This blog post is included as part of the “Her Story” series, which celebrates the stories of pivotal women in our students' lives that inspire, motivate and embolden them. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the ideas, views or opinions of LAAF.org.
When it comes to legacy leaders, Boryana Straubel is second to none. I first encountered Boryana when she was a guest speaker in my Organizations class, where she drew from her experience at Tesla to share insights on company culture. I would later become a fellow for the Straubel Foundation, the philanthropic organization she founded to support the next generation of leaders.
I am inspired by Boryana’s personal rise to success and her commitment to lifting up others. Her accomplishments are incredible, having been a leader within both Wikimedia and Tesla, but her most impactful venture has been the establishment of the Straubel Foundation. As a past fellow of the foundation, I witnessed firsthand Boryana’s determination in seeking out high potential individuals and her subsequent efforts to champion their success. She abides by the belief that human potential is capable of changing the world, and she is doing her part to tap into this potential by investing in top performers.
Boryana met with me periodically as a fellow, not to indoctrinate me into the foundation’s way of doing things but rather to personalize their support for me. She understood that there is no perfect algorithm for empowering others and that what I needed to accomplish my goals may be very different from what the other fellows needed. What I needed, more than anything else, was for someone to believe in me. Boryana heard my story, recognized the determination behind my words, and invested in me as an individual.
As a mentor, Boryana has provided me with an abundance of professional guidance and advice. Being a Straubel fellow has given me much more than that though. Growing up in a low-income household, I always classified my accomplishments as examples of “defying the odds” rather than “succeeding”. Attending Stanford was a dream I didn’t feel worthy of having. Once here, I felt as though I could only push my luck so far before my circumstances caught up to me and I was asked to resume my place in the world. Applying for the Straubel fellowship was the first time that I dared to articulate my dreams of creating widespread social impact through enhancements in corporate social responsibility. Boryana was the first person to say, “Yes, I think you can”—not only through her words but through her actions as well. Anyone can verbalize support or wish you luck in your endeavors, but it takes an exceptional leader—a legacy leader—to put time and energy into paving the way to your success. Boryana not only does this herself, but she established an entire organization on this premise.
I used to say that I was motivated to succeed so that I didn’t let down those who believed in me. My motivation has since changed. Now, I’m motivated by the challenge of doing as much good as possible during my lifetime and by the idea of becoming a leader like Boryana, whose gratefulness manifests in her investment in the potential of others.
To learn more about Boryana and her family foundation, visit www.straubelfoundation.org