It’s scary starting your own company, especially when you’re in your 40s, are the sole breadwinner for the family, and your three kids are nearing college age. When I decided to leave an executive role at Capital One 6 months ago to start my own innovation consultancy, I had to process that fear head on. After having lots of leads but few actual gigs in the first few weeks, I started doubting. And then all of a sudden, when my fear had finally dissolved in the chemical bath of rejection and passionate prototyping, the proverbial consulting drizzle turned into a pour.
I was thrown into a dizzying pace of travel and innovation, working with incredible teams on projects that excited me. I was flying to NYC to prototype the future of health advocacy, hopping over to Beijing and Shanghai to redefine collaborative spaces with international architects, working on community and product design with a modular electronics startup, spending time in London as a guest lecturer, exploring how to measure social impact of VC funding, working with high net worth Scandinavians to infuse innovation efforts with co-creation methods, and giving conference keynotes along the way. The Garage Partners dream was finally alive!
So when Dirk Cleveland - a Silicon Valley talent scout I had connected with over the years - called me a few weeks ago to discuss a role he thought I’d be great for, I was prepared to simply refer him to someone in my network. This mentality was compounded by the fact that I was literally in the middle of an epic hackathon with Nexpaq and Maxim in Dallas, and the roles Dirk and I had previously discussed were usually more junior-level positions. This is no fault of his - there just aren't that many VP/C-level design positions on the planet! But when he described how Walmart had just bought Jet.com, brought in some fresh Valley product leaders, and were now looking for a VP of Design to give this shiny speedjet a sharper rudder, I was intrigued.
I met with the team a few days after returning from the hackathon, and was electrified by the chemistry, big thinking, the need for design to be rooted in modern data analytics, and how the team is thinking holistically about deeply human experiences across digital and physical channels. And having worked at Microsoft and Capital One, I’m learning that there’s a big part of me that thrives on fostering extraordinary design teams and impact from within organizations that are not typically known for being design pioneers. Finally, since I had just sat down with my oldest son as he was selecting his final colleges to apply to - it tangibly hit me that I had 8 months left with him before he started on his own professional journey. Garage Partners was in full stride, but I was seeing my family only a few days a month.
So, goodbye for now Garage Partners. And Hello Walmart! You sustained my family when we were living in Beijing and longing for a little piece of home, you have an amazing team that I’m humbled to now become a part of, and more importantly you’re on the brink of redefining how the world saves money and lives better. I can’t wait to be part of the journey!
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