Kimberly Gladis & CorePerformX Advisory Group
Wonder Woman 'Unplugged'


It was June 17, 2010, sometime after 9:30 p.m., but Kim had long since lost track of the time. Kim and one of her faithful employees remained at the office working diligently on the final deliverable for a large strategy project they had been working on for months. Kim was tired to the bone and the bags under her eyes confirmed that story.  She had been holding on for weeks to ensure the promotion of this very employee, and she was determined to hold on until she could be certain it went through. She didn’t want anything to come between her employee and the well-deserved promotion. When she finally arrived home long after sundown, she dropped her bags by the front door, kicked off her designer and fashionably uncomfortable high heels, and plopped in front of her computer to type the letter. She awoke at 4:30 a.m. the next day as usual, but this morning was different—she was actually eager to get to the office. With a kick in her step, she dropped the letter on her boss’s desk, and then it was done—she had resigned.


It was a brisk day when she got dressed for school. October 31st was always a favorite, especially for 8 year olds, because it meant it was the day of the elementary school Halloween Parade. Kim pulled on her white wool tights and then her costume­—Wonder Woman. This costume was different though, it was a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos, which are really meant for wearing under clothes and not meant for challenging the October weather, but Kim was determined to transform into the dazzling superhero and march around the cement pathway that encircled the school. Kim felt the whole world was ahead of her. And so it began…Kim embarked on a lifelong quest to become…Wonder Woman.

As a child, Kim studied hard, got good grades, stayed on the honor roll, played soccer and tennis, ran track, tried gymnastics (‘tried’ being the operative word), took ballet and piano lessons, dabbled with the flute and clarinet, worked on the school newspaper, managed the varsity basketball team, participated in school clubs, and so forth.  This continued through college, with (naturally) an increased focus on the more social activities. And every summer break when her friends were waitressing at the beach, Kim secured quality internships at places like NASA and the FBI that would advance her post-college resume.

And then? Without skipping a beat, Kim was handed her diploma and dove headfirst into the world of gainful employment, thereby launching the second chapter of her quest.  Early on, Kim found it easy to throw all of her physical, mental and emotional energy into the workplace and her colleagues. The lines between her personal and professional identities began to blur as she began defining her personal success based on her professional accomplishments. She quickly ascended the ladder in her industry and won numerous awards. However, over time, she sacrificed more and more of herself for the professional betterment.  She continued receiving those seemingly fulfilling external rewards— titles, money, stock options, window offices—which fueled a continued commitment (aka sacrifice). While the rewards increased at work, the personal sacrifices continued, yet Kim focused acutely on continuing the seemingly never-ending climb up the proverbial corporate ladder. 

Luckily, Kim was working for a great startup company at the time and had developed good friendships with her colleagues. With her personal and professional identifies again comingled, she began dating a colleague and they married in 2005. However, her priorities continued to be misplaced, focusing on her professional success and disregarding her personal instincts. Shortly after getting married Kim found out she was pregnant, and that is when her personal transformation started. 

Throughout pregnancy, Kim received lessons in relinquishing control, realizing her life no longer seemed to fit into a perfectly constructed algorithm. Even at five months pregnant she launched into a position at a new company, thinking not even pregnancy could halt her quest. However, her unborn child had a different idea, sending Kim a message that she better slow down because it wasn’t just her life she was impacting. After two days at NYU hospital, Kim was sent home with the worst fate any Wonder Woman apprentice could imagine—Bed Rest. After getting more rest in a month than she’d had in years and giving birth to her amazing son, Kim managed to resume her superhuman activities, securing a high-level job back home near her family, which she realized she desperately needed. While simultaneously managing the move, job transitions, nanny search, and baby, Kim was tackling an all-consuming corporate position where she had been asked to transform the operational infrastructure. Her dizzying schedule required her to live off a diet of cortisol and adrenaline and, by that point, coffee became a daily requirement. Over the following year, Kim became increasingly frustrated, feeling as if she had lost herself, not knowing who she was or what she wanted. Her marriage eventually came to an end, and she was then faced with the daunting task of maintaining that Wonder Woman façade coupled with a new role—single mom.

Over the next year or two the demands at work became increasingly pressured, and Kim struggled to find a workable solution in her position. Going to work every day became increasingly difficult as she felt the energy being drained from her body, coming home each night feeling like a wet dishrag with no energy left to actively engage with her lively toddler. The financial security of the position made it difficult to walk away; the Golden Handcuffs had her bound. But the quote from Hellen Keller resonated somewhere deep inside. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

That’s when Kim joined an amazing group of Young Business Leaders in the area. They assembled monthly to hear from other company leaders and discuss their professional challenges and successes.  These individuals became the role models Kim desperately needed to open her eyes and truly see her situation, and they provided her with a penalty-free environment in which to explore the future possibilities.  As a result of those interactions, Kim ultimately concluded that she needed to step off the corporate ladder, or maybe jump. And with that, Kim peeled off her Wonder Woman armor and set out to build her own company with a fundamentally different mindset—a decision to move toward a balance between work and play.

Today, Kim is no longer the frazzled business mom running into her son’s daycare facility in her high heels, trying to make the drop and get to work in time for her first of a dozen meetings. She’s now the mom who sits down at the preschool table to engage in Legos for 10 minutes to ease the drop-off transition. She balances that with building a solid base of clients whom she gets to help, while also making the time to do philanthropic and community work, like being involved in the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Now sitting on the Women’s Business Council at the Chamber, Kim is looking forward to helping reach wider into the community of working women. She feels the need to not only pay it forward, but also to share her experiences, struggles, and successes, as so many women she speaks with seem to be at a similar crossroads.

Personal Learning:

Everyone’s situation is DIFFERENT. I’m ashamed to admit that I used to pass judgment on women who didn’t make an effort towards professional success. Then for a time I moved into a period where I envied those women and their ability to avoid the corporate world where I felt trapped. Now I have come to a place of acceptance, thankful for my path and happy to be where I am at this moment. As I meet with and speak to extraordinary women, I realize the truth in something my father used to always say—“Everyone has a story.” I now realize how important it is for each individual to make decisions based on her specific situation and what will result in the best possible outcome for her given her ‘story’. 

Professional Learning 

It took a long time and many life experiences to finally realize that the Wonder Woman persona that I wore as a badge of honor for so long wasn’t healthy. My personal and professional relationships suffered. Because of the blinders I had been wearing, the first step was to see the issue and then ultimately come to peace with it. The key is to surround yourself with network of people who have your best interest at heart.  The experience forced me to stand up and actively choose where my energy and efforts would be allocated.