You cannot let others define you — but know that they will try. Living a beautiful life scares a lot of people because it forces them to look at their own life and their own choices. It forces them to ask whether they are truly happy. People will tell you that all kinds of things are impossible, but it’s mostly a reflection of their own fear.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Regan Parker, general counsel & chief public affairs officer, ShiftKey.

Regan Parker, General Counsel and Chief Public Affairs Officer for ShiftKey, is a leading expert on the future of work and the legal, regulatory and policy challenges around it. At ShiftKey, Parker is revolutionizing the workforce by addressing systemic barriers through a strategic focus on independence, freedom, and choice, focused on empowering the individual to define their own work/life balance. By offering the opportunity to work as much or as little as they choose, ShiftKey is bringing more licensed professionals back into the workforce through a technology-driven approach that provides a scalable solution to address workforce shortages.

For more than 15 years, Parker has been advising companies on technology, products, processes, operations, communications and legislative strategies. With a focus on democratizing access to work, Parker has spearheaded policy efforts at the state and federal level to advance a more inclusive environment for women, single mothers, people with disabilities, and others who face persistent barriers. Parker has handled high stakes litigation and legal matters, including the response to state audits, IRS and Department of Labor audits, class and collective actions, and the multitude of disputes that arise in a non-traditional workforce. Parker’s unique track record and experience include managing the wide spectrum of claims that can arise on worker classification, advising nearly every company in the workforce economy space, and successfully defending cases valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Parker continues to focus on reimagining an alternative model of work and how to decouple the social safety net from traditional employment to better support the workers of the future.

Parker is a highly sought-after visionary and expert on the intersection of technology, the future of work and the workforce economy. She is also a mother, lawyer and author with a passion for storytelling and inspiring change. Parker has spoken on many stages, including at the White House on workplace flexibility and most recently at TEDx Portland, the largest indoor TEDx event in the world. Parker is also the author of the book (Mis)carriage: A Mother’s Story of Why Pregnancy Loss Matters, published in 2019.

Parker holds a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and degrees in literature and anthropology. She has written about business and politics for the Huffington Post and other publications and is passionate about women’s issues and the future of work. Her two boys are the loves of her life and being their mother is the most humbling and deeply gratifying experience of her life.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory? Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, but from when I was as young as 6 or 7, always believed I could change the world. I went to college and law school in California, and after making a few documentaries in undergrad, I went to Hollywood to try to change the world by making powerful and impactful movies. I believed I could make change in an industry that was still riddled with corruption.

I experienced sexual harassment and unapologetic men wielding their power without responsibility or integrity. I realized that there were many paths to create change, and I decided to go to law school with the hopes of eventually running for political office.

My first job out of law school was incredible — I learned so much and was given the opportunity to take on cases and support projects that most women my age, unfortunately, aren’t given access to. Then, my boss changed. We all know how much people who have power and influence over your career can change the shape of your experience, and I learned that in the harshest of ways.

He sat me down and informed me that I was, you guessed it, “too aggressive” and needed to let some other people, notably him, get more of the glory.

I quit, but the company valued me and my contributions so much that they created a position for me outside of the legal department where I could thrive. I focused on policy, and storytelling, driving the early conversations around the future of work. I got to participate in a workshop at the White House during President Obama’s administration as part of a forum for women and girls. It focused on workplace flexibility and a mindset that empowers women in an economy that has traditionally sidelined them, much like my boss tried to do.

What I’ve learned, years on, is that there are many paths to affecting change in the world. Holding office is certainly one of them. But so is developing expertise in an emerging field of law that still needs to be written and refined. So is working with corporate companies with the resources to empower a new generation of workers with economic independence.

The biggest takeaway from my early career is to trust your inner guidance, and don’t let anyone tell you that a career doing what you love isn’t possible. And, also, that if you do good work that is valuable and meaningful, a person or even a system that discriminates against you can’t take you down.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

ShiftKey is transforming the future of work, leveraging technology to empower licensed professionals to define their value, embrace independence, and prioritize their personal health, family and lifestyle needs, while meeting strategic business, resource and workforce needs for licensed industries. One of the most powerful tools we can give someone is economic independence — the freedom to choose to live and work on your own terms.

The ShiftKey model is bold, yet practical. Independent licensed professionals can choose their pay rate, set their availability, and connect directly with healthcare communities with workforce needs, creating a “relief valve” and equipping care communities at every level to make forward-thinking scheduling and business decisions.

Why is that different? Many workforce models, particularly in the traditional employment structure, drain the worker at the expense of company profit. ShiftKey believes a sustainable, profitable economy is possible while also allowing for choice — we believe in offering licensed professionals independence and the opportunity to work and live on their own terms.

We’re also doing things with integrity. Our founder & CEO Tom Ellis didn’t become an entrepreneur because it was the ‘cool’ thing to do — he built a business from the ground up because he saw a need in the market and believed there was a practical way to fill it. One of the things I love most about ShiftKey is our core value ‘Love and Thunder.’ Those two drivers, linked as one idea, exemplify who we are at our core and how we run our business. Our company culture didn’t fit into the traditional “core values” boxes, so we made our own.

One example of this? Like I said, I don’t have a standard background. I’m not your traditional lawyer — I went straight in-house and developed an expertise that wasn’t considered broadly necessary at the time. What I love most about ShiftKey is I am valued and embraced fully for who I am. Aggressive, hard-ass cutthroat lawyer when necessary, a soft and inspiring leader shaping legislative policy and economic solutions for an untraditional workforce, and as a single mom, still getting to be home to catch my kids’ basketball games.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This may not sound original, but it’s true — and I know that it’s an incredible privilege to be able to say this because so many children don’t have parents, and so many parents aren’t given the opportunity to be as present as they would like to be in their children’s lives. My parents have always believed in me and have always told me that I’m capable of great things. I’ve been through trauma that would have destroyed most people and nearly destroyed me — their love and steadfastness has been an anchor for me.

Another person is James Everingham, one of the most accomplished engineers in Silicon Valley, who recently joined the ShiftKey board as an advisor in a true ‘full circle’ kind of moment.

He and I have known each other since I was 19 and when I was in law school he asked me to come work for his company. I was focused on doing civil rights work, but was intrigued by the business he was building which leveraged the internet and technology to democratize access to work.

When I saw what was possible and the people it could impact, I agreed to join. Being able to empower people to work on their own terms — and to create something that could bring people historically left out of the workforce into an empowered place where they could earn a living and support their families — was incredible. What better civil right is there than to allow someone to be able to support themselves and their families on their own terms? Thanks to him, I developed an expertise in employment law, worker policy and the future of work.

He helped me to see very clearly that our system for work is broken — and to fix it, we need to come at it from every angle — legal, policy, technology, practical alternative models, education, etc. At ShiftKey, we’re doing this, and that’s what inspires me to show up every day — making economic independence possible for more people.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is pushing through pain and heartbreak. It’s getting up after you’ve been knocked down. Resilience is understanding that the pain has changed you, knowing that it now lives inside of you, but finding a way to still feel joy. In the face of being battered and broken — staying soft and hopeful. Not to erase. Not to forget. But to now be someone or something new — with curves and grain from the cuts. Like becoming a beautiful piece of driftwood — or the tendrils of a knotty piece of kelp.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different from resilience?

Courage is an act in the face of fear or uncertainty. Resilience is how we respond to painful or challenging circumstances. Courage is feeling fear, but doing something anyway.

There’s an element of choice in courage. Resilience is when you might not have control or agency over what happened, but you choose to get through it and grow from it. For example, I had to have courage to quit my job when I was discriminated against. That was a choice. I didn’t have a choice to miscarry my first baby. I see resilience as how you respond to what has happened to you. They both can create resilience, but I do see them differently. At the core, I think both challenge us and ask how we respond to fear, to uncertainty and to loss.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I see resilience all around me. It’s not always a big display of emotion. It’s often in the quiet, little moments. It’s when you peel back the layers of someone — see their pain, see what they’re carrying. Sometimes resilience is just taking another step. Just getting out of bed. I think sometimes we focus too much on the big hero story — someone who has overcome big obstacles or heartbreak and come back bigger and better than ever. These are incredibly important stories to honor because they inspire us, but I think we should also acknowledge the small moments that happen in those early days of grief. That’s where resilience is born — will I get out of bed today? Am I willing to believe that someday I will feel better? Those first moments are the foundation of building ourselves back.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I love being told things are impossible. I’m incredibly competitive, so I love the challenge of proving people wrong who underestimate me. Whether it’s winning a seemingly insurmountable legal challenge, or juggling being a single mom with a big career, I know what I’m capable of, and I have an unrelenting drive towards achieving what matters most to me.

Did you have a time in your life when you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us? How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

The experience of my miscarriage was one of the most profound, life-changing experiences of my life. There was the experience itself, but then all of the cultural beliefs around it that I had internalized that compounded my grief — that it was my fault, that I must have done something wrong, that I shouldn’t grieve the loss of a baby so early in my pregnancy, that I should be able to just dismiss it and move on.

Part of what I had to learn and understand was that I would never get to a place where the experience was erased or that I would ever move on. I would move forward, but not move on. I was fundamentally different now because of that loss. Once I accepted that, I could grow and change and embrace a different version of myself. If you think about the branches of a tree — every year the weather, the cold, the growth is captured, and every year builds upon what was there before. The branches get bigger. They will never go back to what they were before. The layers build on top to become a bigger, more beautiful and stronger version of itself. That is resilience.

It took a very long time for me to get to a place where I could fully embrace how my miscarriage impacted me. While I don’t look back and “thank” that experience for making me stronger, I do recognize that it has led me to greater depths as a human and has facilitated me becoming fully who I am. I had always wanted to be an author and a speaker, and the loss of my first baby gave me a story I felt compelled to share, for my own healing and for others.

I had the opportunity to tell my story at TEDx Portland in a room of 7,000 people. To walk on stage and talk about what happened, to take that experience as a way to change the conversation around miscarriage, and to create a space for others to acknowledge their own buried grief — was one of the most amazing moments of my life. It was also an act of tremendous vulnerability for me — can I stay open, can I stay vulnerable? Can I not become hardened and closed? The room was silent. 7,000 people were silent as I told my story. It was a surreal moment and was the realization of so much that I had hoped for all my life.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. What pieces of advice do you have for someone to become more resilient?

We will all experience setbacks and challenges. How we respond to them is what matters. That is what separates and defines us. And these moments challenge and create our core beliefs about life.

You cannot let others define you — but know that they will try. Living a beautiful life scares a lot of people because it forces them to look at their own life and their own choices. It forces them to ask whether they are truly happy. People will tell you that all kinds of things are impossible, but it’s mostly a reflection of their own fear.

Only you know what you are capable of.

Only you can choose it. Part of what has set me apart is that I’ve relentlessly pursued the idea that anything is possible. That I can have a life of my dreams. I may never get there, but at least I tried.

So many people are content to stay complacent or to be satisfied with ‘good enough.’ Don’t be — live with a sense of urgency about life, not in a way that creates anxiety, but that inspires action on your own terms.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me, the ability to work on your own terms and empowering people to define what work and life mean for themselves is a deeply held passion. Our current system in the US is broken. Our laws were written so long ago, that they could never have contemplated the way that people want to work now. We need to de-couple the benefits and protections of our social safety net from employment status. There is so much focus on trying to fit people into the two existing boxes — employees or independent contractors — that we are missing the bigger picture. I believe we all should have the ability to choose what working relationship is best for us, what pay we deserve, what benefits matter to us and how we want work to complement our lives. This shouldn’t be a luxury afforded only to white collar workers. Let’s redefine how we think about work and how we think about life. Let’s empower people through choice and through systems that support whatever working relationship someone chooses, and at whatever stage of life they are in. I’m at ShiftKey because I believe healthcare professionals should have this choice. I don’t want people to have to choose between being there for their kids and having to work. There are painful, stressful choices that people have to face every day because of the demands of work, family and health. The answers won’t be the same for everyone, but right now, most people don’t feel like they have the option to decide how to balance all of their needs. I want to help ease that burden. This movement isn’t just for the benefit of the individual — if we can change the mindset around work on a global scale, we can bring more people into — and back into — the workforce to create a more sustainable, inclusive economy.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

There are so many names that come to mind — some living — Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brady (I think people forget where his career started- talk about resilience), and some who have passed — John Lewis and Nelson Mandela.

But many of the most resilient people in our world have never had their name known by the masses, or had their story shared. Perhaps the most significant example of that is every person held in slavery who continued to get up every day, in the face of complete hopelessness. Day in and day out — in the face of brutality and fear. It could also be the man who’s been told over and over that his dreams are too big, but he still puts in the work to realize them. It’s the single moms who get up every day and get their kids to school and then work a full day before starting the “second shift” at home. That is resilience, not in the buzzworthy sense of the word, but the real, transparent, gritty sense of it.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can connect with me on LinkedIn at: Regan Parker

They can also follow along on ShiftKey’s channels at:

LinkedIn: ShiftKey

Twitter: ShiftKey

Instagram: ShiftKey

I also share more of my story in my book (Mis)carriage: A Mother’s Story of Why Pregnancy Loss Matters and you can view my talk at TEDx Portland

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.  He coaches cancer survivors to overcome obstacles, gain clarity, and attract media attention by sharing their superpower through inspiring stories that make a difference. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. 

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.