Julie Kantor (’00) is an ‘all-in’ roll-up your sleeves leader & social impact entrepreneur. Whether in a boardroom with executives or working with collaborative teams, Julie instills excitement, inspires commitment, & demonstrates an unwavering drive to succeed. Her newest venture and 5th start-up Twomentor, LLC builds on her 24 years in workforce development & building social impact movements. She is known as a people person in the people business.
As a sought-after keynote speaker & connector, Julie is well networked to the national community of top business, academic, non-profit, & government leaders. She has worked & consulted w/ clients such as: Cisco, Samsung, Tata (TCS), Intel, Alpha Corp., Sony, Carnival, BP, The World Bank, The Federal Reserve Bank and more. She serves Co-Chair of Leadership Greater Washington's Signature Program in 2016-2017 (www.lgwdc.org) and chaired several recent Women in STEM Conferences.
Julie was recognized by President Obama for her 20-year career in youth entrepreneurship education & as a SmartCEO ("15 Leaders We Admire" & Brava Hall of Fame for Women's Leadership). She has been featured on CNN.com, Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Forbes.com, Huffington Post Live, and AT&T Women Who Inspire.
Q&A with Julie Kantor
How did you first become involved with Leadership Greater Washington and the Signature Program?
JK: The Signature Program was a transformative experience that took my blinders off to the strengths and great challenges of our region and helped me value more my contributions as a former nonprofit leader helping youth exit poverty. Although I was not accepted on my first application, so many of my board members (I was then the Executive Director of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) encouraged me to re-apply, as they had all gone through the program and loved it. I later graduated as a part of LGW’s Class of 2000 - Millennial Mosaic.
How would you describe LGW - the alumni, leadership, staff, and overall mission of the organization?
JK: Great question. LGW is a diverse ecosystem of leaders from every sector, a hugging crowd, and a group of people who leave their egos at the door to build more meaningful connections and make progress toward a common good. Sprinkle in some fun high school antics and dynamic staff, a recent trip to Cuba, and that's LGW to me.
As Co-Leader of our current Signature Program Class of 2017, can you share with us your thoughts on the program - the character of the current class, about the curriculum topics, or the program's value to leaders in the Greater Washington community?
You know, I am so thrilled Debbie and Doug asked me to Co-Chair this year’s class. The class, especially after the miserable 2016 election season, is a gathering of great people who inspire me each program day. They are awesome and better than every other except 2000 - my class. I love seeing them build their Mindtrusts and strengthen the personal connections first established last September. To me, this class is characterized by their thoughtful insights and dialogue, enthusiasm for sports, and by the desire to see others rise. I get a sense of servant leadership from Class of 2017. And whatever Doug tells you, they are not boring at all!
Can you describe a special LGW Moment that came from your involvement with the organization?
JK: I'll mention two.
One came during my class’ Diversity Day. One of my classmate friends told me that he took his wallet out of his pocket every time he drives his car to put it on the passenger seat. He said he did this in case he was pulled over by the police to avoid looking like he was ‘grabbing’ for a gun. That moment opened my eyes to unconscious bias big time.
Another LGW moment came for me as a feeling when I worked at Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a charity which I ran in several markets from 1992-2012. I was really honored so many people wanted to connect, volunteer, come to our business plan competitions, and help my efforts.
Oftentimes at networking events, people chase corporate and philanthropic representatives, but at LGW many of the non-profit leaders feel like stars, valued and ‘sought after’ by classmates looking to engage with us. That always did wonders for my self-esteem as an executive.
How do you envision the future of the region? What about LGW’s role in that future?
JK: While the region will be disrupted as the hub of a divided country for the next few years, LGW members are well-poised to help deliver real dialogue, social impact and to foster a more collaborative community in Greater Washington. We will see four years of unprecedented activism and deep reflection on the issues, especially on diversity and regardless of political affiliation. At LGW we are a stand for diversity, I am optimistic.
How do your efforts and leadership at your current organization impact the future of the Greater Washington region?
JK: When I am not co-chairing the Class of 2017, I focus my much of leadership energy on stimulating entrepreneurship in job creators and STEM opportunities for women. We can't afford as a society for 50% of women to drop out of STEM careers and it is imperative that our Greater Washington workforce be skilled for all these higher paying technology jobs, cyber security, engineering, entrepreneurial innovations and more.
I launched a social impact company about 15 months ago, Twomentor, LLC, to help companies better engage and retain their diverse workforce through building mentoring cultures and sponsorship initiatives. Gallup data shows U.S average employee engagement rates at 32% (28% for Millennials) and we need to really work with area leaders to drive that way up. I share with my clients that people who mentor at your company are the people who drive retention at your company and 75% of Millennials view being mentored as crucial to their professional success. 21% of Millennials (born 1980 – 2000) left their jobs last year. We have been around the country speaking on these issues, running Speed Mentoring sessions (The Mentor Road Trip™), and training companies on sponsorship strategies to drive diversity and employee engagement.
Can you give us some background or insight into your personal leadership path – including your sources of inspiration and most important lessons learned?
JK: Funny you should ask! I wrote a book on much of my personal path called I Said YES: Youth Entrepreneurship in America's Schools (Gazelles Publishing, 2006)
I am a builder. I believe in people and that everyone has a comparative strength they can bring to the world. I am inspired by people who can dream, build and execute with others to make a difference – social impact entrepreneurs. I'm also inspired and in awe of anyone out there who has survived raising teenagers.
On top of being a wife, a mother (my daughter is 14 and we live in Bethesda), a sister, a daughter, a niece, a daughter-in-law, and CEO, I’m a focused on our responsibility to others, on how we can best mentor the next generation, and how women can engage more in Sponsorship (i.e a mentor speaks to you, a sponsor speaks about you and champions you behind closed doors).
I think people need a variety of things at different stages professionally – from role models to mentors, to sponsors to co-sponsors – and as an executive I'm really intrigued with these concepts and have been writing a lot about them in the Huffington Post.
Please tell us some things most people might not know about you.
JK: Two great things that have happened in my life came about entirely by chance:
* I met my husband while stuck in traffic during a bomb scare on May 27, 1997, in downtown DC. I smiled and let him go ahead of me in traffic which was a great move! * I launched a 20-year career after meeting the founder of NFTE at a conference I wasn't supposed to be at.
After a traumatic young childhood in WWII, My Dad escaped to America in ‘56 and received political asylum from Hungary. He received a scholarship to Harvard and built a life here. He taught me so much about perseverance
and resiliency and my mom taught me so much about people, diversity and believing in myself enough to really go after my dreams.
I always welcome LGW class members and alumni to reach out and say hello! My email is Julie@twomentor.com