children but there are a lot of problems with the system. For a few years, I advocated for better oversight of OACAS (Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies) and sat on the board for Adopt for Life; it’s a secular organization that helps families navigate the process. I advocated both provincially and federally for equal maternity leave for adoptive parents. You lose 4 months. Also, we work provincially advocating for children and their rights in the system and the Children’s Aid process. I challenged a lot of Children’s Aid which I don’t regret. I’ve done newspaper articles, blogged, and tried my hardest to change the system.
What would you say has been the biggest shift after turning 40?
I think it was realizing I wasn’t going to be a mom. And to say, so what now? What will life be? The default is automatically career but I realized it’s also relationships, the relationship with my husband, parents, and friends, all changed because of that. It’s also when I decided to double down on what I wanted to do and not feel guilty about that. For example, it means taking the trips we wanted to take. Being comfortable sleeping in on a Sunday. Structuring my life in a different way and not feeling as though I should be comparing myself to my friends who I know aren’t doing that. Relationships with women do change when you’re not a mom. And there is judgment especially in the workplace when you’re not a mother. When people don’t know the story, they make an assumption that you’re pure career, heartless, lacking nurturing, and that’s why you’re not a mother. Even from other women I get it, that they feel I haven’t put in my dues because I haven’t had to leave early to go to a school play or a pass up a big meeting to pick up a kid who is sick. Or they think I will be unsympathetic to them which is the exact opposite of what’s true.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I feel most powerful when I’m helping companies transform their employees. I am a firm believer and I see this all the time, upscaling is the difference between staying employed and being let go. I’m very passionate about helping companies get those people where they need to be. That’s the real core of why I do what I do. Helping people stay employable. Companies are cutting massively and it affects the ones who are considered more disposable. Front line jobs are being impacted by automation and those people have kids to take care of.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
- Family and chosen family. One thing I know from going through the whole adoption miasma, blood is not family. I am estranged from my sister (by choice), but I have a sister from another mister and I’m aunt to her children.
- Purpose. Whatever that purpose is and it shifts but that’s okay but I can’t live a purposeless life.
- Travel with my husband. Seeing other countries and how people live.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
My stomach will tell me. Always. If I get that little bit of nausea or that kick, it’s a sense check. I’m also fortunate that my business partner in Madrid and I were really clear about our ethics and what’s important to us and we’ve passed up bids on projects because they weren’t aligned ethically. You have to love what you do.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
- I do a lot of mentoring of both women and men because I think it’s important for men to experience being mentored by a woman.
- Both my husband and I are very committed to taking care of our health.
- I’m an honorary auntie to a number of different kids around the world and I want to be in a position to help them do what they want to do.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
If you’re changing careers, I say, jump. It’s never going to be the right time. It is never going to be perfect. Things are going to happen to you. Bad things. And that’s okay. You can’t predict or prevent. From a purely practical standpoint, put away 20% of your salary now. Give yourself the runway. Now is the time to ask for favours and advice from your network. If you don’t have a network, choose them, and ask. Find them on LinkedIn or anywhere that you can because you’re going to need them.
From a life point of view, it’s about saying yes to more things than you normally would but also about being true to yourself. When you make a big change you can get wrapped up in it and you can lose sight of the other things you need in your life. Like your spouse for example. And you have to make those things a priority too. After we realized we weren’t having kids I changed my life. I had been staying in a job I didn’t love because I had to demonstrate steady income. So as soon as that door was closed I made the leap. There was relief and grief and it’s okay to have both but you have to choose which one you want to run with.