Growing up in a small town in Kansas, I always knew I wanted to see more of the world and explore. I was lucky to have a mom that understood the importance of education. She wanted more for me and made it possible for me to study abroad in high school despite financial hardships and herself not being able to attend college.
Out of my high school graduating class, most people I grew up with still live within a few miles of our hometown. They never left. Every time I visit home, I wonder how I ended up traveling all over the world, looking over skyscrapers in Tokyo planning a project that will improve the lives of people living in that community. Who am I? I am a girl from Kansas that grew up to become a female CEO in Silicon Valley. I want to share my journey, to help other entrepreneurs. The road was complex and challenging – but continues to surprise and delight at every turn.
The tornado that transplanted me this world started in 1972. My mother always called me fearless. I was the 6-year old daughter that once terrified her, as she stood at the sink in the kitchen and saw her daughter fly by the window jumping off the roof into a pile of autumn leaves. At age 17, I wanted to study in Mexico, and spend a summer in Europe, and to my mother’s credit, she enabled my free spirit and never tried to instill fear in me.
Reflecting back on my childhood as an adult, I realize how hard that must have been as a mother wanting to protect her child and keep me close, but also not limit my options. When I think about what has defined my options on this journey, two things stand out.
First, I have always been willing to pick up and go to a new location for an opportunity that seemed interesting. From moving to San Francisco when I was 25, to to Argentina at age 31, I have always been a free-spirit and willing to take risks.
Secondly, I have always been interested in people and have built an amazing network of bright, motivated and supportive friends and colleagues. When I started Savonix, I went to my network and told them I was thinking of starting a digital health company. Several people responded with that has included advice, introductions and even helped with Series A financing for the company. So my story is of a “real life Dorothy,” as my fearless nature has swept me and my little dog Siri up in a whirlwind that has ended in up San Francisco.
On that road, I have been helped by so many amazing friends I have met along the way – and those people continue to enrich my life – from my husband to the Fortune 50 CEOs.
The work ethic I learned from my small, hometown in Kansas, has helped me immensely. Another gift my mother gave me was that she never protected me from my mistakes. She taught me to fail fast, and face my failures. “Be accountable for your words and actions,” is a phrase I grew up with. My mother taught me to value my and to always be grateful for what I have, to work with what was given me and make something of it.
And so here I sit, on another transatlantic flight from Tokyo to San Francisco, thinking about how I got here. How did I, a young girl from a small town in Kansas with a population of 1500, end up here?
Starting and leading Savonix has been the latest journey of my own yellow brick road. What continues to surprise me is the next phone call to work with a thought leader in digital health, lead a National Institutes of Health webinar, or fly across the world to meet with another CEO I have long respected as a leader of their company. I hope I never lose that because all the Kansas jokes aside – I love the feeling of being a modern Dorothy because so far, it’s been the adventure of a lifetime.