It’s a pleasure to meet you
I’m Todd Zaki Warfel — an executive coach, author, and speaker who specializes in helping leaders and organizations create the capacity for transformation that thrives.
Leadership isn’t a position. It’s a responsibility.
When we get this right and invest in our people first, results will follow. This is the philosophy I’ve used to coach and train some of the most influential leaders at companies including Atlassian, Cisco, CapitalOne, Dropbox, Fidelity, VMWare, and Google.
Before starting my coaching business, I served in leadership and executive roles at Twitter, Cisco, and Workday during significant seasons of change. I earned a reputation for building highly effective, diverse teams and creating a culture where transformation could thrive.
Nowadays, you’ll find me building furniture, baking bread, speaking at conferences, and occasionally riding a century — all while teaching students, coaching clients, and working on my next digital course,
While I enjoy blogging and teaching, most of my writing is done privately on my email list. This is where my readers find the best content. You can sign up for my email list at zakiwarfel.com/list and you’ll even get a nice bonus — a free copy of the 2019 DCI Career Index Report.
My Top Posts
If you’re new, here are a few places to start.
Leadership and Personal Development
- Eight trends in leadership and career development
- How career ladders provide clarity, focus, and purpose
- How to suck at management
- A story of missed leadership opportunities
Life doesn’t follow a predictable path. I started out in art school, but would eventually change to psychology and creative writing. An odd choice at the time. In hindsight, it was exactly what I needed.
Born in a small town in Indiana, I never felt like I belonged there. I remember telling my parents I was going to move. I was six. They laughed. Shortly after graduating, I moved to Boston, still one of my favorite cities — full of character and grit. I joined a startup and got my first taste of leadership. It was rewarding, frustrating, and stressful.
Growing up, my parents sent me to private art classes. This was a huge sacrifice for our family. We weren’t wealthy, by any measure. My father worked on cars and my grandfather built furniture. The combination of these experiences taught me the importance of working with your hands and the value of making. I am a maker. I come from a long line of makers. It’s part of who I am.
Eventually, the startup I had joined in Boston died — slowly. It was my first time experiencing how poor leadership could fail even the most talented team of individual contributors.
I went on to work with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which was going through a fundamental transformation. While the pay was half what I was making in Boston, I got to work on a PhD for free (one of the perks of being a university employee). After two-and-a-half years, funding for my position ran out. While I didn’t finish the PhD, I did help the lab launch over two dozen web applications while I was there. Over the years, I’ve run into birding enthusiasts who use the apps I helped launch. Small world.
Working in academia is completely different from the startup and tech industry. You learn a lot about organizational development, diplomacy, corporate citizenship, and government bureaucracy.
As my time at Cornell was winding down, so was the US economy. I decided to start my own company, because… why not? I spent the next decade helping companies like Comcast, Xfinity, Citi, AT&T, PointRoll, and NYU prototype the future and simplify their existing large scale, complex applications.
During this time I got to use my skills of organizational leadership, strategy, writing, design, and communication. I loved it. For a while.
Never stop learning
This was also the time when I wrote my first book, got married, had three kids, and started a second company, whose main product was acquired. It was time for the next chapter of my career — going into the corporate world.
Over the next several years, I would take on leadership and executive roles at a few companies including Twitter, Cisco, and Workday. Those experiences taught me a ton about leadership — both good and bad.
From consultant to corporate executive to coach
Realizing my greatest opportunity for impact would be to help more than one organization, I returned to my roots in cognitive psychology. I dug into organizational development, leadership coaching, and the Enneagram. I bought just about every book on modern leadership I could find. I bought a subscription to HBR. I downloaded podcasts. I devoured them all.
I completed multiple training and certification programs. I was on a learning binge.
And I’m still learning.
I wouldn’t say I found my path, so much as my path found me.
Now, as a coach, I get to take all that experience and help people like you navigate the journey of leadership, weather the seasons of change, build healthy, high performing teams — and do it all while creating the capacity for transformation that thrives.
Ready to get started?
Get in touch and let’s discuss your upcoming event.