ATEC - Episode 73: Strong Like Water ft. Laila Tarraf

Episode 73: Strong Like Water featuring Laila Tarraf

For years, even as Laila Tarraf continued to feel disconnected from others, her belief that any vulnerability would make her soft dictated her personal life and her work as an HR leader. The firstborn child of Lebanese parents, she was encouraged to step up and take care of the family from a young age. She sometimes resented that role but then she met and married her husband and became a mother and began a new life. A year into their marriage he had a serious motorcycle accident, was prescribed pain pills, and never stopped taking them. Over the next six years they never discussed the topic of his drug and alcohol abuse; his dependence and their marital disconnect went unsaid. Their marriage began to collapse and soon after he overdosed on opioids. It wasn’t until her mother was dying that Laila was able to better understand her history with co-dependent relationships, deal with the death of her husband, and be at her mom’s bedside as her life ended. Her experience informed her leadership, her mothering, and her approach to the unexpected. Her new book Strong Like Water is out now.

Laila Tarraf is a senior human resource executive with over 25 years of professional experience.  After graduating with her MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, she became one of the founding team members at Walmart.com.  She then served as Chief People Officer at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, an iconic Bay Area premium coffee company. Currently, Laila is the Head of People and Employee Experience for AllBirds, is a trusted advisor to entrepreneurs and investors, and is a regular guest lecturer at Berkeley Law School.



I’m a writer, a teacher, a native New Yorker, and I love hearing about people’s lives. When I think back to my elementary school days at PS 20 in Flushing, Queens whenever we began social studies or a history lesson I wasn’t that interested in learning about battles, topography, or politics. What I wanted to know was how people lived: What their families were like, how they adapted to their circumstances, what they ate, how they celebrated, how they felt.
Sociology became my major at Binghamton University and in my life so far I’ve been an actress, a salesperson, a Zoo Keeper’s Aid, a volunteer animal trainer, an ELL teacher, a mother, and a wife. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, all of which led me to create this podcast which is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve undertaken. I couldn’t ask for a better job than having in-depth conversations with survivors, thought leaders, authors, social justice warriors, and people who believe that we are all connected and then getting to share their stories, insight, and vulnerability with listeners.
I’m so glad you’ve landed on this page. I hope you find stories here which resonate with you and that you’ll tune in every week. 
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ATEC (Episode 10) (ATEC Pin 3)