DSV Week Three: Tell Your Own Story

Brendan Quinlan/ June 8, 2018/ 2018

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” -Rumi

I share this quote not only because Rumi has been the resounding poetic voice throughout our course with Professor Azhar, but also because its message, to tell your story, has been repeated by everyone we’ve met here in Silicon Valley.

As humans, storytelling is a natural format that communicates our passions, values, and uniqueness to each other, and as an entrepreneur connecting others to our story is integral to the success of a business. As we’ve visited diverse companies ranging from smaller ventures like Carbon to large corporations like Facebook, and heard from guest speakers in a variety of fields, everyone has their own story to tell.

For Pamela Hawley founder of UniversalGiving, a non-profit venture matching volunteers with quality giving and project opportunities worldwide, this story began with a trip to Mexico when she was 12. While on vacation with her family, Pamela witnessed the gap between extreme poverty in the surrounding country and the luxury lifestyle within her cruise ship walls, inspiring a lifelong commitment to philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. This narrative crafted the authentic passion for the company values embodied in her presentation, and created the 100% client retention rate that allows UniversalGiving to grow. Through connecting her story to her career, Pamela was able to build a company that engages target consumers and communicates a genuine mission.

On Monday, our class welcomed speaker Greg Badros who currently works as an advisor to tech startups at his company Prepared Mind Innovations. As he spoke to us about the importance of preserving company culture and practicing empathy across teams, he spoke in stories of his experiences at Facebook and Google, stories that informed his passion for helping others succeed today. He conveyed specific career experiences, for example relaying the story of the fellow Facebook employee who broke the glass frame of a poster reading “Move fast and break things;” these small stories built before us a business leader whose interest in helping others to achieve ambitious objectives became apparent from his career journey.


Later on we visited ThirdLove, the revolutionary bra company that provides 59 sizes including half-cup sizes, 15 styles, and a personalized test to find the best fit. As we listened to founder Heidi Zak, she began with her own story of struggle as she became frustrated with the discomfort and inaccuracy of the traditional bra-shopping experience that causes consumers to wear the wrong fit or write-off their body type as simply unrepresented by bra offerings. Heidi harnessed this personal narrative to develop a brand inclusive of diverse body differences and sensitive to the comfort and personalized detail necessary to design the perfect-fitting bra. Like the other founders we’ve met, this ethos of her own story ultimately built a top brand connecting to a worldwide market and growing.


Though I can’t quite tell you much about the game, Bill Schough alone, CIO and SVP of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, just might have converted me into a fan (sorry Dad but the Mets never really stood a chance anyway). As Bill brought us into a VIP meeting room filled with championship rings and a World Series trophy, he used a map to share his story and the different points of luck and passion for sports along the way that brought him to the Giants. Despite my embarrassing lack of baseball knowledge, Bill’s infectious enthusiasm in his career narrative made this visit one of my favorite so far, engaging me in a world of sports business I had never known before.


Even at larger corporations like Facebook and Netflix, each employee began with their career journey leading up to their current role. As we continue to hear from different speakers and visit all different companies, I’m constantly thinking about all the pieces coming together to build my own narrative and my eventual career path. I hope one day to inspire the same passion with my story as these business leaders have inspired me.


Renée is a rising sophomore from Westport, Connecticut pursuing a major in Linguistics and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. At Duke, she’s extended this entrepreneurial spirit to her role as a partner of Bull City Beds, a student-run mattress rental company. She’s also the Features editor for the Standard as well as a member of Business Oriented Women, Delta Sigma Pi (Duke’s professional business fraternity), and Alpha Phi. In her free time, Renée enjoys running, hiking, updating her playlists on Spotify, and watching Shameless.

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