Class of 2019

A Fellow's Reflection: 2019 Fellowship Dinner with Eugene Sepulveda, Steven Tomlinson, & Josh Jones Dilworth

The first dinner for the Notley fellowship was hosted by Steven Tomlinson and Eugene Sepulveda at A. B. Porter. We sat down to dinner in their spacious backyard with candlesticks that were continuously extinguished by the wind. We sat down to tables with name cards using the signature Notley font. Each of the three table’s discussions were led by Steven, Eugene, Josh, Lisa, or Dan.  We (mostly) enforced the Labybird rule,only holding one conversation at a time. Since this was our first official dinner as a cohort, we took time to get to know each other as well as our gracious hosts.

Take Away 1: Types of listening

At my table, the first thing that struck me was the quality of conversation. We focused on listening to each other. We talked about three types of listening.

  1. Listening to respond

  2. Listening to ask questions

  3. Listening to understand

In the course of a normal day we tend to hover between types 1 and 2 (if we’re paying attention at all), and pretty rarely get to level 3. I felt an uncommon but certainly appreciated closeness to my tablemates because we were listening to each other to understand rather than to suggest some kind of solution. This genuine curiosity is the part of the fellowship I’m most excited about developing.

I learned a lot about the personal and professional challenges and aspirations of my table mates. For many of us “personal” and “professional” are closely related if not the same. We often overlook these connections when talking to people who aren’t in our most inner circle.

Take Away 2: Vulnerability

As the dinner proceeded we also explored the concept of vulnerability and why it makes projects successful. One person defined vulnerability as a loss of control. It’s a moment where you can no longer pretend that you can control the outcome. We may not have had that power to begin with. Another take is that you’re vulnerable when you’re giving the other person the tools to hurt you. It’s about sharing something that in the wrong hands, without trust, could take you down instead of build you up.

We talked about how rare and important these moments of openness are. When used correctly they unite people and push us to do our best. This reminds me of a discussion I participated in recently with my engineering team about what makes a good, efficient team. We settled on something very close to Google’s psychological safety. A team runs well when members of the team feel comfortable voicing concerns, expressing doubt, and suggesting improvements. That sounds a lot like vulnerability to me :)

Take Away 3: Principles for the fellowship

To close out the evening Steven shared with us three principles to keep in mind throughout the fellowship.

  1. Don’t try to impress each other.

  2. Share the good you want to create in the world. That’s the best way to make friends.

  3. Feel free to throw around early stage ideas. This group is a safe space to brainstorm and encourage each other.

While Steven admits that this advice was not preplanned, I’d say it’s pretty on the money. As we move through the next two years together (and beyond) I hope we focus on building trusting relationships and encouraging each other’s aspirations.

As I drove home from dinner, I thought about the last time that I had connected with strangers like this. For me, these kinds of conversations comes up most often when I travel. I love to meet people when I’m in a new place. It’s a great opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on my own life. What I don’t do as good of a job of is paying the same attention to the world and people around me when I’m home. This dinner reminded me that I can have those same experiences in the city where I live by choosing to interact with the world on a deeper level.


Sasha Parsons

2019 Notley Fellow

Sasha grew up in Sugar Land, Texas where she danced classical ballet for 12 years. Her passion for global policy education led her to run high school Model United Nations conferences for the past 10 years.

She moved to Austin in 2013 to study Plan II and Marketing at the University of Texas with concentrations in Spanish and Portuguese. Today, Sasha works at Indeed in the inaugural class of the Associate Product Manager Rotational Program. Her favorite part of her job is combining insights from data and conversations with job seekers to improve the way people get jobs.

Fellow Spotlight: David Rapoport

David Rapoport is currently the Business Operations Manager for Clearhead, a digital studio which was acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2017. He’s worked in roles across finance, accounting, and sales operations in his career.

David was born and raised in Las Vegas and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for his Bachelor’s degree. He graduated in May 2018 from the McCombs School of Business with his MBA from the Evening MBA program where he also served as President of the Graduate Business Council.

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In his spare time, David is a BBQ connoisseur and makes it a point to cross off the locations from Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ List. He has visited 6 out of the Top 10….and counting.

What specific issues are close to your heart and why?

While it may not be the most exciting topic for everyone, financial literacy is one issue that is close to my heart. I grew up in a household of modest income and was able to learn the value of a dollar early on as I needed to save my allowance for any new toys or electronics, such as a new video game system or boombox. As I moved into my adult life, I have had to take it upon myself to seek out educational resources on how credit cards work, how to create a budget, how to understand taxes, and how to take the necessary steps to create my own financial independence.  

I know that not everyone has the same interest or ability to learn independently. Because of the lack of formal education available, I feel passionately that financial literacy should be a part of the basic education curriculum as part of a goal to create real-world ready adults.

What do you think local businesses can do to support nonprofit organizations?

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In my opinion, the standard ask from nonprofits to local businesses is for event sponsorships rather than for strategic help. While donations and sponsorships are important to fund an organization’s mission, these local businesses have knowledge or experience that can help nonprofits solve some of their larger problems. So the next time a nonprofit comes to a business and asks for a check, I challenge the businesses to ask “What else can we help you with to achieve your goals?”

I think the other side of this equation can hold true as well where nonprofits can play a role in helping for-profit companies. There is much we can learn from nonprofits and their leadership teams that we can benefit from beyond just being an opportunity for a team volunteering day. We as business leaders need to work to create that two way dialogue with nonprofit leaders to better foster these relationships and view them as strategic partners.

What for-profit companies (local or national) are currently doing an exemplary job of being socially responsible, in your opinion? How?

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Certified B Corps are companies that I believe are the leaders in social responsibility. These companies are ones that balance their purpose with that of being profitable. Companies like Klean Kanteen, Kickstarter, Allbirds, and Patagonia all have committed to their respective missions while still being socially responsible.

On a more local level, HEB comes to mind for all of their work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, but their social responsibility goes far beyond that. They are focused on forming community partnerships, empowering small businesses, and being conscious of their environmental impact. You can see their impact from the smallest nonprofits in Austin to the largest communities across the state.

How can we make it easier for everyone to have a social impact?

One of the main opportunities that drew me to the Notley Fellowship was the ability to gain a starting point and a connection to the local Austin community. I feel like one of the biggest areas we can improve on is highlighting the opportunities where people can have an impact on their community. I genuinely feel that people are interested in helping, but are just looking to find the place that needs their help the most and that aligns with their personal passions. I think that educating the community on the many ways that they can become involved in something bigger than themselves will create larger network of individuals giving back to their communities.

Announcing the 2019 Notley Fellowship Cohort

Launched in 2018 with a cohort of 22 high-growth individuals, the Notley Fellowship program has grown into a premier program for young professionals looking to make an impact. With a rise in the number of young professionals comes an abundance of talented, driven individuals that face the challenge of wanting to expand their impact beyond the walls of their offices. This is a unique opportunity for promising young professionals to step into a program that facilitates co-ownership over entrepreneurial projects that tackle Austin’s toughest challenges.

Throughout the Fellowship, Fellows will work with Austin business and civic leaders to gain knowledge surrounding social innovation, philanthropy, and issues affecting the Austin area. The Fellowship program empowers high-potential individuals to make effective connections with city stakeholders and innovators, approach their community’s problems with an entrepreneurial lens, and thereby create a systemically durable solution.

Today, we are excited to introduce you to the 2019 Notley Fellowship.

Meet The 2019 Fellows:

Alejandra Garcia - Alejandra is on the Growth team at The Guild, a hospitality start-up in Austin. Ale has been involved in various non-profit initiatives in Austin including Food In Tummies, and she co-founded Guilders for Diversity, an organization at The Guild.

Alex Ecenia - Alex worked in philanthropy for six years in Los Angeles, New York and Austin and has always kept charity work at her core. Last year she founded Rainey Productions, an events and marketing LLC.

Asia E. Haney - Asia is a professional in the Austin community who seeks to leave her indelible mark on society through culture, collaborative and social change. A business graduate of Huston-Tillotson University, Asia serves as the Interim Director of Recruitment and Admission at her alma mater.

Avram Rampersaud - Avram founded PocketCab LLC before joining Uber in 2013. He’s spent the last 6 years between Chicago, Singapore and Austin, working across Uber rides & UberEats and he currently leads global expansion for JUMP Scooters for Uber.

Brittany Solano - Brittany is a Vice President of Marketing and BD at JDI. In her marketing role, she helps startups spark change in large and slow-moving systems like food, agriculture, and health care. Today she is particularly focused on synthetic biology and cellular agriculture, digital therapeutics, genomics and precision agriculture.

Caitlyn Conner - Caitlyn is the Startup Champion for the Entrepreneurs Foundation at Capital Factory, devoted to supporting the philanthropic efforts of Austin’s tech and startup community. Being involved at the startup level of multiple companies fostered a deep sense of appreciation for those who build cultures that create positive change and maintain their altruism through growth.

Chelsea Buell - Chelsea is a strategic thinker in a creative space, currently solving design problems at Clearhead, a studio acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2017. She’s loved creating things ever since she was little.

Christina Burgess - Christina is a Director of Product Marketing at Khoros (formerly Spredfast). She has served as a non-voting board member of AIDS Services of Austin  and as Student Admissions Chair for the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin, with a focus on recruiting and retaining more women into the MBA program.

Claire Schmitt - Claire is the Director of Digital Marketing at BuildASign, and seeks to use the knowledge and resources she's accumulated thus far to amplify others.  Claire started and continues to run the BuildASign Women's Group, which promotes personal and professional development among its members.

David Rapoport - David is the Business Operations Manager at Clearhead, a studio acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2017. He is currently responsible for resource management, invoicing & collections, financial forecasting, and budget & contract management.

Hilary Corna - Hilary is a Bestselling Author and Founder of the Human Processes Continuum with a mission of humanizing business. Hilary’s work draws on 10+ years of industry experience in operations, culture and people development. Hilary been featured in the New York Times, ForbesWoman, NBC, Upworthy and dozens of other publications.

Kaelin Hooper - Kaelin is an avid learner of all things technology. Today, he’s tackling new ways to buy and sell homes online as a Product Manager on the consumer technology team at Keller Williams Realty International. He’s also exploring other problems to solve by using his experience in consumer tech.

Leigh Edwards - Leigh is a CPA, voracious reader and vocal user of the Austin Public Library system. Her love of reading has brought her to many of her passions, including healthy living, minimalism, and personal finance.

Maggie Engler - Maggie is a data scientist at Duo Security, where she works on behavioral analytics to detect fraudulent login attempts. Her interests include ethics in artificial intelligence, open data, and empowerment through technology education. Maggie volunteers with Women in Security and Privacy and the RSA Conference Security Scholar Program Committee.

Matt Sorenson - Matt serves as an Innovation Program Manager for the University of Texas System, helping students, faculty, and researchers get their life changing ideas and technologies to the people who need them.  Matt is a runner, Runified Podcast host, and author of My Mommy Runs, a children's book.

Sasha Parsons - Sasha currently works at Indeed in the inaugural class of the Associate Product Manager Rotational Program. Her favorite part of her job is combining insights from data and conversations with job seekers to improve the way people get jobs. Her passion for global policy education has led her to run high school Model United Nations conferences for the past 10 years.

Savannah Barker - Savannah recently joined Notley Ventures as their Director of Strategic Programs. Previously, she led Diversity & Inclusion efforts at Capital Factory. Before moving to Austin, Savannah spent years working in the nonprofit space in Los Angeles and helped launch the first-ever Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Taskforce at Center Theatre Group, one of the largest nonprofit arts organizations in the nation.

Shaquille Gould - Shaquille is a Principal at Quake Capital, a venture fund and accelerator based in Austin. Previously, he worked for PepsiCo, several startups, and Google. In his spare time, Shaquille mentors at-risk students in the Austin area, enjoys reading, traveling and staying active.

Suhailah Waheed - Suhailah has served in the nonprofit industry professionally for the last three years. For two years she served on the board of the Young Women's Alliance as the VP of Development and now owns her own development agency, Giving Geeks. Suhailah believes everyone deserves optimal support in fulfilling their goals toward social change.

Trevor Theunissen - Trevor Theunissen currently serves as Senior Manager of Public Policy and Communications at Uber Technologies, establishing and building Uber's brand and profile, and working to ensure that regulatory frameworks support Uber’s products. Previously, he worked for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state entity set up to lead Louisiana's rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Zoe Gabbard - Zoe is an investment associate at UTIMCO, the investment management company responsible for overseeing assets supporting The University of Texas and Texas A&M Systems.  Zoe has participated on the grants committees of the Women’s Fund of Central Texas and Impact Austin, and she continues to seek out opportunities to apply her business experience to support social impact organizations.