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An Ultimate Career Pivot, Q&A with Heather Staples

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

As General Manager of Seattle’s Impact Hub, the leading coworking and social impact community space located in Pioneer Square, Heather Staples brings her wealth of design, event, hospitality and community experience from her work as COO at Staples Restaurant Group. Heather came through The Swing Shift’s Fall 2018 cohort as she worked to shift careers, and shares her perspective on shifting industries, how the process progressed, and her advice for other folks looking to make a career shift.

Congratulations on your new role! What are you doing?

I’m the General Manager at Impact Hub Seattle, overseeing 40,000 square footage of real estate and a 700 member community, companies and staff running social impact focused events. I heard about the job through a friend of a friend, inquired, interviewed and here we are.

That sounds simple! What did it take to get there?

I wish it was that easy! After many years at the same company, I was ready for a change. However, I really struggled with how to make those first steps. Kate Neidigh, who handles our PR and has worked with The Swing Shift, referred me to the company. Together with their team, I started down this new path.

You had a great gig as COO at Staples Restaurant Group. What precipitated the change?

Running a family owned business was fantastic when my husband and I were raising our kids. Now that the kids are in high school and college, I have more flexibility in terms of my time. And, I was itchy to extend my design skill set and try something new.

How did you decide on focusing on coworking? It’s a big change from restaurants.

I did an assessment of past roles that I held, and shared my findings with my Swing Shift cohort. It turns out, while I absolutely love hospitality, I’m happiest and most effective using my design and management skills. The design and physical room flow emerged as the things that I loved doing, so real estate was on my radar. And the current real estate boom in coworking spaces presented a ton of great informational interviews and opportunities. As I investigated those roles, it quickly became clear that all my hospitality, design, event and management skills were pertinent and transferable.

What was the hardest part of making this move?

At first I didn’t think I could make the switch! Even though I had an enormous amount of experience designing, opening and managing restaurants and event spaces for Staples Restaurant Group, as well as roles at Garden Botanika, Callison Architecture and Starbucks, I hesitated to pursue senior roles – I felt siloed in my operations job. Also, after many years at the same company, interviewing was totally nerve-wracking. My very first informational was discouraging at best. And interviewing is just hard. You really have to prep and practice.

What’s your advice for other career shifters who are considering making a career move like yours?

Work your personal network. I met weekly with a group I met through The Swing Shift, and we shared contacts, ideas and networks. As a result, 2 of us are in new roles, we’re waiting with baited breath as a 3rd member heads into final interviews, and 2 more are actively interviewing. Community really works here! Also, do your homework regarding your next role. You really want to know industry trends, and who the movers and shakers are, and what they are doing.

Feeling stuck? Check out The Swing Shift’s programming and consults. Our upcoming Career Catalyst program that Heather attended starts April 24th!

We’re dedicated to moving you to your next career stage.


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