Transformation Meant Embracing Her Emotions and Intuition

Daina Middleton began her career at Hewlett-Packard, where she spent 16 years as a digital marketing pioneer, managing global teams and building a strong company culture. Since then, she has worked as a CEO of several companies and Independent Director and advisor. 

Daina is the author of two books, “Marketing in the Participation Age: A Guide to Motivating People to Join, Share, Take Part, Connect, and Engage”; and “Grace Meets Grit: How to bring out the Remarkable Courageous Leader Within”. Currently she is the CEO for a creative technology company, Britelite Immersive. She is also a prolific public speaker and creator of “Awakened at Work,” a webinar and training program designed to improve workplace communication through emotional connection.

Balodana had the opportunity to speak to Daina about her most recent transformative experience, one which ultimately altered her career path and impacted both her personal and professional relationships and led to the creation of Awakened at Work. 


Balodana: What was the catalyst for your transformation experience?

Daina: I got fired from my job. I had never failed before in a work setting, so it was a real blow to my self confidence. It truly shook me. I was employed as the only woman CEO of a board of a private equity-backed firm that was long overdue for a transformation. The board was supportive of the transformation, but only if rapid growth would continue simultaneously.

In retrospect, the setback was actually an opportunity. Losing my job was the “aha moment” that led me to recognize that in the pursuit of trying to meet the demands of the company, I had lost touch with what made me an effective leader. I had lost touch with my emotional skills; I had become terrible connecting well with others and developed bad habits.


Balodana: How did your transformation affect the people around you?

Daina: Losing my job changed all of my relationships. Shortly after I lost my job, my husband left our relationship as well. I needed to decompress and rewire myself. This ultimately led me to I had to face a deeply seated insecurity that I didn’t realize I had about not fitting in. It also led me on a journey to reawaken my emotional skills and intuition and help others to do the same.


Balodana: What was the most difficult or memorable part of your transformation?

Daina: The hardest part of my transformation process was dealing with my personal insecurities. All my life I felt as though I was different and I didn’t belong, but I did not realize how much this was holding me back. When I was growing up, I told everyone I was adopted. I felt that I didn’t fit even with my own family. This was something I had to resolve.

As part of my healing process, I faced the feelings of being a misfit until I ultimately embraced it without pain. The process allowed me to dig deep and find the root cause of my limitations. This also led to a number of behavior changes – large and small. In the end, I became a better leader, a better collaborator and a better spouse as I had a second chance to heal my marriage as well.


Balodana: Did your personal style or wardrobe change to reflect your transformation?

Daina: Prioritizing myself was a big part of my transformation. I added a self-care routine to my every day that included working out and taking time to regroup and connect with myself and my feelings. 


Balodana: What piece of clothing do you find most empowering?

Daina: My boots. I have so many pairs! 

I think the pandemic has changed fashion from the top down. There’s more emphasis on the elements of style that are visible over a Zoom call. 

Because of the pandemic, I started optimizing what I wear for my workout because if I start the day ready for a workout I am more likely to do it. I also am opting for clothing that is comfortable and stylish and not for others, but for me. I believe that less is more. In an effort to declutter, I stick with fewer higher quality pieces. When I purchase clothing, I look for iconic, timeless pieces. I am tall (5’10), so finding things that actually fit is difficult because there’s no one size fits all.


Balodana: What would you say for others who may be having a hard time adapting to changes and/or opportunities?

Daina: I would say that there is no such thing as failure. It’s all a step toward success. Sometimes we confuse resilience with toughness. In our struggle to persevere, we forget about connecting to your own heart and others’ hearts. When we’re challenged, we look for Clint Eastwood to solve our problems when what we need is Mother Teresa. Before losing my job, I shut down emotionally; I wasn’t feeling. I would not be where I am now if I had not experienced the pain of finally reconnecting with myself.


Balodana: Tell us a little bit about Awakened at Work

Daina: I created Awakened at Work last year, right before COVID happened. The webinar is about the science of rapport  to create more effective collaboration and resilience in the workplace. I have always been an introvert so communicating with others doesn’t come naturally to me. 

Since the industrial revolution, the workplace values and rewards rational thinking. We have an opportunity to create work environments that nurture hearts and minds — environments where people have a sense of belonging resulting in improved collaboration and communication and greater employee and customer satisfaction.

Awakened at Work encourages people to be accountable for their own “energy brand.” Do you want to be an energy giver, or someone who sucks all the energy out of the room? The choice is yours.

To keep up with Daina, follow her on Twitter.


One of Balodana’s core values is celebrating all of life’s stages, ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. With this series of interviews with powerful people who have gone through a transformative experience, we hope to inspire you and energize you through your own transformation. If you know someone who has a great transformation story to tell, nominate them! Send to [email protected]