We’ve heard that students are curious about the transition from campus to career…wondering how (or if) you can present your authentic self in the workplace.
So for Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Night 2020, we invited alumni to talk about authenticity. These Logger alums took time to share what authenticity means to them, and what it looks like in their professional lives.
Scroll through the responses, or jump to a field of interest:
Arts | Community Organizing | Counseling | Education | Event Production | Finance | Law | Management | Marketing | Public Health & Medical | Public Service | Recruiting & HR | Scientific & Environmental | Tech | Writing
“Authenticity means engaging with my clients’ lives—getting to know how they ended up in my office, and how I can help change their lives for the better.” ~Elizabeth Calora ’03
“Authenticity in the practice of law is being genuine with your word. It is taking the initiative to follow up when you say you will follow up, it is accurately presenting the law and the facts of a case, and it is tailoring your actions to your words.” ~Jordyn Jones ’13
“Being authentic means to be yourself and to be happy being yourself.” ~Bill Stephens ’84
“Approach life with open expectations. Life will throw challenges at you…learn from mistakes and embrace it all with a healthy perspective. Often we do not see the lessons until we reflect back and can better appreciate the distance we have traveled.
The important thing is to keep your focus forward and not be defined by your history. Often harder to do than one realizes. Be honest with yourself, be comfortable with who you are, and be willing to embrace you. If you are authentic with yourself and your daily life, you may find situations where you are uncomfortable or feel at odds with yourself—indicating that you need to make a change. Understanding why sometimes takes time and reflection but it is amazing how well your professional life will reflect and mirror the degree to which you adhere to being true to yourself.” ~Jim Bergh ’95
“At Microsoft, we are encouraged to have a personal philosophy. Mine is: Approach relationships with integrity, authenticity and with a collaborative spirit. I’ve found that much of my success during my professional and personal journey have centered on these areas.” ~Ray Conner ’88
“Microsoft is serious about nurturing a culture of diversity and inclusion, where employees are empowered to be their authentic self in the workplace. As a woman and a liberal arts major working in a male-dominated engineering organization, I am authentic in my advocacy for the human experience of customers, partners, and colleagues. We are people first, even if our behaviors can be quantified into data points. I try to focus more on a problem to be solved than on job titles of people in the room. Just about everything is a learning experience. I remain curious, always a good listener.” ~Roxanne Kenison ’84
“Taking ownership of failures is the most professionally and personally authentic facet of how someone should conduct themselves. Most leaders, friends, and family will respect you more for it and not hold it against you. But pointing the finger or dodging accountability will catch up to you.” ~Andrew Parker ’08
“Authenticity means never having to apologize for who I am. Working towards understanding who you are, not an easy task, and what motivates you at work helps find this authenticity. It also means letting co-workers be their authentic selves, and understanding how that interacts with you.” ~Parker Phend ’09
“Follow through on what you say you’ll do. Be willing to admit what you can’t do.” ~Andy Smith ’01
“When growing up, my mentor coached me that “the nice thing about always telling the truth, is that you don’t need to remember what you said.” Not only is this sound advice, but will lead to authentic & trusting relationships with those you work with. I pride myself on always telling the truth, even if it isn’t advantageous to my career, and have established a reputation for being a straight shooter. This reputation has been a key to my success, and I believe the world would be a better place if we all were more honest with each other.” ~Nicholas Vasilius ’07
“Honesty and compassion. Both personally and professionally, those two things are at the core of authenticity for me. Be honest about who you are and what you mean, but at the same time develop compassion to be able to treat others with respect and dignity. Both will help carry you though any difficult situations in life or the workplace, and will earn the respect and trust of those around you.” ~Meghann Edwards ’07
“I think authenticity is being able to share who you are, and how you feel in a way that is respectful and allows others to do the same. We are not all the same, so while I think being authentic to ourselves is very important, I also think having grace for others is also important.” ~Angie Tronset ’11
“For me, authenticity means every day demonstrating my personal values and speaking up for what I believe in. I believe that public service means more than just doing my job—it means forming connections between people, encouraging my co-workers to learn and grow professionally, and always looking for better ways of doing things.
What does that look like in practice? I spend much of my time designing and delivering leadership and professional development programs, building shared resources, and asking “what can we improve?”
Authenticity also means initiating and engaging in really tough conversations, around issues like trust, team dynamics, and equity. This means being okay with feeling uncomfortable, speaking up for those who don’t have a voice, and being willing to admit you’re wrong. We are living in a time of rapid change and upheaval, so the ability to know yourself and stand up for what you believe in is crucial in any workplace.” ~Hannah Aoyagi ’01
“Authenticity means trying your best, doing what you say, and overall leading with integrity.” ~Nathaniel Ashford ’18
“In the realm of academic research, authenticity is choosing personal health and growth over appearances. There is intrinsically a period of time when beginning a new activity where both knowledge and confidence are at their lowest points. During this time, imposter syndrome runs rampant and mental health often suffers. Making the choice to communicate how you are feeling to others (friends, colleagues, counselors, etc.) lessens the personal burden, creates a sense of community, and ultimately leads to better well-being and long-term academic outcomes.” ~Joel Eklof ’16
“Showing up authentically at work means being true to my identity, passions, and feelings. Luckily, I work in an environment that supports me to be exactly who I am. That support allows me to contribute to the team’s productivity by drawing on my range of experiences in order to help our team produce better outcomes.” Graham Taylor ’07
“Oh my gosh, authenticity will get you VERY FAR in life. Truly. There’s a lot of study out there on how authenticity is the key to success. It’s something that you have to learn about, practice often, work at, and continue to improve. It’s a lot easier to say that you want to be authentic, but it’s often quite difficult to be authentic and effective as a leader in life.” ~Miriam Hathaway ’05
“I sought out positions within organizations who openly and radically accept and support LGBTQ+ people. If it wasn’t clear before the interview, I didn’t consider it. This allows me to be myself at work and not have to worry about acceptance!” ~Caroline Henry ’12
“Authenticity plays a huge role in my job as a science writer in the UW’s news office. In order to explain all the cool science my researchers are doing, I need them to trust me. I gain their trust by being myself—someone who also has Ph.D. (shows that I understand how science works) and who is super excited to learn about science. Then we can work together to figure out the best way to tell their stories. On the flip side, I also work with a lot of reporters who are looking for cool stories to tell. Similarly, I need them to trust that I am giving them thoughtful and personalized story ideas. I am a naturally curious person who likes to learn about other people, so I can use that skill to find out what reporters are interested in writing about or how they like to hear about new science.” ~Sarah McQuate ’07
“People who are honest and authentic often “upset the applecart” and have a difficult time. In today’s world, I have seen so much corruption, you have to be a very strong person to work anywhere while staying true to your moral values and without losing your credibility. It’s so important to figure out who you are and what you stand for.
I like the saying, “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Making our way in life and reaching for the stars is difficult. We must have a strong sense of who we are and what we’re all about, and we must be strong enough never to compromise our values.”~Barbara Sellers ’82
“I believe that authenticity requires being transparent with my values and beliefs within my professional context. In the past, I have been given advice to not disclose aspects of myself, as I may lose out on various opportunities that come my way. However, this well-intended advise often came at the expense of having my identity erased to match an ideal rooted in oppressive attitudes. In my opinion, authenticity is a radical choice of self-love and acceptance.” ~Michelle Barreto
“What does it mean to be authentic? At Puget Sound, I took my first steps in understanding who I was and where my place was in the world. The opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of over the course of my career, in many cases, had less to do with what I know, but who I am as a person. Teaching and devoting my career to public service has allowed me to channel my passions in ways that are more fulfilling than if I had found a more conventional career.” ~Marc Blackburn ’85
“I see the work I do as creating the container for people I work with to play in. I do so by sharing where I am and by intentionally creating the context for everyone to reflect on their experiences so that we can learn from and with each other in community.” ~Justin Canny ’90
“Find a place where you don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. It’s okay to know that you’re still growing and not where you want to be yet in life, but when you have to put on a mask and hide a part of your essential identity every day, then simply going to work will be far too much emotional stress, never mind the actual work your job entails. Be yourself, act with respect, kindness, and humility, and when you can’t do that anymore, find the strength to move on to a place that allows you to be happy and healthy—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Find a place that fills your bucket and provides an opportunity for you to continue to serve and grow in your passion.” ~Briana Kelly ’09
“Authenticity means speaking the truth even when it leads to awkward and difficult conversations.” ~Roman Maunupau ’05; 10
For me, authenticity means being honest about who I am– that I’m queer, that I have class privilege and the privilege of being a Puget Sound Alumni, that I’m not sure about what I want from life yet. Working with kids reminds me to be authentic every day, since they are truly the best detectors of fakeness. Working as a college organizing fellow for the organization Resource Generation is also a daily reminder to own up to all of my identities and political values as I work to build community and empower college students to stand up to their universities and families for economic justice.” ~Rose Pytte
“Authenticity means treating everyone with equity and meeting their individual needs as best as possible.” ~Bruce Sadler ’83
“The very best piece of advice I ever got from a colleague was to be myself in the classroom. That may seem obvious, but a lot of teachers feel like they have to act a certain way or remain aloof from their students in a way that may seem ‘professional’ but isn’t very, well…authentic.
I had the opportunity to observe two ‘master’ teachers during my training: The first was calm, knowledgeable, nice, never got emotional, always on an even keel and, to me at least, totally boring and uninspired. The second got upset, glad, excited, frustrated, angry, and had connections with her students that were real and genuine—that made a huge impact on me and I have modeled my own teaching on that experience.” ~Eric Wolgemuth ’83
“My crew at work is literally my second family. Our lives depend on each other. We share meals together. We sweat together. Sometimes we bleed together. It’s a pretty deep bond. I’m very authentic with them and share more than just my professional life with them.” ~Cyrus Brown ’03
“Authenticity looks like being yourself, and being well trained and ready to respond at any time to any situation you can think of. Key aspects of the job are dependability, motivation, and integrity.” ~Jeff Walker ’09
“#1 be yourself.
#2 be confident.
#3 never give up!
#4 being a good listener almost always has the solution built in.
#5 have compassion for others.”
~Norman Bellamy ’76
“Being authentic is being human. As a young professional it is easy to feel like an imposter, and feel the need to be someone else, someone super-human as you figure things out for yourself and become the expert for others.
As a genetic counselor, my role is to be supportive to families going through very challenging circumstances that may be filled with uncertainty, disappointment, frustration, and fear. It is easy to fill that uncomfortable space with answers and explanations for the uncertainty, or try to impart a sense of hope because science and technology are ever-changing and advancing. But when it comes down to it, my authentic work is being human, going back to basics to sit with families in difficult times and listen. I provide resources when I can, but what I find matters most to them is that I listen and understand their perspective because I am human, just like they are.” ~Cheyenne Dewey ’16
“In public health, authenticity often means being honest with ourselves about the gaps in our knowledge. We have to learn from the people in our communities, not just teach to them. Some of the most valuable public health knowledge exists in the lived experiences of communities that appear to have the most difficulties. By forming stronger bonds with our community partners, we can better address the issues that negatively impact health.” ~Carolyn Ham ’08
“I work with youth and families which requires honesty and vulnerability on both sides. I work with families to address some of the toughest issues that face their community or their kids. Authenticity is a requirement in my field and at my organization. In my context, authenticity is all about being real, honest, and open. The youth I work with are being impacted directly by racism, classism, bullying, climate change, and the gentrification of Tacoma. If I want to be good at ministering to them, I need to be willing to go deep and have really tough and honest conversations about their feelings and fears. Youth can smell inauthenticity, so trying to fake it in ministry really deters from the kind of experience families and youth will have at the end of the day.” ~Jae Bates ’18
“Bring who you are to the table, build trust through integrity, and do what you say you’re going to do.” ~Tom Moore ’84
“A practice of self-reflection has been my pathway to a life that is lived authentically, whether I am at work, volunteering, or performing.” ~Brittany Henderson ’03
“Authenticity means always doing what is right, and acting in my client’s best interests. Also, for me, it mean being a unique and individualistic woman in a profession that is still predominately male.” ~Heather Faverman
“If you are passionate and authentic about your work and career the experiences you have will enrich your life. Be proud of your accomplishments, candid about your thoughts, reflective about your shortcomings, and honest in all your interactions.” ~Perry McClain ’79
“Authenticity is congruency between all aspects of your life. Don’t put on a mask or fake it till you make it…be authentically you.” ~Justin VanLandschoot
“Clear and honest communication is extremely important in event work, as is accountability. Authenticity means being upfront about your own capabilities, and identifying for your collaborators where you expect you will need support or additional resources.” Gretchen Lenihan ’99
“It’s ok to be afraid to speak up, but that shouldn’t stop you.” ~Arleen Chiu-Jones ’05
“For me, authenticity means being able to bring my whole self to the table at work. The semiconductor industry is ethnically diverse, but women are underrepresented. I pride myself on being one of only four women in a company of almost 60. I recognize that my differing perspective is needed and I do not shy away from sharing it. Hailing from a non-technical background in an industry at the cutting edge of technology and design has allowed me to bring soft skills and emotional intelligence to bear in a variety of ways that benefit my colleagues and our industry as a whole.
I am fortunate to work for a company that encourages a healthy work/life balance—only 20% of our employees in the US work in a OneSpin office: the rest are remote. This unique work paradigm, coupled with the fact that we have employees all over the world, makes communication all the more important. I’ve found no shortage of ways to contribute, thanks to many of the skills that I sharpened at Puget Sound.” ~McKenzie Ross
“A portion of authenticity is being able to connect with people and sharing the story that made you who you are. It is crucial for me to not stay on the surface when I meet people that I want to get to know. Being relational is integral to my work as a community organizer, in order to build a movement you need people. In order for people to join the movement, you need to build trust, depth, and accountability.
When we aren’t our authentic selves, it continues to erase the core parts that made you who you are. It is a radical concept, being able to share things with another person that you wouldn’t do normally, but if we want to see a different world than the one we have, we ave to invest time in each other.
I am passionate about meeting new people and connecting to their histories, narratives, and experiences so don’t hesitate to reach out!” ~Amanda Diaz ’18
“Authenticity is a willingness to be vulnerable and hear others when they are vulnerable. It is being and sharing the true you consistently across your life. This doesn’t mean telling your coworkers the same thing you would tell your friend or spouse, but being authentic means your core values carry with you throughout the different parts of your life.” ~Chelsea Zarnowski ’07
Logger alums have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share with Puget Sound students. Take the opportunity to meet them at events on campus, like ASK Night, and to connect with them on LinkedIn. Whether you have practical, logistical questions…are seeking advice…or want to dig deeper into the soul-searching realm, alumni are up for the conversation!
© 2020 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound