women

When the going gets tough

go on a run. Or if you’re like me, start running, stop after a block, and evaluate why you’re huffing and puffing like you’ve been running a marathon.

This is more than a story about being out of shape. It’s about dealing with obstacles that prevent you from reaching the finish line. Because when it rains, it pours, and in the aftermath of my most recent personal storm, I emerge completely bruised, battered, broken, and… blessed.

Over the past 90 days, a series of events had led me to believe the world was surely conspiring against me. In chronological order:

1. I was robbed in Providence,

2. I started experiencing hazy vision, due to scarring on my cornea,

3. My computer died,

4. I was averaging less than 5 hours of sleep/night,

5. I parted ways with my job.

Each of these sucked.  The last was by far the hardest. There were several reasons for my dismissal from Venture for America, but the largest was that the company wasn’t a natural fit for me. We tried to make things work but ultimately discovered that it was unnatural to continue forcing myself in a position that just wasn’t cut to my shape.

Coming to this realization was difficult because I wanted so badly to contribute to the VFA mission. That was the plan. But when there lacks a natural, comfortable flow, something is probably off. I’ve learned that sometimes you must be willing to let go of what is planned, for the life that is truly right.

I can now focus on my health and peacefully take the time I need for surgery and recovery.  I can now return to writing and exercising, which had all but disappeared when work took over.  More importantly, I can now unapologetically be myself.

Last week, I whined to my friend about everything I’ve lost: my vision, my job, my health, even my cruddy old license which was stolen in Providence.

 “I’ve been ripped of everything. What’s left?”, I cried.

Family and friends. We remain.”, she said.

And that’s all I need. I was stripped of so many things associated with my ego to be reminded that none of that matters.  What matters more than anything else is the love you have and the love you give, and I am blessed beyond belief to have an incredibly supportive network where all of that flows naturally.

For those dealing with similarly “catastrophic” events, remember that you aren’t possibly important enough for the world to plot against you. Think about what you do have and what is meant to emerge will do so naturally.  If things aren’t working on a regular basis, perhaps you’re trying too hard to make two pieces of a different puzzle fit. Find another puzzle to solve.

Venture for America was a wonderful learning opportunity, and I am honored to have worked toward such a meaningful mission. Who knows what’s next. All I know is that however many more disasters it takes, I will eventually make it to the finish line.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”


A New Job

Life is a book and tomorrow marks a new chapter. I’m starting a new job with Venture for America as their Recruiting and Social Media Associate, and I couldn’t be more excited.

rockin’ our awesome American Apparel Venture for America fitted tees!

I’m excited because the direct mission of Venture for America is simple:  recruit the best and brightest college grads to work for two years at emerging start-ups in lower-cost cities.  Commendable, right? But what ultimately draws me to the organization is its multiple layers of potential impact.

1. Companies in less-recognized communities who otherwise lack the resources for securing top talent, now receive exactly that. (The first class of VFA fellows is pretty impressive.)

2. Communities that fellows are based in benefit from an economic boost with the influx of talent.

3. Fellows become mobilized as entrepreneurs, learning how to create business opportunities for themselves and others. Ultimately they have the potential to launch their own companies and create jobs.

4. As a nation, we reap the benefits of a revitalized economy, more jobs, and a redefined version of success.

At its core, Venture for America is out to create jobs, and rightly so. I’ve said before- youth unemployment is the issue of our generation.  It’s a cause I get incredibly riled about. 54% of Americans between the ages of 18-24 are unemployed. A sense of dissatisfaction plagues our youth, mainly because we suffer from lack of ownership in what we do. Unless our country’s employment prospects are drastically improved, America will no longer be the passport to the good life.  People will flock to places that actually have jobs, like Asia.

We need to secure America’s enterprising talent NOW. My job with Venture for America will involve identifying those individuals and engaging with them via digital media.  More broadly, I am out to convince our nation’s best that small but high-potential companies can be viable post-graduate options, if not the best.

It’s crazy to think that just a few months ago I moved to New York City with high hopes, a few contacts, and a tepid bank account. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. But thank goodness for instinct. It led me to this opportunity, this chance to work for a company whose mission resounds so strongly with my beliefs. VFA founder Andrew Yang touches on the mission in his well-written post about restoring the culture of achievement.  I am honored to join him and the rest of the VFA team, all of whom boast an impressive record of achievement and belief in the mission.

We will create 100,000 jobs (or more) by 2025. A lofty target, but I am up for the challenge.

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A special thank you and shout-out to my friend Sarah Kaiser-Cross who was the first person to tell me about VFA, all the way from Turkey!


Women Helping Women: The Levo League

Fairy godmothers do exist. Just meet the women at The Levo League, who are helping Gen-Y women define and achieve their dreams with a sprinkle of what they call ‘Levo Love.’

It is difficult to contain my excitement as I write about this thing called ‘Levo Love.’ Being a Gen-Y woman myself, I am grateful for the plethora of opportunities available to me today, and I reckon the majority of modern-day educated women agree. We are not interested in whining about the plight of gender inequality. The Levo League understands, which is why they stand at a unique position to tackle a new set of dilemmas facing ambitious women today.

Emphasis lies on the the word ambitious, for ambition these days can serve as a double-edged sword. While it allows women to advance further, how often does it also conjure images of suited-up, back-stabbing slave drivers who, by way of coercion, cattiness, and (dare I say?) canoodling, work their way to the top? Devil Wears Prada, anyone?

This cutthroat mentality is not quite what I get as I chat over coffee and delicious yogurt parfait with The Levo League co-founders Amanda Pouchot, 26, and Caroline Ghosn, 25, near their New York office. Pouchot giggles while she reads aloud quotes from her newly-madeTumblr. Meanwhile, Ghosn earnestly exclaims, “How cool is it that our new office is right across from the movie theater?!”

Both exude energy from the carefree California coast where they attended college. While Pouchot was heavily involved as a student leader at UC Berkeley with Panhellenic Council and academic organizations, Ghosn found her passion in social entrepreneurship and begged to take classes at the Stanford Design School (usually limited to graduate students) while she was a Stanford undergraduate.

Their paths crossed shortly after they graduated in November 2008. At their first day of training at McKinsey Consulting, they were the only two women straight out of college in a group of 30.

“I didn’t speak at our first meeting,” Pouchot said. “I was so intimidated.”

The two women gravitated toward each other and soon became each other’s support system. In the competitive male-dominated work atmosphere, they were limited in who they could reach out to for advice, so they started brainstorming ideas for a platform where women could find support. The Levo League was born.

“We wanted to create a platform that democratized mentorship so that women could have opportunities to meet established, successful women and receive advice,” Pouchot said. “Ultimately it was about Gen-Y women [us] building something for other Gen-Y women.”

Since its launch on March 20, The Levo League has created a multimedia website some would liken to a LinkedIn for women. It certainly helps that they have backers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on their side.

But The Levo League’s beautiful ‘virtual corner office’ interface does more than just connect. With the modern office as your ‘home page,’ you can navigate to various sections, including a job search and company database, unique content on young professional lifestyle issues, and a ‘file folder’ stacked with career advice.

Click on the cozy-looking couch and you’re led to one of their most popular programs to date, “Office Hours,” which facilitates a series of live video chats with some of the most powerful women. Speakers so far have ranged from Gilt Groupe chairwoman Susan Lyne toFoodspotting co-founder Soraya Darabi. With a strong foundation in technology, questions to the women can be posed directly on the website or through tweeting and texting. “Office Hours” speakers resonate powerfully with The Levo League’s members.

Maghan McDowell, a magazine editor from Gainesville, Florida, is one of them.

“It is an incredible chance to learn from amazing real women that leave me wondering, ‘Is this real life?’” McDowell said.”It makes them seem more real, and it’s very inspirational. If they can do it, then why can’t I?”

That is what co-founder Ghosn likes to hear. One of her favorite quotes is the famous Jonathan Winters saying: “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim to it.”

She modified the quote saying, “Screw that, you don’t need a ship… just start swimming. You can swim toward an undefined goal, and you’ll figure it out as you swim.”

Levo, derived from the Latin root for ‘elevate,’ also aims to provide an upward financial trajectory for women, which is why the group is raising awareness about Equal Pay Day on April 17. On average, women make just 75 cents for every dollar their male counterparts makes.

“We want women to not be afraid to ask for more,” Pouchot said.

As The Levo League grows, more features are set to launch. One of them is The Levo Lounge, a conversation platform where members can message established women professionals on the network to individually connect for mentorship. Eventually, members will vote on “Office Hours” speakers in different fields. For now, anyone interested in becoming a member cansign up by submitting an ‘elevator pitch’ that describes her aspirations. Membership is capped at 10,000 for the month to enhance the experience for current users.

“Our short-term goal is to make these 10,000 women very happy,” Ghosn said. “Then we can focus on our long-term goal of becoming a generation-defining platform.”

Ultimately, it goes back to the simple Levo philosophy of women helping women.

“Our generation’s success will depend on individual successes, and the only way you can get those individual successes is to have a support network, a group that lifts you up,” Pouchot said.

Ladies, start showing some Levo Love. It’s a term you’re going to be hearing often very soon.

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If you are a career woman and interested in The Levo League, sign up here and watch theintroduction video so you understand what I mean when I say ‘Levo Love’ will be stuck in your head.