Why did you decide to come to Leeds?
When I decided to go back for my MBA, I had already been living in Boulder for a few years so this particular program felt like an easy and natural decision. I was also drawn to the ways in which Leeds advertised prioritizing diversity and inclusion within the business school, and in particular, the ways in which Leeds was working to elevate women in business. As a queer person, I appreciate business schools pushing for curriculum, staffing and classroom dialogue that prioritize and elevate underrepresented populations, and I look forward to seeing how Leeds continues to build its masters and undergraduate programs in this direction.
What is one thing you learned at Leeds that you will never forget?
In my time at Leeds, I learned the true magic behind authentic networking. As a person who grew up feeling like I needed to get things done on my own, I used to be quite stubborn in leveraging my relationships, not wanting to inconvenience anyone. While getting my MBA, I realized how powerful genuine professional relationships can be, whether you want to learn more about a particular career, need a recommendation that sets you apart from the pack, are looking for an introduction to someone you admire, or need help talking through a challenging decision. In building my expansive network through Leeds, I learned that more often than not people are glad to give you their time and help you along in any way they can. Looking ahead, I will never underestimate the power of strategic networking − especially when it can be used to bring passionate people together to create meaningful and sustainable impact.
Tell us about a particular professor or mentor that influenced you while you were at Leeds.
Kristi Ryujin was such a positive influence on me during my time at Leeds. I really appreciate her dedication to making Leeds a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive space for students who are traditionally underrepresented in business schools, including students of color and students who identify as LGBTQ+. Kristi was approachable, eager to hear feedback on the program, and always willing to help put that feedback into action. I think she really sees students for who they are and appreciates the natural gifts they have beyond the curriculum.
I would also like to give a shout out to Kimberly Kosmenko, who teaches over at MENV. She is one of the most thoughtful, passionate and intelligent professors I have ever had, and it was such a privilege to be in her Movement Building in Business class during my time at Leeds. Kimberly pushed us to think deeply about the cross-section of business and social impact, and she challenged us to analyze our roles as business leaders through rich course content and rigorous dialogue.
I am so grateful to have built relationships with both of these leaders at CU Boulder.
Describe some of your most significant professional or community achievements as related to being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
While living in San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to participate in AIDS/LifeCycle for four consecutive years. This event and fundraiser is a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that helps fund the life-saving work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Being a part of the AIDS/LifeCycle family was a life-changing experience full of activism, community, lots of tutus, and profound purpose. I believe the last year I rode, we had over 2,300 cyclists, hundreds of roadies, and we collectively raised around $15.5M. A great accomplishment!
When I moved to Boulder in 2016, I volunteered as a panelist with the Speaking Out program through Out Boulder County − a nonprofit organization here in Boulder that supports our LGBTQ+ community through various social and supportive programs. Speaking Out is focused on bringing diverse perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community into middle and high schools. These panels create safe spaces for young people to ask questions and learn about a population that is still very underrepresented and misrepresented within the media and throughout the world. Speaking Out creates important visibility, helps to reduce stigmatization of the LGBTQ+ population; bringing this positivity to our young people literally helps save lives.
What is one piece of advice/best practice that has stuck with you throughout your career?
I have two. In a discussion about authenticity in the business world someone told me, “Some people like hot tea and some people like cold tea, but no one likes lukewarm tea.” That really stuck with me because I think in the business world, there is often pressure to assimilate to whatever culture surrounds you. At the end of the day, it’s better to show up as yourself in all your glory − your vision and your style might not resonate with everyone, but being a genuine person is always going to bring you closer to the kind of company and culture where you can make the biggest impact. Since that conversation, I stopped trying to be everyone’s cup of tea and just decided to be hot tea. Another great piece of advice is, “Never take advice from someone whose life you don't want.” I think that one speaks for itself.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
I have a nontraditional background that includes sociology, nonprofit management, childcare, international work, and small-scale farming experience, so I don’t really identify with one professional field. Some advice I would offer to anyone who shares a diverse or nonlinear professional background is: Try to tune out the noise and reflect on the aspects of your previous positions that made you feel most alive and purposeful. How might those be applied to your next career pivot? What other skills can you add to your toolkit to land a job that emphasizes your natural competencies and interests? How can your community help you get there?
What do you miss most about Boulder?
Boulder continues to be my home for awhile. What I most appreciate about this area is the incredible access to nature, the community’s prioritization of health and wellness, and the abundance of dog friends everywhere you go. I also appreciate the impressive entrepreneurial spirit of the city, especially those focused on social and environmental impact.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Happy Pride Month! As business leaders, let’s continue to build new systems and strategies that emphasize equity and justice. Let’s highlight the voices, ideas, and stories of communities that historically have been silenced, and continue to be overlooked and ignored. As students of Leeds past, present and future, let’s show the business world how it’s done.