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Social Impact Tech: Leah Page of ADT On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact

An Interview With Jilea Hemmings

ADT’s mobile technology, Safe by ADT solves two major challenges: it provides anyone in an emergency with discreet methods for summoning help and it enables the transfer of potentially life-saving information to 911, including data such as GPS location, gender, and hair color. By increasing the information available to emergency responders, it can enable faster response times and help save lives.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Page.

Leah Page has 20 years of experience in product management and service operations for next-generation technology hardware and software solutions. She has a strong passion for product development and bringing new products and services to market.

In her current role as VP of Mobile Security & Strategic Projects at ADT, Leah leads the Mobile Security and Health business units. Her focus is on delivering tech-forward products from ADT that extend security beyond the home to meet demands of new demographics and customers. This includes the extension of ADT professional mobile monitoring services with new partners where end-users get help when and where they need it. Leah has ownership of Safe by ADT, an easy-to-use platform that can be integrated into third-party apps, and ADT-owned mobile safety app, SoSecure by ADT. Her role also includes managing the business that supports ADT’s senior customers with unique solutions to provide aging in place and meeting their personal security inside and outside of the home.

Prior to ADT, Leah held leadership positions at Cinch Home Services where she built a platform for matching service providers to IoT device needs, and Motorola Mobility where she drove product strategy and requirements definition for smart phones and mobile applications.

Leah graduated with a BS in International Business from the University of Southern California.

Leah currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL with her husband, 5 children, and dog named Charlie.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I am a native Floridian, born and raised in South Florida where I currently reside. When I was in middle and high school, my family re-located to Singapore and I spend many of my formative years there. It was an amazing place to live and gave me such a different perspective on life, culture, and society. Traveling to new places was a huge part of my youth and something that I enjoy doing with my family now. There is nothing better than exploring a new city, experiencing local traditions, and enjoying local flavors!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In a previous role, my responsibility was product introduction and distribution in international markets. There was an issue with the brand trademark in a market that we were looking to develop. In this market, the law required the trademark to be negotiated from the current owner. I worked with a local law firm to set up a meeting with the current trademark owner at their local offices. We had spoken about the strategy, the negotiation, and the amount the company was willing to pay to get it back. After a long trip when I arrived at the law office, I was seated in a room and waited for the legal teams, a translator, and the person who currently owned the trademark. After some time, they showed up and the negotiation went way better than expected getting it back easily and for next to nothing. After the meeting concluded, I was reviewing the paperwork and realized that it was the wrong brand. The legal office had made a mistake and placed me in the wrong meeting room. It was eventually all worked out, but I laugh that there is a retail store brand out there that still owes me!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had many great mentors and bosses in my career. I always take something from each one. In my current role, I am grateful to ADT’s CEO, Jim DeVries. He is a true believer in bringing security beyond the home and has been a driving force behind what we are doing with mobile security.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a magnet in my office this sits in the center of my whiteboard. I use my whiteboard to think about new ideas and concepts, or solve problems with my team. The magnet reads, “Proceed as if success is inevitable.” It strikes a chord with me, as I often work on new and innovative projects where the outcome is yet to be determined. If you stay positive, believe in work, and do the right thing, then success will come.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Respect — It Is important to respect the people around you. People will have different perspectives on how to solve problems or how a customer may view a product. It is more important now than ever to respect these opinions and respect one another. Providing praise to teams and thanking them for their work in a meaningful way is an important part of leadership.
  • Loyalty — It is important to be loyal to yourself and your cause. To this day, I work with many people that I have known or worked with for decades. I think when you take care of people it creates a sense of loyalty and comradery that allows the team to achieve even the most difficult tasks.
  • Humility — Never act like something beneath you. Never say “that’s not my job”. I abide by an “all hands on deck” policy to solve problems and get things done. I think humility make teams more engaged and it allows people to know that their opinions count. Be the first one to take the pen, offer to take the notes — you’ll be amazed how much of a leadership role that automatically places you in.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

According to NENA, an estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. annually, often with limited location data. Some 911 callers are unable to verbally relay information that emergency responders need to assist them because they are unaware of their surroundings, traumatized, or in a dangerous situation that an obvious outreach for help may worsen.

How do you think your technology can address this?

ADT has developed a mobile safety technology platform that leverages the ubiquity of GPS-enabled mobile devices and the always-on, professional monitoring and emergency assistance of ADT’s more than 1,000 trained monitoring agents. The technology, Safe by ADT, is a data-driven, easy-to-use platform that powers our personal safety app, SoSecure, and can be easily integrated into third-party apps. Safe by ADT extends the safety and security of ADT’s professional monitoring services to its partner’s (e.g. Lyft, invisaWear, harbor) users within its mobile app experience.

This innovation represents a revolutionary new approach for ADT, the number one smart home security provider, in two ways. First, it extends protection away from the home to protect people, regardless of where they are. Second, by integrating the ADT technology and service directly into apps and devices, it’s a departure from ADT’s traditional single-brand approach.

Because Safe by ADT can be easily integrated into third-party apps, we are opening up a world of possibilities to add safety and security to other innovative products and services.

ADT’s mobile technology, Safe by ADT solves two major challenges: it provides anyone in an emergency with discreet methods for summoning help and it enables the transfer of potentially life-saving information to 911, including data such as GPS location, gender, and hair color. By increasing the information available to emergency responders, it can enable faster response times and help save lives.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’ve always been inspired by ADT’s guiding principle that everyone deserves to feel safe. While that guiding principle pervades, there have been drastic changes in American labor and society that altered the way people interact with one another. Blind dates are set up with the swipe of a finger in an app. Spare rooms in our homes can be rented out the same day with a single click. Gig economies have transformed the service industry, enabling millions of strangers to receive or provide a service to one another on-demand through an app. With these conveniences also comes an increased concern for personal safety. My team and I saw this as an exciting opportunity to innovate safety solutions for today’s lifestyles and extend ADT’s trusted protection wherever people’s lives take them, whether they’re delivering groceries, taking a rideshare home from a night out or venturing out in a new city on a peaceful walk.

How do you think this might change the world?

While it’s easy to think of this innovation as simply reactive protection — for use in emergency — we like to believe that is more of an enabling technology. By giving users peace of mind, we can unlock myriad opportunities. We can enable new economic opportunities for people who might otherwise be nervous to drive for a rideshare or shop for a food delivery company. We can give a new resident of the city the confidence to explore new neighborhoods. We can open up new forms of mobility for the elderly or infirmed who might otherwise not be confident to venture out on their own. The opportunities are endless when you pair location-based devices with the trained, trusted and always-on professional emergency response teams of ADT.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I don’t think there are any unintended consequences when it comes to mobile security and how our highly trained Monitoring Agents handle incoming incidents. At ADT, we do our best to confirm that people that get in contact with us need help from police before we request that dispatch. One unexpected benefit that surfaced is that there are groups of people that prefer not to talk to 911 when they need the police or are scared that they won’t be taken seriously. In these cases, I am happy we provide a service that can reassure or get help to people that need it most.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

The first thing is that you need to be passionate about the positive impact you strive to make. Find a cause that is important to you and think about how technology can enable an answer to that problem. When I started to think about how security is personal to people and how they want that experience to be delivered, it became evident that the way ADT Monitoring Agents handle a situation must be relevant to that situation. Therefore, the team built a tool that allows for the interactions to be dynamic to the issue. We also added training that helps Agents to be sensitive to these new types of incidents. Think clearly about the issue you are trying to solve and then how to go about it.

Second, the technology needs to be intuitive. It seems obvious to say, but if technology inhibits the problem you are trying to solve or makes it too difficult to use, then the purpose can be blurred. In the implementation of ADT’s mobile security app, SoSecure, we have multiple ways — a widget, a time-based parameter, voice activation, or a digital slider button — that allow a user to request that they need help. It was important to prioritize these efforts so it was easier to have people that might be in a threatening situation be able to engage with us. The core of SoSecure is to enable people to get help, and our technology makes it as intuitive as possible.

Third, think about how your audience wants to engage with your product. For the mobile security business, we have added chat and video as ways to engage with our Monitoring Agents in a time of need. In designing the app, it was important to think about discreet situations, situations where a user wants to show what is happening, and situations that necessitate a speed of emergency help where every second counts. Remember to think about the engagement of that audience and the situational factors that will be around them when they are using the product, it will enable a better overall experience.

Forth, don’t be afraid to do things differently. It is important to understand the landscape, competitive factors, and the future of the cause you are passionate about. It is key to thinking about how things are done today, and how technology and an intuitive experience might disrupt that. Dare to think about how you might want something to work, about where your cause could go at the highest level, and then map your path of how to get there. Strive to put your flavor to something and make it different. Just because something has always been done one way isn’t always a great reason to keep doing it that way.

And last, have a great team! Surround yourself with people that care about your cause, surround yourself with people that you respect and admire. Remember to diversify your team with culture, tenure, and personalities. It will deliver a better product to a more diverse audience. If you are lucky enough to be in a leadership position, listen to them, get hands on with the right problems, and learn from those around you.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

There are so many small ways and big ways to help people in society. When you see a way that you might make a difference — a new idea, a platform to speak your mind, a way to fight for something you believe in — then don’t let anything stop you. Young people today are faced with many societal issues and I see what a large part of their lives it is to take a stand and speak their minds. I am always impressed and encouraged that this is now part of people’s lives at such a young age.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

This is by far the hardest question — Kamala Harris, Snoop Dog, Mary Barra…. I could spend hours making a list. But I think I will have to go with Tim Cook. There is no doubt he has an amazing vision on where next generation mobile devices are going and the 10-year landscape. I want to know the year when I won’t have to look down at a screen or carry a phone. And although I prefer my MacBook and my iPad, I prefer Android phones, so it could be fun to have him try to convince me otherwise.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow our work on ADT Newsroom and on SoSecure by ADT page.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.


Social Impact Tech: Leah Page of ADT On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Tech: Ross Young of Linewize On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive…

Social Impact Tech: Ross Young of Linewize On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact

An Interview With Jilea Hemmings

We have technology that gets right to the source of however a child is accessing the internet. With an issued school device, we’re breaking SSL, looking at encrypted traffic and using AI to identify any early indicators of self-harm, school violence, depression and suicide. On a school district device that kids are using anywhere from eight to 10 hours a day, we’re protecting those devices and can share data with parents so there’s full transparency on which websites their children are accessing. We also provide resources for parents to get advice from therapists that are focused on digital wellness on what to do about potentially harmful internet searches. So, we’re working with the schools to have visibility to what kids are doing online. And then we’re also working with the parents to help educate them on how kids use the internet and how to have better conversations with their children before handing them a device.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross Young.

Ross Young is the North American Senior Vice President and General Manager at Linewize where he helps K-12 school districts meet the challenges of today’s connected learning environment by leading product strategy, sales and customer experience. With more than 15 years of relevant experience, Young has deep expertise in the EdTech and cybersecurity industries, a passion for technology and its ability to drive social impact, and a strong understanding of how to effectively integrate classroom management tools into school districts. An experienced SaaS veteran, Young was instrumental in the successful launch of Linewize in the U.S. market and has spent the past three years aiding in the strategic growth and development of the company.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

My father is a retired military pilot, so I moved around quite a bit as a child. But where I really grew up was in the East Bay, which is part of the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents split when I was very young, so I grew up with a single mom, which was a struggle as she was raising four boys. I played a lot of sports growing up too because my mom was working a lot.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The story of my career is interesting because I thought there’d be no opportunity without a college degree. I wanted to go to college, however I realized there were a lot of time-consuming projects when I could be out there making money, so I dropped out of college for a career in sales. One of the most ironic things is that I’m hiring people with PhDs and dual master’s degrees, and I don’t have a degree. I believe you can make it through via an alternative path as long as you’re focused on where you want to be.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. So is there a particular person that you are grateful towards who helped you get to where you are and can you share a story about that?

Yes, and he probably doesn’t even know it. There was a leader that I worked with at a previous tech company called iBoss, and he saw me as an individual contributor. He pulled me aside and said, “I see a lot more in you and I think you’re going to be a really strong leader”, which really inspired me to just go for it. So, I would say that he was very critical to my success in getting where I’m at today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Hard work meets talent when talent fails to work hard.” It’s relevant because I can even relate it back to sports. For example, there are the very gifted athletes that are just naturally good at the beginning of the season and then there are the athletes that really put their head down and put in the work, and towards the end of the season, those are the ones that end up as the starters. Putting your head down, thinking about the process and being relentless within that process will make you more successful.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Perseverance is the number one. I know that’s really cliché, but it’s just so accurate and so true. You’re going to face adversity, but adversity can be an opportunity, and failure is also an opportunity to become more successful if you use that as motivation and learn from adversity. That will ultimately make you more successful in general as you navigate those particular areas. Originally when I started here, nobody wanted to work with us right out of the gate because we didn’t have any customers. I actually got on a jet and flew out to a potential customer, took them out to dinner and really worked with them and put my name and reputation behind our ability to execute. This ultimately led to us replacing the market share leader in the Pascagoula public school district. That was really our first customer in the states, and they were previously still in a contract with the number one competitor in our space. The other is having a strong vision of where you want to go, which is incredibly important. You have to be able to see yourself in that place if you want to actually get there. And then the last thing I’d say is faith. I think that having a personal faith and having a relationship within your particular religion or set of beliefs helps to guide you through relationships and execute on promises made.

OK super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

We’re looking to keep kids safe throughout their digital journey, whether that’s on a device provided by a parent, a device issued by the school, or even when kids are accessing content at a friend’s house. We’re really looking to protect every child’s digital journey, regardless of the modality in which they’re connecting to the internet.

How do you think your technology can address this?

We have technology that gets right to the source of however a child is accessing the internet. With an issued school device, we’re breaking SSL, looking at encrypted traffic and using AI to identify any early indicators of self-harm, school violence, depression and suicide. On a school district device that kids are using anywhere from eight to 10 hours a day, we’re protecting those devices and can share data with parents so there’s full transparency on which websites their children are accessing. We also provide resources for parents to get advice from therapists that are focused on digital wellness on what to do about potentially harmful internet searches. So, we’re working with the schools to have visibility to what kids are doing online. And then we’re also working with the parents to help educate them on how kids use the internet and how to have better conversations with their children before handing them a device.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I have a very personal story that made me passionate about digital safety. When my12-year-olddaughter was seven, she wanted to speak with Justin Bieber online. She was on a laptop in her room searching for how to speak to Justin Bieber. A link came up that said if you want to speak to Justin Bieber to ‘click here.’ When she clicked on it, it downloaded Skype. Skype opened to a stranger on to her screen, and he said, “Only five more people can speak to Justin Bieber, you need to pass the test to speak with him.” It was a live chat and started with simple things like “send me a picture of your face,” and then “send me a picture of you standing up all the way and of your whole body,” and “now I want you to pose and act like a cat and show me a picture of your best cat impression.” There were also things like “how close are your parents? Can you go into your closet? Are you alone in your room? ”My daughter eventually ran out and said, “Mommy, I only have two more tests to pass before I get to speak with Justin Bieber.” My wife went into the room, looked at the laptop, and noticed that all of the questions and that she had actually sent some pictures. We then realized that there was a predator in my daughter’s room trying to take advantage of her. The police ended up catching this guy about four months later, and they caught him with all sorts of child pornography. That experience was really eye opening to me. I realized that even if parents are technically savvy themselves, they can still be totally unaware of how their kids use the internet. I’m passionate about helping educate parents on how to “digitally parent” better and keep kids safe.

How do you think this might change the world?

Right now, we are in the middle of a mental health pandemic. Suicides are the number two cause of death between children of 13 and 19. And ultimately, we’re intervening in suicides every day because of the AI that we’re using and the quick alert notifications we provide. In the last three years, we’ve grown from 150,000 students protected to 9.6 million students protected globally across four different countries. We’re already making an impact on the world. And as our technologies continue to improve, we’re going to affect millions and millions and more.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

This technology must be in the right hands. It’s necessary to educate folks on how to use the data right. Data can be used for good, or it can be used for bad. We’re providing data and guidance on how to use it, but it’s ultimately the parents and the school’s decision on what they do with it. There can be some unintended privacy issues, but the good outweighs the bad in the sense that the people who have access to the data have a fiduciary responsibility to keep children safe. That’s what they’ve sworn to do. So, they’re typically using it within the right context.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”?

I think I can share three things. First of all, you need to understand the social impact. This is necessary so you don’t lose sight of your vision and mission. That’s really a key component to protecting every student’s digital journey. Regardless of how they use technology, it’s important to define what protecting a student’s digital experience looks like to execute on your mission. The next is outside validation and what that looks like on the social impact. What kind of feedback have you received that validates what you’re doing? For protecting students’ digital journey, when we have a parent or a school district reach out saying they were able to intervene in a suicide or self-harm that week because of Linewize, it validates our social impact. The third is establishing a strong company culture and ensuring that every person you hire has a deep passion behind what they’re doing.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Life is about more than just making money. Knowing that the world’s a lot bigger than you really humbles you. The happiest people are the ones that are giving back. Making a social impact in your work will keep you driven beyond money. It’s ok to be money driven, but ultimately, if you have the opportunity to give back, you’re really able to reap what you sow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Honestly, I don’t really have one.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can go to my LinkedIn profile.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.


Social Impact Tech: Ross Young of Linewize On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Tech: Carter Maslan of Camio On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive…

Social Impact Tech: Carter Maslan of Camio On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact

An Interview With Jilea Hemmings

…When COVID-19 hit early last year, a Chilean mining company acted quickly to develop a comprehensive system to safeguard employees, including mask wearing and social distancing requirements, health screening questionnaires, and training programs. While the company had strong protocols in place, there was no efficient way to monitor compliance, identify problem areas, and track anomalies.
With Camio, they detected problem areas immediately and sent automatic, real-time alerts to authorized personnel. Interactive dashboards enabled management to see problem areas, sometimes revealing surprising areas of risk, and communicate with team members. The technology not only helped ensure the health of hundreds of employees who live and work in close proximity, but it also ensured business and employment continuity. Closure of the mines for one month would cost more than 300 jobs and $4M in losses.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carter Maslan.

Before starting Camio, Carter was Director of Product Management at Google, where he brought us Local Search in Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Mobile and Web Search. Previously, he was Director of Technical Evangelism at Microsoft, and Director of Product Management & Marketing at Inktomi via the acquisition of Impulse Buy Network. He earned his BSE in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up with an unusual cultural mix. I was a latch-key kid in rural Virginia until the age of 12, then moved to Los Angeles to live with my dad and stepmother. It was a big shift from “creek walking” among copperheads with rope swings to posh West LA. Having a Southern Baptist mother, Russian Jewish father, and Puertorican Catholic stepmother gave me a rich mix of perspectives without feeling fully at-home with any of them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Actually, very early in my career, I volunteered as a Spanish translator and note-taker for a human rights trip to Cuba. We interviewed political prisoners, met with Fidel Castro, walked the Malecon with the backdrop of huge Russian oil tankers. It felt important, but it was a loss of innocence. As the trip progressed, I realized that the human rights investigation seemed secondary to exploring commercial interests in Cuba: broadcast rights to the Pan American Games, hotel development, film distribution, etc. I felt naive. But it taught me early to see non-binary outcomes and to watch what people do, not what they say.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Several people have inspired me for different reasons. Michael T. Jones, Chief Technology Advocate at Google said as I was leaving Google to start Camio, “the future will be recorded, the question is what are we going to do with it.” He imbued me with his optimism, ethics, and pragmatism. He encouraged me to run with the wild expectations of non-technical people — for example, when people using Street View complained that they couldn’t see their car parked outside of their house even though they knew it was there today (as if Street View were magically real-time imagery), he wouldn’t judge them. He’d instead look with curiosity at ways to make their unreasonable expectations reasonable. That attitude is powerful.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love the sentiment from Tony Bennett in the Amy Winehouse movie when he said, “Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.” It reminds me of the humility required to roll with the punches and to view life as a journey of continual growth and learning.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Resilience. The ability to do the next right thing over and over again in times of uncertainty or difficulty — to calm myself and travel with my eyes on the horizon, not on all the bumps in the road. We had invested a lot to create software for a 4G-connected dashcam partner that went out of business. It was a big setback. We looked at other scenarios in need of bandwidth efficient video monitoring and worked without pay to repurpose work that enabled us to become the leading B2B VSaaS provider.
  2. Integrity. I’m the same person regardless of the setting or stressor. I want the best for everyone around me. Full transparency and honesty in every interaction. When we pivoted to B2B VSaaS, I promised to make teammates whole for their investment in that switch, while explaining that I’d still need to get board approval for stock grants and loans. We repaid everyone, including a key teammate that left to pursue his space travel dreams at SpaceX.
  3. Diligence. Work hard on the right things. Take ownership of outcomes, not effort. As a product manager, I’m keenly aware of hundreds of ways our product could be better. When the team hears criticism that we haven’t yet delivered the 93rd item on our stack-ranked list, they have the confidence and patience that they’re working hard on the right things in the optimal sequence.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

I co-founded Camio with a simple question. Why can you search the entire web in 50 milliseconds, but you can’t find anything in video without hours of review? There is so much useful information that can be derived from understanding what’s captured by all the cameras all around us. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Camio puts industry-standard cameras to work to tell us when something important happens in the real world. Camio helps people identify and remediate environmental, health and safety problems without jeopardizing privacy.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Camio real-time video search makes it economically feasible to apply visual analyses to any health, safety, or environmental challenge. Its innovation is enabling existing inexpensive cameras to exploit the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence without proprietary equipment or large upfront costs. We’re focused on pragmatic solutions that are cheap enough to solve the long tail of problems that are intractable without machines that can see and understand the real world.

For example, when COVID-19 hit early last year, a Chilean mining company acted quickly to develop a comprehensive system to safeguard employees, including mask wearing and social distancing requirements, health screening questionnaires, and training programs. While the company had strong protocols in place, there was no efficient way to monitor compliance, identify problem areas, and track anomalies. With Camio, they detected problem areas immediately and sent automatic, real-time alerts to authorized personnel. Interactive dashboards enabled management to see problem areas, sometimes revealing surprising areas of risk, and communicate with team members. The technology not only helped ensure the health of hundreds of employees who live and work in close proximity, but it also ensured business and employment continuity. Closure of the mines for one month would cost more than 300 jobs and $4M in losses.

The technology can also be used in everyday situations to protect workers. Cameras connected to Camio at a warehouse can identify unsafe practices such as forklifts moving without maintaining minimum clearance distances, missing hardhats, and people too close without PPE. Real-time video search transforms health and safety with continuous monitoring of risks rather than ad hoc policy spot checks.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Several experiences inspired me. When Google Street View debuted, usability studies revealed that people mistakenly thought it was real-time imagery. But that experience got me thinking. Why not have real-time information about any place people care about? Like private, encrypted Google search for your own places. Second, a gun incident at my son’s school illustrated how the transparency and accountability that video evidence provides is vital to protect lives. 3 of 4 witnesses were scared to testify when a drug-dealing student brandished a loaded revolver in a dormitory. All we needed was video evidence. The encounter exposed the frailty of the legal system. Prosecuting bad actors is predicated on evidence. But people may fear repercussions of testifying. The social fabric of our society relies on willingness to speak up. Cameras can’t be intimidated. They’re objective. Video has become central to justice.

How do you think this might change the world?

Camio can help correct a long-standing imbalance of power in open societies — where a few bad actors exercise outsized impact on the public “soft-target” majority. With Camio, the private sector can martial a coordinated response to threats instantly and without sacrificing privacy. Using standard privately owned cameras connected to Camio, private sector companies and citizens can share links used collectively to respond to public safety emergencies.

There’s been a false choice between an Orwellian future and public safety. Technology advances have made private encrypted video with information accessible only to its owner a pragmatic part of our collective defense — without conceding privacy to any centralized authority.

For example, when a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning 2020, a Camio customer located near the epicenter used its street-facing perimeter cameras to help law enforcement with the bombing investigation. Using Camio, the company found video of the RV in under two minutes. Investigators had instant insights to help determine whether the bomber acted alone or was assisted by others departing the blast site prior to the explosion. Private cameras have the power to work for the public good, enabling proactive intervention and keeping our neighborhoods, workplaces, and cities safe.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

My office at Google had letters from around the world demanding that a border be changed, a sea renamed, or an island annexed by a country. A Nicaraguan commander even blamed Google Maps for an invasion of Costa Rica. The technology that gave everyone a view of the entire world on their phones to order pizza, browse vacation spots, or save rain forests also created disputes and information disclosure risks.

Camio enables machines to see and understand the real world in real-time. That saved lives and livelihoods in the pandemic with automated social distancing and mask detection and contact tracing for essential workers. Yet the same AI techniques could be used by others to hurt people too. For example, Camio doesn’t store biometrics behind face recognition. There are very good use cases for face recognition. Hospitals ask us for BOLO (Be on the Lookout) alerts when a dangerous gang member or abusive spouse returns to the Emergency Room. If we were to support that feature request, we’d have to think through ways to ensure BOLO alerts cannot become indiscriminate tracking of anyone and everyone. Our team thinks a lot about “AI for Good” while making pragmatic choices in what we enable.

Even well-intentioned regulations of this technology produce unintended consequences. For example, GDPR requires deletion of any data related to any individual upon request. That means that tech companies can no longer break the association between individuals and their data, because they have to know what to delete! Companies would have otherwise broken the link altogether, which is likely a better privacy protection.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. Pay attention to the user and everything else follows. It’s critical to anchor on that first to ensure you’re solving important problems without getting distracted by all the “noise” from competing interests. Our end user customers wanted to protect the health and safety of their employees when the pandemic hit. Employment laws prohibit recording video in break rooms, for example, when those were the areas with high risk of COVID-19 transmission! Both the employees and employers wanted to mitigate that risk with Camio social distancing and mask detection. We focused on the good outcome first, then followed up on any HR agreements that needed revision.
  2. Paint a very clear picture of how you are changing someone’s life. Clearly articulate a before-and-after scenario. Illuminate with clarity the change and capability you’re trying to produce. For example, people were overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic. Giving people working in essential services the confidence that COVID-19 transmission hotspots could be identified and remediated automatically using their existing security cameras — before outbreaks happened — was a big part of returning to work safely.
  3. Ship early and often. Teams learn most from actual usage. With SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) in particular, you need early user feedback for learnings to improve your product. That way, you avoid optimizing unimportant things and missing important things. The very first version of Camio didn’t even play video! And it’s a video product! People wanted the event summaries and alerts without caring as much about video playback. That insight helped us focus on the AI and search engine indexing for the fastest time-to-result — which continues to be a key reason people choose Camio.
  4. Think people before projects. People matter more than the projects. The whole team loved a phenomenally productive software engineer that contributed a ton to Camio in its first four years. But he was a PhD Physicist that had always loved the possibility of space travel. He joined SpaceX when we still needed him badly. But we continue to help each other, and our paths will cross again.
  5. Stay curious. Falling in love with your first product, or even business assumptions, can be dangerous as it creates resistance to change. The marketplace tells you what it needs eventually. Camio started as a consumer company that enabled old phones and tablets to become free remote video monitoring cameras. That jump started our video processing pipeline with 50,000 pet parents. But the market quickly led us to solve critical health and safety issues worldwide using the security cameras that were already in place.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Do work that doesn’t feel like work. Pick something that’s big and ambitious, and that demands your curiosity. Then you’ll have the passion and the fortitude to create products that can change people’s lives, and ultimately, the world.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Peter Gabriel. I love his music, but I’m also eager to learn from his experience with his organization named Witness. When you see families huddled along the fence of an airport runway only because that’s the only place they’re seen to avoid mass killings, it makes you think deeply about the ways transparency enables justice.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit Camio and follow Camio.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.


Social Impact Tech: Carter Maslan of Camio On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Tech: Raghu Gollamudi of Included On How Their Technology Will Make An Important…

Social Impact Tech: Raghu Gollamudi of Included On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact

An Interview With Jilea Hemmings

The main issue we are solving is helping companies prioritize DEI data and equity practices so that they reduce their cost per hire and increase the speed of time-to-hire. Our customers are looking at our creative approach as an enabler to their cause. So not only are we helping organizations create job opportunities, but we are helping them fill those roles, and keep the quality talent from walking out the door after they’ve invested time and money into training them.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raghu Gollamudi.

What happens when a Chief Technology Officer tackles the issue of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)? This is exactly what Raghu Gollamudi, CEO of Included.ai has been doing. As an expert in software development, big data, and process improvement, he is bringing engineering technology and frameworks to a typically political conversation in order to help companies hire, promote and retain a more robustly diverse workforce. Prior to Included, Raghu acted as CTO & co-founder at two successful SaaS startups in the US, Integris and Shippable. As CEO at Included, Raghu is on a mission to prove that DEI isn’t a tax, PR issue, or feel-good checkbox, but an opportunity to build more competitive businesses.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I came from a humble background, growing up in India, where family is very important. My mother was a school teacher, so she loved to share knowledge. My dad was an absolute go-getter in his corporate career. I really feel like I got a healthy mix of both personality types that can be drawn to my success today, as I’ve always been very independent and curious.

I was always a builder, I loved to create things and be self-sufficient. In fact, when I was a teenager my uncle in the US sent me a Walkman. I loved it, but I really wanted the volume to be louder, so while my dad was out at work I hotwired the Walkman to our family TV. I was right, it was loud and it was awesome, but long story short I blew out the fuse on the TV and my dad was furious. I wanted to make it up to him, so I walked myself all the way into town, convinced the TV repairman to take me as an apprentice and learned how to fix the TV myself. That gives you a taste of the type of person I’ve been since the beginning.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She supports me, but she also runs a business of her own, and she’s great at it. She works in a very male-dominated industry, and it’s inspiring to watch her break barriers, and share ideas with each other on how we can both improve. She keeps me grounded, and I’m forever thankful to have her.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always been a big believer in “You reap what you sow.” My parents taught me the value of hard work from a very young age. This quote also really emphasizes that good things take time. When you plant something, it doesn’t just sprout overnight, it takes time to consistently grow whatever it is you are working towards, so stick with it and never give up.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Relentless — For me, relentless is an understatement. When I see a problem, I want to fix it, and I want to fix it well. I want to create solutions with deep purpose, and a relentless work ethic has led me to create three successful software solutions that are making an impact in various industries.
  2. Creative — I enjoy problem-solving. But beyond that, I want to solve problems in ways that haven’t been done before. We are living in a time where technology can really work in our favor if we allow it, and leverage it to do amazing things. That was really the idea behind my current company, Included. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have always been an issue within organizations, but there has never been a technological solution out there to solve it, thus prompting me to go after this idea.
  3. Building Great Teams — One of the best parts of leading companies is building your own teams. I’ve benefited from incredible teams creating outstanding solutions that bring new ideas to life. And throughout my career, I’ve seen that as humans we accomplish so much more when we pull together.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

The main issue we are solving is helping companies prioritize DEI data and equity practices so that they reduce their cost per hire and increase the speed of time-to-hire. Our customers are looking at our creative approach as an enabler to their cause. So not only are we helping organizations create job opportunities, but we are helping them fill those roles, and keep the quality talent from walking out the door after they’ve invested time and money into training them.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Included is an AI powered platform that gives companies the information they need to create an equitable and inclusive hiring process. We use data to identify specific areas where businesses can take further action to remove any potential roadblock from accomplishing this goal, and we define the steps that can be taken to create improvement. It is the first DEI tech solution for corporations striving to be people-first in every aspect of their business.

How it works is our AI based DEI recruitment engine alerts the right person within an organization, at the right time to apply proactive measures that target the precise stage, org, team, and/or stakeholders surrounding key areas of drop off by underrepresented groups within the diversity recruiting funnel. To date, Included has analyzed over tens of millions of scenarios and our customers have uncovered an average of 496 bias and DEI process problems instantly with customized data and actionable steps.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

In my personal career I saw that DEI was prioritized for whatever the length of a training video was. I would leave that training feeling inspired and impacted, but then that was it. There was never a follow up from that point on. No active measurements that I saw organizations taking to keep quality talent of diverse backgrounds in their organizations. So in order for DEI to truly be prioritized within an organization and make an impact, it must be beyond the initial onboarding.

As someone who is naturally drawn to problem-solving, I’ve created and built solutions for other areas of the business in need of efficiency, velocity, and quality improvement primarily within the Engineering department since that is where I have been a leader and am originally trained. At my previous company Integris for example, I architected a big data solution for enterprise-level data privacy. Similar to the people and demographic data challenges in the DEI space — data privacy solutions had to address an overwhelming amount of data with safe and sophisticated ways of organizing and reporting out that information.

When I first brought up the idea of applying engineering leadership and methodologies to people data for DEI with my co-founders Chandan Golla and Laura Close, they were very intrigued and that’s when the discussions of what value we might be able to create really began.

How do you think this might change the world?

The bottom line is a diverse workforce means better services and products created for a wide customer base range, equaling more money in business’ pockets. Quality sourcing efforts to bring in diverse hires will enhance company culture, lower hiring costs, and improve overall retention. And best of all, it creates more job opportunities and allows others to gain a broader perspective.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Many potential customers can’t fathom just how technology can solve a problem as complex as DEI, because we are the first solution to even address it. People wonder about ROI and how long it’s going to take to see tangible results, To that I say, speak with our early adopter customers. They are over the moon about the demographic trends and areas of opportunity we were able to instantly surface once Included integrated with their ATS. This was information they didn’t have, even with full-time diversity leadership, specialized recruiters and people analysts.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. Identify your passions and let that drive you — This looks different for everyone, but for me, it was my passion for people, and seeing others succeed. As an immigrant to the US I’ve had to work hard for every one of my achievements. Very hard. And it bothers me that women, people of color, black and brown communities in the US, LGBTQIA+ and many other communities are working just as hard or more and experiencing barriers to success that are unrelated to their hard work and creativity. I know what the drive to succeed feels like and as a people and engineering leader, you’re always focused on unblocking as many high performers as you can. That’s my passion.
  2. Never underestimate the power of research — You might have identified a problem that you are passionate about, but sadly that’s not enough to build your case. Do your due diligence and take the time to research how others experience this problem and what the economic impact of the problem is. It will help you build your case for your sales and marketing efforts down the road, and you will thank yourself for that data. Statistics will always talk and be the driving force of your “why”.
  3. Set small tangible goals for quick wins — Rather than one big launch to work towards, break down your work into small increments. This way it’s not so overwhelming, and you can allow yourself to enjoy the process.
  4. Consistently go back to your “why” — I go back to our customer stories and scenarios all of the time we’re talking to CEOs, and heads of Diversity, Talent Acquisition, and HR who want to grow diversity recruitment and retention they just are operating in the dark and it’s frustrating. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of building a business and product, that you can easily lose your why. Revisit it constantly, especially on the bad days. It’s critical to remember why you are doing this in the first place.
  5. Never get complacent — So you’ve created a successful product, that’s amazing! Now what’s the future of that product? How can you adapt it to the needs of customers in five years, even ten? Never stop looking for opportunities where you can make even more of an impact.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Everyone brings value…everyone. It doesn’t matter their background or the color of their skin, gender, sexuality, ability or anything else. Differences are what have led us to incredible breakthroughs in our society, technologies, and policies. Your unique differences can be the reason for a breakthrough so raise your voice, share your perspective and be proud of the ways in which you add value.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would have to go with the Dalai Lama. He really values peace and unity, and he stands up for what he believes in whole-heartedly, he never gave up, which is something I really admire.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Included_AI

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/includedatwork/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncludedAtWork

Website: https://included.ai/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

About the Interviewer: Jilea Hemmings is a staunch believer in the power of entrepreneurship. A successful career revamping Fortune 500 companies was not enough for her entrepreneurial spirit, so Jilea began focusing her passion in startups. She has successfully built 6 startups to date. Her passion for entrepreneurship continues to flourish with the development of Stretchy Hair Care, focusing on relieving the pain associated with detangling and styling natural black hair. For far too long, people with tender heads have suffered in pain. Until now.


Social Impact Tech: Raghu Gollamudi of Included On How Their Technology Will Make An Important… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Thomas Owens of MENTOR Newark Is Helping To Change Our World

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Thomas Owens of MENTOR Newark Is Helping To Change Our World

Plan as if it’s going to happen until it doesn’t — I learned this from my board chair when we were planning our annual charity golf outing, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We were going back and forth about whether to postpone or cancel because of the pandemic. The board chair’s advice was simple: “Plan as if you are doing it, until you can’t.” Don’t water down your enthusiasm concerning yourself with what might or might not happen. This great lesson eliminated a lot of the hesitation from our planning process.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Owens.

Thomas Owens is the Executive Director of MENTOR Newark (formerly Newark Mentoring Movement) the New Jersey affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. An experienced leader, innovative program/partnerships director with demonstrated success leading the creation of powerful collaborative solutions in the areas of urban education and not-for-profit organizations. Thomas spearheads the strategic planning and growth efforts of MENTOR Newark in partnership with local stakeholders including Newark Board of Education, philanthropic partners, non-profit organizations, corporate partners and government agencies. Prior to MENTOR Newark Thomas was one of the founders of the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Newark in Newark, NJ and launched the Global Peace Ambassadors, a global initiative partnering Newark youth with youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His mission is to grow exciting, relevant and sustainable mentoring experiences for youth in Newark (and the state of New Jersey.)

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Hempstead, New York (Long Island) with my dad, mom and two brothers. I was a middle child in a very supportive family where education was not an option. My mom was a school librarian and dad worked for the New York City Housing Authority. His team was responsible for creating NYCHA’s first tenant associations and tenant patrols. Their work became the model for housing authorities around the world. One of my earliest memories was riding with my father after work to various tenant association meetings and events in housing projects all over New York’s five boroughs. This meant spending many hours in project basements meeting with tenant leaders and tenants around the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and even Staten Island. I was fascinated by this and knew my way around all of the boroughs by the time I was 13. This was a big influence on my professional life. I learned early the importance of having an authentic relationship with the people you want to serve.

Another pillar in my life was the HBCU (Historically Black College/University) experience. I started at Morehouse College in Atlanta and after a small detour (it’s a long story) graduated from Benedict College in Columbia South Carolina. The history, legacy (both of my parents graduated from HBCUs) and supportive network that comes with being an HBCU alum has had a major impact on my early development and my current success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My mother in law, Rev Dr. Carolyn Holloway, taught me one of my most important leadership quotes. She warned me that sometimes in my leadership journey I may lose the plot, get caught up in the politics of the work, and even become unsure about my purpose and mission. In those moments she taught me to refer back to this quote: ”When in doubt, love the people.”

The work we do is about the people we serve. Stay focused on the people.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of the many books that has influenced my journey is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Key among the many lessons in that book is the idea that when you are operating in your true purpose “the universe will conspire in your success.” Put simply, when you are walking in your purpose, you notice that the things you need most to achieve your goals appear.

I remember when a group of students at Eagle Academy for Young Men of Newark challenged me to create an experience that would really blow them away. I decided upon an international trip to Northern Ireland for 16 of our students. We had never taken any students on an international trip before, nor did we have it in the budget. All we had was purpose and a strong belief that this trip could be a game changer. With my partner in Northern Ireland, we plotted this experience over the next 18 months. After turning us down once before, we received word from the US Consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland that they would provide 90% of the funding. Our partners in NI, provided the remaining funding.

We got a big send off from the local school district and the Mayor of Newark and these students made history! It all came full circle for me when I was standing on the Northern Irish shore looking at the Atlantic Ocean with one of our students. I was rattling on about what our next big project would be and I wasn’t sure if he was listening to me. I asked him, “Are you with me? Do you think we can do it?” His response caught me off guard. He said, “Mr. Owens, I am a kid from Newark, New Jersey standing with you right now on the other side of the world, I believe anything you say.” That was an important life lesson for me. In the interest of youth, everything is possible.

When youth recognize commitment from the adults/mentors around them, they are empowered. Like the verse in Marianne Williamson’s famous poem, “Our Deepest Fear,” says, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

In the years leading up to the pandemic I was the deputy director of a non-profit organization in New York, then the Executive Director of a community based organization in Long Beach, NY. In 2007, I moved to Newark and launched the Mentoring Success Center @Communities in Schools of New Jersey. The next step was the creation of the Great Expectations Freedom School, the first all male Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School Summer program in the nation. This led to becoming one of the founders of the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Newark, the first and only all male traditional public school in the city of Newark. In 2019 I left Eagle and became the Executive Director of Newark Mentoring Movement (now MENTOR Newark).

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

In Fall 2019, I started my job as the Executive Director of the Newark Mentoring Movement. I knew immediately I wanted to transform the organization. Specifically, I wanted to focus on three main tasks: becoming more relevant and responsive to the local mentoring organization that we serve, aligning ourselves with the work and mission of MENTOR National, and creating a sustainable working partnership with the Newark Board of Education.

In the beginning of the pandemic I recognized that if the organization was going to survive and grow we had to become more agile and prepared to pivot. In retrospect before the actual pivot we had to adopt a more lean mindset that would allow future flexibility as well. I look at this like an athlete. Before you can run or jump, you have to train. Mental conditioning and preparation is required before you can successfully pivot.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

A watershed moment for me was reading an article by Indian writer Arundhati Roy. In the article she speaks about being prepared to “imagine a new world and fight for it.” She writes that, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” This article starkly reminded me about the danger of returning to normal. In essence, normal is how we got here. This idea has influenced every decision I have made during the pandemic.

How are things going with this new initiative?

It has been an exciting and challenging time. There have been moments when we were anxious, unsure, and uncomfortable. Particularly during those times I have embraced the fact that this is what growth and change feels like. We share that with the organization leaders and students we work with. If you are comfortable in your work, you probably aren’t growing. This approach has opened doors for our organization, leading to exciting business and funding opportunities.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Aside from my parents who provided the ultimate support, I think about one of my mentors Reverend Alphonso Wyatt. Early in my career Rev. Wyatt saw what I wanted to do and took me under his wing. The first thing he did was advise me to enroll in the Columbia University Business School Institute for Not for Profit Management. In his words, “It’s not enough to do good. You have to LEARN how to do good WELL.” That experience completely changed my approach to non-profit work and provided me with a much more sophisticated tool kit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

My most interesting story occurred at a point when I received confirmation that I was on the right path. The source of this confirmation was a high school student. In a virtual town hall about the impact of the pandemic on Newark high school students, one student shared that the “best” thing about the pandemic was that she would be returning to school with a “clean slate.” It would be a new beginning where virtual learning and other innovations are the norm. She was excited to embrace a new, less concrete normal. The biggest threat to her excitement was that so many school administrators and educators were saying, “I can’t wait to get back to normal.” These dissenting points of view on what post-pandemic life looks like, create issues with school culture and the trusting relationship between students and educators. As mentoring leaders, we will continue to embrace an innovative strategy that is willing to pivot when necessary to serve the genuine interest of our youth.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You can’t do it all — I learned early on that with growth comes more work and the Executive Director cannot do it all. You need a like-minded, devoted and talented team. Building this type of team is a lot more challenging than it seems. This is an area where I am still developing.
  2. Embrace your board — Active, engaged, and financially supportive board members are the most sought after but not enough is said about the cultivation and management of an active board. The relationships with your board members cannot simply be transactional. They must be honest relationships that are intentional and developed with integrity. This process is challenging and takes substantial time, but is crucial for the development of your business.
  3. Do what you do well and get help with what you don’t do well. — Simple example: if you are not good with numbers, hire an accountant. If you have no sense of design, hire a marketing person or a graphic designer. Don’t limit your reach on social media because YOU don’t do Instagram- find someone to help.
  4. Self care is essential. -Take days off. The work will always be there. Be intentional about your own health and well being. Personally, I am working on this one.
  5. Plan as if it’s going to happen until it doesn’t — I learned this from my board chair when we were planning our annual charity golf outing, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We were going back and forth about whether to postpone or cancel because of the pandemic. The board chair’s advice was simple: “Plan as if you are doing it, until you can’t.” Don’t water down your enthusiasm concerning yourself with what might or might not happen. This great lesson eliminated a lot of the hesitation from our planning process.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

My primary strategies have included intentionally monitoring the amount of news and television I ingest each day. The constant bombardment of troubling news is mentally detrimental. The saving grace has been my piano. Just before the pandemic lockdown began I purchased a piano and set up a small music studio in my home. I began to learn songs that I wanted to learn for years and gave up on. In the last 18 months I have learned over 60 songs.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would inspire a movement centered around realizing that the path of greed and self aggrandizement that has been successfully marketed to us is bankrupt. This is a moment to restore our humanity, care for our friends and neighbors, and create solutions that impact the lives of others. We have an upsetting habit of monetizing everything. I remember being in a meeting when someone proposed that the local performing arts center provide students with free piano lessons. A number of people chimed in, “Yeah. They can learn to produce music.” “They can write jingles. There is a lot of money in jingles.” “Or they could teach music, That’s a great career.” I remember saying to the group, “Or they could simply learn to play the piano because it’s a beautiful instrument and music enriches lives.” As Arundhati Roy says, “And in the midst of this terrible despair, it [the pandemic] offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.”

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

As a proud graduate of South Carolina HBCU Benedict College I am so proud of all the work our president and CEO Roslyn Clark Artis, JD, EdD has done to grow the legacy and reach of Benedict. I would love to have lunch with her and discuss what I can do to help the students of my alma mater.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow our work at https://www.newarkmentoring.org/ and look for MENTOR Newark on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. MENTOR Newark is the New Jersey affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Thomas Owens of MENTOR Newark Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Will Joslin of Joslin Book Enterprises Is Helping To Change Our…

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Will Joslin of Joslin Book Enterprises Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

While researching the book, I met a young man who was a history major. He knew of Major Coker and volunteered to help me with a bit of the research. Later, I asked him to be one of my manuscript readers. Afterward, he said our meeting was providential, that the book’s full story of Major Coker inspired his life and faith, opened his eyes to his own potential for service, and enlarged his vision of his life’s purpose. That made me so happy — that’s why I wrote the book!

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Will Joslin.

Will Joslin was a self-described hedonist as a pre-law student at UNC-Chapel Hill. After a dramatic Christian conversion, his life trajectory changed. Accepted into law school, instead, he chose full-time ministry for 17 years. Afterward, he spent 25 years in business, mainly running his own IT consulting company, Joslin Computer Solutions, before recently starting another business, Joslin Book Enterprises. He and his wife Becky still minister part-time as he concentrates on writing. Aside from ministry and entrepreneurship, Will has taught leadership, led men’s groups, mentored young men, black and white, and coached basketball and golf. He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, has a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and has earned an online Doctor of Sacred Literature (D. S. Lit.) from Wycliffe Theological Seminary. Will enjoys golf, swimming, and sailing.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Raleigh, NC. My parents were high character people, and, as a boy, I especially admired my father, who was a big supporter of President Kennedy. I’m six years old when President Kennedy is shot, and the whole country is reeling. Many of you weren’t born then, and to you I’d say the devastating magnitude of it felt like the worst days of Covid, condensed down to one intensely negative event. A few days after the assassination, I’m with my Dad watching the President’s funeral on TV, and JFK’s two-year-old John Jr., with tears streaming down his face, salutes his father’s casket. At that point, my dear father was shaken to the core. He cried out with such a tearful moan of hopelessness and despair that, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for him. At that moment he looked like he lost faith that God was in control of the world.

This event was a turning point for me because then I realized that, as much as I loved my father, I needed to look beyond his horizons to find God. Because even at age six, deep down I knew that faith in the living God, whom I believed existed, would enable someone to overcome JFK’s death. So I began searching for transcendent meaning — at first, subconsciously, then consciously. By my late teens, I was desperate for answers.

I went to college in the turbulent early ’70s, and my search was unfulfilled. I got to the point where I had no reason to study or even to live. I acted happily and partied hard, I but I was desperate inside, still searching for God. I needed hope, a life vision, and a mentor to show me what genuine faith and an honorable life looked like. As a freshman, I went to a guidance counselor at UNC and said: “I have no idea who I am, why I exist, or what will happen when I die. If I can’t answer these bigger questions, how am I supposed to know what subject to major in?” He thought for a moment and answered: “Well, Will — you come by it honestly — nobody really knows who they are or why they exist; don’t worry about it.”

What!? Nobody knows why they exist, and “don’t worry about it?” Well, I WAS worried about it. So with one of my first sincere prayers, I asked God to reveal Himself to me. He graciously answered a year and a half later when I came to know Christ personally, the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

So I had a glorious new hope, but there were still obstacles. I wanted to translate my new faith into a productive life that reflected the goodness of God and helped others find this great hope but didn’t know-how. I needed a mentor. The irony is that the whole time, the answers I so desperately sought were found in my own family tree, in the life of my great grandfather, Major James Lide Coker!

Well, Major Coker also came to know Christ in college — at the Citadel, and after maturing through fiery trials in the Civil War, he bravely shined out his faith in a grand life of and business and spiritual service that inspired and uplifted everyone who knew him. THE POINT IS- THE MAJOR’S LIFE AND PRINCIPLES ARE JUST WHAT I NEEDED BACK THEN — AND THIS BOOK IS WHAT I FEEL CAN HELP SO MANY NOW!

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Books about leadership, adventure and courage, such as JFK’s heroics in John F. Kennedy and the PT-109, and books on the Wright Brothers and their painstaking, victorious quest to invent the airplane against all odds. But the one that began to help me in my search was Run, Baby Run, by former Harlem Gang Leader Nicky Cruz.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I was a young pastor, I visited a young couple who had recently joined the church. We were having a good conversation about their backgrounds, and I asked the wife what her father did for a living. She said he worked for the NC Department of Transportation. I asked what he did for the DOT and she said he moved dead animals out of the road. I instantaneously laughed out loud. Immediately realizing my faux pas, I apologized profusely for being so rude. She said she forgave me, and I think she was sincere, but that prideful act taught me that I wasn’t as humble or as down to earth as I needed to be, and that I had to grow in humility of character if I were going to serve God and people effectively. Really, I think all of life is supposed to be about growing in humility — and character.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Author Patrick Morley well described the social need I’m trying to remedy by revealing Major Coker’s life in the book:

Our society is trying to tip the scales away from Judeo-Christian values to individual rights. Focus on personal peace and affluence has largely replaced deeply held, self-sacrificing convictions and the resulting community-building causes which benefit the human condition.

Many people today don’t realize until it’s too late that their selfishness not only diminishes themselves, their families, and their communities, but ultimately just makes them miserable. I wrote this book to offer a sterling model of someone who joyously lived for others and for causes higher than himself, and was still incredibly successful. Major Coker shared profits with his workers and looked out for them. In his enterprises, he sought ways to empower and prosper all faithful employees, not just the ones in the boardroom. He also provided spiritual, and educational leadership to his entire region. As he blessed others, he was blessed. We need to know about this man, learn from him, and redeem people and society the way he did. I think we all need heroes and that those who say there are no heroes don’t know where to look. While not perfect, the life of Major James Lide Coker of Hartsville, South Carolina can inspire anyone!

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Young James Coker matured rapidly through fiery trials in the Civil War. His left leg was almost shot off at the Battle of Lookout Mountain. He became delirious with fever, and three doctors told him he should have died. But by his Christian faith and courage, he not only survived not only his injury but lived through ten more months as a Yankee prisoner of war.

He came home to northeastern South Carolina only to find that Sherman’s men had burnt everyone’s crops in the region and that his own farm was in shambles well how would we react?

Undaunted, the Major grabbed a crutch in one hand and a hoe in the other and went right out and planted 60 acres of cotton and restored the fortunes of his farm. As a master entrepreneur and consummate leader, he wasn’t done. Over the next several decades he went on and founded 20 highly successful businesses and industries and became the wealthiest men in his state. All the while, his intended to uplift the prosperity of everyone else in the region with his own, and he did just that by providing gainful employment for blacks and whites who desperately needed help after the war. The Major also led spiritually, educationally and in racial progress after the war.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

My mother was a Coker from Hartsville, SC. On a visit south to my grandmother, Miss May Coker, in about 1969, I distinctly remember exploring the streets of Hartsville with my brother David. We could not help but notice Coker College, then the Coker Department Store, and a little farther, the Coker Pedigreed Seed Company. The huge Sonoco Products plant was a few blocks away, founded by our great grandfather, Major Coker. As we absorbed the cumulative impact, my brother and I looked at each other with amazement, wondering how our ancestors had accomplished so much. There was also a challenge — that we in turn live useful lives.

Miss May died in 1976, and the Hartsville memories receded as my wife Becky and I raised three children, and served in ministry and business for over 40 years. Then it happened. Early one morning in June of 2018, just before waking from a restful night’s sleep in Raleigh, I had a stark and compelling dream. I was back in the 1960s, walking the streets of Hartsville with my brother. Suddenly that old aura was magnified a thousand times. A burning curiosity to investigate these fascinating roots, and a consuming desire to rise up and be a faithful conduit of Major Coker’s legacy, ignited in a flash that burned into my brain. When I greeted my wife Becky a few minutes later, I told her that something transcendent — a “God moment” — had just happened.

I believed God was calling me to undertake an important work: to get to the fountainhead of the river of Coker accomplishment. I realized that such an undertaking would mean carefully searching out the history and legacy of my great grandfather, Major James Lide Coker.

Usually, I don’t make much out of dreams, but in this case, the compulsion in the dream was grounded in scripture — specifically, the example of Luke being called to document history. I would never claim inspiration in the same sense that it came to the writers of the Bible. However, I think I felt like Luke did when he opened his gospel with these words: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us … I too decided to write an orderly account… so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (from Luke 1:1–4 NIV). I had to write this book.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

While researching the book, I met a young man who was a history major. He knew of Major Coker and volunteered to help me with a bit of the research. Later, I asked him to be one of my manuscript readers. Afterward, he said our meeting was providential, that the book’s full story of Major Coker inspired his life and faith, opened his eyes to his own potential for service, and enlarged his vision of his life’s purpose. That made me so happy — that’s why I wrote the book!

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. If you train a cannibal to eat with a fork, knife, and napkin, he is still depraved. So, beyond the high tech skills, train young people in faith and character, not just a craft. English statesman Francis Bacon said knowledge is power, but Major Coker’s perspective was that knowledge is the power to help people. That’s just what he did with his schools and business ethics — he uplifted the civility of each individual and the whole culture. In his schools they taught these same timeless principles from the book of Proverbs: The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. (Prov. 11:25). Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death (Prov.10:2).
  2. Regardless of one’s course of study, a required part of college training should be that each student should run their own business for at least a year. Some initial seed money might be provided, but ultimately, the profits or losses should be the student’s to gain or lose. The practical life and service lessons learned from that experience are worth more than 100 classroom lectures.
  3. Supplementing PE classes, Colleges should require four years of exercise like swimming, running, soccer, or some kind of physical fitness for all able-bodied students, not just “athletes.” President Kennedy said: “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, itis the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” This regular physical training should be customized according to each student’s abilities and capacities, but it should be required, perhaps in conjunction with a friend who is a mutual accountability partner. Even some handicapped students could have a customized plan within their capabilities. Unbelievably, Major Coker, even with his shattered femur, set aside time for vigorous exercise — walking briskly on one leg and a crutch. This discipline teaches a most important character principle — to do what’s right even if you don’t feel like it. Most students will see and feel the benefits of exercise, and will likely develop good lifetime fitness habits. Furthermore, exercise goes a long toward curbing depression and improving mental health, as studies have shown.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The world’s way of thinking about leadership is usually self-centered. Many “leaders” see themselves as above their team, a “big boss” exhibiting authority and power. Or like a big dog that grabs a bone a runs off to horde it all for himself. The truth is quite the opposite — leadership is about building grassroots relationships by knowing and serving others first. As John Maxwell says, leadership is not position, but building trust and influence. That’s what Major Coker did. He was humble and started out first farming on a crutch, then teaching Sunday School, then running a store and multiplying businesses. He built relationships and served the people. They naturally trusted him, and he so he gained leadership influence. Then people didn’t have to think about whether they wanted to work with and follow him — they were attracted. The Major went on to mentor and built other leaders, such as Hartsville, SC’s J.J. Lawton, Josephine Erwin, and others, enabling them to find their best-suited place in his region’s economic and cultural life, and empowered them to go on to help others reach their potential as well. That’s successful leadership.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Find a trustworthy and mature older person, whom you respect, and who shares your values. He or she should also be experienced in your field, or in a related one. Ask them to mentor you (most will say “yes”), and do not be afraid to share your life struggles. Your mentor can help you with perplexing problems at work and home, and with managing ethics and relationships honorably. You can meet either regularly, or just on an as-needed basis. Make it structured enough to be productive, but also flexible and friendly. With your mentor, and in general, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, even if you might think it sometimes makes you look ignorant. The payoff in personal growth is worth it a hundred times over. Also, try to give back some, and thoughtfully encourage your mentor.
  2. If you are married, honor your relationship with your mate, and put in the thought, creativity, and time it takes to let them know that you continually love them. I strongly believe it’s best not to check work emails or take work calls at home after 6:00. Your correspondents and colleagues will adjust to your habits, so watch your precedents, and set your boundaries upfront. And if you realize you’re beginning to drift from your mate or family — don’t blame work or temptation! Own up and blame yourself, and fix it! If this means changing departments, locations, or getting a little less pay, so be it.
  3. Learn from people who have a better computer and/or social media skills than you do. Ask questions and remember the answers. And don’t forget that you can look up your computer or software problems on Google — often that’s all you’ll need to conquer a problem. If your work training and Google searches still prove to be inadequate for you to perform well with technology, by all means, get private tutoring in specific areas. Hire someone who forces you to learn. I’ve done this to improve my social media skills, and it’s really paid off.
  4. If you stand for faith, character, and integrity, don’t expect everyone to like you. Remain friendly, but don’t compromise.
  5. Trust that, in time, hard work, clean hands, and the kind of leadership that serves others will be rewarded. Remember that David started as a conscientious shepherd, and became the king of Israel. Major Coker started as a farmer on a crutch and became the wealthiest man in his state.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A reasonable quote that comes to mind is “Yard by yard — it’s hard, but inch by inch — it’s a cinch.” Break down a large task into small daily goals and put in the honest effort each day. Progressing in this manner has helped me accomplish things that seemed impossible at first, such as starting two businesses, earning my doctorate, and writing this book. Part of it is that when you are faithful in the little things, you get more and more skilled as you go along, and one day, you realize your abilities have increased exponentially. You suddenly believe: “I can do this,” and you can!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Leadership expert John Maxwell. I would like to talk to him about how to engage and build young leaders of faith and integrity, and to change America. In other words, how to reproduce sterling macro-leaders like Major Coker today to help lead our society out of its present funk. We desperately need a renaissance in character, creativity, and redemptive social leadership. If John Maxwell didn’t work out, it would be NC Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My author's website is www.willjoslin.com. There is a lot there, including book discussion questions that raise it from a book to a course in entrepreneurship, character development, and history. There is also a link to purchase the book and a tab to contact me, the author, directly.

And exciting YouTube video series on Major Coker and the book may be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkPeAgLHJ9qdsYEIiXnqnJQ/videos

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Will Joslin of Joslin Book Enterprises Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Young Change Makers: Why and How Alexla Perez Sanchez Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Penny Bauder

Recognize that not everyone is going to be as passionate as you about your mission. I found out quickly that not everyone wants to speak about representation or inclusion ALL of the time (if at all to begin with). But it’s important to keep people informed about what you are trying to do. Make it easy for learning to happen by providing resources.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexla Perez Sanchez.

Being a part of a community comes with many benefits, but it also comes with challenges. We all hold the same amount of responsibility in making sure that our mountains, rivers, wildlife, and community members are thriving. I hope that through my work, more People of Color, LGBTQ2S+ individuals, and many more folks can fall in love with our home and fight for it.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was born in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero, but immigrated to the United States when I was three years of age. I grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina, with my younger brother and older sister. We spent most of our days going to school and playing in the trailer park where we lived. My mother was a single parent mainly working as a housekeeper, but she had many jobs on the side that helped us make ends meet. Thanks to her, we never went without food, water, or shelter, but most importantly: we never went without her love. The majority of my childhood was played out in that trailer park.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

An organization that I feel truly changed my perspective about nature, my community, and myself was Conserving Carolina. They are a non-profit whose mission is to protect, restore, and inspire appreciation of the natural world. I became involved with them through their Summer of Service AmeriCorps Program in 2018. A group of six of us worked on many community-related projects, removed invasive plant species to restore wildlife habitats, and repaired hiking trails.

I adopted many physical skills throughout this program. Still, I think the most impactful skills that I developed were selflessness, mindfulness, and tackling discomfort for the sake of growth. Our mentor and group leader, Tony Beurskens, reminded us every day that there is “beauty in our differences and comfort where they overlap.” I took those words, embedded them into my mind, and placed actions behind them. And as my love for nature grew, my passion in wanting to combine two worlds grew as well. I wanted to find a way to make opportunities for people who looked like me (and didn’t look like me) to interact with nature in a comforting and safe way. Through this passion, I knew folks would discover a way to see the beauty in their differences and find that pocket of comfort (nature) where they overlap.

Almost three years later, Conserving Carolina has created a Communications and Engagement Internship for me. I have led monthly Bilingual Hikes and created Spanish Signage and a Spanish version of their website. We have begun many community projects and connected many POC-focused organizations to our non-profit. We have made incredible leaps in the right direction, and we have been able to educate POC and Spanish-speaking individuals about the outdoors while supporting ways of developing their new passions.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Making a Difference is helping someone, something, or a group of people do right.

In class, at work, in the grocery store, I have found myself speaking out about the lack of accountability or recognition that people should be giving. My voice shakes, and I find myself shifting around, but I feel it is important to speak my mind. I believe it is my responsibility to hold my community accountable to the standards that I hold myself to.

I was nervous about coming into an internship that would require me to point out the “lacking” in areas and to have uncomfortable conversations with participants or staff about why my involvement in the organization and community was valid and necessary. I have been fortunate to receive acceptance and support from Conserving Carolina, and I feel appreciation for this organization that believes wholeheartedly in my work. However, there are still moments that require me to spotlight comments or actions that I believe the organization should stand against. Metaphorically speaking, sometimes that spotlight gets a little too “heavy” or “hot,” but I am prepared to keep this light shining until we see continued positive change.

OK super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Through this internship, we are looking to open the opportunities of engagement, inclusion, and true representation of People of Color that will help spark a passion regarding nature, conservation, sustainability, and community. We can create safe spaces to help educate and inform individuals about the outdoors and inspire change.

It’s easy to want to shy away from taking steps in a new direction when you have little knowledge about the goal that you are trying to work towards. Climate Change and additional environmental and social issues are hard to fix when we all feel divided and distanced. I come to work every day and put my all into this internship because nature is a way for us to connect. My goal is to find and share respect and love for one another, with the hope that as a community, we can start fixing the injuries that we have caused to our home, the Earth. And, hopefully, along the way we can also begin acknowledging and healing the injuries that we have caused to each other.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

My mother tried really hard to take us on “small family field trips” focused on the outdoors, but we would never know where to go. After a couple of years, my mother found out about the Carl Sandburg Home and heard that it was a great place for us to walk. However, when we arrived, we didn’t get very far. We quickly realized that all of the signage was in English, and as a Spanish-speaking family, we had no idea where to go. Regardless, we tried walking a little farther in but again turned back because my mother was suffering from severe back issues due to working long hours all week.

This moment, in particular, seems like a core memory to me. For the rest of my teenage years, I thought about how many families were left out from exploring nature due to the lack of non-English signage. Or even how many English-understanding families felt underprepared because they have never been offered materials to learn about Hiking Rules or Outdoor Safety? I knew that I could not have been the only one feeling excluded. So, later when I joined Summer of Service, I was given tools that I knew could offer solutions to this. With my hard work and dedication, no one else would have to turn back at the Trail Head.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

My “Aha Moment” came with one of the Summer of Service group hikes in 2018 with Hendersonville’s AIM Club. At the time, the Migrant Program in Henderson County led AIM Club dedicated to offering different experiences and opportunities to Students of Color. I remember that the majority of the students at this hike were just like me. Their hiking experiences could be counted on one hand because of the lack of opportunities offered to individuals and groups that looked like them. We had conversations about how many of our parents never took us hiking because we didn’t know where to look or how to do it. And that’s when it hit me! I wasn’t alone! I was not the only one who had to turn back!

That hike was phenomenal! We hiked a trail on Bearwallow Mountain that Conserving Carolina had protected, and everyone kept mentioning how great of an experience this was for them. The happiness was contagious. And once the hike ended, I knew that this was the moment that would solidify my suspicions and fuel my passion for fixing the issue.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I have been repeatedly told that my attitude and energy stay in a room long after leaving. So, I would say: lead yourself with the best part of your heart and soul. Someone will always want to hear your ideas, and the skills that you have are needed too. You have so many things to offer. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and follow the path that keeps you interested.

I spoke to so many people in my community and volunteered in different spaces to make sure that I could understand my community from all points of view and fight for those whose voices were limited. So, I guess

I would say:

1- Educate yourself on all aspects of your mission/goal

2- Talk to everyone and anyone. Hear their story.

3- Go forward with good intentions

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

In one of the bilingual hikes where we focused on identifying invasive plant species, my mother attended, and she said, “I never knew that plants are like people. They all look the same to an extent, but when you look close, they all have different attributes that make them unique.”

This moment made me feel so proud of her because her outdoor connection was starting. She felt interested in learning about nature. She was comfortable enough to be able to pay attention. She was beginning to see nature in a more detailed and personal way. It was such a simple statement to her, but to me, it was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever heard her say.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I think that the funniest thing was my inability to say no, along with wanting to do it all. I began to feel overwhelmed and found myself spiraling. I realized that you have to stop yourself and prioritize.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My mother was my main cheerleader; I would be nothing without her. I owe her my all. But along with her, my brothers and sisters and stepdad were also always there to support and love me. Even my family members in México were cheering me on! It was so cool! I have two mentors outside of my family: Areli Perez-Nava, Jose Manuel Vackero, and Tony Beurskens. Behind their backs, I am consistently referring to them as my “guías espirituales” (spiritual guides) because I hold them so highly in my heart and mind. They’re my heroes.

My supervisors, Rose Jenkins and Ericka Berg, never stopped believing in me and have given me everything and more to make sure that I am happy and can continue my work to the best of my abilities. Also, working so closely with powerful, intelligent, and well-respected women has done phenomenal things to my feminine energy and is the most inspiring. A big thank you to them!

Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

A young individual had gone to an AIM Club hike with Conserving Carolina and had just moved to this country by himself not very long ago. He had left his family back in his home country and found himself starting a new life here in the United States. He is the personification of kindness and pure joy. We had had many conversations about his experience coming to the US and how he felt being here now. But when we finished that specific hike, the look of happiness and contentment that he had completely knocked the air out of me. He had made friends and had developed joy that came from being present and welcomed. He mentioned how the hike had given him a sense of peace and happiness, along with new knowledge of the outdoors that he had not experienced to that extent in a while.

That right there was worth more than pure gold to me.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

My message to my community is that being part of a community comes with many benefits, but it also comes with challenges. We all hold the same amount of responsibility in making sure that our mountains, rivers, wildlife, and community members are thriving. Step out of your everyday zone and talk to people who look different from you. Help fix the bad that someone else is experiencing. Take part in things that are bigger than you, and get to the root of the problem while holding others accountable. Remember that until we begin to recognize the strengths within our individuality, we will not fully appreciate the Land and all that it has to offer. Once we acknowledge the individual importance of ourselves and others, we will recognize the value of the Land. Or maybe we will be able to look towards the Land to find the significance of ourselves. Because at the end of the day: We come from the Land; the Land is Life.

To our society, I would say that we better start making it a norm to care about things that don’t only involve us. With COVID and consistent injustices happening worldwide, we have seen more to consider than what’s just in front of us. We have to hold ourselves as a collective to higher expectations and lead with good in mind.

And to politicians, I would like to stress the importance of allocating funds to programs like the Migrant Program, which works through the public school system. The individuals who work and volunteer in this program have strength, passion, and intelligence that I have rarely seen anywhere else. They have a right to better resources and deserve support from you, our politicians; it is the government’s responsibility to support them. Do not fail us at the job that has been democratically given to you. People of Color have a right to funds!

And for all communities, societies, and politicians, I extend the message that the responsibility to educate oneself on sustainability and environmental justice/respect, being actively anti-racist, gender equality, indigenous rights, human rights, and basic humanity falls on all three groups!

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each)

5 things that I wish someone told me when I first started:

1. Recognize that not everyone is going to be as passionate as you about your mission. I found out quickly that not everyone wants to speak about representation or inclusion ALL of the time (if at all to begin with). But it’s important to keep people informed about what you are trying to do. Make it easy for learning to happen by providing resources.

2. Keep Learning. Make an effort to never stop learning about what more you can do. Learn about other’s experiences. Keep reading, attending seminars, and listening to others. I have had instances when speaking to others where I learned of a struggle that I had not focused on before. For example, when I hoped to set up more hiking trips with AIM Club, I stumbled across the issue of transportation. Many of the students’ parents cannot drive their children to these hikes due to a lack of transportation or having a driver’s license. I learned that attendance to these hikes came at a cost for many of these parents and students.

3. Put Yourself in a Place of Discomfort for the Sake of Growth. Although I was fortunate to learn this early on, I think that it’s important to recognize and understand what this means. Face a situation

that may be uncomfortable to grow past where you are.

4. Identify the Beauty in Your Differences and Take Comfort in Where They Overlap. Doing this helped me in keeping my faith in the success of the project. If I had not gone on that first AIM hike, I would have continued to think that I was a rare case in missing out from the outdoors all of my life. I found comfort in the fact that I was not alone, and I recognized that there were many differences in how people in my situation can connect with nature and their community.

5. Maintain the Need to Meet New People. There was an entire week and a half when it felt like I was meeting a new person every day! I was excited and having a hard time remembering names, but eventually, I was able to remember everyone and associate them with their organizations. I found that the most success has resulted from collaboration and inclusion of other people and their organizations. For anyone starting a new project, my advice is to keep meeting others! People will consistently be wanting to help you. Accept the help and always offer to help in return.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We’re here for the long run, so fight for it. Keep your ideas sharp and be consistent. And don’t ever let your age hold you back or silence you because silence is a form of acceptance. Being young means, you have more time to learn new things and make things happen. Passion will always outshine something as minimal as your age.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My number one hero is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

After my time serving in AmeriCorps, I would consistently ask myself, “Now what?” I had been given such an amazing opportunity in serving my community and developing myself, but that had come to an end. I had worked hard to receive some scholarships, and I was ready to be the first in my family to attend college and to “become someone.” But there were too many things missing in me, and I couldn’t even pinpoint what they were.

Months later, in 2019, I saw a video of AOC giving a speech during a committee hearing in response to pushback on her climate change policy, the Green New Deal. From the second that video started, I was at a loss for words. Here was an individual who was speaking with every part of their soul.

I could see myself in her. She raised her voice and pointed just like me. She was strong and focused.

The video ended, and I remember thinking, “This is who I need to be — No, this is who I can be.” I changed my major the next day to Political Science.

I don’t ask for much except the opportunity to say Thank You. You made me realize that I am someone, and I can become and develop any version of myself that brings me happiness and strength. This is something that I promise to pay it forward. I send you cool thoughts and warm feelings. Eres mi héroe, mujer poderosa!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow Conserving Carolina’s Instagram @conservingcarolina to read a little bit more about how we are continuing our work for inclusion, representation, conservation, sustainability, and education!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak my truth and my heart! I appreciate it!


Young Change Makers: Why and How Alexla Perez Sanchez Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Mike Henry of Mythic On The 5 Things That Each Of…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Mike Henry of Mythic On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

An Interview With Tyler Gallagher

Culture eats strategy for breakfast — it’s more than likely that first-time entrepreneurs don’t get the culture quite right from the start and the culture needs to go through a series of iterations as the company scales. Our strategy has been remarkably consistent since day one and has kept us grounded as our company evolves. Don’t get too obsessed with your culture since it may need to change, and don’t every lose sight of the strategy.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Henry.

Mike Henry is the Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of Mythic, a venture-backed AI hardware company. He oversees a team split between Austin, TX and Redwood City, CA. Mike formed Mythic while earning his Ph.D in electrical and computer engineering from Virginia Tech.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started Mythic out of grad school and I have not worked at any other job, so what is interesting about me is inextricably linked with Mythic. Mythic is the pioneer of analog compute, a new type of computing that is a radical departure from the last five decades of digital computing and will deliver AI that is hundreds of times more powerful than what we know today. We deliver an AI hardware and software platform to customers building amazing products across the range of consumer, enterprise, automotive, industrial, and health care. These customers design AI features running on our hardware that provide transformative benefits to end products.

Very early on, we knew a step change in technology was needed to serve the insatiable and ever-increasing compute demands of artificial intelligence. We believed that analog computing — which had been researched and attempted for many previous decades — was ready for a revival given newer developments in flash, processes, and analog circuits. Over the past seven years, the founding team pushed through many obstacles to set Mythic apart as the foremost pioneer in analog computing for AI.

Dave Fick and I founded Mythic in 2012 while I was at Virginia Tech and he was at the University of Michigan. We were soon joined by founding engineers: Laura Fick, whose Ph.D thesis was the foundational technology for analog compute at high precision on flash arrays; Skylar Skrzyniarz, who made significant contributions to analog compute technology and led modeling efforts; and Malav Parikh, who was the first industry-experienced chip engineer in the company.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The Aha Moment was when we pivoted to AI in the early years of the company. We were toying with other ideas, and AI was in its infancy, but we were intrigued. We did a simple experiment to create a program to detect the differences between an image of an arrow and an image of three random lines. With classic computer programming techniques, this would have taken a month to perfect. With AI tools, we had a solution in 90 minutes. This is when we realized that the modern AI tools were powerful, generic tools for solving a myriad of data problems and not novelty problems like “is this picture a cat or dog”. Eventually Jeff Dean at Google called this concept “Programming 2.0”. Now, AI is providing a solution for everything from Cybersecurity to Protein Folding, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

While the start of our company was an exciting process, what stands out was the pivot from being a small research company to becoming a fast growing venture-backed company, so I’ll focus on that. I have a great executive coach and I’m in a CEO circle with 16 other best-in-class CEOs who run companies across a wide range of industries. This group is the one who routinely tells me to stay in the game. Staying in the game means don’t stop fighting, focus both on the bigger purpose of Mythic, and focus on my own career growth and life goals. That is the inspiration I need to keep going.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have about 75 competitors with venture funding and about a dozen competitors with more than $50M in venture funding. Additionally, every large tech company is investing a significant amount of money in AI hardware. All of them have taken conventional approaches to solving the challenge of delivering AI to masses. These conventional approaches have already started running out of steam, and you’re seeing a stagnation in the quality and breadth of what AI can deliver in our everyday lives.

Mythic’s analog compute approach is radically different and can deliver improvements to AI at a far faster pace than everyone else.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When we started, no one was talking about analog compute as a viable option, everyone thought it was impossible. Now we’ve proven it to be possible, and it’s a major thrust in academic research, corporate R&D, and in startups. Playing our part to create a movement that advances technology in a 1000X leap will pay huge dividends to society in the decades to come.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most

instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Jim Collins has it figured out with his definition of Level 5 Leadership. Personal Humility (knowing what you don’t know and having a growth mindset) combined with Professional Will (which I would call pure grit and an intensive drive for success of the company). For a third trait, I’ll throw in a good smile.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

“Don’t raise too much money” is bad advice for a lot of high-growth or capital intensive companies. There is so much capital out there and funding can be a main determiner of success. My advice is to raise as much money as you can tolerate considering dilution, and remember that no company went out of business because of dilution. Once you raise that money, surround yourself with “A” players who know how to capture success, keep tight screws on the spending until there is confidence in the plan, and look for valuation inflection points to raise more money. This may sound sad to some, but this is the key in today’s Silicon Valley.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

We went through a four-year journey of having no VC funding, only a small amount of government funding, while the entire semiconductor industry told us that what we were doing with analog compute was impossible and was destined to fail. We almost ran out of money multiple times, I had to forego a paycheck for three months, and I must have been told “no” by at least 100 investors in the early years. I think the naivety in the early years kept us going. Not only did we think it was possible, but we thought we could do it for very little money, so it always seemed in reach even if the investor appetite was cold.

A few years later, it turns out the technology is possible and we’ve proven it at Mythic, but we set an ambitious vision and it took A LOT more money than we thought. The good news was that as we went through the stages of validating the technology, the market potential became white hot, and the investor appetite grew and grew for bold technology bets like analog compute. Originally, we were bootstrapping on a couple million dollars in government contracts, and now we have raised $165M to make our dream a reality.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

If I was serving my own personal ego for success, I probably would have burnt out years ago. Focusing on the success of the company as my #1 priority and my own personal career growth as a close second , keeps me grounded in good times and bad. I can personally celebrate company wins when times are good. When times are bad, I can treat them as growth and learning opportunities for myself. Nothing cements in quality piece of learning better than a really shitty experience.

The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

A good entrepreneur needs to have strong personal humility to recognize their blindspots. This can actually weigh heavily, and I’ve seen some entrepreneurs wear all their mistakes on their sleeves. If a company isn’t doing well, this can even lead to serious mental health issues that are endemic to the startup community. On the flip side, entrepreneurs who are egotistical and think they know everything and will own the world (I’m sure you can think of some well known examples!) sometimes get lucky, but way more often crash and burn in spectacularly entertaining ways that make great podcast content.

What I have found that helps here is to have a strong growth mindset and see myself as a lifelong learner. I will never see myself as “fully baked.” My skills and playbooks can always use more time in the oven, every tough moment is just a chance to improve, and enjoying the growth in myself can counteract the negative of the situation around me.

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

If you are OK not ever getting above 25 employees, go with bootstrapping. This ends up being the lifestyle small businesses, which is a perfectly fine and fulfilling path and you can enjoy the trappings of entrepreneurship for decades without worrying about scale. If you can grow a business through bootstrapping organically beyond 25 employees, at some point you’ll hit a scale problem where others are leveraging funding (whether it’s VC or PE) to outpace you. You’ll hit this point when you realize there is value out there to be unlocked and the organic growth won’t let you capture it. For companies that need to scale quickly — for example, something that needs viral growth or is going after big customers — just go for VC immediately since you’ll likely have well-funded competitors before you know it.

There are exceptions in the form of companies that hit huge scale with just bootstrapping, but they are rare enough that you should not make it part of your plan.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

  1. I think the most interesting way to answer this is to talk about the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurs hear and the pattern matching that investors follow, and how we bucked the trend.
  2. Don’t start a company in a stale industry. When Mythic was started in 2012, investment in semiconductors was about as dead as dead gets. Now in 2021, it’s one of the most heavily funded industries due to technology megatrends around AI, 5G, and autonomous systems, to name a few. A lot of the greatest startups were in industries considered “stale” like rideshare apps, vacation rental apps, etc. If you have a clear picture of how you want to disrupt an industry, go for it.
  3. Don’t go after a solution looking for a problem. We started with a “solution” with analog compute, and attacked AI with it. If we started with the generic problem of how to make AI hardware more efficient, we probably would have felt the time pressure to execute and not have had the creative spark to attempt analog compute.
  4. You need an experienced team — in the early years, we got laughed out of the room by investors since we were all grad students. But there are investors who don’t have blinders on for the founding team and instead have an attitude of “they’ll figure it out”. You just need to hustle and find them. Once we got our first investment, we surrounded ourselves with an experienced team. Problem solved!
  5. You need committed customers to raise significant money — we were able to raise a lot of money because efficient AI computation and AI at the edge was such a clear opportunity, and sometimes investors will see that before the customers. We did have some great customer testimonials, but we’ve raised a lot of money without LOIs or purchase orders because the opportunity was so clear.
  6. Culture eats strategy for breakfast — it’s more than likely that first-time entrepreneurs don’t get the culture quite right from the start and the culture needs to go through a series of iterations as the company scales. Our strategy has been remarkably consistent since day one and has kept us grounded as our company evolves. Don’t get too obsessed with your culture since it may need to change, and don’t every lose sight of the strategy.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I’ll give three:

Mistake 1: Strive for perfection before fundraising. Venture capital is speculative by nature, so if your product is half baked and the customer traction isn’t quite there yet, that’s just the game. Forget polishing the thing to death and focus on walking into the room a killer thesis, a truckload of confidence, and clear evidence that you’ve thought of the problem you’re solving from every possible angle.

Mistake 2: Iceberg principle. 90% of the iceberg is under the water. Whatever you are doing, whether its fundraising, building a product, getting the market to adopt new technology, or closing your first major customer, it will be 10X harder than you think it is. This is true even if you are already applying the iceberg principle to your thinking.

Mistake 3: “B” players in “A” roles. Certain roles in startups require “A” players. Hiring a “B” player into this kind of role may kill the company, while other roles are more tolerant of mis-hires. If you aren’t an experienced entrepreneur or company executive, you probably won’t know what “A” performance looks until you learn the hard way. The key to being a first-time entrepreneur is solving this Gordian Knot.

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?

Don’t burn the candle at both ends or work extremely long hours unless you are in a sprint, and make sure the end of that sprint is in sight. Otherwise, it will eventually catch up with you in very bad ways. The key to preserving the metaphorical candle is learning to prioritize — knowing what needs your immediate attention and what can wait another day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I prefer to focus on a big vision for a company that can make a positive change for society, and bend over backwards to make the company a great corporate citizen and a great place to work. Companies that are strongly mission driven, such as non-profits, clean-tech, food-tech, etc. do great things, but people sometimes forget the massive benefit to society that computers and semiconductors have given us. The semiconductor industry has created massive incomparable benefits to society due to what the electronics and technology has done for productivity, connection, entertainment, health and well-being, and the democratization of knowledge. AI will be a major source of further improvements in these areas.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

It depends if they are forced to truthfully answer any question I ask. If that’s the case, then I would choose Bill Belichick, since I think there’s pure genius locked up tightly in his brain. I am NOT a Patriots fan by the way and I’d get great pleasure out of the discomfort this lunch would cause him.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I post regular blogs on http://mythic-ai.com/blog . We also post a lot of relevant content to Mythic on our company twitter @mythic-ai. If you follow me on LinkedIn, you’ll get bonus content in the form of occasional sarcastic comments.

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Mike Henry of Mythic On The 5 Things That Each Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Anat Deracine Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

If I could ask three things of people, they would be to uplift the voices of those whom governments aim to silence, to question any assumptions regarding gender roles they may have inherited from their parents or cultures, and to think of solutions that don’t just help one individual cope with a broken system but actually change the system to liberate everyone.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anat Deracine (her pen name). She is the author of the novel Driving by Starlight (Macmillan, 2018) about a girl growing up in Saudi Arabia; co-creator of an online comic called The Night Wolves; and author of many short stories, including The Divine Comedy of the Tech Sisterhood about inequalities in technology. Outside of writing, she is a senior figure in the tech industry.

In between her 15-year tech career, she has taken time out to travel through many areas of the middle east alone, including Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Israel and Lebanon. She wrote the first draft of her first novel — Driving by Starlight — in five weeks while on a retreat in Bali. She is now working on a Sci-Fi/fantasy novel about a telepathic killer in an alternate modern-day South Asia.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Born in India, and raised in Saudi Arabia, I am fascinated by cultural narratives around equality and the portrayal of women. My parents were very liberal and I was encouraged to dress as a boy so I could take part in sports and other activities that girls were not permitted to. My father encouraged me to question everything, and so I’d leave him handwritten notes for when he got home from work, asking him things like, “What happens to the soul after the body dies?” and “How do people invent things?”

He would always respond without talking down to me, with answers like, “By thinking in the same way you thought up these questions. One must learn to always ask how? why? and why not? can we do it better? for everything, they see around. Newton asked why should an apple fall and he discovered that earth has GRAVITY which makes the apple fall.”

My family and I moved to Canada when I was 14, and since then I’ve lived in New York, San Francisco and London. These multi-national experiences fed my interest in politics and philosophy from a young age, particularly the effects of totalitarianism, nationalism, censorship and oppressive regimes.

Unlike many other girls in my culture, I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, and my parents ensured I learned tasks normally reserved for boys. I remember being taught to change batteries in toys at around the age of two, and I enjoyed building things.

As a child, I was somewhat oblivious to the restrictions on women because I didn’t know any other way of life. In many ways, always having to wear the uniform of a burka gave me a lot of freedom because I didn’t have to worry about what to wear.

My childhood shaped who I am today, and I am proud of that.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I was reading books by the age of five, and there were quite a few stories that not only inspired me as a writer but shaped me as a person. I was about seven when I read Lost Horizon by James Hilton, and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I’d always read the classics, but those two stories really helped me see the way fiction could go beyond describing the world we actually lived in to show what could be, for better or for worse. Being so young, discovering that fiction didn’t have to simply narrate reality factually came as a revelation. I began to be more interested in political and allegorical fiction, trying to understand the rules of the world and how they might be changed, and most importantly, the role of the storyteller in shaping that new world to drive humanity towards it or away from it.

Around the age of thirteen, one book transformed me as a writer more than any other — Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. The story of an awkward, somewhat boyish woman trapped in her beautiful gilded cage resonated with me strongly as a teenager in Saudi Arabia. I hadn’t discovered the Gothic tradition yet, but long before I wrote Driving by Starlight, I knew that telling a story like that was what I was going to do with my life.

Reading The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham inspired me to study philosophy in college, where I became a huge fan of Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Albert Camus and George Orwell. The stories I write are always rooted in social commentary because I’m hyper-aware of the writer’s responsibility to act not just as a witness but as a prophet and a guide in times of darkness.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I was in high school, I was the editor for the school yearbook. But I was also an immigrant who had only been in Canada for two and a half years. So when I saw the word “peeps” everywhere in the yearbook copy, I assumed it was a typo. I meticulously corrected every instance to “peers” since that made a whole lot more sense, all the while wondering why my classmates were such poor spellers.

When I realized, long after the yearbook came out, that “peeps” were slang for “people,” I was mortified. I don’t think anyone’s quite forgiven me for that one. But it did help me see that there isn’t always an objective “correct” answer that everyone needs to reach, which helped me navigate editorial feedback later in life. So much of that feedback is prescriptive, focused on the rules of storytelling and grammar, and tends to ignore the intentions of the author or their cultural context. The miracle is that with each of us pulling language in our own direction, customizing it to express our own subjective intents, we are still able to tell stories with shared meaning.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

In Driving by Starlight, Leena and her friends are faced with several hurdles commonly faced by women in Saudi Arabia. They are unable to do anything without the permission of a male relative, who acts as a guardian. Until recently, Saudi women couldn’t really drive or vote. From my own experience, two things happen to people in such harsh circumstances. On the one hand, if there’s hope to be had, a window out of hell, so to speak, then there is intense and sometimes cruel competition for that chance to get out. People climb all over each other like crabs in a bucket. But on the other hand, there is an intense friendship to be experienced too, which means that even if she had a way out, Leena would feel guilty leaving others behind. People can work together to change their circumstances, but only if they stop fighting each other for that window out of hell. My hope was to share that message with the world because oppression can take many forms but solidarity can be our salvation.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Having lived in Saudi Arabia, the things that are probably interesting to others were simply mundane facts of my daily existence. At the very beginning of the book, I mention a restaurant with the sign, “Women and animals not allowed.” As a child, this was just the way of things. My father would park the car outside the restaurant and go in to get us shawarmas, which we’d eat in the car. Only the fancier restaurants would allow us to sit down together as a family since it meant they’d have to section off families behind a curtain. To this day, going to a restaurant feels like an act of rebellion. That’s the reason why the climactic decision in Driving by Starlight takes place in a restaurant.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

At some point in my book, Leena and her best friend Mishail have a conversation and decide that “if everything is forbidden, we can do anything.” My own best friend and I came to a very similar realization, which, it turned out, freed my mind and helped me in my career. As a woman in the tech industry, I realized that many women my age had grown up with messaging telling them that they couldn’t code, or couldn’t lead, or couldn’t be successful without a husband. What was strange to me was that many of them believed it! However, perversely, having been told as a young girl that I couldn’t walk down the street or drive or do any number of perfectly reasonable things had had the opposite impact on me. My father had taught me to do all the things I wasn’t allowed to do, so it was patently obvious I could do them. All I had to do was ignore anyone who told me something was impossible or beyond me. Could I lead a global team on a high-stakes technical project? Obviously. Could I learn to surf at thirty-five? Sure, why not. Can Leena save herself and her friends from the oppression of Saudi Arabia? Of course!

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I hear from women readers all the time about how much Leena’s story means to them as they struggle against their own societal constraints. But I hadn’t expected how much her story would resonate with the queer community. While Leena herself would never even consider Western labels like lesbian or non-binary to apply to her, she is someone who is both deeply religious and deeply in love with her best friend. Her ability to accept her love for both God and her fellow women allows her to find a solution to save them all.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The problems Leena faces in Saudi Arabia are mirrored in Western societies too, although perhaps they are more subtle. There is no difference between Leena’s inability to go to college without her guardian’s permission and Britney Spears being forced into dependency by her conservatorship. And many well-meaning parents force their children into gender roles that may not be right for them, by demanding they marry or choose a specific field of study.

Media plays the greatest role in either oppression or liberation, by either uplifting those voices that have been historically silenced or ignored, or by continuing to place value only on the words of those already in power. The law is a close second, and there are still many countries where basic equality of protection for all people is not guaranteed. Technology, my chosen field of work, can liberate people by democratizing access to education, lifting people out of poverty, and preventing censorship, but it can also be used as a tool by those in power to increase surveillance and censorship. Sadly, that seems to be the direction in which we’re headed, although I do plan to do my part to fight it.

If I could ask three things of people, they would be to uplift the voices of those whom governments aim to silence, to question any assumptions regarding gender roles they may have inherited from their parents or cultures, and to think of solutions that don’t just help one individual cope with a broken system but actually change the system to liberate everyone.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

A true leader brings out the best in others. In my fifteen years working in the tech industry, I’ve seen teams led by rockstars fall apart with the predictability of traffic during rush hour, and the teams that succeed are usually led by someone who’s willing to put their ego aside to solve the problem. Great leaders inspire loyalty and provide clarity, helping others navigate ambiguous or even terrifying situations while remaining calm themselves.

In an essay I wrote recently on driving systemic change, I mentioned that being the protagonists of our heroic stories feels rewarding, but is not the way to achieve lasting change. It is the difference between driving a car and laying tracks for trains. Driving a car feels heroic, feels powerful, but at most we can take a few other passengers with us. If we stop driving, the car stops moving. And while we may get to our destination, we don’t leave a way for others to follow. Laying train tracks on the other hand creates a path that outlives you, that will carry hundreds or even thousands of passengers to their destination. But it feels slow and unrewarding by comparison. Why? Because our stories, with their individualistic heroes, have conditioned us to believe that.

We need a different kind of leadership, one that isn’t focused on saving individuals but on changing the system at the source.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each if you have one.

  1. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Of course, I grew up hearing that on airplanes throughout my childhood, but it didn’t register until I was in my twenties that this was good advice for life in general. So many people burn themselves out trying to help others, not realizing that when they’re emotionally at their limit they aren’t actually helping anymore. Their anxiety and stress drags others down with them, like a double-clutch drowning. As a leader, it’s more important than ever to take vacations, to protect your mental resilience, so that you can be available to your team when they need you.
  2. Create cohesion before clarity. When you’re trying to get a large group to move in a particular direction, it’s very tempting, especially if you’re an action-oriented person, to walk in and give clear directions. “All right, everybody here’s where we’re going next year. Here are the priorities and milestones.” But if people have misgivings about direction, if they don’t trust each other or you, if they’re not truly a team, it doesn’t matter how good your directions are, they simply won’t land. It’s important to go slowly at first and build trust first so you can move fast later.
  3. One by one, that’s how things get done. We now know that multitasking is a myth, but I really wish we’d discovered that sooner. I had a pattern of trying to take on too much at once, then feeling overwhelmed and then dropping everything on the floor when I couldn’t juggle it all. Telling myself, almost as a mantra, to focus on one thing at a time, has helped me get a lot more done. It’s built my mental focus too.
  4. Write as if everyone you know is dead. So many people self-censor their own imagination, worried about what their parents or friends will think when they see the words in print. But while writers do want to be successful in their own lifetime, the words you write will most likely outlive you and be read generations from now by people who don’t know you at all. There are so many forces conspiring to silence you, from government censorship to a lack of diversity in publishing, so why would you silence yourself?
  5. Lasting change must outlive you. Just as the words you write will be read long after you’re gone, when you’re trying to drive societal change, ask yourself, “Is this only getting better because I keep pushing? What will happen if I stop? Who’s going to sustain this victory?” Thinking along those lines allows you to figure out how to protect the wins you’ve collected along the way, by setting up safeguards to prevent backsliding, like finding other leaders to replace you one day or enshrining the change in the law.

Can you give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I surround myself with quotes from my favorite authors. They hang on my fridge in magnets and on my walls in posters, and they sit in my bookshelves in the books where I first found them. When I’m feeling down, I can always find the words that pulled me out of it the last time I felt that way.

These words by George Orwell remind me why I write and reliably break through any kind of writer’s block:

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity.”

As someone with an education in philosophy and politics, I have to remember that ultimately, to reach people, I need to tell a good story. To have a perspective and a purpose when it comes to writing fiction is great, but if I don’t tell a story well, I might as well be shouting about the end times from a subway station for all the good it will do.

Is there a person in the world or the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

At the moment, I’d love to have breakfast with Isabel Allende. I’m enamored with everything about her, the quality of her fiction, her wisdom on ageing, and the way she lives her life. She understands political persecution and exile but is not broken or weighed down by it. Her fiction is light and natural, and in this age of heavyweight literary novels produced by MFA graduates, her stories feel effortless. I’d love to sit down with her in private and pick her brain on her process, and also ask about her love life, which is just as fascinating as her fiction.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Anat Deracine Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Lexie Stevenson Is Helping To Change Our World

I am using my success to spread awareness and educate people about Endometriosis. Endo is a chronic inflammatory disease that I, along with many other women, struggle with. I am currently on the Endometriosis Foundation of America’s Advisory Board. I work alongside many other strong and inspirational women to raise money for research and help raise awareness so that other women get diagnosed quicker.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lexie Stevenson.

Lexie was born in the town of Brunswick, a vibrant, small town in southeastern Maine and home to Bowdoin College and the Maine State Music Theatre. At the young age of 5, Lexie told her parents that she wanted to be an actress and a singer and they enrolled her in voice and acting lessons at Studio 48 Performing Arts Center where she was trained by Rebecca Beck. It was there that she made her stage debut, performing in such musical theater productions as Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, and High School Musical.

At age 12, she remained a remarkably self-motivated child and found a course being offered in New York City by world-renowned vocal coach and performer, Mary Setrakian. Her parents drove her several hours to NYC to participate in the class, and it was there that Ms. Setrakian noticed Lexie’s exceptional singing talent, and offered to work with her one-on-one. Lexie trained privately with Ms. Setrakian for the next 3 years.

Throughout high school, Lexie remained dedicated to acting and singing, performing as Pepper in Annie at the esteemed Maine State Music Theatre (where she earned her invitation to become a member of Actors’ Equity), several productions at the New England Youth Theatre, and as a member of the Brunswick High School Treble Choir, the honors level performance course for female vocalists. Tenacious and determined to pursue professional opportunities in film and television, Lexie self-submitted and was cast initially on small background roles on such productions as The Vampire Diaries, and small roles in Alvin and the Chipmunks 4: Road Chip; Martin Scorseses’ HBO production, Vinyl, and others.

During her busy high school years, Lexie was not only an outstanding young actress and singer, but she was also a competitive athlete whose accolades include being a three-time, bronze medalist (swimming) at the Junior Olympics in Maine, playing year-round soccer (at the club level and for her high school team), and even appearing as “Buzz the Bee”, the mascot for her father’s company — Modern Pests Services — for the Boston Red Sox farm team, the Portland Sea Dogs.

Lexie also proudly participated in the Miss Maine Teen USA pageant (a precursor to the Miss Teen USA pageant) and was 1st Runner-Up in both 2014 and 2015.

Upon graduating with honors from Brunswick High School in 2016, Lexie was admitted to the academically selective Purchase College-SUNY but chose to defer and move to California to seriously pursue her acting and singing career. After just seven months in Los Angeles, Lexie booked her first major role as “Mattie” on the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless.

Lexie enjoys traveling and has two dogs; a German Shepherd named Bella and a 1 yr old Rottweiler named King. Lexie currently resides in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

My backstory starts in the state of Maine. My parents constantly tell me stories of me singing in the house, at school or daycare, and on the car rides in between. Once I was in middle school, I wanted to start vocal lessons. I joined a studio called New England Youth Theater and took vocal lessons from the owner, Rebecca Beck. She helped me discover my love for acting by encouraging me to join some of the musical productions. I was hesitant at first, but after my first play, I fell in love with acting, and since then, it’s been the only thing I’ve wanted to do for a career.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway that you took out of that story?

The funniest story that has occurred in my career is TMI, but I’ll share it with you anyway. While filming for The Young and the Restless, there was a day that I had a very upset stomach. Right before we were about to film, I told our stage manager that I really needed to use the restroom, and then I bolted off the set. After I was done and about to return to the set, I realized that I had not taken off or turned off my mic during my time in the bathroom. Walking back to the set was very embarrassing, but to this day, no one has ever said anything to me about it. I can only hope that as soon as they heard the bathroom door open, they switched off the mic on their end but fortunately or unfortunately, I will never know.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Be kind. Be genuine. Stay in your lane and stay focused. This industry is filled with rejection so be ready to hear a thousand no’s before hearing that one yes. At times you may get discouraged but always remember that you might just be one more audition away from landing your dream role.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Yes. My self-tape coach Jason Montgomery. He is not only my self-tape coach but also my mentor. Because most auditions are now done virtually, I am in his studio about four times a week, and every time I am there, I learn something new. Just the other day, he reminded me that nobody could play me better than I can play myself. Every role I take on, I find similarities to myself within that character, and that’s part of my normal process of bringing the character to life. Still, as we all do, I sometimes push myself to be someone entirely different, and he can sense that. He pushes me to do my best, even on my off days. He has helped me grow more in the past year than I ever have, and I recommend him to anyone and everyone who wants to act.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I am using my success to spread awareness and educate people about Endometriosis. Endo is a chronic inflammatory disease that I, along with many other women, struggle with. I am currently on the Endometriosis Foundation of America’s Advisory Board. I work alongside many other strong and inspirational women to raise money for research and help raise awareness so that other women get diagnosed quicker.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

My mother and I both have Endometriosis, and it has caused multiple health problems for both of us. Growing up, I would see my mom curled up in crippling pain when she went through Endometriosis attacks. My first Endometriosis attack happened when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I had no idea what it was. My doctors blamed it on bad period cramps or would ask my parents if I was getting enough attention at home. About four years later, I had to have surgery to remove a growth on my ovaries. After I woke up, I learned the growth was due to Endometriosis which had caused part of my small intestine to roll up into the size of a golf ball. Luckily it had pinched itself off, and my intestine repaired itself but had it not, I would have been staring death in the face. Because of how long it took for me to get diagnosed and how dangerous it was, I wanted to try and prevent other women from going through the same thing.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Yes! My favorite story is when I walked into a Chop Stop (a salad restaurant chain) in Los Angeles, and the girl behind the counter asked if I was Mattie Ashby from The Young and the Restless, to which I responded yes. This was probably a month or two after I had posted my Endometriosis story on my blog, which she told me she had read. She also told me that she related to a lot of the symptoms I was experiencing, so she made an appointment with her OB/GYN and was also diagnosed with Endometriosis. No one wants to be diagnosed with Endometriosis, but I was so happy that this girl finally knew what was going on with her.

Are there three things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

The government can get rid of the Pink tax. Pink tax is a form of gender-based price discrimination. Many items designed and marketed towards women are almost always more expensive than those same items designed and marketed towards men. It also causes basic feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons to be significantly more than what they should be and less affordable for women with lower incomes.

Society (especially medical schools) can help make it a requirement for OB/GYNs to at least understand what Endometriosis is and how to diagnose it.

Individuals can help spread awareness and be there for their loved ones who suffer from the disease.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

The five things I wish someone told me are:

1. Acting is a forever journey, so never stop taking classes.

Sometimes actors book their first big role, and they think, “I’ve made it.” If fame is all you wanted out of this profession, then I guess you could say you have, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I have found that most actors care more about mastering the art of bringing any character to life. When I booked my role on The Young and the Restless, I stopped taking classes, I stopped auditioning, and expected to book any role that presented itself to me after I came off the show — and oh my lord, that was not the case. There is always more to learn in acting because there is always a new character, a news story, and new experiences.

2. Surprise yourself, not the audience.

Any great actor will tell you that the goal is not to get a round of applause from your audience. The goal is to drop into a character so deeply that you come out of the scene and realize you forgot the audience was there. If you do that, chances are you will get a round of applause anyway.

3. If your mental health isn’t at its best, neither are you.

You can limp into an audition with a broken foot and still give a killer performance. The same is not true if you walk into an audition with poor mental health or feeling burnt out. It took me forever to figure this out. I’ve always been the type of person to put a lot of pressure on myself, and if I ever had a day with nothing to do, I felt like I was failing. In order to compensate for that, I would sign up for a ton of acting classes, schedule photo shoots, create content, memorize scripts, read acting books and ultimately burn myself out and end up in a pretty dark spot. I’ve figured out how to balance myself by doing other things so that acting wasn’t my entire identity. I love wine, so I spend time learning about that or going to wine tastings in my free time. Some days I’ll have a self-care day where I clean my apartment, take a bubble bath, and do my entire 100-step facial care routine, lol.

4. Los Angeles will eat you up and spit you back out if you let it.

LA is an amazing place for opportunities and to meet some really incredible people. However, it is also filled with rejection, beautiful individuals, and very competitive people. I think it’s normal for girls and guys everywhere to compare themselves to others, but that can be a very slippery slope into losing yourself in LA. Make sure you are always rooted in something that keeps your feet on the ground and keeps you humble. For me, that’s my family and anything that makes me feel a little closer to Maine.

5. Take constructive criticism.

I saved the best for last. You don’t know everything you need to know until you die, and that’s just a fact. You also don’t grow as a person if you walk around being a know-it-all. I used to be horrible at taking criticism. I think it’s because there’s a really negative connotation with the word, but it’s a really great thing in reality. I have so many amazing people around me who have already done what I’m trying to do, and I can learn from their successes and failures, which puts me ahead of the game.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am already part of the movement that I would have started if it didn’t already exist, which is to spread awareness and further research in regards to Endometriosis. I am on the Advisory Board for The Endometriosis Foundation of America. Getting Endometriosis diagnosed and treated more quickly is the dream for me. Millions of women suffer from this disease, and little to no money goes into research for a cure or educating doctors on how to diagnose the presented symptoms.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite quote for anything is, “The only thing stopping you is you.” My mom always said this to me growing up when I felt discouraged or faced adversity. It’s such a simple phrase, but it holds a lot of weight. Anything that we feel is stopping us besides ourselves is just an excuse. People are capable of seemingly impossible things, and often, our own minds limit us.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Zendaya. Growing up and even now, there aren’t many people in the Entertainment industry that look like me… an extremely light-skinned mixed girl. Zendaya was the first actress I saw on TV that looked even remotely like me. The inspiration I get from her is more than skin deep, though. She is an extraordinary actress and humanitarian. I love everything she stands for and how she carries herself. She is the role model of what I want to be myself when I obtain that much success.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Lexie Stevenson Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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