Mary Poffenroth: Biology lecturer & Fear researcher, San Jose State University

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My Native Admission Statement: My life is the F word. I research it. I give individual and high growth organizational workshops about it. I get on stages around the world and talk about it. I teach about it at university. I’m writing a book about it. I experiment with it, both professionally and personally. It’s the F word no one wants to talk about, but everyone knows it so well. Fear. I’m an academic researcher and lecturer at San Jose State University that focuses on how the world’s most impactful leaders in tech and creative cultivate a relationship with fear and how the rest of us can use those strategies to get to our greatness. My focus is to get down and dirty with fear so I can share my science based understanding with others on how we all can get friendly with our deeply shared fears. I also infuse my talks and trainings with stories from my own life of trying, failing, and sometimes.. every once in a while.. succeeding with my own very human fears.

How did you get into the industry?

There is a need to bridge the gap between science and art. The left brain vs right brain is a myth that needs to stop. There is both an art and a science to everything and I’m excited to bring both of those worlds into my classroom and my consulting.

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Ysabel LeMay: Artist

My Native Admission Statement: Since winning the New York KiptonART 2011 Rising Stars Program, the work of Austin, Texas-based artist Ysabel LeMay has seen more than 115 exhibitions around the globe and has been acquired for the corporate collections of Chevron, Bloomingdale’s and Bacardi, and the permanent collections at the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Morris Museum. My immense naiveté and enthusiasm, combined with my relentless desire to surpass myself, are the characteristics that have propelled me to where I am today. I believe if you take the time to craft exceptional work, you will be noticed. Nowadays, with the help of social media, artists are being discovered through their work going viral, bloggers reaching people by thousands and sometimes millions. Curators, gallery directors, and collectors are now using online platforms and technology to research and find new talents. That, however, is pretty universal these days. In my own practice, I’ve also followed a strategy of using the side door. What I mean is, in addition to contacts in your own immediate field (for me, that’s gallerists, curators, art critics and so forth), building a non-traditional professional network, with people in fields adjacent to your own. In my case, that means, for instance, architects and interior designers.

What do you expect from the interaction of your work and the viewers?

There are artists who demand a specific reaction from their audience, and I respect that passion, that intensity of conviction. But I am not one of those artists. I understand myself to be simply a channel, a gateway for nature’s mysteries and marvels. Once I have passed my experience to the viewer, I leave it to them to decide how they can engage with these images. For some, it may simply be pleasant and charming, a decoration for their lives. Others, however, may find something much deeper and richer, something approaching the spiritual. Ideally, I would like my work to give the viewer a moment, long or short, of meditation, through which they can more fully understand their world and themselves.

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Lauren M. Scott: The Produce Marketing Association Chief Marketing Officer

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My Native Admission Statement: I am Lauren M Scott and I like to say the ‘M’ stands for mom, marketer, manager and muser. I am passionate about ideas and inspiring people to help them grow professionally and personally. There is magic in the moment when you can see a connection happen - the “a-ha” lightbulb go on, the wheels start to turn, and the tumblers fall into place. I get to see that often in my work now at PMA, where connecting people, ideas and insights is a core part of our mission and vision to grow a healthier world. I love what i do: I have the opportunity to spend time with our members - growers, floral breeders, grocers, restauranteurs, truckers, business service providers – you name it. It is incredible to see their passion and to hear the personal stories that drive them to dedicate their lives to feed and delight us. They are committed to helping grow a healthier world, just like PMA is, and it’s my belief that we’re just getting started.

My Most Challenging Moment?

When a manager made me believe I hit the ceiling in my career. I almost accepted my lot in life (ala C-3PO wandering the desert in Star Wars), then after 15 minutes I picked my head up, blocked that nonsense from my mind, and kept going. Those in leadership need to be very aware how their words can land on their teams, and that moment has always been top of mind when challenges pop up.

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Barbara Wahli "Barb Rocks": Music Manager

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My Native Admission Statement: I believe to focus on doing what makes you happy and to discover new music, you might just find your next favorite artist. I started in early 2016 with a random challenge to book local bands at her favorite live music venue. Fast forward two years and I’m hosting events at every reputable venue San Jose has to offer, all due to my reputation of booking quality shows that pay bands fairly. Around the same time, one of my favorite bands asked me to manage them, which led to my business focus changing from booking shows to artist management. In my 13 year span of working in the Bay Area music scene, I have managed some of most successful local rock bands, produced two music festivals, curated my own showcase in Austin, produced a live music oriented pop-up dining event with my brother Chef Baudi, and landed a few speaking engagements, including a SXSW mentorship. I love seeing how many women in music organizations are out there championing gender equality in this male-dominated music industry, which will lead to more and more women in power roles.  Music will also be a driving force for the artificial intelligence and virtual reality sectors to grow, and blockchain/metadata will continue to gain popularity to ensure a fair trade music format.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

I have an RV that I take on trips regularly.  I'll have an overall destination in mind but I also go with the flow and see where I end up.  I've discovered some amazing spots just by stopping and asking locals what to go see, or by accidentally stumbling upon a cool place. I'm always ready for the next adventure!

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Wendy Day: Rap Coalition Founder

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a woman who has built a career on helping rap artists while living my dreams. I fell in love with rap music in 1980, and in 1992 built Rap Coalition, a not-for-profit artist advocacy organization to help educate and support rap artists, and break unfair contracts in the music business. I enjoy building millionaires. I’m in the process of building an incubator for rappers so I can positively impact more careers. I am most proud of my Youtube channel. Most people can’t afford to hire me, so in 2016, I started building a Youtube channel with free how-to videos about succeeding in the music industry. The channel is youtube.com/ThisIsWendyDay. My clients have gone on to sell over a billion albums during my 27 year career. I want to make an even bigger impact with rappers—help them fund, market, and promote their music and help build even more successful careers.

My Biggest Success?

(I’ve been fortunate to have done some of the best deals in urban music. I’m best-known for negotiating the $30 million Cash Money deal at Universal. But the truth is that I’m more proud of some other deals that I’ve done that empower rappers and teach them how to run their own companies. I’m also proud of my relationship with my husband, Tony. We met while he was incarcerated—at the end of a 17 year sentence he was serving in the Feds. Most people would have looked past him but he’s such an amazing person and after 7 years, I’m as in love with him as I was in the beginning of our relationship. I’m grateful everyday to have him in my life.

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Jenny Wu: LACE Founder & Design Director

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My Native Admission Statement: I am the founder and design director of LACE by Jenny Wu, one of the leading 3D printed jewelry brand specializing in 3D printing stainless steel and precious metal statement pieces. I constantly believe to make it better than yesterday and do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. My biggest success is being a female entrepreneur and a mother to two beautiful boys. Also I love my partner Dwayne Oyler, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katie Couric.

What do you love most about Your City?

Los Angeles has great energy, sunshine and … Actually everything you want is here in LA.

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Dr. Tiffany Jana: TMI Consulting Inc Founder & Author

My Native Admission Statement: I’m help build emotional bridges and walk people across the chasm of differences so they can better experience, understand, and respect each other. I’m an entrepreneur of 16 years with 3 companies and 3 books under my belt. All of them are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Public speaker, thought leader, change maker, and champion of the people—my goal is to make the hardest concepts and conversations accessible and inclusive through the written word, experiential design, and groundbreaking technology.

Most Challenging Moment?:

My most challenging moment was deciding to part ways with my ex-husband and former business partner. Even though I started the company 8 years before I invited him to join me, the pivot to diversity happened with him. It was always my intention for us to be in it together for the long haul. My core goals and values remained consistent, but the entrepreneurial desire for evolution and growth was mine and not his. It was hard and horrible, but it’s the best business decision I ever made. The companies experienced their most exponential growth following his departure.

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Abby Schreiber: Paper Magazine Executive Editor

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My Native Admission Statement: I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past seven years – nearly the entirety of my professional career – at PAPER Magazine. Now, as Executive Editor, I’m responsible for overseeing our four print issues from top to bottom. I’ve been lucky to work on exciting projects like our recent Amanda Bynes cover story, a shoot with Rihanna at a NYC bodega at 2am and a crazy cover shoot with Leo Messi and a bunch of real-life goats in Barcelona. You only get one chance to make a good first impression so whether it’s a cold call, a cover letter or email, make sure it counts. I can’t tell you how many times people have emailed me and referred to the wrong magazine or misspelled my name – that is grounds for definitely seeing the email go in the trash folder. It’s also important to toe the line between being confident and poised while also being respectful and deferential…if you get the ratios wrong, it can really backfire.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I love the bagel, smoked salmon and cream cheese at Black Seed bagels.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Coffee and black tea in the morning (1-2 cups black tea when I first wake up followed by 1-2 cups coffee mid-morning) and then red wine at night (1 glass if I’m just at home or 2 if I’m out to dinner).

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Lisa Feria: Stray Dog Capital CEO

My Native Admission Statement: Stray Dog Capital is a mission-driven Venture Capital firm that drives alternatives to the use of animals in the supply chain through investments, expertise and support: Investing for a better future for all animals. Stray Dog Capital wants a world in which all animals live in peaceful co-existence. My aspirations are to o help the world shift into food consumption that is better for you (health wise), has a lighter footprint on the environment and is better for animals. To raise empathetic, driven and caring men that will do the right thing, no matter what others say. To have a strong, long lasting and growing marriage. To have adventures in this world and never stop growing and learning. I saw a video on animal production (slaughterhouses) and immediately became vegetarian – after that it was a quick shift into wanting to align my principals with my everyday work. Stray Dog Capital and I found each other pretty quickly.

Emerging industry trends?:

Plant based is everywhere and ever-growing. The shift into consuming less animal products has been driven by Millennials but followed by other generations (due to health concerns.) It’s great news for the environment, animals – and our business!

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Audrey Wu: CONVRG Co-Founder & CEO

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My NativeAdMission Statement: I’m the CoFounder and CEO of Convrg, an AI voice and messaging platform powering experiences for brands such as Estee Lauder Companies and the GRAMMYs. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and fell into conversational AI, starting with chatbots in 2015 to now where we build world class voice experiences. I’m a walking wiki on all things chatbots and voice assistants and most recently spoke about the topic at SXSW and Mobile World Congress. I also write for Adweek. Chatbots and voice assistants are a very nascent industry which means there is no “traditional” background. One of my co-founders comes from a beauty, creative and editorial background while the other has an MBA and is a master coder. I came from a digital marketing via investment banking background.

Emerging industry trends?:

I am very bullish on voice assistants and conversational AI. Having built voice skills for top brands such as Estee Lauder Companies and GRAMMYs, I see a huge potential on how brands can capitalize on a truly bi-directional conversation with their users.

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Maria Miller: SPOT Co-Founder & President

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My Native Admission Statement: I would love for our customers to feel like we encourage and support them to live BIG, that they have taken an adventure or a risk they would have not done had we not been there. Spot is an ambitious startup penetrating the $558 Billion dollar life insurance industry by opening an entirely new channel of distribution and targeting a demographic, which to date, has been untouchable by traditional behemoths. On average, Americans under the age of 45 account for less than 5% of the total population with life insurance. That’s because life insurance wasn’t created for the actual wants and fears of the people Spot aims to serve and wasn’t designed for an adventurous lifestyle. Be good. Be kind. Know that you have an impact.

How did you get into the industry?:

I received a call from a Head Hunter and took an interview, even though I was not actively searching for a job. I never thought I would end up in insurance but loved the company culture and had immense respect for my leadership. The more I learned about the industry, the more passionate I became with helping others understand the importance of planning for the ones we love most. I simply took a chance. As for the entrepreneurship, a mentor of mine recommended the book, How Will You Measure Your Life?; after reading said book, I knew I wanted to do something that could impact many, not just a company’s bottom line.

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Megan Griffiths: Writer & Director

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a writer/director working in film and television. I have premiered films at top-tier film festivals such as Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and South by Southwest, and I have directed episodes of television for HBO, EPIX, TNT and Netflix. My focus is on empathy-centered storytelling, and I work hard to understand the motivations of the characters in every narrative, as I think that helps me and the audience to better understand the people in our own lives.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Every moment when I’m not actively on set directing, because those are the moments when I’m trying to build something new—and that always feels next to impossible.

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Anil Pereira: Felix & Paul Studios Chairman & Serial Entrepreneur

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a 25 year marketing veteran with deep experience across both startups and large companies with a focus on launching new products, developing highly trusted global brands and building scalable revenue machines. I previously served as a Vice President at American Express (DRTV, New Products); EVP & GM at VeriSign (Corporate Marketing, Enterprise Services, IPO Lead); SVP at Classmates.com (New Products, International, IPO Lead); and also founded two companies of my own—SecondSpace (Acquired by NASDAQ:CSGP) and Verious (TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield Finalist). I currently serve as Chairman of the Board of Felix & Paul Studios (Immersive Entertainment = VR/AR/MR) and “Virtual CMO” to a number of B2C, B2B, and B2B2C startups from seed to late stage across a range of industries. I look for founders, teams and companies that are tackling large, untapped markets, who have a strong sense of business ethics and shared values and situations where I can add “10X value” by being a part of their extended teams. I am proud of the fact that many of these relationships continue for years and several of them have spanned multiple companies by the same founders.

Career advice to those in your industry?

The biggest piece of career advice I give to others is to stick with something for more than just a couple of years. I spent 7 and 6 years, respectively, at my first 2 professional jobs after business school and that allowed me to gain depth and expertise and move up the ladder within the same company.

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Michelle Courtney Berry MPS, CISD, RMT: Mindful Living Expert, Author, Keynote Speaker, & Powerful Wellness Coach

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My Native Admission Statement: I help visionaries find the right balance between their work and their life. We used to call this work-life balance, but now we know better. Work and life are integrated, not separate things. In today's fast-paced, ever-changing digital economy, finding a way to work smarter, work less, but earn more, is the top of everyone's list. The only way to truly succeed and keep your brand relevant, is to stay healthy. I help you do just that by deploying some of the best mindfulness and total wellness hacks around. I have more than 20 years in the game and I’ve crawled out of burnout, anxiety, depletion, and overwhelm so I can devote my life to helping you stay accountable to your end goals. In sum, I support you in pressing reset so you can start walking the wellness path of real, authentic work-life integration.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My favorite person in the world is my daughter Nina. My role models are many but I have to say the top two are: the late Maya Angelou whom I got life-changing advice from backstage right before I was opening for her.  http://ithacalit.com/backstage-with-maya.html#.VuYIvPkrL4Y  and next, I’d have to say personal business development coach and all-around speaking superstar and self-help expert, Coach Lisa Nichols from Motivatingthemasses.com - the first time I heard her speak and was coached by her, it changed the entire way I thought about what I charged and how I scaled my business.

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Ann Mei Chang: Author of "Lean Impact" & Chief Innovation Officer, USAID

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Bio: Ann Mei Chang is a leading advocate for social innovation and author of LEAN IMPACT: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good (Wiley, Nov. 6, 2018). As Chief Innovation Officer at USAID, Ann Mei served as the first Executive Director of the US Global Development Lab, engaging the best practices for innovation from Silicon Valley to accelerate the impact and scale of solutions to the world’s most intractable challenges. She was previously the Chief Innovation Officer at Mercy Corps and served the US Department of State as Senior Advisor for Women and Technology in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.

Prior to her pivot to the public and social sector, Ann Mei was a seasoned technology executive, with more than 20 years’ experience at such leading companies as Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as at a range of startups. As Senior Engineering Director at Google, she led worldwide engineering for mobile applications and services, delivering 20x growth to $1 billion in annual revenues in just three years.

Ann Mei currently serves on the boards of BRAC USA and IREX, is a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, and is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellows’ class of 2011, and was recognized as one of the “Women In the World: 125 Women of Impact” by Newsweek/The Daily Beast in 2013.

How did you get into the industry?

I taught myself to code at the age of 12, studied computer science in college, then worked for 23 years in Silicon Valley. However, in my mid-twenties, I made a decision to spend the second half of my career working for social good. As that transition point approached, I sought out roles that got me closer to my chosen focus on global poverty, such as leading Emerging Markets at Google. Then, made the leap by joining the State Department through the Franklin Fellowship Program.

Career Advice?

If you want to do something mission-driven, take it as seriously as you would something that is profit-driven. Doing *some* good is not enough. Aim high, take risks, and measure imoact so that you maximize both the breadth and depth of your impact.

Biggest Success?

At Google, when I started leading the mobile engineering team our revenues were about $50M annually. Despite that, we set an audacious goal of becoming the next billion dollar business in the company and reviewed our progress weekly. With the release of the iPhone and Android, along with an amazing team that leapt at each new opportunity, we achieved our goal in only three years.

Why is innovation for social good just as necessary as innovation for business?

The point of innovation is to create something that is better, faster, or cheaper than what exists today. We have so many long-standing societal ills – from poverty, toinjustice, to environmental degradation. I’d argue there’s nowhere that innovation is more needed.

What makes it harder?

The biggest factor is the nature of funding. Rather than invest in the potential for future growth, most donors care about tangible, predictable results. Thus, nonprofits are forced to operate more like utility companies than startups. This makes it hard for them to experiment, take risks, and pivot – all essential elements of innovation.

In addition, there are also a number of innate challenges in the types of problems we tackle. Measuring impact is much harder than measuring e-commerce purchases, our instincts can lead us astray when serving people very different from ourselves, and experimenting with vulnerable people requires great care.

What inspired you to transition to the social sector after a long business career at Silicon Valley tech companies like Google?

I decided to make this transition almost two decades earlier. In 1995, an executive at Apple named Elizabeth Birch left her job at the age of 38 to become the Executive Director of a nonprofit, the Human Rights Campaign. I’d never heard of anyone doing something like this, and it opened a whole new window of possibilities to me. I decided then and there that I would make a similar switch and spend the second half of my career in the public or social sector doing something to make the world a better place.

How can Silicon Valley approaches to growth and innovation also help accelerate social impact?

Everyone seems to look towards Silicon Valley for ways that technology can help solve social challenges. While the potential for tech is tremendous, I believe there’s an even greater potential for us to learn from the techniques that have led to the breathtaking pace of progress coming out of the tech industry. For over 50 years, Moore’s Law has accurately predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would double every two years, delivering exponentially greater computing power. Imagine if we could even capture a fraction of that progress for social good. This starts with setting more audacious goals, is enabled by embracing risk-taking, and becomes reality through fast experiments that drive learning.

Altruism is one of the best human qualities and motivators for social good, but what does it need to be complemented by to create social impact?

Generosity is a beautiful human quality, but it’s not sufficient in itself. We also need to focus on effectiveness. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of the time and money we donate makes us feel like we are doing good, but doesn’t necessarily make a lasting difference. For example, giving to an orphanage might feel satisfying as we can see the real suffering we are alleviating. On the other hand, in some countries this has created an incentive for healthy parents to give up their own children in hopes they can have better lives. Even worse, kids may be kidnapped to meet the demand.

Thus, generosity must be paired with another virtue, humility. This means switchingour focus from how much we give to whether we are making a lasting impact.

How can social sector organizations apply a lean approach to thinking differently about their finance models?

One of the three pillars of social innovation is growth. The difference we make is based on both the depth and breadth of our impact. If deliver significant impact, but only for a tiny fraction of those in need, are we really moving the needle?

Too often, scale ends up being an afterthought – something organizations only consider after they have proven an intervention works. But, the engine for growth should be an essential element of the core design. If a solution works, but is too expensive to scale, it may need to be entirely redesigned and retested. Thus, Lean Impact encourages us to test our growth hypotheses early on, along with value and impact.

What challenges did you encounter and what results did you achieve when you were chief innovation officer at USAID?

As with any large institution, there is inertia both in the culture and the procedures. Change takes time. We built support by seeking out early adopters – established leaders across the organization who saw the need and were willing to take some risks – and partnered with them to adopt new technologies and new ways of working. As they started demonstrating successes, they ended up becoming our best evangelists among their peers across the agency.

How could people in the private sector benefit from reading this book?

If you’re at a private sector company that is mission-driven, Lean Impact approaches will help you deliver on both profit and purpose in a meaningful way.

Lean principles make lots of sense for organizations, but how might a socially conscious individual apply them to create social change in their own community in some small way?

Bringing Lean Impact into your community can be as simple as asking an organization you volunteer with or donate to this essential question: “How do you know what you’re doing is working and are there ways you can do even better?” Look for opportunities to question the status quo, try something different, and scale what works.

What might our world look like if everyone started applying lean principles toward social good?

I believe we’d see dramatically better solutions for the problems plaguing people and our planet. We would embrace a healthier mix between addressing short-term needs and investing in longer-term transformation. Ultimately, our pace of progress would start to catch up with the accelerating pace of change around the world.