Living Her Legacy: Learning from Stephanie KhuranaPosted on
At Braven, one of our core values is Live Your Legacy:
“We align our actions with our beliefs and have the courage to do what is right even when it is hardest to do so. We are transparent about our decisions and actions, and authentic in all that we do. Others paved the path for us; we must do it for others.”
As a member of the Braven National Board, Stephanie Khurana is helping pave the path for us. Her wisdom is invaluable, so we embraced an opportunity to learn more about her path to leadership and those that have inspired her to live her legacy. Check out the full interview below!
Stephanie is a Managing Director in the Boston office responsible for identifying and supporting Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation Entrepreneurs.
Stephanie was on the founding team of Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP), a visionary startup in the tech space that was one of the first entities to foresee the transformation from mainframe-centric solutions to client-server architecture and packaged solutions. She previously was Co-Founder, CEO, and Director of Surebridge, Inc., a web-based software provider that was ultimately sold to Time Warner, Inc. She has served as Acting Executive Director at the Tobin Project, a nonprofit organization that sits at the forefront of major research initiatives to address some of society’s most pressing problems and helps transform public policy debates. She currently serves on its Board of Directors. She received her B.S. in Applied Economics with a concentration in International Relations from Cornell University, an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and an M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why? What options seemed open or closed to you?
When I was younger, I recall wanting to be a truck driver, delivering goods around the country to meet people’s basic needs. It seemed like a productive and valuable profession and the idea of driving all day seemed exciting. Later on, that interest in doing something to benefit others turned into wanting to be a diplomat. I thought it would be inspiring to travel around the world helping people connect and learn from one another as well as work constructively through differences and solve problems. Over time, I realized that it would be difficult to raise a family and engage in my local community with so much travel in both of these jobs.
What was your first job after college? What were the best and worst parts about it?
My first job after college was with an early stage technology company, working with large organizations to use technology to better support their customers. I loved the broad range of sectors that we worked with, from healthcare to manufacturing, and the ability to help people and organizations be more effective. It was exciting to create something new that started in our collective imagination and then became a concrete product and solution. The most challenging parts were the long hours and navigating the ambiguity and unknowns that come with being in a new sector. But I worked with talented and inspiring people, which made it incredibly rewarding.
Who have been your role models or mentors? What about them do you admire? What did you learn from them?
In graduate school, I had a professor who had been a talented leader and manager in a manufacturing company in her early career. She then led that company’s foundation before becoming a professor in non-profit management. She showed me that it was possible to have jobs within business and non-profit sectors, making an impact on others while leading a full life outside of work. She was also a great teacher who gave tough advice on my graduate thesis about how to replicate non-profits. I still tap that knowledge today!
A second mentor was a board member for a company I founded in my early career. I learned from him that the hallmark of a great leader is their strength, persistence, and judgment when the chips are down, not when it’s time to celebrate. He also reinforced my instincts to always abide by one’s values, even when you personally have something to lose. Who you are as a person is more important than any success or failure you may have.
What, in your career, has brought or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?
I love being entrepreneurial. It’s exciting to imagine a future that might not yet exist, but that you believe is possible. Working with others to build, create, fail, start over, and see the impact on people is incredibly exciting. I’ve enjoyed building teams and seeing the potential of individuals blossom by just opening up opportunities. Figuring out how to create the conditions that allow others to shape ideas, projects—and the future—is fulfilling. Earlier in my career, I focused on entrepreneurial ideas that created impact through technology. Now, my career is focused on unlocking the potential of talent by removing barriers for people of all backgrounds. Looking back, I would have started my current work earlier, but I have no regrets with what I’ve learned on my journey of being an entrepreneur and an in-trepraneur, innovating inside organizations. I hope to lead a long life and work with more amazing social entrepreneurs like Aimée and Braven!
Is there a quote, motto, or saying that really speaks to you and your outlook on life? What is it and why is it important?
I’m inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt and how she advocated for human rights. She supported the inherent dignity in each and every person, regardless of their backgrounds, beliefs, or any other status. She was the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I’m always moved by this quote of hers:
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
As an entrepreneur, I believe we can create our own opportunities to define the world we want to live in, now and for generations to come.