Laura has been advocating for women and girls’ leadership and empowerment and gender equality for the past 20 years that began with the Red Cross in Europe, UNICEF, The Pen + Brush, United Nations (UN), and most recently, Aware Girls. Read here Kota’s interview with her.
Kota: What is your story?
Laura: I’d like to start with a quote from a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who said, “Change is the only constant in life.” This is a universal truth that applies to everyone. My life has been constantly changing and with reinventions through transitions each time. I grew up in the States, moved to Europe living as an American Expat for over 20 years, lived between Paris and New York for many years before settling down in Manhattan.
They say the average Millennial will have over ten career changes in their life time. I guess I was ahead of my time since I’ve had about six career changes, some out of necessity for self-sufficiency, others through following my passions. My professional timeline from the beginning moving forward to today launched with finance and angel investing, transitioning to marketing communications in financial services, becoming a serial entrepreneur—some failures, some success while learning from the mistakes, later being recommended to become a leadership coach all the while pursuing my passion of creative writing. Today, I’m transitioning to the social impact sector as I desire to make the world a better place by working with organizations as both a full-time employee as well as being part of Kota’s team as a board member. I’m honored I met Jaana Rehnstrom, the Founder of Kota, through a colleague. Now, I’m part of her team having meaningful experiences through the umbrella of Kota’s presence worldwide. Overall, I’d say I’ve been through a lot of transitions and reinventions and probably many more to come which I embrace as an explorer on my life’s journey.
Putting on my coach/advisor hat, my advice for those in career transition or reinvention would be to blend your passions with your professional pursuits in the pursuit of happiness. Choose through love, not fear.
Kota: Who are your favorite changemakers?
Laura: There are many but I’ll mention three people. Nelson Mandela comes to mind first as one of the world’s greatest humanitarians. I even wrote about him in my novel Laughter in the Canyon in the chapter about South Africa. He was a beacon of light to the world. Coincidentally, I also met him in New York while exiting The Tribeca Grill restaurant. He told my brother and I that he was casually celebrating his 90th birthday, although officially the big bash had been in London. We shook hands as I wished him a Happy Birthday and he sadly said that this would be his last trip to the States due to his age, then he smiled.
Sir Richard Branson for his abilities to mobilize talent to implement his groundbreaking ideas. He’s a visionary, trailblazer, values people, and manages to have fun while working and playing around the globe.
Last but not least, Christine Lagarde, who is currently, President of the European Central Bank. She’s a lawyer by trade and former Chairman of the International Monetary Fund. She represents the epitome of women’s leadership in business and government and is admired and respected internationally.
In essence, my choices revolve around excellence in leadership across the public, private, and social sectors.
Kota: What do you think is the biggest global challenge in relation to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Laura: Well, all of the 17 SDGs represent the biggest global challenges. We can all make an impact based on our interests. It’s through spreading awareness through communications, education, and calls to action with follow-up for sustainability and accountability. Strategic partnerships are important to leverage resources and Kota is a resource in this capacity advocating for gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment and much more.
Kota: What is the most inspiring moment of your life that you’ll remember forever?
Laura: There are many but the one I’ll talk about concerns a moment of mutual inspiration. I met Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan at a dinner through a mutual, dear friend. I mentioned I was a writer among many things working on a children’s picture book. She became excited and told me about her idea for writing an illustrated children’s book. I encouraged her and it was later published called The Sandwich Swap to educate children about diversity. She also encouraged me to continue on with my writing endeavors, although I later went down the path as a novelist, poet, playwright, and screenwriter!
Kota: Who is your favorite author? / What is your favorite book?
Laura: My favorite author is Charles Dickens, a British novelist and social critic from the Victorian era, considered one of the best storytellers of all time and known for his unforgettable fictional characters. I aspire to write like him as well as like Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian author who wrote my favorite book, The Alchemist, which is about following your heart to discover your personal destiny.
Kota: That’s a nice way to end our interview. Thank you for sharing your insights.
Laura: My pleasure.