Behind every talented individual is a community of supporters poised to provide mentorship, advice, and encouragement. At Pollen we know no person succeeds alone, so we went in search of those who have taken up the call to help the next generation thrive. Who are the faces behind Twin Cities’ talent? We ask Kate Khaled to introduce us to the individuals who’ve helped shape her into the person she is today.
Breaking the rules. Erasing boundaries. Collaborating across communities. That’s how Kate Khaled works best. As one part of the equation of the all-female team at Charities Review Council, she’s charged with building relationships and developing new programs to better connect donors and nonprofits in innovative ways.
What does that look like? It means landing a planning grant to build an interactive donor strategy tool to provide more people with access to strategic frameworks to give smarter. It means bringing her true self — as a millennial, parent, entrepreneur, writer, and more — to the spaces she’s invited to serve. It’s that multi-faceted identity that helps her be a stronger ally when she’s asked to build bridges across diverse communities. Because while partnerships can be difficult to forge, they’re some of the most valuable investments Kate thinks we can make.
Kate’s Six Can’t-Live-Without Mentors
Vice Chancellor of Diversity, University of Tennessee
I moved to Minnesota in 2005 from Montreal, Quebec. Rickey was my first supervisor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Office of Recruitment and Diversity (where I completed my master’s in public health administration and policy). He encouraged me to lead as an ally, and taught me most of what I know about cultural humility. Rickey has shaped my professional ethos — because of him I know that listening and empathy are the most important components of authentic leadership.
Amy Kramer Brenengen
Project Director, Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
After having children as a young professional, Amy introduced herself at an intergenerational women’s event and invited me to connect over coffee. She took an interest in me at a critical moment when I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t at all sure of my direction. Meeting her was a pivotal moment marked by an increased confidence in my future; she asked me questions about my strengths and told me about her own path as both a mother and as a leader. Amy treated me like a potential peer, even though I hadn’t done anything yet to prove myself. Her support taught me that who we are right now in this moment is not a reflection of who we have the potential to become. Amy truly exemplifies what it means to send the elevator back down to bring talented young people up. In a recent conversation with Amy, I promised her I would continue to pay it forward. I’ll make good on that promise.
Senior Consultant, West Monroe Partners
I deliberately married my most trusted mentor and peer influencer. When we met, Taqee and I were both broke master’s students. The potential I saw in him was only eclipsed by his endless belief in me. He is the most naturally networked person I know, an incredible business futurist, and vocal champion for equity. I consider Taqee not just my husband and best friend, but also my most valued business partner. We learn from each other daily. In most cases, people try to keep work and life, personal and professional, separate. Those divisions just don’t work for our millennial family. Marrying Taqee was the best professional decision I’ve ever made.
Communications Associate, The Bush Foundation
Julie is a friend, colleague, and co-conspirator who is always willing to go to the mat for me. She’s a talented communicator and one of the best event designers in Minnesota, but she never lets her ego get in the way of exceptional work. What’s most impressive to me about Julie is her insightful way of lifting others up. Her confidence allows her to be authentically collaborative; her top performance helps those around her shine. I want to be like that in everything I do.
Director, Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood
I consider Muneer among the smartest of my friends and among the most talented in my network. As director of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, he’s always asking critical questions about nonprofit infrastructure; measurable impact; and real, catalytic collaboration. I value his focused prerogative, his willingness to speak up (and out!), and his deep commitment to fight for Saint Paul’s next generation. A true systems thinker, Muneer reminds me that to build social change, every assumption needs to be on the table.Working together is the only way forward.
Deborah Gelbach is one of the most networked women in Saint Paul, Minn., and a renaissance woman in her own right. I credit Deborah’s generation of women for making room for women like me to grow and flourish in leadership roles. She also happens to be my paternal aunt. Deb bought me my first professional wardrobe as her intern when I was 14 years old. Even earlier than that (age 4), she gave me professional etiquette lessons over tea at the Lowell Inn in Stillwater, Minn. She taught me to be polished: showing me which fork to use, what to order at a business lunch, how to project my voice, how to gracefully pick up a check, and what to say in a thank you note. These are skills I use every single day as a relationship builder, meeting facilitator, and as a development professional. I wish every young woman had access to a mentor such as Deborah so early in their lives. I still count her among the first in my personal ‘strategy cabinet.’
Good mentors make all the difference when you take the leap into professional life. Every so often it’s great to give them a shout out to let them know just how much they mean to you. From dishing out helpful advice to offering up a listening ear, who would make your list?