STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: Talk about your career path in detail. Did you face any obstacles?
If you could imagine a chart full of zig zags that pretty much sums up my career path (read, not linear). I was raised by a single mom who encouraged me from a young age to go to college (I was the first one in my family to go to college) and pursue a lucrative career so that I could set myself up for financial independence. My mind was never attuned to anything else…anything creative. In college I studied finance and my first job upon graduation was at a corporate housing company. They hired me as a temporary employee to do generalist human resources work. I was miserable. I thought “what am I doing wasting my $100K degree doing work I don’t love or that is not even closely related to my major?” The first obstacle was getting transferred to another department. There was an opening on the sales team for a Jr. Sales Analyst and I jumped at the opportunity. I met with the entire sales team who loved my energy and determination. They advocated for me to join them, but my boss in the HR department said a move would break the office’s eligibility policy of waiting one year before a transfer would be possible. I remember going home that evening and balling my eyes out. “How unfair! How stupid! Office policy? I’m qualified!” It turns out a month later the VP of Sales learned of my interest and he pulled some strings. I was able to transfer before a full year was realized and the rest is history.
Lesson learned: you must believe in yourself and what you’re capable of. You must network and get support from the right people who are going to advocate for you.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: Did you always know what you wanted to do in life? What did you want to be when you were little?
Haha! I laugh because I was raised to choose one of three career paths, accountant/doctor/lawyer….I would clip coupons with my grandparents and talk about how expensive groceries were so accounting seemed like an obvious path until I reached college, enrolled in my third accounting course and just bombed the whole thing. Accounting theory was very uninspiring to me. It wasn’t until I landed one of my first finance jobs out of college at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that I realized everything is a business….even a non-profit whose mission is to exhibit art for the public’s benefit. It was there that I learned to value my business savvy acumen and that I could work in an inspiring creative environment. To have a well-rounded sense of the industry is crucial to improving it. So, one of the curators encouraged me to come to NYC to attend Parsons and study design.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: Do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing multiple passions?
Don’t be afraid to have multiple titles, responsibilities and careers. My goal is to have 10 careers by the time I leave planet Earth. Realize how lucky you are in this day and age (depending on what country you live in) to be able to pursue your passions. Go in to it realistically. It was never my goal to make money with Damsels in Design. First and foremost it was about building community….which is your net worth (read “Porter’s Gale’s Your Network is Your Net Worth”). With a community of like-minded women I have had the opportunity to make referrals, land speaking engagements, create products and services, and best of all life-long friendships. You must be honest with yourself and know why you are doing something. Is it for the money? Great! Have a plan and let that be your guide. Is it for the community? Amazing! Have a plan and let it be your guide so you are not just spinning your wheels and you know when to quit or say no.
I think the greatest challenge when one has an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to create her own path is the risk of the unknown, but that is also the beauty of it. With freedom comes responsibility… that’s a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my idols.
My path seems to change every five years. As I grow and learn from various experiences I’m faced with a new fork in the road. It’s really a matter of timing and manifestation.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: What is a typical workday like for you?
I work in a corporate office setting so my regular working hours are full of projects, meetings and analysis. People always ask me how I am able to handle so many balls in the air with Damsels, DEL and my social life and my answer is Google Calendar! I use every minute of my free time wisely. Lunches usually consist of conference or cold calls to sponsors and potential donors and, if I’m lucky, meetings with them at their offices! Tuesdays I meet with Designers Education League mentors and apprentices. When I have no meetings scheduled during lunch I’ll take advantage and get my nails done or talk to my family members who live in California. After work I’m either setting up events or attending them. I like to fit workouts in the morning or over the weekends when I have more time. Weekends are spent relaxing, cooking, and spending time with my friends and loved ones.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: How does your career affect your stylistic choices?
I love dressing up in general! I wear a ton of color. In fact, the best part of my style is that I don’t have one signature look (it lends itself to my Gemini personality). Working in mostly business settings and having important meetings with corporate professionals and donors does require polish. I’ve always had a love for dresses from the 1950s and 1960s.
If I find a modern take on an old style I snatch it up right away. Dresses with empire waists, heavy darting and pleating are also very flattering for my body type.
Jeans never worked for me (I think I own one pair, but they’re stuffed in the bottom of some drawer), therefore I usually skip casual Friday.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: What inspired you to create Designers Education League?
Designers Education League is really a product of Damsels in Design. I built a community of women and listened to their needs. What I realized is that education and business knowledge needs to start earlier. It needs to start in college. I strive to create impact with all that I do, and I know advocating for underrepresented students who are minorities or who have low-income status is a passion that is worthwhile. Designers Education League places college students in to rigorous apprenticeship rotations with leading design companies.
Students are paired with mentors and rotate through departments learning every aspect of the business from finance to legal issues and design to production. There is an emphasis on accountability and teaching the students time management. We built a curriculum for the corporate mentors to use as a guide and at the end of the semester, students present a capstone project to demonstrate their understanding of the learning objectives. It is a well devised structure and we have just finished our first pilot program this month with great success. We’re excited to get more people involved and on board…it’s just a matter of time.
Damsels in Design offers events for designers of every discipline and we educate creative women in the business of design. There are zero organizations that exclusively offer and emphasize the need for well-rounded business knowledge amongst women in the design community. We try to protect early design entrepreneurs by training them how to start and manage their own businesses. We also cater to creative women who are working their way up the ladder and want to understand the nuances of promotions, salary negotiations, becoming partner or how to create their own roles within a creative environment.
STYLISH SOPHISTICATE: What do you do to de-stress? How do you balance work and play?
My boyfriend lives in New Jersey and I’m out there almost every weekend. Ask me 8 years ago (when I first moved to NYC) about leaving the city and I would’ve said I rather go back to LA than Long Island or Jersey! But it’s such a beautiful state. We go hiking most weekends, or take walks around nearby lakes. I love real estate too, so browsing open houses on Sunday is my ideal lazy afternoon activity. There is also House of Cards….but I binge on those for a couple days and then I agonize thinking about what’s to come next season!