“In the pursuit of acceptance, you lose what’s interesting about yourself.”

Puja was born in Bombay, a very traditional society, where parents push their kids into 1 of 3 professions: Science, math or engineering. Puja always knew that she wanted to pursue a creative career, but most of her family thought it wouldn’t amount to much of a career. She comes from a family of doctors, accountants and engineers, but was lucky that her dad wasn’t such a traditional thinker. He encouraged Puja to do something that she was excited about. She gives credit to her dad for supporting her dream, and her mom for building the safety net around it. An avid saver, her mom made sure the rest of us could dream big.

When Puja was in high school, a professor introduced her to advertising. Even though she had her eye on fine arts, his advice was that she was better suited in recognizing different styles, storytelling and composition. A fine artist would master one style and he encouraged Puja follow the path of a creative director so she could use more of her strengths. 

After high school, she attended Sir J.J. School of Applied Arts (part of the University of Mumbai) for her BFA. It’s common in India to bribe schools in the form of donations as a way to get in, but J.J. was one of the few based on entrance exams. She could have paid her way into school, but they didn’t allow it, so she was accepted on merit, which is something to be proud of.

She graduated early at age 19 and started working at Leo Burnett in Mumbai. One day, she found the D&AD book and while flipping the pages, discovered a bigger world with such different work, it inspired a desire to travel and work outside of India. She found a scholarship opportunity for women pursuing higher education in the Arts. The scholarship was offered by TATA, an industrialist in India (his company now owns Jaguar). She applied (and won) that scholarship, took a loan from her parents so she could follow her dream and move the the U.S.

Her first stop was at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) to earn her Master’s in Communication. She thought if she didn’t make it in advertising, should would be a teacher. Moving to the U.S. was quite a culture shock. She went from being the majority, to being the minority. She had to figure out all the nuances that exist within that change. “Do they understand my accent?” “Do they get my jokes?” “Is brown skin also considered beautiful?” Everything that a non-caucasian child learns to deal with as a kid Puja was learning at 19. People expected her to have mastered being a minority. It was difficult at first and created a lot of self-doubt. She was ok with that and worked hard at catching up on everything American. Her goal was to grow, and the only way forward for her was through the discomfort.

After a few years of college and working at different ad agencies in NY, LA and Chicago, she aced the blending in. One day she saw a commercial she helped make air on TV where the father taught his son to pitch a tent. Puja thought to herself: “Why did I not cast a mother in that role?” In her pursuit of acceptance, she was losing what was interesting about herself. She was a woman, a woman of color, the only female creative in the room who had a seat at the table. The world couldn’t afford for her not to not point out things only she saw. When asked, she often says that “the only way to make space for different ideas is to embrace the awkward meetings and discussions. If you want to expand your world keep coming back to the table. It won’t be love at first sight and that’s ok.”

Pujas creative spirit, which gets restless if in one place too long, has not only taken her to multiple cities like LA, NYC, Minneapolis and Chicago but she has also jumped 3 countries including Switzerland, USA and India. This was exciting because she was now working with many people whose work was featured in that D&AD book that originally inspired her to move to the U.S.

When Puja and her husband were in LA they got pregnant and were ready to call someplace home. They had always loved Minneapolis, the lakes, the seasons and the people. So, their final move was to the Twin Cities where they had their daughter and bought a house near a lake.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
It wouldn’t be a celebrity because I don’t follow celebrities so I don’t about many of them. Susan Credle, the Global CCO at FSB Global. I want to know her secrets. The other person I’d invite would be my mom because we don’t get enough 1-on-1 time.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don’t want to be famous, but I want to leave a mark. I want my life to mean something, and if it does, that means I’ll be remembered. And, it’s ok if it’s only my family that remembers.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
I don’t, but I should because it would help me think things through more thoroughly. I’m an in-the-moment person and it doesn’t always work out.

When did you last sing to yourself? 
Last night, to my daughter when I put her to bed.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Wait, does it have to be an immature mind of a 30 year old? This is a hard question. I kind of want them both. I’ll go with mind.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I don’t have a hunch, but a preference. I hope it’s a heart attack.
To me, that is better than drowning, burning or crashing in an airplane

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
For people, like my dad, who believed in me. My dad believed in dreams over being rational about life. I also think luck played a huge role. My job was to reach for my stars, which was to be a Creative Director in the U.S. If you did a pros and cons exercise on that dream, the cons would definitely kill it! Being persistent and at the right place at the right time had impact on my life. 

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Being born a woman, in a third world country and middle class has created an adversity to risk for me. To succeed, you have to believe you are right. Even if I have all the proof that I’m right, society has taught me that as a woman I must question myself. I wish I could be more of who I am versus who I’ve been trained to be. 

I challenged her answer and pointed out that from my perspective, her whole story is about taking risks. From her career choice, moving around the world and settling in MN. Puja replied that risk is subjective. She wanted to rule the world, but she is settling for ruling her world.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I don’t know if I’ve necessarily had dreams that I’ve not set a timeline to. If a dream doesn’t transition to a goal, it seems like a failure. I don’t give myself space to dream. I dream about a Creative Department having 50/50 gender equity, but that’s not in my control. My life has been about achieving, it’s just how I’m wired.  

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
It’s really simple. It’s that I identified what I wanted in life. There were two doors to choose, with pros and cons behind each. I picked my door without questioning my choice. Of course, I’ve thought: “I’m good at math, I should have been a trader.” Sure, I’d have money, but it wouldn’t make me happy.

“Hey, Pretty Nikki!”

A spark of light and energy, this woman always put a smile on my face as I would pass her desk every morning on the way to mine. “Hey, pretty Nikki” was how I greeted her. While probably an inappropriate way to greet a co-worker, I didn’t care. When I saw her sitting there, usually in bright colors and a lovely smile on her face, it was the greeting she inspired me to make.

This rising star in the product world grew up in an entrepreneurial family whose business was food and wine. I always hold a special place in my heart for women who grew up with parents who made their own way. I feel an immediate kinship and we understand each other in a way not everyone can relate to. 

Jumpsuit: Banana Republic; belt & heels: A New Day, Target

Originally from Pittsburgh, Nikki’s family moved to Chanhassen, MN when she was 10 years old and has lived in Minnesota except for the brief time she worked at a company in Madison, WI. 

Nikki was a musician in high school, where she joined an a cappella group with 7 other kids. She lettered in music and academics, illustrating her curiosity in right and left-brained activities.

After high school, Nikki attended the University of Minnesota, Duluth, majored in marketing and Spanish and graduated during the last Great Recession. Job hunting was tough during this time, because she wanted to work at an ad agency, but the downturn in the economy hit that industry especially hard. She ultimately landed at Epic, where she worked as a project manager in healthcare software implementation. It was at Epic where she learned to expand her influence to an audience of stakeholders in the medical field, learning to communicate to physicians how her technology solutions were actually going to improve their lives.

From Epic, she went to Thomson Reuters, where she discovered the Agile process and it solidified her interest in web and mobile development as the career path she wanted to be on. 

Chambray shirt: Target; white jeans: Paige

She eventually got her Scrum Master certification and that is when Target came calling. Target recruited her as a Senior Scrum Master, but it didn’t take long until she was promoted to a Lead Product Owner. She grew fast during her time at Target and also completed her MBA program at Concordia University in St. Paul, MN.

Sadly, for me, she recently left Target to take the next step in her journey to world domination. This dynamic force took her talents to Best Buy. And while I miss seeing her everyday when I walk into the office, I’m excited to watch her have impact in whatever space she decides to enter next.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
There are 3 women I would like to have dinner with. The first is Queen Victoria. She was an austere, iron-fisted woman. She was England! The second woman is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The compassionate leadership she exhibited after the mosque shootings in Christchurch was inspirational. The third would be my mom’s mom. I never met her, but she led a nursing department in the 60’s & 70’s and I’d like to know what that was like. I’d also love to hear stories about my mom when she was young.

Dress: A New Day; earrings: Sugarfix

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
When I was little, yes. Now that I’m older, no. However, I am an avid consumer of Reality TV and would like to have the access that fame gets you, but wouldn’t want to have the public profile.

When was the last time you sang to yourself or someone else?
I sing all the time! That’s how I express myself. I sing in the car. That’s just what I do. 

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Most of the movies I watch are horror, so I feel like I’ve thought about it, but now that you ask, I really haven’t. I hope I die peacefully with a million people around me.

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
Nick and I have a lot in common. We’re both “type A” personalities. We’re very family-oriented and close to both of our families. We are adventurous and that can express itself in many ways like: Travel, new career challenges and home improvement projects. New experiences are very important to us.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My family. We moved away from our extended family in Pittsburgh when I was 10 years old. Back then, I had lots of family within a 5 mile radius. So, when we moved to Minnesota, it made our immediate family very close. 

Dress & red earrings: A New Day from Target

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
I wish I’d grown up physically close to more of our extended family. I missed out on running around and playing with cousins. I wouldn’t change how I grew up, but it would have been better with more family around.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Can it be a magical ability? I would choose teleportation. I love going to new places, but I don’t love the process of traveling. That, or doing math in my head.

Dress: A New Day; earrings: Sugarfix; boots: Universal Thread.

What is your most treasured memory?
My wedding day. We had family travel from all over the country to attend. Some had never even been to Minnesota! The night before the wedding, we were reflecting on how awesome it was that everyone was coming. My dad said: “Look at what you did Nik, you brought everyone together.”

Share an embarrassing moment in your life. 
I have, what others may think, are embarrassing moments daily, so I don’t think I embarrass easily. The only thing I can think of is that I totaled my car by hitting a deer. A one-car accident and had to call my dad to pick me up. That was kind of embarrassing.

“Hey, cutie.”

“Hey cutie,” is always how Carmen greets me when we run into each other at the office. She has such a bubbley personality that when I see her, I find myself speaking in a silly high voice and giggling a lot. That’s the effect she has on me.

It was such a treat to do this photoshoot with her because I’ve watched her completely transform over the last 2 years. She was diagnosed with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) which made her really sick, all the time. The diagnosis required her to change her whole diet. Through lots of trial and error, she learned that she has to adhere to a restricted Paleo diet. 

Carmen said that she had never been so mentally challenged and it was a struggle to push forward with a positive attitude. “I could no longer do the things I loved, so I had to find new ways of having fun.” 

I felt for her as I watched from the sidelines. As she started to come out on the other side, she became a source of inspiration for me. She started posting terrific make-up how-to’s and recipes that she was trying with her new diet. Seeing her new content show up in my feed made me really happy.

Carmen is from Iowa, where she grew up in a creative household. Her mom was a high school art teacher and Carmen always took art classes as electives when she was in high school. Her mediums are watercolors and colored pencils She says she is the artistic one among her siblings. 

During her senior year, she entered a poster contest for the Snake Valley Art Fair. The contest upped the ante with a cash prize and Carmen won. Not only did she win the cash, her work now hangs in the Art Center of Burlington and she was honored by the Gallery with a “30 under 30” exhibition.

As she was considering college, all she could think about was how she could apply art to a practical career. On a college visit to Iowa State, she discovered the graphic design department and loved it. It connected all of her talents and felt like a natural path.

After she graduated from college, one of her professors connected her with Target. She was working part time at a kitchen store and thought: “I’ll just send my portfolio and see what happens.”

She was immediately contacted by Target and was supposed to have a phone interview. However, the admin scheduling the appointments accidentally scheduled an in-person interview. So, Carmen drove all the way up from Iowa to Minneapolis to interview, and the rest is history.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
This is a really hard one because you have to be selective. I like a lot of things and it’s hard for me to edit. Tom Hanks. I’d love to have dinner with him. He seems like he’d be personable. His mannerisms and style remind me of my dad, as well as his charming personality.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No. I’m an extrovert and I like to talk, but being the center of attention is stressful. Being famous seems like too much pressure around who you should be rather than who you really are. For example, at work, I don’t need to be singled out and recognized for work that a whole team contributed to. I’d rather help others on my team get recognized. That’s more rewarding for me.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Depends on the call. I’ve discovered as an adult that I have more anxiety about things like this. I want to leave the impression that I’m professional and organized. I want to be mindful of what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’m calling my friends, I don’t rehearse. We can gab for hours. 

What would constitute a perfect day for you?
A day without any routine. None of the daily routines matter. Breakfast for dinner. Movie in the morning. Just a day of randomness. Like that time we ran into each other at the Norseman. Those spontaneous moments are the most fun. 

When I travel, I don’t make plans either. I do what I feel in the moment.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Like all the time. Singing is one of my favorite things. I don’t take myself too seriously, so I sing all the time. The other day, I made up a song about making pumpkin bread. I used to be in choir and I play the piano so I can sing. Sometimes, I’ll rent out the room at the library so I can play piano and sing.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The body of a healthy 30-year-old. I feel like what wears people down later in life is their body and it causes crabbiness. 

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? 
I have a lot of dreams about the apocalypse, tornadoes or being stung by bees.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
Hard to narrow down to 3 because we have so many things in common. We both really love pop culture and collecting vinyl toys and albums. We both have a kid-like spirit and never want to grow up. We want to enjoy all the same things we enjoyed as kids, but as adults. We also both have strong connections to our families. They’re very important to us and we make sure we spend a lot of time with them.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
There are a lot of things, but mostly I’m grateful for getting sick. It’s been a turning point in my life and has forced me to reflect on who I am as a person. Like, I loved to cook and bake but I never did it before. Now that I’ve had to do more cooking, it’s made me realize how much I love it! Buying cool clothes is fun now. Before I had to just buy what fit. Now I have more confidence and take more fashion risks.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
I don’t think I would change anything. I didn’t have the struggle of poverty, or the privilege of money, so I have a good work ethic. My family values that we’re successful and happy in our lives. Gosh, what a great opportunity to not pay for college. BUT, having to pay made me more responsible.

We spent a lot of time together as a family. When I was a kid, my mom stayed home with us full time. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that she started teaching. My dad came home from work every single day. Not a lot of people have that experience growing up, so I’m lucky.

“Some day, I’d like to return to the Philippines and run for office.”

Jen never met her biological father. On the day she was born, he was assassinated. Her father came from a well-known political family and was a captain in the Philippines military. One day in 1982, he was called to an emergency conference in Cotabato City. Because his wife was so far along in her pregnancy, he hesitated to go, but the hospital they planned to deliver was in Cotabato City, so he felt more comfortable making the trip.

He brought Jen’s mother, 2 bodyguards, 1 maid, 1 driver and his brother in-law. It was an era of extreme political unrest in the Philippines. There were rebel groups fighting and corruption in the military.

While driving to the emergency conference, armed men ambushed them from the roadside and killed everyone in the car, except Jen’s pregnant mother. She was shot fatally 3 times; once in the head and twice in the back. Shortly after the attack, a car passed by and they were able to get her to the hospital.

When she arrived at the hospital, the doctors performed an emergency delivery of Jen because they thought her mother was going to die. Thankfully, both Jen and her mother survived. Sadly, Jen’s birthday is now reserved as a day of remembrance of the father that she never met and chooses a different day to celebrate herself. 

Jen is an incredibly intelligent woman who only makes her brilliance known when she’s called upon. Currently, it feels like we’re bombarded with constant self-promotion and self-advancement, it’s refreshing and inspiring to be around someone like her. When I spoke with her for this feature, I was reminded of the beautiful characteristics that women bring to work culture. Characteristics usually referred to “soft skills”. I believe they should be known as “essential skills”. Through our conversations, I found myself reconnecting to those essential skills that reside within me, and it felt really good.

As early as Jen can remember, she was interested in human behavior. In 9th grade, she wrote a thesis paper about interpreting dreams and personality. While in high school and thinking about college, she considered going to medical school and thought she would study Neurology. Psychology also interested her, but in the Philippines, the career path for Psychology majors leads to school counselor or therapist. Since that didn’t interest her, she researched what Psychology looked like in other parts of the world and she discovered Human Factors & Ergonomics. 

She found graduate programs, and was accepted, in the U.S. and Germany. Her mother strongly encouraged her to go the U.S., specifically Louisiana, where her Uncle Jose lived, who played a father figure role in her life.

She graduated from the University of Louisiana with a Masters in Experimental Psychology and continued her academic pursuit at Wichita State, where she earned her Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology.

While working on her Ph.D., she worked for Dell, Honeywell, Motorola and Coca Cola through consulting projects contracted by the University. When she completed her studies and was ready to play the corporate game, her first stop was Honeywell. There she spent 4 years working on Industrial Automation Systems. After Honeywell, it was Veritas and finally found her way to Target.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
Angela Merkel. She has a scientist background, which is unusual in politics. She led a country that became an economic power and a welcoming place, even though the Holocaust happened there. I think she has emerged as the leader of the free world. She has the guts and political will to stand up to Trump. I want to ask her about her vision for Germany’s future, how did she get there and what her struggles were.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Honesty, as in, the tough love kind of honesty. That’s how I behave with my friends and that’s what I expect from them as well. I also value trust. I have to travel really far to be with many of my close friends, so it’s important that we trust that the friendship is ok even if we can’t speak or see each other on a regular basis.

What is your most treasured memory?
The time I spent with my Maternal Grandmother. She helped us while my mom recovered from the attack. She lived next door and was a comforting presence in my life. When I would have what I call “homework panics” my Grandma would say: “Pause, take a deep breath and write down the steps you need to take.” She’d acknowledge the panic, but set the strategy. I still think about that and use that same methodology today.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Running for public office back home. I want to serve because I have a lot of ideas. I was thinking the other day that maybe the right people aren’t running. I’m still thinking about it. I’ve been trained for it by both my family history and the culture of education in the Philippines. Every year, they recognize 10 outstanding students, with the goal being that these students will return to work on nation building. I was part of a group of 10 after college and all of my “batch mates” are already back in the Philippines doing this work.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Yes, especially if I’m ordering pizza with people who speak English. If I was speaking my native language, then no.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? 
I sing to myself every morning when I’m making coffee. We’re a musical family and I own a Karaoke machine. I make my American friends sing Karaoke when we host dinner parties. Some of my favorite songs to sing are: Zombie, by The Cranberries, Hero, by Mariah and Wind Beneath My Wings.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I don’t, but I have thoughts about how I want to die. I want to be at home in the Philippines. If I get an illness with a lot of strain, I’d forgo treatment for travel and time with my family.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
We’re both introverts, we like watching Broadway shows and we like to travel.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
To be alive. Watching my mom and her strength after what she experienced. It affected how I look at life and it makes me grateful.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
I wish my mom and grandparents were less protective of me. They loosened up with my younger siblings.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To be an awesome skier. I like Minnesota, but I think I would enjoy it more if I knew how to ski.

“I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking!”

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has had struggles or has had to work hard to get where she is.

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has struggled or has worked hard to get where she is.

That was true for me when I got the opportunity to really talk to Melissa. I didn’t realize my assumptions about her until I learned about how she grew up and what her experiences were. Up until that point, our interactions had mostly been professional. And unlike me, she paces herself with the personal information that she shares with people. I can respect that.

Melissa immediately became an adult at 8 years old when her mom died suddenly of myocarditis. Her dad had just dropped her and her brother off for the holidays, when her mom collapsed in the living room. They had to call their dad so he would return to the house and convince him that it wasn’t a joke.

5 years prior to that, her dad survived being struck by a semi, but the accident left him a quadraplegic. So, after her mom died, Melissa took on the stereotypical gender roles of the household. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and made sure her brother got to school in one piece. Think about being in 2nd grade and not having the same parental resources as most kids you are friends with. Life gets real, real fast.

women-i-work-with-melissa-andrykowski-gingham-sundress-straw-bag-platform-sandals

Melissa shared that her childhood was difficult, but it also developed her ambition. She was an academic overachiever, skipping her senior year in high school and graduating from Grinnell a semester early. She has 2 Master’s Degrees. One is in Journalism and the other in Business.

Her Master’s thesis explored the “Otherness of the body.” She believed that if people with disabilities were represented more in pop culture and film with or without stereotypes, that it would positively affect the overall populations’ view of them. She proved it by testing 2 sample groups. She showed one group film clips from pop culture movies that contained disabled people as protagonists, then had them answer a series of questions relating to their perception of the disabled as parents, in the workplace, etc. The other group wasn’t shown any clips but still answered the questions. The outcome was able to provide statistically significant evidence that even though the film clips may have shown stereotypical portrayals of the disabled, it still positively affected how others perceive the disabled. Most importantly, this proved that representation and inclusivity within media is essential in making people more comfortable with “otherness”.

Melissa’s career and style is impressive. It’s uncommon to meet someone in advertising who has achieved so much academically. I’m always fascinated by people who can do well in academia. She admits during our conversation that she believes her ambition is a direct result of not having more support from adults as a kid. She just wanted someone to provide direction and say: “Hey kid, you’re really good at this. You should go for it.” Instead, she’s had to embark on that journey alone.

Melissa could have a career in any industry. She chose advertising because she fell in love with it. She started at a publishing company, working as a writer and beauty editor for several local magazines. While there, she was recruited by Target and they brought her on board to work on various creative projects.

women-i-work-with-melissa-andrykowski-striped-shorts-striped-coat-white-sneakers-clear-bag

While at Target, she transitioned full time into writing and eventually was promoted to Associate Creative Director. Her portfolio of work spans the enterprise including Target Style, Bullseye Beauty, Target Race and Ava & Viv. She takes great pleasure being the person in the room that fights for inclusivity and representation in our storytelling. When her team was developing the Ava & Viv brand (plus size apparel), she was the one tirelessly advocating for us to focus on style first, size second. That commitment has had incredible business results on the projects she leads.

Melissa embodies all the characteristics women get in trouble for. She’s smart, opinionated and determined to get her ideas implemented, no matter who she makes uncomfortable. Those are all the characteristics we need to inspire change and acceptance in our media landscape.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
It changes by day. Michelle Obama. I think she’s amazing. Or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Time is running out. Make her number one!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No, it seems glamorous. I think those people are miserable. I’d like to be known. Someone who fights for something like RBG.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Working out, massage, getting on a plane to a new city and ending with delicious wine.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I just sang this morning! I make up songs about my dogs and sing to them. After my husband left this morning I was scream-singing to my dogs.

women-i-work-with-melissa-andrykowski-striped-off-the-shoulder-dress-straw-hat-black-platform-sandals

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Obviously my mind. I’ve always struggled with being physically fit and I’m trying to give myself a little more credit. I mean, I just deadlifted 220 pounds last month! I’ve also been recovering from a concussion the last 4 months and it’s made me realize even more how important it is for me to be able to think and articulate my ideas.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No, and I don’t want to think about it. Having watched my mom die, I only want to focus on living. I do have a goal to become more comfortable with death. I want to be at ease and not fight it, but currently, I’m terrified.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Travel, opportunities I’ve had and education. When you travel, you see the world and different perspectives. It changed who I was. I was 15 when I went to Mexico to build houses and I saw what real poverty was. I spent 2 summers doing that.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I wouldn’t have had so much self doubt. I wonder what life would have been like if someone had recognized what I was good at and pushed me.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Being less risk-averse. Having visibility to the community of people with disabilities, I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking! I’d also follow my own advice.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Move and work abroad. It would be hard to convince my husband. When we met, he hadn’t left the country. I have a good job and I’ve created a beautiful home. I’m settled in.

Travel is a priority for my family.

Here she was, unemployed at 40. This was an unusual situation for Michelle because she’d always been on the rise in her career. She had 2 job offers that she was considering. One was a VP of Product Operations at a healthcare company and the other, Senior Product Manager at a software company.

At age 40, Michelle found herself unemployed. This was an unusual situation for Michelle because she’d always been on the rise in her career. She had 2 job offers that she was considering. One was a VP of Product Operations at a healthcare company and the other, Senior Product Manager at a software company.

Of course, the job that made the most sense was VP, overseeing a team of 40 people. She had been working toward this type of a role her whole career. It was the logical next step. However, after evaluating the offers with the CEO of her board of directors (her hubby), he asked her: “Which job looks more fun?”

The answer to that question, of course, was the job at the software company. She accepted that offer, which was an individual contributor role, and was promoted to Director within 6 months. She now leads a team of UX designers and product managers for a security software company in Minneapolis.

Michelle began her career in government. She always thought that she would work in D.C. She majored in Political Science and had internships on Capitol Hill, the White House and the Governor’s Mansion.

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While in college, a professor recommended that she attend a career fair where computer consulting companies were recruiting top talent. She half-heartedly took some competency exams, which she thought she bombed, and came out with a significant job offer to go to a large consulting firm after college. When she brought the offer to her boss on Capitol Hill, he told her to take it. It was more than 2 times what he would be able to pay her if she were to work in government. That boss taught her a very valuable career lesson. He said to take a chance, because the safe choice will always be there if the chance doesn’t work out.

So, she ventured off on a new career path, which required her to travel 40-50 weeks per year. This was the ‘90’s and the tech boom was just beginning. As it relates to style, she was part of the first class of women at her consulting company who were allowed to wear pant suits. Prior to that, they had to wear skirt suits. When summer arrived, the women were wearing suit separates and constantly being called to HR because the men in the company thought tops and bottoms of suits had to be the same color and match. So, Michelle and her friend went to Express and purchased lime green and bright purple suits, with the tops and bottoms matching, to show the management how ridiculous their request was when it came to ladies fashion.

After working for the consulting firm for 7 years, Michelle decided that she wanted a job change. She wanted to see the man she married more than just on weekends and wondered what he looked like on a Tuesday.

Her next job was at UnitedHealth Group where she created a cross-functional career, moving departments and roles every 2-3 years. She did this intentionally because it’s her long-term professional goal to be in the C-Suite, so she’s focused on the skill preparation necessary for executive success.

She was laid off from UHG twice. After the second time, she decided to really switch it up and chose a role that she thought would be fun and where she would have the most impact.

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During our conversations for this article, she said something really compelling about being a leader. “Mary, what CEO do you know can roll up their sleeves and do the work their team does? I want to empower my team, enable the work and get out of their way.” This inspired me at the moment because I was going through a career shift. I am now a leader of a team, but my perspective was to become a leader of the work that you know how to do. After thinking about that conversation and the value that good leaders bring to their companies, I realized that she’s right.

Michelle will continue to have a huge impact on the tech industry and specifically women in tech. Whether she is in the C-Suite or not. The title would be great because it expands the sphere of influence and impact. Her reasons for wanting it aren’t self-centered, which is why I know she’ll get it. Ultimately, she wants a position where impact and messages are amplified to do good. Her plans include growing the local tech economy and helping young women overcome hurdles in their professional development.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
How old I’ll be when I die. I’m a planner and I want to work backwards from a deadline. It’s important for me to know because I want to accomplish a lot of things. Do I have 10 or 50 years to get it all done. How much time do I have to see the seven wonders of the world, to live a year in Europe, to try and finally learn a foreign language.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?
No. I never want to be the person who misses out, so I squeeze 26 hours into every day. Even as a kid, I burned the candle at both ends. I make adventures a priority, so I never feel like I want more. I do have a dream of visiting all seven continents. I only have Antarctica left, and hope to do that before my 50th birthday.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Being the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t have that modeled for me. The women before me didn’t have the same opportunities, most chose a career of marriage and motherhood.

My career path gave me the opportunity to travel the world, often alone. There is something empowering and confidence building about solo travel. Being able to navigate a foreign city, and work and play with locals is something I’m immensely proud of.

I’m also really proud of the “family” that I’ve created. I have a network of friends, loved ones and coaches. I love my house buzzing with people. I’ve had to overcome loneliness because I’m not from Minnesota, so I didn’t have a built-in network. I’m suited for it though because I’ve always been a person that brings different people together. Even as a kid I was like that.

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What do you value most in a friendship?
Transparency. Don’t hold back. Love big, be big. Call me out on my B.S. and vice versa. I also love surrounding myself with bold people with a great sense of adventure. Who aren’t afraid to try new foods, explore exotic places, sneak into parties, or zip line over things.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? My maternal grandmother. I was 2 years old when she passed away. You miss a lot about who your mother is if you don’t know her mother. People told me that I reminded them of my grandmother and I could never put the pieces together. My Grandmother didn’t travel much, but when she did, she loved cruising with my grandfather. She loved all the activities, mingling with other guests, and a bar full of manhattans. I love the same things! I would love to know what it was like to grow up in during the Depression and why she married my grandfather.

I would love to know what kind of trouble my mother got into, what events made her who she became, if she was as good as she said she was!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Yes. The impact I could have would be amplified. A lot of crap comes with fame, but I want to impact the success of women. More Bill Gates, than Kim Kardashian. I want to be a driving force to grow the local economy, grow tech careers in Minnesota and help young women overcome professional hurdles. Being famous would also allow me to travel without the hassle of commercial flights!

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
A true perfect day is when I’m exploring a new city with my husband, which is why I thought it would be fun to include photos of my vacation fashion. Vacation for us is like a long date, and I like to pack layers and accessories to have different looks when we’re traveling together.

If I’m not on vacation, it depends on the level of refueling that I need. I’m naturally an extrovert, so being around a lot of people gives me energy, but I can extrovert myself into a hole. That’s been happening more lately. When you have responsibilities for a team and strategic decisions, there’s more stress. I’m vascillating between playing offense and defense on a daily basis. The constant connection to the world via a phone adds to the over stimulation. A perfect day for that Michelle is most likely a Saturday. It starts with a morning workout, coffee with 1 friend, some kind of pampering like a pedicure, a long walk around the lake with the dogs and cooking a meal with my husband. There’s a couple of bottles of good wine involved too.

If I’m in a extroverted mood, that day starts with a big bawdy brunch with girlfriends, mimosas, talking, laughing and usually dancing at a bar with a jukebox while it’s still light outside.

Women have to maintain the perception of keeping it all together. Any kind of slip is interpreted differently for us than it is for men, so self care becomes really important.

When did you last sing to yourself?
In the car this morning. Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison (never trust a big butt and a smile).

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
We both love to cook, we’re both blonde & blue-eyed, not unusual in Minnesota, but we stand out in a crowd in a lot of places we travel to. We’re both very competitive. I was the first person to ever beat my husband in Trivial Pursuit. I think that’s why he was attracted to me. I was both a formidable opponent and partner. Wade has been my biggest cheerleader in my career and has contributed the most to my success.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I believe in the butterfly effect. Everything that has happened has created who I am. If I changed anything I might not be the tough-as-nails person that I am.

Superficially, if I could change anything it would be that I wish my family valued multiculturalism more. I also regret not speaking a foreign language. I’ve been to 45 foreign countries, and I make a point to learn some key words, but it frustrates me that I never mastered another language.

I’ve designed my life with intention.

It was 3:00 a.m. and Kristin’s brother’s friend was ringing her apartment to get access to her building. She was scared because she thought he was there to rob her. Then the phone rang, and it was her dad. “Andy shot himself.”

It was 3:00 a.m. and Kristin’s brother’s friend was ringing her apartment to get access to her building. She was scared because she thought he was there to rob her. Then the phone rang, and it was her dad. “Andy shot himself.”

Her first thought was: “Is he ok?”

He wasn’t ok. He was dead and Kristin was in total shock. She just saw Andy 2 nights ago when they celebrated New Year’s Eve together. What she did the next few hours, days, weeks and months isn’t very clear because she was in survival mode, constantly asking herself all of the “what if” questions.

Kristin sees herself as an entirely different person since her brother died of suicide. It has forever changed her in ways that she is still uncovering and navigating. She had already begun designing the life she wanted, but this event increased her commitment. She’s a woman that makes things happen. She’s active not passive. “I’m not going to wait for my life to start, so I make things happen.” Kristin has changed careers, moved to a different city and bought a horse.

“I always wanted a horse, so I bought I horse.”

Even though Kristin was a creative woman, when she was deciding where to go to college, she chose to go to business school. She wanted to be financially independent and was unsure about the financial stability of a creative career.

After graduating with a business degree from Marquette University, she worked at Baird as a Financial Analyst covering the retail sector. She spent her days working in Excel spreadsheets and writing reports. It was a repetitive job that worked on a quarterly cadence.

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Well into her career at Baird, that creative calling returned, and she realized that she’d rather be a designer. So she enrolled at a technical college to learn the skills she needed to bring her ideas to life. She worked full-time while she went to school. Once she finished the design program, she got a job at an agency, where she took a significant pay cut to start anew in her design career.

Her next big move was to Jockey where she started as a Senior Designer, became the Creative Director and led a team of 15 creatives. At Jockey, she did a variety of work like: Art direction, e-commerce, visual merchandise, direct mail and packaging just to name a few. Jockey was a cool experience because she got to be a hands-on Creative Director. She felt like the company was “fashion adjacent” and got to work on projects with Rachel Zoe and Tim Tebow.

While working full time at Jockey, she was also working at a beauty start-up called Wantable. It was a subscription based make-up company, where she led marketing and design. It was fun because she got to be scrappy and make decisions quickly, which allowed her to get a lot done.

After working at Jockey for 6 1/2 years, she was ready for a new challenge. She had just lost her brother and her father shortly thereafter. It was a year of extreme personal loss and she needed to find the space to heal.

Lucky for us, she found her way to Minneapolis through a business relationship with a recruiter who found her a spot on our team at Target.

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Kristin bought a condo in the North Loop in Minneapolis so she walks to work everyday and that influences her personal style. She wears mostly basics and dresses in layers. Her color palette is black and white and she likes to mix feminine details with edgier things, which is the perfect expression of her personality.

She wishes there were more opportunities to dress cool because she loves fashion. Sometimes, she’ll drive to work just so she can dress up for the day.

The style of her home is where she invests most of her time. Her space is very important to her because it’s her escape and where she goes to decompress. She just finished a bathroom remodel that took 3 months, so she’s looking forward to getting back to a construction-free zone.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
I don’t know if I want to know. I feel like that’s cheating. Things happen when and why they’re supposed to. If I see the future, then I’ll screw it up by trying to control things.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Honesty and being emotionally consistent. Show up the same.

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Tell me about an embarrassing moment in your life.
I was at this bachelorette party where I didn’t know most of the women. I got really drunk and ran to our party bus because it was so cold out. I tripped and fell, face-first and skidded down the sidewalk. All this happened in front of another bachelor party bus. I sprained my ankle, was bleeding and didn’t realize I was injured. The following weekend was the wedding and I had to go with a scabbed face. I’m sure everyone was looking at me thinking: “Oh, there’s that drunk girl…”

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Maya Angelou. She was a bad-ass woman. She grew up in extreme poverty and abuse, overcame all of it to become incredibly powerful and inspirational.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No. I value my private life. I recharge by being alone. It would be so stressful to be constantly scrutinized. I judge myself enough. I don’t need help with that.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, usually. My mouth moves faster than my brain and I want to make sure I make all of my points, especially if it’s a difficult conversation.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Not waking up to an alarm clock. I’m not a fan of breakfast so I’d like to go straight to the meal where I can eat pizza or lasagna. Spend the day outdoors in the sun. Have time to read. Eat sushi. Drink wine. Get a massage and go to sleep.

When did you last sing to yourself?
Oh, like all the time. I sing in the car, on the sidewalk, in the shower. When I sing to my boyfriend, I make up my own lyrics. They’re dirty, funny or all “meows”.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The mind for sure.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
In some kind of stupid accident because I leap first. I’m klutzy, fall and am always in a hurry.

I promised my mom I would get my degree!

Julieta came to the U.S. with $100 in her pocket, spoke very little English, didn’t know anyone and had no immigration papers or social security number. She was born in San Diego, so she was an American citizen, but her family moved back to Mexico without ever finalizing her paperwork.

Julieta came to the U.S. with $100 in her pocket, spoke very little English, didn’t know anyone and had no immigration papers or social security number. She was born in San Diego, so she was an American citizen, but her family moved back to Mexico without ever finalizing her paperwork.

Julieta was in her 3rd year of Architecture school at the University of Sonora and realized that she was really bad at architecture. Her professor told her to switch her major to design because she was great at presenting ideas, color theory and drawing. She rejected that advice because the financial burden, of switching majors 3 years into her program, was too high.

Then one day, she fainted and hit her head on her fall, creating a hairline skull fracture that caused her brain to swell. Intuitively, she knew the fainting was a result of the stress at school, but a doctor was never able to diagnose the cause.

She recovered by staying in bed for one month, which meant that she fell too far behind in school and decided not to return once she was fully recovered.

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After hearing about some of her friends working summers in the U.S., she became interested in that idea so she could save money and help support her family. Her sister was 9 at the time, starting elementary school and needed supplies. It was important for Julieta to be able to help her family financially.

Julieta and a friend planned to move to Arizona for the summer. She searched Craigslist and found a bedroom to rent in Gilbert, Arizona. At the last minute, her friend backed out so Julieta made the journey solo.

When she arrived in Gilbert, her first priority was to get a job. However, nobody would hire her because she didn’t have proper identification. After experiencing several rejections, she finally found a small family-owned restaurant who gave her a job as a waitress.

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Once she had enough money saved, she bought a bike, so she could travel to the social security office and get her social security number. After living in her new place for a month, the landlord gave her notice that she had to move because he was selling the house and rent her room.

Luckily, the family who owned the restaurant and gave her that first job, offered her a room in their house, so she could stay and work in the U.S. for the entire summer.

She fondly remembers returning to Mexico after that summer, bringing a big haul of American things back to her family. She decided to go back to architecture school, but all she could think about is how much she could help her family if she lived in the U.S. for an entire year.

It took some negotiating with her mother. She had to promise that she would finish college, so back to Arizona she went.

When she returned, she got a different waitress job, a car and was able to get more settled. The first thing she bought, just for herself, was a purple AM/PM radio so she could listen to music.

Her college credits from Mexico didn’t transfer, so she had to start her academic career over. She enrolled in Community College to complete her generals and to learn more of the English language. She also discovered that Arizona had one of the best design schools in the country and recalled how her architecture professor advised her to pursue a design career.

“I just wanted a degree. I promised my mom!”

It’s inspiring how things ultimately worked out for Julieta. Her body literally told her that she should not pursue architecture, but her brain wouldn’t accept it. She had to lose all of the investment she made in her education and start over, but she landed exactly where she should.

After graduation, she got an internship at an ad agency where she worked on big accounts like Disney & Subway, which were great for her portfolio early in her career. After the agency gig, she accepted a Product Design position at American Airlines, where 70% of the web pages were her responsibility.

From American, she went to PayPal and during this point in her career, she started rethinking her purpose. She wanted to use her talents to give back to society so she started applying to non-profit organizations. She landed at Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Design Manager. This job was really fullfiling and she was really happy there.

Fast forward to now and Julieta is one of my newest colleagues. She’s new to Target and I’m new to the department we both work in. I like her style a lot. She brings an energy to the room that makes me sit up a little straighter and think a little deeper.

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Everything she wears has a floral pattern. She chooses fit over trend, and shops mainly second hand and vintage so she contributes less to the landfills. She also curates a beautiful Instagram account dedicated to Vegan eating.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
My Grandma. I just miss her. We lived with her when we were going through rough times. She was a very charitable woman and had a huge influence on me.

Would you like to be famous?
Not really. I don’t really care about fame. If it’s a result of doing good, then yes, but not for the sake of fame.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
No, and I should because I’m really bad on the phone. If I’m talking on the phone while my boyfriend is in the room, he’ll look at me like I forgot English. I was never really around phones. Chat and email is what I’m good at.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I would be at Kino Bay, waking up with my family, boyfriend and 2 dogs. We’d have an all vegan buffet, swim with the dolphins & turtles, snorkel and lay on the beach. Then we’d watch movies, cook together and go to bed early.

When did you last sing to yourself?
Last night. I sing to my dogs every night before I go to bed. “You are my sunshine…”

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When did you last cry in front of another person?
2 days ago, watching Harry Potter with my boyfriend. Harry goes to the Weasley’s house and Ron’s parents accept Harry as a child and are happy to see him. They count him as one of their own.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Being present when I’m with friends. Not always having to be the initiator. People making an effort.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Maybe the greatest hasn’t happened yet. I hope it hasn’t because I still want to make a larger impact. Learning English and being able to speak fluently in my profession is a great accomplishment.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’m deathly afraid of a house fire. I unplug everything from an outlet everyday before I leave the house. I’m always thinking: “How is this fire going to happen today?”

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My health and my family’s health. That’s all I need.

East Coast Style

Danielle’s style priority is comfort over trends. She focuses on wearing clothes made of materials that feel good on her body.

When Danielle and I met to talk about this article, she expressed to me that this was the first time she had ever told her story. I suspect that it’s because she is early in her career and still building all the pieces.

She is only 3 years out of college and that about knocked me out of my chair. I thought she had been working a lot longer than that! I’ve been noticing how much more sophisticated the younger generations of professional women are. It inspires me and helps me focus on why I do what I do for work everyday.

When Danielle was in high school, her parents encouraged her to try a sport or activity. She tried all of the things and found that she sucked at all of them. When she was 15, her best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and Danielle needed an outlet to cope.

Art is most often the best outlet and Danielle discovered photography. She was lucky because her dad was an artist, a musician, and he supported her in the arts. Together, they took a photography class and Danielle ultimately studied it for 4 years.

She loved creating compositions and focused on abstract. When it was time to apply to college, she applied to 12 art schools and was accepted to all of them.

For her, it was between the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, or Savannah College of Art & Design. She chose SCAD and declared photography her major. After her first year, she lost the passion she had for photography and decided to take a Graphic Design class. She felt that photography was a piece of the experience, but wanted to explore other outlets. After one class, she was hooked, and switched majors. To this day, she says it’s the best thing she’s ever done.

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She interned at great companies like Fossil, HP and even Target. When the Target opportunity came up, she was intrigued because she likes the idea of living in a new city. She grew up in New York and Miami, lived in Savannah, studied abroad in France and Hong Kong.

Never one to get complacent, she decided to meet with Target for a phone interview. The night before the interview, she was held up at gun point. The man who robbed her stole her purse, which contained everything, and by everything, I mean all her backed up design files.

Listening to her tell this story, I couldn’t tell which was more devastating, actually being held up, or losing all of her work. Honestly, my first thought was: “You lost all your work?!@#”

She proceeded to have the phone interview with Target the next day and was hired for an internship as an art director on the weekly ad. Her current position is as a Senior Designer for Home on Target.com.

Her style priority is comfort and isn’t into trends. She focuses on the materials that clothes are made of and wants to feel good in her body. Lately, she’s been experimenting with statement pieces and color. Those statement making expressions typically come to life in her footwear.

When she moved to Minnesota, she admits to experiencing style culture shock. Her references to style were NYC, where there are so many different cultures, you’re inspired by the diversity on a daily basis. Living in Miami, the cultural style was all about showing off your body. It was while she was in Miami, that she realized her style was very simple and mostly east coast.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My Uncle and my Grandma. My Uncle was killed in the Vietnam war when he was only 19 years old. My Grandma has been fighting stomach cancer, so I’d like to go back in time to when she was cancer free and he was alive.

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Would you like to be famous?
Only if it is in the design field. I want to be known for something that helps people through design.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, because I think with my mouth instead of my heart sometimes.

When did you last sing to yourself?
On King’s Day in Amsterdam.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?
I’d like to travel to Cuba. I’m Cuban, Puerto Rican, Portuguese and British. My Grandma, on my Dad’s side, is Cuban and is very proud of her heritage. She likes to say that she’s “150% Cuban!” She left Cuba when she was 13 years old and returned 73 years later. That trip meant a lot to her and I just want to experience the country.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Loyalty, honesty and trust. It’s also important to me to know that I can go months without talking to my friends and trust that nothing about our relationship has changed when we do decide to catch up.

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What is your most terrible memory?
Getting held up at gunpoint. It was a moment that really changed things for me. Things changed for the good, though, because of the choices I made. The most terrible part of the memory is not the actual incident, it’s that it occurred 2 days before my brother’s wedding in Puerto Rico. I lost all of my identification, so I didn’t know how I was going to get there. It all worked out and I made it to the wedding, but once I  was there everything hit me.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Cancer. My mom had cancer, and my Grandma has had cancer twice.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
The ability to read minds. Like, when somebody is trying to say something, but not really saying it. I want to be able to turn it off and on though.

Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
my life with.

The Minimalist

Laura is the first woman I’ve worked with that truly adheres to a curated, minimal wardrobe. She’s dedicated to classic pieces and a neutral color palette. Seasonally, she adds a pop of color to her neutral palette. In the spring, it’s pink. In the winter it’s red.

Laura is the first woman I’ve worked with that truly adheres to a curated, minimal wardrobe. She’s dedicated to classic pieces and a neutral color palette. Seasonally, she adds a pop of color to her neutral palette. In the spring, it’s pink. In the winter it’s red.

Her wardrobe is the true definition of a capsule. She has under 70 pieces, including jackets and shoes, but this number does not include pajamas or undergarments. She’s intentional about the way she shops for clothes. If she buys something, she gets rid of something.

Prior to setting this intention around her wardrobe, she had so many pieces and often found herself feeling like she never had anything to wear. “Too much dilutes the beauty,” she says. This way, she frees up her money, time and mindshare.

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Laura possesses that unique gift of the modern creative director: Part business person, part creative. It started as a child when she would play. It was either setting up photoshoots with her barbies and disposable cameras, or playing “office” by answering phones and taking notes. She actually filled out details, in the inserts from WIRED magazines, about her make-believe clients.

Always fluctuating between right and left brain activities, she knew she was creative, but she also knew she didn’t want to struggle.

As a young girl, she started playing music. It was piano at 10 years old and then violin. She played in the orchestra through college. Actually, when she started at the University of Minnesota, she thought she would study music and become a piano performer. However, she never saw a clear career path.

While at the university, she discovered the College of Design, where she majored in Graphic Design and earned a minor in Photography. She saw a much clearer professional path in this type of work.

If you spend any time admiring Laura’s Instagram account, you’ll discover that she is also a jet-setter. Her love of travel started early and by happenstance because neither of her parents are big travelers.

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She studied French in school and ended up traveling to France with a group in high school. That was just the beginning. In college, she traveled even more, staying at youth hostels and buying cheap international flights with 3 layovers. Today, she prioritizes convenience and comfort while traveling. No more long layovers and sleeping in airports.

She’s traveled to Asia, South America, Europe, The Middle East and is looking forward to a trip to Africa. Turkey was the first trip that her parents argued with her about. They didn’t want her traveling there because they worried about her safety. Ultimately, she went and it was a beautiful trip.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My Grandma. She died when I was little. I’ve gone through a fair amount of her things and heard stories about her. So, I’ve pieced together her life, and it’s weird to see all those pieces without remembering who she was. She’s the only grandparent that I don’t have strong adult memories of.

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Would you like to be famous?
Yes. More people need to be famous for better things. I’d like to be famous for something creative. OR building a real estate empire. Owning an island with a vacation village in the shape of an “L”.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
No, unless I need to remember numbers. Even when I make a speech, I use bullet points. People sound better when they are candid.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Waking up in a new city that I’ve never been to. Spending the day exploring and eating a ton of amazing food. I like the feeling of being unsettled. The controlled chaos when I’m traveling. The only thing I’ll plan is the place we’ll stay and book a ticket. I like the pressure to figure things out on the fly.

When did you last sing to yourself?
I think everyday. Outside of work, to my fiancé (Thierry), to the cat, to myself. Any conversation can become a song.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Body. I can still travel and eat better than if I have a 90 year old stomach. Plus, I wouldn’t care so much. Being able-bodied and senile sounds nice.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I think it will be super traumatic like brain cancer or an airplane crash. I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced true hardship in life. I don’t have an “overcome” story, so I feel like I’ll suffer for it in death.

What do you and your partner have in common?
The desire to constantly be experiencing new things, our love for an urban lifestyle, the amount that we support and push each other. We’re constantly challenging each other to be better.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Growing up comfortable, safe and in a loving family. I had a lot of security so I just got to be a kid.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I would have been more exposed to the world. I didn’t know enough about other cultures, religions or food.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to pick up languages easily.