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.
Caroline graduated from Stanford University in 2008 with a B.A. in International Political Economy and Environmental Economics. Caroline is the first woman in her family to graduate from college, and has been passionate about entrepreneurism and social change from an early age. She has lived in six countries, speaks four languages and has a dynamic understanding of global business. Caroline has spoken at the 2011 Women’s Forum as well as the French Institute Alliance Française Young French Leaders Luncheon. Caroline also attended the 2012 World Economic Forum with the Young Global Leader program.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Energetic, Tenacious and Passionate.
What is your life motto? They can because they think they can – Virgil.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I think the question is very relative, it’s an ongoing process and it’s not one point in time and I think it’s actually dangerous to think of it as one point in time because from a happiness perspective, I see and hear a lot of people attributing their beliefs and their self discovery to achieving a certain milestone and then the next one comes along. I think success is a mindset and your career is also a mindset and its about getting into a place as a person where you are following the right path for yourself and that each and everyday, you’re going to act according to that path. It’s not necessarily the destination.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? I think that once again it’s a mindset that’s all consuming. It’s interesting because I am a very recursive learner, I think that as I progress in my life I learn more and more about myself and each puzzle piece comes into place that I couldn’t have seen in advance. I feel as I grow I gain momentum and an absorbency so to speak, of becoming who I want to be and it becomes increasingly consuming and easy to just be and have those moments where you’re absolutely living for now and you’re completely consumed by it and it makes you extremely happy. So now I feel like the ball is rolling and I don’t think I’d operate in any other way.
What are the challenges in your line of work? I think for myself it really is about people. You realise when you start a company, even if it’s a technology company and you think that it’s very abstract – it’s about this feature or that colour or whatever, it starts with people. People can be your greatest blessing and they can be your greatest pain but it’s important to trust your gut but also to essentially interact with lots of different people based on their own agendas, their own inspirations and their own motivations, so that you can understand, how does this person operate? What makes them tick and how can I be around them and be the best version of myself around them, so they can understand where I’m coming from. When you’re young and you start a company you get thrown into it right away, upwards, downwards, sideways and on a very fast track. In terms of development it’s the biggest gap I see going from a structured environment to a non-structured environment.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Allowing constraints in my life dictate who I was going to become. As I’ve become older I’ve become less sort of bound by those things. When you grow up and as you get older you realise that you don’t have to listen to everything everybody says to you. You can hear it, but you don’t have to listen to it and absorb all of it. You are the agent of your own life. Things can and will happen to you in life, but what defines you as a person is how you take those things that have happened to you and you let them shape you or you don’t let them.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? The best piece of advice I ever got involved a swift kick in the ass and it was basically if you’re not happy with something then it’s absolutely your job to change it, why are you complaining. Sometimes you just need to hear that.
In your mind, is formal training essential? No. I went to Stanford but I wouldn’t say it’s essential, I think it depends on the person and it really depends on what they feel confident enough to do something on their own. I needed to feel I had structure and I had gone through the process of educating myself in order to feel competent enough to do what I wanted in my life.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Yes and no. I think you need to identify the characteristics you seek to strengthen in your life and if there is someone you know of, or even in your life who embodies those things, then find out how you can seek them out.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? I think it’s really important to get to that point in your life where you elucidate what makes you happy. I think many people make that mistake. You can end up in a world of a different place by making incremental steps that aren’t based on your gut. Force yourself through the really uncomfortable exercise of understanding very concretely what makes you happy and be honest with yourself. Is it career success, is it personal success, are you happy when you live with a friend, are you happy when you create something new, are you happy when you create something successful – those two things aren’t always the same.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? I think it’s all about people and like Amanda said; she’s been a great source of confidence and communication for me. I think it’s also taking a step back and having the ability to look at things as they really are. Sometimes you think that your life is in a bad spot but you realise that relatively speaking it is but in absolute terms it’s absolutely not and I think that whatever it is in your life that helps you with that objectivity, seek it out.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? I believe that it is. However I think that luck is preparation plus opportunity. So there are incidences in your life that are windows of opportunity, but if you’re not prepared for them you’re not going to capitalise on them.