Since WELP...

What have our alums been up to? 
Some pretty great things!

Read a few of their stories below.

 

Tatiana Jeromskaia and Sarah Franchak 

Two WELP alumnae recently found themselves at the front of a boardroom facilitating a contentious discussion among federal employees. This scenario was not a new one for the two management consultants, who have been senior leaders at a top five consulting firm. With one key exception: they had made a bold move.
In August 2017, the women joined forces to strike out on their own. The result? AVYANCE, a women-owned consulting business headquartered in the D.C. area. While the conversation in the boardroom was heated that day, the end result was a commitment from the federal team to address its issues. Sarah and Tatiana were rewarded with a new experience—a deep sense of ownership of the positive results of their work. “This was something that Sarah and I had discussed for years,” said Jeromskaia, AVYANCE’s President. “We saw and experienced how under-represented women are in our industry, and we decided that we can be the change. WELP gave us a foundation to explore new concepts, poke holes in our plans, and refine our goals and priorities. Finally, the stars aligned and it was time to take the leap.”
And leap they did. Both women credit the insights, connections, and awareness they’ve built at WELP as a catalyst for their decision. “WELP gave us the opportunity to reflect on who we are and what we value. Our peers inspired us to take action against the gender bias and inequality in the workplace,” said Franchak, AVYANCE’s CEO. “We wanted to create a diverse environment where women feel respected for their ideas. I am so fortunate to have benefitted from the support and feedback of the elite group of women with whom I connected through WELP.”
AVYANCE is a consulting firm that helps managers and executives improve their organizations, launch new efforts, and operate their programs more effectively. “We know that all organizations have wrinkles,” said Franchak. “We figure out what’s causing the wrinkles and determine the best ways to smooth them– whether it’s implementing a new process, program, financial system, or organizational structure – and we bring fresh perspectives to the table. Ultimately, we help our clients succeed and avoid the pitfalls associated with change.”
You can track Tatiana and Sarah’s progress by checking out www.avyance.com or following AVYANCE on LinkedIn.
 

Rachel Briley

What you were doing during your WELP fellowship?
I was exploring career options/ my career path ... I was determining if my service/contributions to society were best utilized in academia or elsewhere ...  I determined/confirmed that academia was/is a fruitful place for me, but to sustain myself, I also need to pursue activities outside the university.  This is exactly what I have done by engaging in international projects.  
What you are focusing on now?
An international artistic exchange:  Nomadas y Suenos. This project is of great significance:  it will provide a broader platform for international artistic exchange.  Having successfully worked in collaboration with artists in Mexico City, I envision furthering the impact of my creative activity by collaborating with a theatre company from South America.  By working with La Llave Maestra, based in Santiago, Chile, I will be able to participate in the development of a new work from its inception in Santiago to its completion as a fully-mounted production performed at UNCG.  I will travel to Santiago, Chile for one month (May 15, 2017 – June 15, 2017) to observe and participate in the rehearsal/development process of a new work entitled Suenos based on the theme of “Dreams.”  The goal of this phase of the work is to gain exposure to the rehearsal strategies and techniques of the company through participating in a month-long investigation and rehearsal process in the company’s rehearsal studio.  Each morning will be spent in Investigacion:  exploring materials, objects, and music that most effectively express the concept of “Dreams”.  Each afternoon will be spent in Ensayo: rehearsing with the source materials as a full company with the intention of further exploring the theme with the actors’ bodies in time and space.  This will prepare me for working with the company and my students during their 2017 fall semester residency at UNCG.  This project will significantly impact not only my own scholarship and creative activity, but also that of the entire university community, the community at-large, and the field of theatre as intercultural, non-verbal work is created and shared with audiences around the globe.  
How you use/used peer support?
The skills I developed through participating in WELP allowed me to forge new relationships at my institution.  While I did not rely on a particular classmate/mentor from WELP for this project (with the exception of the woman who encouraged me to apply to the program:  Karen Abraham), the increased vocabulary in relationship-building served me well.  I connected with more effectiveness to the upper administration at my university and have their full support in all my endeavors.  
How your leadership identity has evolved in the last year?
I have increased trust in myself as a competent leader and therefore have taken more risks and embraced larger projects.  I was chosen as a US Delegate to represent Theatre Communications Group (TCG) - the largest and most influential theatre organization in the United States -  at the Santiago a Mil festival in Santiago, Chile.  I never would have applied for this opportunity if not for my increased confidence in myself gained through participating in WELP.  The examples set by my peers and mentors in the program encouraged me to "reach for the stars."  It worked.  I now am on a path to secure funding to engage a Latin American theatre company in a long-term relationship (including the co-development of a new work).  Thank you to WELP and all the individuals involved for encouraging me to be my best self.  
What's next?
Nomadas y Suenos will have four phases: Phase I:  (May – June) I'm traveling to Santiago, Chile to work with La Llave Maestra theatre company.  The intention?  To participate in the investigation/rehearsal process of a new non-verbal Object Theatre and Physical Theatre work entitled Suenos addressing the theme of dreams. Phase II:  (October – November) a.) La Llave Maestra comes to UNCG to perform Nomadas (the current work) for the UNCG community and the community-at-large.  b.) The company stays in residence at UNCG for one week, working in daily rehearsals on Suenos (the new work) with UNCG students. c.) Artistic Directors Edurne Rankin and Alvaro Morales stay for an additional three weeks to continue the rehearsal process with the students. Phase III:  (November – August) La Llave Maestra returns to Santiago to rehearse and finalize Suenos (integrating the work of the UNCG students into the process).  A work-in-progress will be presented at Teatro Municipal de Santiago and a fully mounted production will be performed in Santiago, Chile at The Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM). Phase IV:  (September) La Llave Maestra returns to UNCG to perform the fully mounted production of Suenos created in collaboration with myself and UNCG students at the UNCG Auditorium.
 

Ellen Kim

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What were you doing during your fellowship?
I was 6 months into a new job when our WELP fellowship started last spring.  I was returning to a professional services job at a 1,500+ person company after 10+ years in a wide range of roles in federal government, startups, independent consulting and small business, so it was a big shift professionally.  To a certain extent, I think I’m still adjusting to the politics and structure of joining a big company.  Some of that change, I welcome in terms of thoughtful professional development opportunities and a pipeline of challenging projects, but there are also renewed challenges I face in being back in a highly male-dominated industry.  
What are you focusing on now?
The biggest benefit that came out of WELP was a nudge for me to devote more time to self-reflection.  I am really good at going and doing; I get sh*t done.  It has been eye-opening to ask myself some tough questions about what fulfills me, how I define success, and what I want my legacy to be.  I’m certain I haven’t figured that all out, but WELP reminded me that I need to keep reflecting on these important questions so I don’t reach the finish line of my professional career and wonder if I made the right turns along the way.    
How you've used your peer support?
One unexpected surprise that came from our WELP fellowship was my peer mentoring group.  I was really lucky to be matched with five women who were willing to be so vulnerable and helpful with each other’s victories and struggles.  We committed to monthly check in calls where we covered any topic that was front of mind for one of us and/or explored some new ideas such as mindfulness exercises, reflection questions, and offering general support and cheerleading.
How has your leadership identity evolved in the last year?
I’ve become more self-assured of my place in my organization in the last year.  Some of that is from time and having adjusted to the norms of my workplace, but the way I navigated certain relationships and difficult situations was undoubtedly helped by the guidance and support I received through WELP and particularly, my peer mentoring group.  
What's next?
I’m pressing into my company in a more meaningful way now that the “newness” is behind me.  I have a decent pulse on the company now, so I am focused on growing my position within it and moving up in the organization.  This includes increasing my focus on business development, growing a new practice area into hospitality at the firm, and taking a more active role in firm recruiting, particularly of high potential women.   
 

 

Krystle Kopacz

What you were doing during your fellowship?
At the time of my WELP fellowship I had just quit my job to pursue my dream of owning my own company. The decision came somewhat naturally, after an exhausting six months of restructuring at my previous employer. In a lot of ways WELP's timing was perfect. At our first retreat we were asked to select a photo that spoke to us, and I chose a baby turtle on the beach, desperately trying to crawl to the ocean. The risk of my decision, the fear of failure and the shock of unstructured time was all very real at that moment. Looking back, I'm not sure I would have been able to effectively navigate that time without the support of my wonderful peers in the program. 
What you are focusing on now?
I am about to celebrate my first full year in business, and it's been a year of continual growth and empowerment. My focus is now squarely on productization, stability and scale. I started Revmade with the idea that marketing and sales enablement were just fundamentally broken; that brands and companies needed more strategic, unique strategies to sell their products, and that I could provide them. Now that the value proposition has been proven, it's really about how I can get hiring and processes in place to expand. 
How do you use peer support?
Peer support has powered my business, which has grown organically from word-of-mouth recommendations. But greater than that, peer support is what actually keeps me going emotionally. Beyond having will and drive, there are always moments when you doubt yourself. Having a group of people in which each understands that and is willing to give support, advice and friendship is just invaluable. 
How has your leadership identity evolved in the last year?
The past year has been an exercise in swiss-army-knife mode as I've navigated being my own accountant, lawyer, salesperson, project manager... you name it. The program really opened my eyes to our impulse as women to just shoulder a burden instead of asking for help. This has never been more true of me than in the first six months of starting my business. But I learned quickly that I couldn't do it alone, and I shouldn't try to. I hired a virtual assistant, lawyer and accountant to help me. I've enlisted subcontractors to help with design and research. I'm on the hunt for a financial adviser (please send along any recommendations!). The management of these disparate resources has been a new challenge, but one that I've really learned from. 
What's next?
Next for me is a focus on business growth: working toward hiring more resources this year, landing more long-term contracts and setting up more formal processes for sales pipeline growth. But it's also an exercise in personal growth. Right after New Year's I got the note I wrote myself on our final day of the WELP program. It said, "don't be so hard on yourself. Perfection is impossible. Just focus on learning, experiences, and continual growth." It was a good reminder that this is all a grand experiment - to just keep pressing forward and enjoy the ride. 
Company link: www.revmade.com 
Email: k@revmade.com 
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Yvonne Hao

What you were doing during your fellowship?

During the WELP fellowship, I was an Operating Partner at Bain Capital and I was working with our portfolio companies as a Board member and partner to the CEOs and management teams.  My role focused involved strategy, operations, organization, and capital structure and working on these to drive growth and equity value.  

What you are focusing on now? 

A really exciting opportunity came my way, and I decided to leave Bain Capital after almost 9 years, and I've just recently started as the COO/ CFO of a startup called PillPack.  PillPack is an online pharmacy that organizes patients' medications to help them stay healthier.  It's an inspiring mission  and impressive team, and the company has grown very quickly since its founding three years ago.  My role is focused on supporting and helping to lead operations and finance as the company scales.  

How do you use peer support? 

The peers and women at WELP are amazing.  At the first retreat in the spring, I connected with many of the women on a personal and professional level.  It is a very inspiring group.  And also a diverse group- much more diverse than people I encountered in my work universe, and diverse in terms of profession (business/ military/ legal/ nonprofits/ medicine/ academia), but also in terms of age and ethnicity, and in terms of life experiences.  It was incredibly beneficial to gain perspectives, and to realize that many of the issues we face are shared, despite our diverse backgrounds.  The nature of the program encourages intimacy and confidentiality and the spirit is one of sisterhood.  After the spring, a few women and I set up weekly calls to talk and take turns checking in and getting advice.  I also separately emailed and called and talked with many of the other women.  This peer group was (and is) really a huge asset for me. 

How has your leadership identity evolved in the last year? 

The program has been helpful for me in terms of enabling me to reflect on my own life and values.  It's helped me understand what aspects of myself are important and pieces that I want to reinforce going forward.  And also which pieces I may have outgrown and it's time to shed.  The program also helped clarify my priorities in life, and become more grateful and appreciative of all of the opportunities ahead.  

What's next? 

I had an incredible experience at Bain Capital and learned a tremendous amount.  I'm excited now for this new change and this next set of adventures at PillPack.  I'm looking forward to learning a lot and to helping grow this company.  On a personal level, I'm excited that PillPack's office is less than a mile from my house and I won't be traveling weekly as I was before.  My daughters are now 10 and 8 and it's great to be present more for them and my husband.