To honor Black History Month this February, Noodle is celebrating a number of our Black colleagues in a series of “Profiles in Diversity.” We are incredibly grateful to our colleagues who have shared their stories with us here. We hope they inspire you like they inspire us.
Noodle General Counsel Laura S. Hertzog leads us in Noodle’s mission to lower the cost of education, enrich our culture, and catalyze change in higher education. Laura brings more than 25 years of experience in higher education, litigation, and work with both public and private entities to Noodle. At one time she served as Special Counsel to the President and Dean of Faculty and Staff Relations at Hunter College, the largest college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, where she had previously served as Dean for Diversity and Compliance and Special Assistant to the President for Campus Relations. Hertzog’s many achievements include being selected by Diversity MBA Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Under 50 Emerging Leaders in the Fields of Diversity & Inclusion.”
Meet General Counsel Laura S. Hertzog
What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?
More than almost anything else, I would say kindness. If you’re actually going to be great, then you should be thinking about something more than just yourself. And kindness is an underestimated element of greatness. Of course, great leaders are also distinguished by their vision, agility, and their adaptability to the unexpected. Finally, I would say humility, an ability to laugh at yourself.
When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind, and why?
For me it was my first real boss, the judge that I clerked for: Mary Johnson Lowe, one of only 2 African American women judges in the federal trial court of the Southern District of New York. She was a brilliant lawyer and a very fair judge, and she also worked hard to be a good teacher to her clerks.
How has your personal leadership style evolved?
I am by nature a profoundly impatient person, so that is something that I was very conscious of having to learn to manage internally. It’s all right, of course, to have high expectations, but it’s not reasonable to always be impatient. Good leaders are good teachers, and you can’t be a good teacher if you are always impatient.
What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle?
I like to joke that I can get bored easily, and so have held a number of quite different jobs. As a result, I have a varied background, which has enabled me to take on very different tasks here at Noodle. In my career, this is now my fourth job where I am the first person to hold the position. That always makes it an interesting challenge for me because, as the first one to hold a position, I am often called on to help define it.
How do you build momentum as a leader among diverse stakeholders at Noodle?
Quite simply, I believe that as you keep your long-term goals in mind, to build momentum you must be sure to celebrate the short-term wins and give credit where it’s due.
How do you support the success of your team?
Wherever I can, I check in with my people to make sure they feel that they’re growing. When I was at Hunter College, I had a team of lawyers. My approach to helping each of them grow was to make sure that everybody learned how to do every aspect of the job, not just their own area of focus. To support the success of your team you must concentrate on what the team members need from you, as well as what you need from them.
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences.
One of my most important mentors was a partner at a law firm where I once worked. He was demographically and politically completely different from me, thoughtful and considerate, and we were able to be very candid with each other about our different perspectives. Hearing him express how he saw things was very instructive. It helped me to analyze and think about things in a much broader way.
I also love to travel and know a few different languages – at least enough to get by in my travels – and that has enriched my life. Truly listening and considering others’ viewpoints in their own languages can make you question some of the things that you had assumed to be true.
What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?
My most effective toolis patience with different work styles and modes of expression. Another effective tool is the fact that I consistently promote and highlight the accomplishments of my people not only to others but to themselves, as well.
Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
Until last year, the longest time period in my life that I had gone without being on a plane was six months. I was born in Germany because my father, at the time, was in the military. As a child, I visited several other countries in Europe before I first came to the United States. I’ve since continued travelling around the world and have now been to about 40 different countries and the same number of US states.