Search & Replace S02E21: Silvia Li

Silvia Li knows what standing firm, with grace and politeness and diplomacy, could look like to affect positive change in the systems and the environment in which we operate. Her time spent in Corporate America revealed the need for women in leadership to stand up courageously to have their voices heard. Find out how Silvia is helping leaders and sales professionals regain their sense of purpose and joy in their work on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if the job you trained for ends up having a bunch of different rules and expectations than what you thought you learned in school? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Sylvia Li started thinking about a career in business at a very early age. 

[00:00:33] Silvia Li: I grew up in the presence of an entrepreneurial father, and so I used to shadow him at his company on the weekends. And I was the person typing the prospect letters that went out and, like, I licked the envelopes and he put the stamps on and everything. Back in the day before emails were a thing in corporate. 

And I had never thought about myself as anything different than a hard worker, someone who was eager to help my own father out, certainly, but also to make connections with others who could benefit from what he was providing and the solutions that he was putting out in the market.

So in my own head, I saw no different. Right? I was just a person eager to learn, eager to help. 

[00:01:20] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That eager student quickly discovered some things about life at the office that school left her underprepared to handle. 

[00:01:28] Silvia Li: When I went to Corporate America, I started to notice that there were these dynamics that school didn’t prepare me for, even.

And there would be these funny comments, let’s just say it, right. And this was back in the early two-thousands. I was approached by a managing director, a female managing director, informing me that I had to rethink the way I presented my ideas in meetings. And it was very foreign to me at the time to have someone come and tell me that I needed to concern myself with how I presented my ideas, which were for the benefits of the team and the company.

So here I was maybe a little naive, or a little over eager, I don’t know. Yet in my head, in my heart, I had ideas, these notions that I knew or at least hoped would help those around us, around me, and for all of us to grow collectively. Yet, what she was indicating was I made some of the male counterparts of mine uncomfortable with the pace and the frequency with which I was presenting new smart ideas. 

[00:02:42] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Sylvia realized she didn’t want to stifle her ideas or her language for the sake of a male counterpart’s ego. 

[00:02:49] Silvia Li: I knew, and still do know, that I have the good intentions. And it was really just knowing that my integrity was worth more than any paycheck or any external validation from a leader or a company. And it was about knowing that hey, If I see something, I am gonna say something. 

So the first time I muster the courage to call someone out, a leader no less, out on a micro-aggression, I knew there would be blowback. That there would be probably somebody I had to answer to or explain myself to. Yet I knew that I couldn’t sit silent any longer, not only for my own sake, but for others who might be even less empowered to speak up. So I said, I’m gonna say something politely and with respect, you have firmly and called it out. 

[00:03:49] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Sylvia says it wasn’t the easiest decision, though.

[00:03:53] Silvia Li: It was scary at first, deciding to act in the moment. Again, trusting myself enough to go forth and just draw that line in the sand, if you will. And to know that I am setting an example for those coming behind me. All those things made it a little bit, I wouldn’t say easier, but I think a little bit more manageable for me to start to do something about it.

The moment to act was in that micro moment. Right? The decision to stand firm, step up, speak out, or speak up at least, it really was in that micro moment then. 

Then that’s really the place that I want to add more empowerment to many more people, not just per se women or POCs, but really anyone who feels like their voice is not yet heard or doesn’t deserve to be heard or can’t be heard for some reason.

I like to think that I’m building my own courage and hopefully in the process of doing so, role modeling what better could look like. What standing firm, yet still with grace and politeness and diplomacy, could look like to try to then affect positive change in the systems and the environment in which we operate. 

[00:05:12] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Today as a business advisor who helps her clients improve their own effectiveness at work, Sylvia likes to ask questions that build rapport and uncover common interests. 

[00:05:22] Silvia Li: I just want to encourage to start the conversation differently with an uplifting question. So one of the questions I like to ask people when I first meet them is, what can I celebrate with you today? It sounds hokey, right, but we’ve gotten away from just the human side of things. Right?

In business especially; in business networking conversations, in sales conversations, in one-on-ones, we forget that there’s a beating heart on the other side of us. This person has ups and downs, has things that they have prayed for, and that really gets them going. Right? 

I found that when I start with a question center on celebration or joy or something uplifting, it really sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. I literally see people, they light up their whole body language shifts. They literally have fired off a different part of their brain. And then the whole conversation is more about things that are positive or more around possibilities and opportunities. 

See how you can add or ignite that part of somebody’s brain and heart through one little thing that you do, or in this case through one little question that you ask a little bit differently.

[00:06:32] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That’s Sylvia Li, head of Sales Effectiveness and Strategy at the Altezza Advisory Group. We’ve got links to Sylvia’s work in our show notes and on our website at

Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and executive producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex or ReFire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.

[00:07:02] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. 

Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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