Punk Rock HR Podcast’s Laurie Ruettimann Career Directions: “Live Big, Bold, Interesting Lives”

Editor’s note: Billy Guardian is a writer, marketing director and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the public relations agency GBW Strategies. He writes a column exclusively for WRAL TechWire which is published on Mondays.

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Laurie Ruettimann was working in the belly of the corporate beast when she decided to smash her way — much like a determined baby performing her own C-section.

And if that imagery shakes you a bit, well, that seems fitting for a column focused on the fearsome author, speaker, and recovering Fortune 500 executive who started the Punk Rock HR podcast (which just celebrated its 200th episode).

Like punk provocateur Johnny Rotten, Raleigh-based Laurie knows how to get your attention. Like punk poet laureate Elvis Costello, she is a keen reader of people and situations. And like Chrissie Hynde, who doesn’t take bullshit, she’s self-possessed and seemingly unstoppable.

Photo courtesy of Billy Warden

Best-selling futurist Daniel Pink has praised his 2021 book, “Betting on You,” as “essential reading for anyone looking to improve professionally.” A nice blurb as far as it goes, but it doesn’t quite capture the breadth of Laurie’s ideas. So here she speaks for herself, starting with that aforementioned C-section:

  • Have you had a moment in your life/career that felt like a major turning point in a movie or novel? :

I had a breakdown at an airport between flights while on a business trip to lay off a group of people in 2006. My life was messy – living out of a suitcase, rarely seeing my husband, eating Starburst and drinking Pepsi between flights. My well-being was terrible, and I was reading a copy of American weekly and wondering why famous people always put themselves first. It was then that I asked myself: “Why not me? Why can’t I have a house in Malibu and a book deal? It put me on the path to working on myself and getting what I want. I’m still waiting for my beachfront property, but the reservation contract came in 2020.

  • How does the Punk Rock HR nickname capture who you are and what you want to share with people? :

When I was younger, I had a shaved head, piercings and tattoos. My boss said to me, “Who do you think you are? Punk Rock HR? This insult has become a driving force in helping me understand how I contribute to this world. Everyone has to work, but I take a counter-intuitive approach to happiness and engagement. I believe that our work is not our value. We like to work more when we lead important, bold and interesting lives outside of our jobs.

  • Characters that stand out with some sort of commercial application? :

I have worked my whole life to fight toxic business practices inspired by Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. It’s amazing how many MBA students imitate him without knowing it.

  • What is pop culture wrong about entrepreneurs, business and careers? :

I think pop culture is finally catching up with the fact that hustle culture is a lie and flashy CEOs are often terrible people who make selfish choices. Whether it’s Elizabeth Holmes in The stall or Adam Neumann in We crashedHollywood is finally showing you that billion-dollar valuations and miraculous corporate cultures are often nothing more than marketing strategies designed to line the pockets of founders, not workers.

  • You are an inspiring example of breaking with convention. But this stuff can be confusing and scary. Top tips for navigating radical change?

I am not someone who believes in a formal goal setting process. However, you don’t embark on a radical journey in your life without exploring why it matters and what you would like to accomplish. Yes, I would like to fix the job and help people enjoy their life. I also want to retire and have a house on the beach.

  • Favorite movie, novel, and/or TV show with an important business lesson to teach? :

My favourite film is Defend his life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep. Characters die and must defend their life choices before an angelic tribunal before their souls are allowed to move forward. (Seriously, it’s a great comedy.) Even as a teenager, it made me wonder: Am I making brave choices? Am I living with a purpose? Am I wasting a lot of time?

  • Music, movies, novels, TV series, etc. what are you inspired by? :

I like beatnik writers like Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs.

  • Storylines you’d like to see unfold on a screen near you? :

Someone is making a movie about Sara Blakely and the rise of Spanx! She’s one of the richest women on the planet, and I’d love to see her story on the big screen.

  • Music to get pumped? :

I have a few bands that I play before speaking to the public: Spoon, Nine Inch Nails and Beach Bunny.

  • Music to relax? :

I’m going to turn on WCPE (the classic station) to relax.

  • Back to punk rock, specific song lyrics that sum it all up for you? :

I like poetry more than song lyrics, and I love the last verse of “How is Your Heart” by Charles Bukowski. He writes:

What matters most

it’s like you walk well

through the fire.

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