Thank you so much for joining our interview series! Before we get started, we would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What is your ‘backstory’, and how did you get started?
When I was 9 years old, I joined a children’s social media site called Roblox, where I learned the site’s native advertising platform and became enthralled with digital marketing. I used the advertising platform to create the second-largest fashion group on the site at the time, sold tens of thousands of online clothes, and got my games over 100,000 plays.
I took a break for a while, but started up my social media passion again in college by freelancing as a social media manager. That freelancing career turned into a business by founding The Julia Seraphine Agency, picking up interns to help with the workload. I have become successful in my field at the age of only 23 years old. I just gave my second TEDx Talk, I was nominated for the Forbes 30 Under 30, I have appeared on television, radio and podcasts, I became a university guest lecturer, and I am held in high regard by my colleagues, many of whom tell me that I am the same age as their children.
Can you share an interesting story or anecdote that happened to you, and which you think helped direct your career?
When I was invited to an event at USA Today a few years ago, I was so nervous. I thought that everyone there would think I was too young, or that I wasn’t worth my mettle. I remember going up the elevator from the lobby and nervously putting my jewelry on. I didn’t wear any on the way there because I didn’t want to lose it.
Some people that worked there saw me and just looked at me like a crazy person. But, when I went to the event, everyone there was so kind and welcoming. I even ended up making friends with people who are very important to me to this day. This experience helped me realize that this world isn’t as unforgiving as I had pessimistically thought, and that the key to becoming a successful businesswoman was to make friends.
In a way, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Is there a person who helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My business professor, Professor Rose Luglio, has been my cheerleader and mentor since I started taking business classes at Gateway Community College in 2017. She helped me come up with a plan to start my own business, and invited me to compete in school-wide business competitions. Even after I graduated, she has consistently helped to guide me through the many challenges I have faced. I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today if it weren’t for her.
Also, Jeanne McPhillips, founder of Supergirlls, has been an amazing inspiration and mentor to me. She empowers every girl she comes across and has given me so much wisdom and guidance about being a woman in business. She has always been there for me and supported me even when times were tough.
Both of them are like family to me, and they wrote my letters of recommendation when I applied to Columbia University. They helped me be confident enough to submit my application. I have been accepted to Columbia and will now be finishing my Bachelor’s degree there, and I literally couldn’t have done it without them.
Excellent. Let’s now move on to the core of our interview. For many of us, the pandemic fundamentally altered the way we work. Most notably, many teams have started working remotely, which is very different from the more traditional office environment. In your experience, has this shift negatively impacted people living with ADHD?
This shift to remote work has been a complete game changer for me, positively. Since I have ADHD, I bounce around a lot and I do things in my own timeframe. Without being in the presence of others, I also find myself getting less distracted than usual.
The bulk of my work has been remote since social media is an online business, but now that everyone else is remote as well, I have gotten clients and met individuals from all over the world! People are embracing the online world that I have been living in this entire time.
On the other hand, what are other significant benefits of remote work for neurodiverse professionals?
Since a symptom of ADHD that has hit me the hardest is hyperfocus, I tend to get sucked into things for hours at a time, which ruins my sleep schedule more often than I am proud to admit. Now that all of my work is remote, my sleep schedule matters a lot less, and I no longer fear hyperfocusing. I think of it as a superpower now!
As some organizations make the move toward making these changes permanent, what are some recommendations that you would make for ADHD professionals, particularly those in positions of responsibility?
It is so easy to not hold yourself accountable if you aren’t in a traditional work environment. I would recommend that ADHD professionals find ways to hold themselves to the work they need to do. Whether it be to-do lists, or calendar notifications, have something somewhere tell you that you have something specific to do, and have the deadline in clear view, so you can see it with your own eyes. This has helped me every single day.
Drilling down a bit, a common quest among ADHD individuals is finding the ideal daily routine that provides productive focus without neglecting incoming responsibilities as they arrive. What do you think is a good baseline to start planning a good day at work, and at home?
I would say everything starts with my calendar app. I put all of my meetings, deadlines, and social activities in it. My phone gives me notifications when things are supposed to happen, so I use it every single day to keep myself on track. I usually plan my activities around what I have to do on any given day, as stated by my phone’s calendar.
We are big believers in the power of prioritization. With what frequency do you think someone should review their day-to-day priorities? And what are some good tips for deciding what is your next task, when you can choose among literally hundreds of options?
I think that one should review their priorities as often as possible. Life isn’t very predictable and things can change very easily, what is very important one day may be nothing the next day.
When deciding my next task to work on, I look through my to-do list and see which has the next closest deadline. Sometimes my days have deadlines within hours of each other, so this way of selecting tasks has really saved me from time to time. I also pick smaller tasks first to get myself in the headspace to do work.
On a more personal note, how do you get yourself in the zone for productive work? Any tricks, techniques or aids that you can share?
Usually, when I want to start being productive, I just try my hardest to unwind. Being relaxed is the best way for me to be productive. What I do to unwind is to read, watch YouTube videos, or even talk to my friends. When I get all of that out of my system, I am then free to work as long as I need to, and can often get things done without mental strain.
At a systemic level, what do you think organizations can do to help employees with ADHD thrive at work, and contribute at the top of their capacity? What are some DOs and DON’Ts?
DO: Allow wiggle-room when assigning tasks. What I want to do may be different from what I am supposed to do, and I am more inclined to do something right if it is the task I want to work on at any given time.
DO: Take frequent breaks to allow time to reset one’s mindset. When I move from one task to another, especially if both tasks are very different from one another, it feels a lot like mental gymnastics if I don’t have a break to decompress and reset my state of mind. Taking a short break allows me to get in the right headspace to do something new.
DON’T: Pressure employees to do something if they haven’t started it yet. I am perfectly capable of doing things on time and doing them well, but I do them in my own order based on what I think I can do best at a certain time. Also, when I am being pressured to do something, it makes me anxious. This makes it much harder for me to complete a task successfully and in a timely manner. Better work comes from a more relaxed environment. Allow employees their own time to complete work.
What are some specific tools or techniques that you recommend in order to stay organized and productive? Can you give a concrete example of how to integrate them?
Calendar App: Put meetings and events into your calendar, so you know when things are supposed to happen. Put deadlines, so you are reminded of when things need to be done.
To-do lists: Make to-do lists for every day, week, month, and year. This will help you balance when you should do certain things and keep your short term goals in sync with your long term goals. Make sure to put deadlines here, too, so you can see what tasks to do first.
Give yourself small tasks first: Getting the sense of accomplishment from completing something small can give you enough motivation to complete a larger task.
Getting a bit more serious now. I read about lots of people who went through their young years thinking they were incapable of great work, only to learn as adults about their ADHD. This finding is often liberating, and it enables them to understand how their mind works, and how to best deal with it. What are some red flags for someone who has not been diagnosed, but who suspects they suffer ADHD?
As someone who wasn’t treated medically for ADHD until this year, I align so much with thinking I was incapable of great work. I was always called lazy or told I was a problem child. Now I feel liberated, knowing that I’m not “broken.”
Some of the first red flags I had were falling asleep in class and not being able to pay attention like other students. When I was in college, I learned that I need to be doing two things at the same time in order to focus, so I would always have to draw or do a sudoku during class. If this sounds like you, then you might want to look into ADHD clinically.
Another red flag for me was that I am always fidgeting, I can never sit still. Even right now I am bouncing my leg just like I always do.
For someone who ticks some of these boxes, what next steps would you recommend? Read more, or talk to someone? When is it a good time to seek professional help?
When I started thinking about ADHD, I looked into it online and read a lot of diagnostic checklists for ADHD criteria. I saw that I ticked a lot of boxes, so I went to my psychiatrist and told them about my concerns. It was then that I started being treated for ADHD medically, and it has made a huge difference for me. Don’t be scared to reach out to a professional at any point in your journey. You could be wasting time that could have been better spent improving your life.
Ok, we’re winding down now. Something I like to ask everyone: Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson” quote? How has it been relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t be afraid to tell your dreams to as many people as possible, because you never know who can help make them come true.”
This has been relevant to me because all the opportunities I have gotten to propel my career came from reaching out to others.
Finally, my favorite part of the interview, the “rapid fire” session! (Tiny answers for tiny questions.)
- In the recent past, what book has impacted you the most?
Discovering Your Human Algorithm by Dr. Zachary S. Brooks (I wrote the foreword to it!)
- Coffee or tea?
- What was your childhood dream job?
- What public figure do you admire?
Myself (My therapist told me to love myself more).
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to stop being invisible.
- What is something most people don’t know about you?
My cognitive ability tested in the 94th percentile.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Feel free to reach out to me using my email, Julia@JuliaSeraphine.com. I also have a website, JuliaSeraphine.com. My LinkedIn is my most active social media, find me there under Julia Seraphine. I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez is the founder and CTO of Appfluence, an award-winning software company that focuses on helping busy professional make the most of their limited time, better organizing emails, projects and meetings. Priority Matrix has been recommended by ADHD experts as a useful tool to help manage time, tasks and life priorities. Appfluence is producing this interview series to highlight the tools and techniques that top experts find most effective. If you would like to suggest a new topic or interviewee, please reach out to us.