Amanda Pouchot graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 with a B.A. in Sociology. Her interest in Organizational Psychology and understanding of academic business research on women’s issues has led to her pursuit of elevating women into the leadership pipeline. While at McKinsey, Amanda spearheaded a weekly Centered Leadership reader for the women of McKinsey, for which she was thanked in Joanna Barsh’s How Remarkable Women Lead. In the past year, Amanda has spoken at the Harvard Women in Business annual conference, and has co-hosted Social Media Week’s Entrepreneurship panel.
Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot met on their first day at McKinsey & Company where they both began their careers. After experiencing firsthand the lack of resources and mentorship available to young professional women, they founded The Levo League to connect Gen Y women with career opportunities to ensure their success.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Optimist, Energetic, Grateful.
What is your life motto? I’m a bit quote junkie but I would say it’s do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I think success is something that’s hard to determine, so right now I feel very successful in living my dream and building something I believe in, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly think that I’ve reached success. I would say that I’ve been working towards this goal my whole life and different elements within my life, the people that have come and gone and the different opportunities I have had, have really shaped my abilities right now. I think that one of the most important things to recognise is that each opportunity and that each thing you do is helping form who you are as a person.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? Oh wow, I think firstly it’s recognising what this is, and that took a lot of time. Now it’s 110%, it’s something that completely consumes me and is something I am completely focused on. I think before I had to work out how to really believe in myself and believe in my dreams, which took time.
What are the challenges in your line of work? I think that really believing in yourself and trusting yourself and being comfortable with what you stand for and who you are, are the main challenges. As an entrepreneur you really have to trust yourself and trust others; and really believe in yourself and what you’re building even though there is going to be a lot of tough feedback and there are going to be hard days and hours.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I didn’t trust my abilities and I let the fear of failure and the naysayers get to me, so I stopped doing what I loved. Luckily, I quickly snapped out of that because I had a really good community around me.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? I think trust your gut, which I feel is really hard to do coming from a background where you are in a large corporation and there is a lot of data available. Trust your team and surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than you.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I’m a huge advocate of education and I am also a huge advocate of life experience and actually doing. I think in terms of formal education, it’s important to take advantage of educational opportunities and understanding the world. I think it’s also important to have tactful experience and have someone who can mentor you and tell you how you can do things better or tell you when you are moving in the right direction.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I think there are two types: sponsors and mentors, and if you can find one who’s both, you’re set. A sponsor is someone who is going to go out of their way to help you get to where you’re able to get and they’re going to nominate things for you to do. A mentor is someone you can go to frequently for advice on how to benefit yourself professionally and personally. I think the best way to approach a mentor is to create an organic relationship where you can help them out as well. For example with one of my mentors, I reached out to see how I could get involved in a project she was working on and then I made sure to do an excellent job with that project. This ensured her that I really am hardworking and passionate and encouraged her involvement in my career.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? I think exploring their network is very important, I think as women we tend to hesitate to ask others for help. I think that being very open to asking others for help is one of the biggest things I’ve ever learned. Explore your network, connect with your network and ask people for help, let them know what you’re interested in doing and ask them if they can help you get there.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? [laughs] Sleep. Yeah, sometimes you just need to go-to-bed or just get out of there – and it’s not something I do well, I do not let go very well. Removing yourself from the situation or doing something that clears your mind or talking it out with someone. But I think a lot of the time when things are getting to you it’s just going to sleep.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? No, absolutely not. I studied sociology so I recognise very well that there are opportunities in my life that I was born into, but I believe that every situation and all the people that have influenced me and the opportunities I’ve had and have taken advantage of, are very much the type of person I become in the community that helped build me. I think we can all say we are very lucky for our opportunities but really we are saying “I am very grateful”.