Truthfully, I was not sure what to expect as I rode the elevator up to the top floor of the Merchants Exchange Building in San Francisco to attend the kickoff event for
Perhaps I was going to walk away with stacks of dry professional development fodder and some iconic
After all, who’s ever heard of a company going out of its way to make a yearlong commitment to supporting emerging LGBTQ leaders?
But as doors opened to reveal the Julia Morgan Ballroom filled with trailblazers of the LGBTQ community together with my peers who aspire to carry forward their legacy, I realized that Coke was serious and that this would not be your run-of-the-mill experience.
In this quintessentially San Francisco venue, I met for the first time a diverse group of some 30 young LGBTQ professionals who, like me, had been nominated by senior leaders in our community who knew us well—our supervisors at work, graduate school deans, clergy, and other civic leaders.
Though we may not have known it at the time, our class, and the network of experts and mentors the program connected us with, would come to develop a close bond over the course of a year that would prove formative to all who participated. To provide such a strong and diverse group of experts and mentors,
The centerpiece of the kickoff event was a panel discussion with five diverse, highly accomplished professionals from very different walks of life who reflected on their growth as leaders and lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Three themes stood out as I listened to these experts. First, be your whole, true self, every day. Simple in theory. Harder in practice. Essential to building the credibility to lead.
Second, I was struck by the value placed on building and empowering strong teams. As
Thanks largely to the courage and commitment of LGBTQ and allied leaders like the ones assembled by
Perhaps the most exciting part of our yearlong program was welcoming the second San Francisco cohort of
What continues to inspire me on my journey are my peers, whose accomplished leadership on behalf of their home communities shines as an example to all. And with the guidance of our mentors, I know this next generation can succeed in building the bridges we need to reach a brighter future.
Jason Galisatus is a community relations associate for Stanford University and active civic participant. This blog reflects his personal views and not necessarily those of the university, or any other organization with which he is or was affiliated.