Mara Lecocq is an ambitious leader who knows how to get things done. After leaving advertising agency AKQA last year, where she was the Creative Director, she started Secret Code, an innovative children’s book that stars YOUR girl as a tech hero. Oh, and she’s also a GirlBoss contributor. We were lucky enough to catch up with her about what she’s learned from her illustrious creative endeavors, her tips on working independently, and why making a difference is her first priority.
You’re introducing yourself to someone at a party. What do you say when they ask what you do?
“Oh no, not that question! Why don’t I ask you this: what was YOUR first internet handle?”
How would you articulate your personal brand story? What’s the headline?
Trying to do stuff that matters. Emphasis on “trying” because it’s not an easy journey, and it’s super pompous to have that as a headline. But I do gravitate towards that. I’m constantly haunted by the problems on this planet, and want to contribute to fixing them in any means I can. I don’t care about earning big bucks if it makes me want to shoot myself for being a corporate slave. I think our world is obsessed with money and titles, and we’re brainwashed to think it’s almost all that matters.
That being said, I’m only in my 30s. Who knows, maybe in my 40s I’ll be like, “I need a yacht asap.” But I’m also lucid with how our minds progress as we age, and we start thinking about our kids’ futures and all that grownup stuff. Honestly, who knows.
What’s your favorite location to work from, or where are you most productive?
Anywhere but at home. It’s really hard to stay focused when you’re trying to make your home a decent place to live in for your partner and yourself. I happen to have an amazing and very clean husband who does everything if I don’t. And right now the balance isn’t great. I tend to want to work until I drop, and ignore everything around me (basically, the house is in a mess). So being far from home is best so I don’t feel guilty of not cleaning up. That sounds like a horrible answer, but a productive one!
What are some of your best and worst work habits?
Best: I’m really good at getting going and ignoring all the potential obstacles that can paralyze the progress of a project. People are like, “But…what if this happens? Have you considered this? You should be careful with this,” and I’m like, “Naaah…And, if it happens, it will be an amazing lesson!” *Grin*
Worst: I can get sidetracked by random people’s opinions. This is a huge flaw that many would be embarrassed to admit but I’ll just consider this as therapy. I respect people’s opinions a lot, because I respect everyone’s diverse experiences. But at some point you just need to trust your gut and not care about making the mistakes people are warning you against, because listening to everyone can give you a lot of doubt—and make you less productive. Plus, wanting to do something that pleases everyone is counterproductive. It just makes no one care at the end of the day. It’s a delicate balance to strike: trying to be effective but not (too) offensive.
What’s the biggest perk of working independently? What’s the hardest part?
Biggest: Freedom feels obviously amazing.
Hardest: Not to be around people. I’m an introvert who needs alone time to recharge, but I also miss the energy of others. Having people who tell you about their own projects is really inspiring. And swapping opinions and helping each other out also makes your work move forward faster. I’ve often spent days and weeks noodling something that just took a conversation to solve.
Is there a ‘dream gig’ that would make you give up what you’re doing now?
If I was offered a job that was helping the world become a better place, like work for the government, education, social justice…I’d be all over that 9 to 5.
What’s one “hustler hack” that you’ve perfected?
Shut down your email while you work. Put your phone in another room. Interruptions are why you end your days exhausted, with thoughts like, “What the hell did I do today?”
What’s one tool or utility that you couldn’t live without?
I’ve recently discovered Airmail. It’s like, where have you been all my life?! It has all my emails in one program but it’s better than Outlook because you can label emails, and not be forced into putting them in folders. I also appreciate the design and UX details. Airmail looks like it’s been made by a team who cares.
In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait that one must have to find success as an entrepreneur?
Resilience. I’ve heard this said several times by successful startup founders: “Successful startups outwork their competitors.” It sounds depressing, but I think it’s true. In an age of mass democratization of tools, there’s going to be mass competition. You just need to keep going and continue believing in yourself. That’s the hard part. Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes you’re like “This is the most amazing feeling in the universe,” and the next day, you’re like “This project blows. No one cares. Why don’t I go back to the easy life with health insurance and a bi-monthly paycheck?”
Just keep going. And surround yourself with people who believe in you. Because negative people do affect your morale—and your business.
Want to see Mara Lecocq’s current hustle? Check out her latest project, Secret Code: