WEconnect Health Management CEO & Co-Founder: Daniela Tudor

Summary

Daniela was born in Romania as an only child and had moved around to 17 different cities in the world before landing in the United States when she was 12-years-old, after her father had won the chance to go to America via a lottery system.  Since Daniela was an "outsider" everywhere she lived, she experienced bullying throughout her childhood.  

During her time in high school, she developed an alcohol and cocaine addiction, which led her down a dark path.  After years of addiction, she found herself in a jail cell in Burien after getting pulled over and being caught driving under the influence (DUI).  With support from one of her best friends, she sought out treatment and eventually completely withdrew from ever using substances again.  People have tried to advise her before, but she mentions that the way her friend approached her, and the care she gave her, empowered her to really completely withdraw.  She then found her calling: She would build a technology-powered treatment program that would help other people who are facing drug and alcohol addiction.  And the program would be deeply tied to how she personally recovered.  WEconnect Health Management was born in 2015, and would change many people's lives forever.

Today, WEconnect Health Management has raised about $30 million, and the company is on its way to rapid growth and expansion.

Podcast Transcript

Note:  There may be errors to this transcript (some funny, some confusing - we used an automated transcription software!)

00:00:04 Ash Faraj: Hey guys, welcome back to Season 2 of ExecuTalks. It’s the show where you train your brain to think like today’s top executives.  I’m your host Ash and in this episode, you will get to hear one of the most, if not the most, inspiring founding story you have ever heard. Her name is Daniela Luzi Tudor.

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00:00:31 Ash Faraj: So, before we get into the show, I’d just thought I’d share some exciting news with you. Our community is growing fast and eager to help in any way possible. If you’re currently feeling stuck in your career or just having trouble getting your foot in the door in industry or for a company that you’d like to work for, we would love to help. Feeling stuck can lead to feeling lonely, and when you’re at that stage it always helps to have a community behind you. Please join our community for free by visiting our website and subscribing to our newsletter at www.ExecuTalks.com. And if there’s anything I can personally do to help, even if it’s just some career advice or consultation or if you just like someone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me via email at Ash@ExecuTalks.com. Again, that is A-S-H-, Ash@ExecuTalks.com. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy this inspiring, inspiring story by Daniela Luzi Tudor.

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00:01:30 Daniela’s story begins in Romania where she was born and raised as an only child. By the time she was twelve years old, she had already moved 17 different places in the world and felt really out of place. Especially because everywhere she would go, she would be bullied, because she was an outsider. She eventually came to the US, and a series of events led her down the path of alcohol and cocaine addiction at a very young age until she got her wake-up call. When she got her wake-up call, she found her calling and started a business to help people recover from drug addiction effectively. Today, the business called WEconnect Health Management has raised almost 30 million dollars.

00:02:13 Ash Faraj: Welcome to the show!

00:02:14 Daniela Luzi Tudor: How are you?

00:02:16 Ash Faraj: Good, how are you?

00:02:18 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Doing good. Just, you know, in quarantine like everyone else.

00:02:21 Ash Faraj: So, how would you explain WEconnect Recovery Health Management to like a sixth grader?

00:02:29 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Sure. A sixth grader? [laughter] Okay. Actually, I did speak to a group of sixth graders last year.

00:02:34 Ash Faraj: Did you?

00:02:36 Daniela Luzi Tudor: So, I’m trying to remember how I described it to them. What I would say is people experience a certain kind of sickness or illness which is called addiction. And in this case, different people are not able to stop using alcohol or drugs. We built a platform that helps you stay accountable for the positive activities that counteract those behaviors. That’s how I would explain it.

00:03:04 Ash Faraj: Obviously in Seattle there’s a lot of competition for different -- you know, there’s Amazon, there’s Microsoft. How do you stand out as an employer to potential employees?

00:03:15 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I think a couple of things. One, we are the mission that drives us directly, actually, makes the world a better place and impacts that. Like you see that right away. Obviously, every company has a mission where they’re improving the world in some way that we’re talking about here in the Seattle market, but with us it’s very direct. Like you know the platform -- we get feedback daily in our Slack channel about patients saying how this is helping their recovery; how they were able to support their children this year; how this is the longest time they’ve been sober in a long time. You see, the purpose of the company is directly impacting people, and I think that sets us apart. Where people may want to actually move to a company that is so social impact driven. And I think the other piece of it is that a lot of us are -- have lived experience in recovery, so that the way we lead is with a lot of compassion. We do things that are focused on self-care, while still being a highest growth start-up. So, like meditation and yoga, or some other things that we offer, even virtually online. So, I think living, and breathing, and walking the talk about us. Putting out there something for people in recovery is what makes us unique as well.

00:04:32 Ash Faraj: What would you say -- So I’ve had some conversations before where they said like, hey, you know -- the one that comes off the top of my head is like Manny Medina with Outreach was saying that when he was hiring for a CFO, you had so many qualified candidates, but there were so many that like weren’t a culture fit or they just didn’t have the right energy or whatever. Like it’s so subjective, I guess. For WEconnect, how would you describe a great candidate in terms of energy or culture fit.

00:05:08 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, so we have a set of values that we -- each person in the interview loop actually has questions and interviews against -- and so our values is TIGERS: Trustworthy, Impactful, Exceptional, Grit, Rapid, and Simplified. We actually interview based on those values and ask specific questions, and then the team scores that person through the interview loop. So that’s one easy way that we have a shared understanding of what those values mean, and examples of how you replicate them in the workplace. Then it’s not so ambiguous because that defines what our culture is like.

00:05:46 Ash Faraj: Okay, so you have like a more objective standpoint then?

00:05:50 Those values are the objective standpoint because we defined them, and we have a shared understanding, and we know how to score people based on performance or even hiring them. But I think the other one that maybe -- I guess that would be part of trustworthy and gritty too -- but compassion is a huge one. Obviously, them being compassionate about helping people, and sincerely wanting to do that, is a big part of it too. And you can sense that throughout the interview process.

00:06:23 Ash Faraj: I see what exactly what you’re saying. That makes sense. What stage are you guys -- you’ve raised about 11 million dollars. Is that right?

00:06:32 Daniela Luzi Tudor: We’re actually at 29 now total [laughter]. I need to update my PitchBook Data profile; we’re post Series A. Right now, we’re on the cusp of some large implementations with some additional large health plans and management care organizations.  After that, we will decide what we’re doing; if we’re going to raise a Series B or if we’re going to continue as we are. All of that is a question right now and highly dependent on what the next six months bring about.

00:07:08 Ash Faraj: Are you guys still actively hiring during these times?

00:07:11 Daniela Luzi Tudor: We are, so, we’ve been hiring -- I think we’re just about done with hiring our customer service support team. We need to have some folks there -- We’re expanding our peer services; so, hiring nationwide a lot of certified peer recovery specialists. And then, just like every other company in Seattle, we’re hiring engineers, full stack developers, but that’s going to be an ongoing monthly need for some time, probably.

00:07:36 Ash Faraj: That’s really cool. There’s just so much I want to get to today.  What people really like, and our audience really likes, is that they like to be painted a picture of Daniela’s childhood; where she was raised, how was her childhood. Can you start off by painting us a picture of your childhood and how you grew up? I know you moved around a lot. 17 different countries or something like that?

00:08:06 Daniela Luzi Tudor: [laughter] Yeah, so I was born in Romania during communism. My parents knew, that when the regime was over, that things weren’t going to change right away or get better. My dad went on foot to Germany; brough my mom and I over. We did move 17 times. 17 different cities before the age of 11 across four different countries. After Germany, we went to Portugal, and then we came here to the US. Each country you have to learn a new language. There were instances where I learned the language before I started school. And so, before people would find out that I’m Romanian, everything was great. The second that people, especially in Germany, found out that I was Romanian, the kids’ attitudes would change.  I experienced quite a bit of bullying. But what that experience actually helped me realize is the opposite. Which is that, when I went back to some of those places with an American accent, I also was treated differently in a more positive way. And so, it’s like I’m the same person whether I’m speaking in Romanian or English. To me what that brought about is this huge passion around helping people, and also treating people all as humans. Because it just wasn’t fair; the experience that my parents and I went through, and I know a lot of communities’ experience that in the US as well. It’s something that definitely helped me form those opinions in childhood by just going through those experiences.

00:09:39 Ash Faraj: Do you mind me asking, if it’s too personal feel free, but when you say bullying is there a specific experience or form of bullying?

00:09:46 Daniela Luzi Tudor: It was just like playing pranks, making fun of me, like the generic things when you think about bullying, like pre-fifth grade, I guess? It was just a lot of different incidents of bullying, playing pranks, trying to humiliate you, and things like that, or just people not talking to you anymore, and it’s sad because they’re kids. So obviously it comes from a family system.

00:10:15 Ash Faraj: Yeah. What was the relationship like with your parents? Were you an only child?

00:10:21 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I am an only child. My parents worked really, really hard. They treated me like an adult, so I knew what was going on pretty much with our immigration situation and things like that at all times. My parents worked incredibly hard as I mentioned. I kept myself busy by like reading books. There was always usually like some kind of cat, or dog, or something in the neighborhood that I would hang out with when I was little. But I think books, specifically Greek mythology, which is what I read a lot of, and Mayan Prophecies when I was like younger. I think those things definitely kept my imagination alive. Just got me out of my head of the current situation we were in.

00:11:06 Ash Faraj: Interesting. This is kind of a side question. Was there ever substance abuse in your household growing up?

00:11:14 Daniela Luzi Tudor: No, not directly. I mean with Eastern Europeans I’ll say it’s questionable whether someone has substance abuse disorder or that’s just part of the culture. I’m not aware of my extended family. I have some suspicions, but I’m not certain about my extended family. My parents don’t, but what I will say from studying substance use disorder for some time now, is one; it manifested itself in me before drugs and alcohol. I was restricting my eating and over-exercising when I was in high school. Just from studying it, and the physiology, it is really a biopsychosocial chronic illness, and the trauma that I was experiencing as well, sort of kindled the fire to the addiction problem.

00:12:06 Ash Faraj: That makes sense. By the point at which you had traveled to 17 different cities; how old were you at that time?

00:12:21 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I was twelve years old when we moved here to Washington State on Thanksgiving Day. [laughter]

00:12:28 Ash Faraj: On Thanksgiving Day, like on that day?

00:12:29 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, we were very confused why nothing was open. [laughter] We’re like, “Wow, they take Siesta even earlier than Europeans. What’s going on?”

00:12:40 Ash Faraj: So, you get here and what’s your first few months like?

00:12:45 Daniela Luzi Tudor: At that time, I remember -- so, I don’t know how familiar the audience is with visas, but you have to have like someone that is called a sponsor. A point of contact when you come here through the green card program or through the lottery program, which is what my dad won, and that’s how we got here. We had like a very far-away removed cousin, or something like that, that lived here.  So, we stayed with them the first couple of months until we got into our own apartment. Things I distinctly remember is that root beer tasted really gross. Also, we got accustomed to shopping from Goodwill and things like that. I remember it was so shocking to see places like Walmart, just like these big, big stores. That was just like, okay, this is America; just the overconsumption and everything related to it. And then the last piece that I think was notable that I remember from being that young was, we went to an English as a Second Language community college class, like the day after Thanksgiving. And everyone around was like -- people’s parents would come over and they had been there for twenty years. And I remember the teacher being like, “Okay, and you guys, like, how long have you been in the US?” and we’re like, “Twenty-four hours.” [laughter] My dad always was about learning and learning quickly. He would watch Sesame Street to get basic words down in English and things like that. Those were some of the things that I remember about that experience.

00:14:20 Ash Faraj: Interesting. It seems to me that somebody with such a difficult, unpredictable childhood would feel -- I guess I’m just curious as to how you were feeling during those times you were moving around so much and being bullied, and all the unpredictabilities of life. Did you still have hope in the back of your mind? I’m just kind of curious about the emotions that you were going through.

00:14:54 Daniela Luzi Tudor: That’s a really good question. Basically, until I found recovery, I didn’t really let myself feel emotions because of the unpredictability. But what it did, it gave me a fire and a drive to have hope to a degree. I really think my dad is an incredible person. His whole dream was to come to America and pave a path so that I could have a successful life. I think that always stuck by me and it was a huge driving force in attempting to overachieve all the time. Like I graduated high school early, got into U-Dub and had straight A’s, played sports. But what I was doing in that, while on the outside it looked positive, I was basically ignoring my emotions in dealing with everything that had happened through childhood. And I was -- the only way to stuff those feelings down was by filling my schedule to the maximum with outside achievements and outside things. And then there comes a boiling point to where that’s no longer effective which entered the addiction and then finally finding recovery.

00:15:59 Ash Faraj: That was actually my next question. The story of you being addicted and eventually snapping out of it. How did the addiction even start? Do you remember the first time you took…?

00:16:17 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, so I think there’s a couple of things there. As I mentioned in high school I was already addicted; just the way that it was manifesting through controlling my eating and over-exercising. Then in the summer before college, I knew a couple of people that were in the sorority and paternity system, IE-Dub. I drank at one of their houses. I just remember I’d taken kind of samples of a lot of different alcohol substances and I felt sick the next morning, but I also felt this relief. Which you’ll hear is very common in people that have substance use disorder. Basically, you feel this huge relief; like your anxiety is gone when you first start using. It’s like a comfort mechanism. It’s a soothing mechanism. That lasted probably a few years. Then after that is when you’ll see, like on clinical charts and things like that, there’s a progression to the chronic illness of addiction. Then it started progressing until it progressed so much that I basically didn’t have a choice. I either had to choose recovery or I wasn’t going to live for much longer. And that lasted through about ten years.

00:17:29 Ash Faraj: That like “relief” feeling the next morning is what kept you going?

00:17:36 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, whenever I would use, I would feel like relief, and I would feel like anxieties would go away. It was just very motivating, and then the use escalated, because you can’t feel that euphoric feeling using the same amount of drugs or alcohol every time, so then it just escalates.

00:17:53 Ash Faraj: And the two main -- the alcohol and the main drug was marihuana or was it….

00:17:56 Daniela Luzi Tudor: It was cocaine.

00:17:57 Ash Faraj: Cocaine, okay. I remember that you talked to me about -- I think it was in a TEDx Talk I watched. You said the lowest point in your life, correct me if I’m wrong, but the lowest point in your life was when you were in a jail cell in Burien and that was like your wake-up call? What got you there? How did you end in the Burien facility?

00:18:30 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, so I’d gotten a DUI, which at that point I was like, thank God, maybe this will stop me from using, but that’s not how the disease of addiction works. I didn’t realize at the time that I -- that community support and accountability to a care plan or a treatment plan is what works. I continued to use and on my last binge is when I missed the date for my arraignment for my DUI. I ran into some police when there was an issue with my card in a taxi. They checked my ID and they saw that I missed my arraignment so that was cause for them to arrest me. Now it’s like the biggest blessing in disguise that ever happened. Had that not happened, I don’t know for how much longer I would have gone on.  I actually got to thank the police officer that arrested me a few months later when I went to court to settle up my deferment. It was quite the incredible experience.

00:19:28 Ash Faraj: Do you remember that -- Obviously, you remember the day that you were in a cell. Do you remember how you were feeling, specifically, when you first got to the cell? Take us through some of those emotions.

00:19:39 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, I was feeling extremely exhausted. I was feeling empty. I was feeling scared and also resigned at the same time. I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I was feeling shame and guilt for disappointing my family. I think those are probably the primary emotions I was feeling.

00:20:04 Ash Faraj: I even remember -- I think it was the Seattle Times. There was an article that I read and quoted you, saying you were thinking you maybe didn’t want to be alive at that moment or something.

00:20:14 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah. Well I just didn’t know that there were tools out there that could work, which is what going to a treatment center, a four-week program taught me. But I didn’t think that there was any solution because I tried to fix it on my own and that was impossible. I didn’t even have it in my sphere of thinking that actually community, and my asking for help, were a solution at the time.

00:20:40 Ash Faraj: Interesting. I feel like that kind of stems from your unpredictable childhood in a way. Like you’re just not sure what’s going to happen. You’re just kind of putting it off and putting it off, and that makes a lot of sense. So I’m thinking that it’s like -- I feel that is very unique about you, and there are other people out there, that are -- you know, have a personal mission that’s tied to their company’s mission, but it’s very unique. What would you say to somebody who’s, you know, like it seems to me that you’re kind of -- you’ve kind of like found your calling in a way. Do you think that relates to all people that are kind of confused or haven’t found their passion yet? What advice would you give to somebody in their mid-twenties that haven’t found their passion yet, but they’re kind of looking. Does their personal mission have to be tied to their company’s mission?

00:21:37 Daniela Luzi Tudor: First off, I don’t think it has to be tied to something deeply personal, but it definitely has to be tied to something that you enjoy and see utility for yourself in. I think that sets you up for more success. It doesn’t have to be this like deeply personal experience because there’s two categories of people that I’ve learned. Ones that love the work that they do, and other ones that work to be able to, lack of a better word, love or do the fun things that they want to do and explore their hobbies. In both cases, you have the freedom, and you get the freedom, to do the things that you love. But I think it’s a slight mentality difference. You just have to choose for this period of time; it’s also not a permanent choice and things change all the time. But either choose something that you’re deeply personally tied to, or you see a gap for yourself or others that you want to solve, or you feel good about impacting, or research and find out something that is really functional from a business perspective. Knowing that that’s how you’re going to be paying your dues in order to have these financial outcomes to do the things that give you freedom and that makes you feel good. And I don’t think there’s any wrong way to go about either in any way. I think it’s just the choice of how you want to lead your live and what’s going to give you the most netted satisfaction and fulfillment, right? That’s how I look at it.

00:23:13 Ash Faraj: That makes a lot of sense. Now did the idea of WEconnect, you being in the jail cell, was that the spark of that idea? Where did the first spark come from?

00:23:28 Daniela Luzi Tudor: It was in the treatment center. Basically, when I got bailed out of jail, I had to wait for three days to find an empty bed, a spot, at the treatment center. I got into treatment and that’s where the spark for WEconnect came. One, I felt really connected to all these people from very different walks of life from each other and from myself. A very diverse group of people, but we all felt deeply connected because we were going through the same thing. Second, the day that I got discharged from treatment, I got a piece of paper that was my care plan. It listed an exorbitant amount of stuff that I’m supposed to do weekly and daily in order to stay in recovery for the rest of my life. I thought there had to be a better way to use technology to bridge that gap, because the second that you walk out with that piece of paper, you don’t know where that piece of paper goes. You just go back to your old environment. And then the third thing that solidified the idea for WEconnect was this concept of rewards. I went to a Starbucks line and the barista gave me a cake pop, because in conversation he realized that I was just getting out of treatment.  That felt so motivating even though it was a dollar fifty cake pop. Lo and behold, there’s tons of research called contingency management that says if you reward someone for behavior modification it’s going to be effective. Those are the three little serendipitous sort of instances, that when I put those together, I felt pulled into building WEconnect. Because I was freshly in recovery and I thought maybe it’s not a good idea to start again a business right now, so soon, but I felt really pulled into it, and things kept happening. I kept working nights and weekends until we got our first round of funding, but it sort of feels like it happened to me.  Not that I made it happen.

00:25:17 Ash Faraj: Interesting. Do you remember the day -- was there a moment that you felt like, “This is what I’m going to do,” or “My God, I got it!” or was it just kind of like a series of -- For me, when I talk to people sometimes they’re just like, “There was one day, I was coming home from work, and I got to do it!” and there was just one moment. Was there one moment for you?

00:25:42 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I do, yeah, I remember I was in treatment and I think it was my third week there. There was someone else from the tech space that was in treatment with me. I actually pitched some of the idea, and he was like, “I don’t know if people will use cell phones to do this,” or whatever, something like that. And then I requested that I talk to the treatment director, who now is a friend of mine, but like  -- I’m just thinking like, I’m two, three weeks in recovery trying to live and I, as a patient, am asking to talk to the treatment director to pitch him this idea. I’m sure that was -- we’ve laughed about it since because we’re friends now. But basically, even just hearing the resistance from someone else was like, even more motivating. I was like, “No, I know this is going to work.” This is going to be big and revolutionary, so people get care.  It really was that day when I started talking about it, in the third week of treatment, that I felt really determined and pulled into building it.

00:26:40 Um, interesting.

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00:26:47 Ash Faraj: Hey guys. Hope you’re enjoying the story so far. If you haven’t felt goose bumps yet, this next part will certainly move you. I just wanted to remind you that if you’re finding value in our podcasts at all, please, please, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. That is our currency for growing this community and helping as many people as possible through these stories and conversations. Now, back to the story.

00:27:15 Ash Faraj: You said before the opposite of addiction is connection. Can you expand on that a little bit?

00:27:24 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I think there’s many different pathways to recovery. I mean people leverage yoga, medically assisted treatment, which is medication 12-step program, smart recovering, Buddhist practices, there’s all these different pathways. But if you look at the root of what they do, if you strip down the semantics in the language that each program uses to describe itself, what ends up at the core of that is connecting with other humans. Especially when you’re feeling -- when people in early recovery feel like they’re having cravings. The solution is that if you talk to someone about them it loses its power, and it’s just about expressing your feelings. So, I guess connection has two sides to it; it’s the actual human connection element and feeling like you’re not alone or isolated, and then also being able to speak your truth without feeling guilt and shame. So that’s what I would define connection as in recovery.

00:28:24 Ash Faraj: You think it’s absolutely necessary to have connection in order to get over addiction?

00:28:31 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I will never say absolutely necessary because I’m not a scientist that has done statistical significant research, but I would say that that is very strongly suggested to heavily increase your chances in recovery, is yes, having connections.

00:28:52 Ash Faraj: Something that is really interesting to me, when I was doing research on you -- it seems like there was just so much on your life. I could talk to you so long about so many different things. How did you get to LA? When your family first came here you went to U-Dub. How did you end up in LA?

00:29:24 Daniela Luzi Tudor: So, I did a little bit of modeling when I was in high school. My dad and I went to LA and spent a summer there and I fell in love with it. I always knew I wanted to get down there. So after college, I had my job as a technical recruiter and account manager for large enterprise companies. I hired engineers and software developers. I just remember feeling I wanted to change. At the time I didn’t realize the change I needed was on the inside, but, again, I basically did a geographic -- they’re called doing a geographic when people talk about their recovery story -- I decided that I wanted to move, and I wanted a change of pace of things. I took a job in Southern California in Orange County. Then after some time, I got an idea for a different business. I moved up to LA and found a co-founder there. So today, I split time between the two cities. That co-founder, she’s the one that helped me realize I needed to get into recovery. She’s my best friend today, so she’s my roommate in LA right now.

00:30:30 Ash Faraj: Yeah, I saw that. Your first start-up -- you were working a job in Orange County, and then you had this business idea, and then you just moved on and you went to LA? How did you find your co-founder?

00:30:43 Daniela Luzi Tudor: So, we went to this electronic music cruise called “Holy Ship!” [laughter] There’s a Facebook group for it. People just post like, “Hey, I’m coming to this city,” or “I’m doing this.” When I got my place in LA from Orange County, she was like, “Oh, my gosh, you’re only two streets away from me.”  We hadn’t met on this specific electronic music cruise, but we both had gone to the first one; so, we were both on this Facebook group. And the first day that we met we just really clicked, and I needed -- what the business was, is taking the wave form, the visual wave form of your favorite sound or a phrase, and turning them into high-end paintings. I found out that she -- her mom was actually an art teacher, and she knew how to paint. It was kind of perfect, so we started doing that for some time.

00:31:35 Ash Faraj: Wow, that’s great. Can you tell me about -- did she also use drugs at all or a substance?

00:31:44 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I think from a recreational standpoint, we both did those things, but for me the experience was very different. She does not have any kind of substance use disorder issues. I mean, we all went out and had fun, but for me it was a very different experience. She would get up the next morning and go exercise, whereas I wanted to keep going for like two or three days. The difference started becoming pretty clear over time, and she cared enough about me to bring it up.

00:32:19 Ash Faraj: That makes a lot of sense. When did she -- at what point in the relationship did she bring it up? Was it a year later? Was it three months after?

00:32:28 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, it was over a year later. We were living together at this point, and we also ran a business out of the apartment at that point. Had gotten our seat investor and angel investor into the business and had traveled to multiple places for the business. It’d been over a year. But what happened is the progression of my condition just started like escalating exponentially for some reason. And so, she noticed that, and she was just brave enough to bring it up to me.

00:33:04 Ash Faraj: Wow. Do you remember like the day she brought it up to you? Was it in the morning? Can you like give us the actual scenario?

00:33:15 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I can’t quite remember what time of day it was. I remember where we were sitting in the apartment. I just remember her saying: “Because I care about you and because I love you, I need to move out, and we need to pause on the business and you need to get help. This is what I’m seeing. I think that if you get this drinking thing under control, there’s no stopping you. You’re going to change the world.” At that moment, I realized there was again an issue, but I didn’t know what the solution quite was. I thought I’ll stop drinking for 30 days to prove that I don’t have a problem, and I couldn’t do it. And then I moved back to Seattle basically. I needed to get a job. I wanted to move back and see if that would actually help me, with changing my behaviors, and then the DUI happened, which again, a blessing in disguise.

00:34:11 Ash Faraj: Was your initial reaction to her sitting you down repulsive? Or was your initial reaction -- also, did you right away act, yes?

00:34:21 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, with her it was like I listened way more than anybody else, because she approached it in a really loving way. So, I didn’t quite feel as repulsed. Other people had approached me about it, but it was much more like accusatory, and it wasn’t this kind, unconditional loving approach which is what really people need. You don’t yell at someone for having cancer. Why do we do it to people that have substance use disorder, you know? So, I wasn’t repulsed, but I was still confused as to how I was going to go about it. And I tried a few different things, and none of them really worked, but I was able to secure her that there was definitely a problem happening.

00:35:05 Ash Faraj: That’s crazy to me how, the way that you kind of, what sparked your recovery is what’s implemented at WEconnect Health Management, has a very personal tie to it. So, when you came back to Seattle that whole story happened, and then you came up with the idea for WEconnect Health Management. During all these times, where were your parents? Kind of in the background? Did you stay in touch with your parents? How was that?

00:35:38 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, my parents visited me when I went to treatment. You know we’re Eastern European so the concept of therapy is not something that is really talked about, but my parents were just so happy that I was able to find some sort of solution, that they really listened to the family sessions. They’re really happy and supportive of like whatever is working for me is working. They’ve also been really supportive of building WEconnect, and they feel really proud. I think their relationship has also just gotten better as a result, because I’m not imposing any stress on the family; it’s the opposite. All around it’s just been a huge blessing and transformation. But they live just out of Seattle, an hour and a half, so they’re close to here.

00:36:27 Ash Faraj: That’s cool, wow. What a story. What do you feel most excited about in the next five years or so?

00:36:37 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I’m very excited about -- Well, I mean, even with the current crisis, we’re seeing the adoption of telehealth and visual therapeutics adoption curve has gotten quicker. And so, I’m just excited that people that really don’t have access to care are realizing how easy it is to access telemedicine. And so that’s one thing I’m really excited about. I’m also excited about the incredible amount of work that we’re doing with different types of people, and the data that’s being aggregated will allow us to give insights eventually over the next five years of what kind of exactly treatment program might work for someone. So that there’s less guess work. And I think that would be a huge incredible advantage to get people the care that they need sooner, so that there’s less suffering in the world. And that’s what really excites me about it.

00:37:31 Ash Faraj: Wow, well thank you so much for being on, for taking time to be on the show. We just have this quick “finish the sentence” game.

00:37:39 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Okay. [laughter]

00:37:40 Ash Faraj: I say the beginning of the sentence and then you complete the sentence.

00:37:42 Daniela Luzi Tudor: All right.

00:37:44 Ash Faraj: Okay. In my opinion, the most important life skill is…

00:37:49 Daniela Luzi Tudor: In my opinion, the most important life skill is to be adaptable.

00:37:57 Ash Faraj: I’m 24 years old and I’m having a hard time finding what I’m passionate about. I should…

00:38:05 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Hmmm… I should break up my routine, so either take a trip or change your immediate environment for a few days, and just do some creative whiteboarding and research on what it is that makes you happy.

00:38:21 Ash Faraj: In this case, when you say make you happy, do you mean what gives you energy to work, or do you mean like -- how do you define happy in this context?

00:38:34 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yeah, so in that context I would say it’s a couple of different things. One, where you see a solution to a problem you’re experiencing, or it could be a thing that re-energizes versus drains you. Like, if you’re sitting there and you’re not on your 9 to 5 schedule of a job, what things are you reading about; like what interests you and thinking about those things.

00:38:56 Ash Faraj: I love that, okay. Being a leader means…

00:39:08 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Being a leader means serving your team and empowering them to do what they do best.

00:39:13 Ash Faraj: If I were to meet the 24-year old Daniela, I would advise her to… I think I have a feeling of what you’re going to say. [laughter]

00:39:19 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I would advise her to not be so hard on herself.

00:39:25 Ash Faraj: Oh really, I love that. I was going to say -- you know part of me felt like you might have said obviously to not abuse substances, but at the same time if you hadn’t gone through that you wouldn’t be where you are today.

00:39:40 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Yes, true.

00:39:41 Ash Faraj: I’m stranded on an island and I have one meal of choice. My meal of choice is…

00:39:48 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Oh, that’s hard. Does dessert count as a meal?

00:39:49 Ash Faraj: [laughter] Sure.

00:39:54 Daniela Luzi Tudor: I would -- Nutella and bread. I could probably survive on that for a while.

00:40:00 Ash Faraj: That sounds -- peanut butter and jelly is my favorite sandwich, but I could see why.

00:40:04 Daniela Luzi Tudor: [laughter]

00:40:05 Ash Faraj: And then the last one. The closest soul to me is…

00:40:10 Daniela Luzi Tudor: Hmm… The closest soul to me is my hire self.

[music]

00:46:21 Ash Faraj: Thank you so, so much for listening. If you found any value in this podcast at all, please, please, please rate us on Apple Podcasts, because we are really trying to help as many people as possible with the powerful community to help reach their full career potential through these conversations and stories.  And the more ratings we have on Apple Podcasts, the more reach we have and the more people we can truly help. We’ll be releasing an episode every Sunday, so we hope you join us again next week. Take care, stay safe, and do not hesitate to reach out.