Leaving my job as an executive to go back to school

Xochitl Cazador
Sep 25, 2019 · 5 min read

My quest for a new definition of success — one that transcends job title, redefines compensation and aligns my professional purpose with my life purpose.

Throughout my career, I’ve felt like I’ve lived in two worlds — the exciting world of technology and the world of my beautiful Latino community. My work as a Tech Executive gave me the opportunity to grow as an emerging leader, to lead C-level initiatives, and to live in cities around the world. My volunteer work with young students in East San Jose gave me the opportunity to impact lives and bring others along on this journey with me.

I wanted to explore how to bring these worlds closer together and decided to leave my job as an executive to go back to school. I was accepted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business MSx Program. At the GSB I would have the opportunity to dedicate a year to my personal transformation — and explore how to become an executive who brings her heart and mind together for maximum social impact.

Transforming as a Leader

At the GSB, I gained a more strategic view of business, learned how to become more influential, and emerge as an authentic leader who can inspire innovation.

Through classes like Strategy Beyond Markets, Formation of New Ventures, and Entrepreneurship from Diverse Perspective, I gained a deeper understanding of how to shift from managing a department to leading a company — how to engage with board members, customers, and employees. By working with professors such as Saumitra Jha, Rob Siegel, and Fern Mandelbaum, I gained a deeper understanding of the complex issues that leaders face and more importantly how to create the space to rapidly prototype the best ways to address those challenges.

One of my goals at Stanford was to learn how to foster an environment where people feel inspired to drive innovation and to influence change. Through classes like Interpersonal Dynamics (“Touchy Feely”), Paths to Power, and Managing Difficult Conversations, I discovered new ways to think about leadership. I learned how to lean into my own personal style and to adjust to different environments. I learned from leaders like Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet to “use the word imagine as a prefix… never stop learning and exploring”

Bringing my worlds closer together

My cohort consisted of 90 individuals from ~40 different countries. It was a unique opportunity to explore different cultures and learn from individuals on different career paths — Rocket Scientists, US Army Colonels, Non-Profit Leaders, Government Officials, Tech Executives, Venture Capitalists, and Serial Entrepreneurs.

I was curious about the intersection of technology and impact. Stanford gave me the tools and the space to explore what a career in social innovation could look like. I learned what it was like to be a non-profit executive, to launch a social enterprise, and to be an impact investor. I was selected to be part of the Social Impact Venture Capital Fund team where I had the opportunity to source, evaluate, and invest in social impact startups.

Through a global study trip, I was able to learn about the social, political and economic landscape of Mexico. I had the privilege to meet with leaders like Carlos Slim, President Calderon, and President Salinas. One of the discussion points I was eager to engage in was the lack of opportunity and impact it had on immigration. It was not lost on me that I would not be sitting in the room with these leaders had my family not immigrated to the United States.

I also wanted to explore what being a Latina in Silicon Valley means — and how I can be an advocate for change. I was incredibly honored to be a part of the LOW keynote program where I was given the platform to describe the challenges that many Latino families face, the beautiful entrepreneurial spirit of my East San Jose community, and the need to create more opportunities for people from a different path. Through coaches like JD Schramm and Linda Capello, I learned the power of storytelling and that being vulnerable with your audience could have a profound impact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2S96vaCKGs

The GSB provides the flexibility to design your own class. I developed an independent study of “Latino Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders”. Through this class, I was able to learn from Latinos who were paving the way in technology — Venture Capitalists, Startup Founders, C-Level Executives, and even an Astronaut. Miriam Rivera, the former General Counsel at Google who launched her own venture fund, Ullu Ventures showed me how to bold and embrace my culture. She challenged me to always look for the intersection of our two worlds — where I could help pave the way and have a positive impact on the world.

Exploring a New Path

My experience at Stanford was life-changing. It gave me the time and space to explore the next phase of my career. I gained new perspectives, developed new friendships, and worked in an environment that allowed me to lean into a career that will have a much bigger impact on the world.

Finding my Celo

In my next article, I’ll dive into my path after Stanford. Stay tuned!

Xochitl Cazador

Written by

Strategy + Operations executive passionate about Social Impact and Blockchain @StanfordGSB @Celo @she256

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