Originally posted on Alexandra, D. C. on May, 21 2015
Working as a Running Start Star Fellow was undoubtedly one of the most formative experiences of my life. Running Start and our respective Hill internships provided each of us with relevant professional skills while working alongside a female Member of Congress who has been an inspiration to us. While each of the fellows is placed in a different office, and perhaps is even working for a member of a different party, we all come home to each other at the end of the day - and that was an amazing part of the program. I learned so much from the women that I was fortunate enough to live with for four months in Washington, D.C. Each fellow has a unique story and career drive, but we were all brought together because of our passion to have more women serve in political leadership while we start our own careers in public service. I had the wonderful experience of living next-door to Kaylee Galloway, who has such a powerful voice and positive disposition. I miss our political conversations at the kitchen table and sharing our own experiences as student leaders on our college campuses. I think the world of Kaylee, what she has to say, and her ability to make an impact. I couldn't help but ask her to share her story with you all!
You were a Running Start Fellow. How did that experience prepare you to pursue political leadership?
To understand the system, you must experience it. To excel within the system, you must develop a comprehensive perspective—including experiences gained at every level. The culture of an office or team dynamic ultimately depends on the personalities and priorities of those who are leading, and I think that the best leaders are those who understand and respect the work of their team.
The Running Start Star Fellowship provided me insight into Congress, the legislative process, and the internal workings of a Senate office through my internship, which ultimately led to full-time employment. The experiences and knowledge I gained while working for the Senate enhance my leadership abilities and continue to help me pursue my goal of political leadership. Furthermore, Running Start has helped me build a community of strong, passionate, and inspiring women who support and encourage each other throughout our journeys.
Why do you think it’s important to have more women in elected office?
Too much of human history has been overpowered by the same communities of entrenched power. In order to achieve meaningful progress, the face of politics must change and expand. Women bring valuable experiences and perspectives to decision-making and leadership. Our backgrounds and experiences define who we are, which issues are important to us, and how we approach leadership and problem solving. It is imperative that these differences are embraced and encouraged. Progress can only be achieved when all voices and perspectives are present and considered. Women often make great leaders; many are changemakers, typically collaborative, empathetic, nurturing, and creative, all positive attributes of which the political sphere is in desperate need.
You are an alumna of Elect Her. What was your involvement like with this program and what did you learn from it?
I had the privilege of participating in three Elect Her trainings while attending Western Washington University (WWU), each time with a different perspective. My first attendance greatly inspired my initial involvement in student government. Like many students entering higher education, it was my first time living away from home, my family, and friends. Finding community was a challenge. Through Elect Her, I was able to meet incredibly inspiring women who encouraged me to push my comfort zone, allowing me to grow both personally and professionally. Little time passed before I joined a committee on campus called the Legislative Affairs Council. My involvement in student government escalated from there.
During my second year of Elect Her, I was already committed to running for a position on the WWU Associated Students Board of Directors. I brought my campaign staff and had established very clear goals and desired outcomes from the event. The Elect Her training ultimately allowed me to refine and improve my campaign strategy while practicing in a safe and supportive environment, eventually resulting in the successful outcome of a highly contested campaign.
For my third Elect Her, I served on the planning committee as the Associated Students Vice President for Governmental Affairs. During the event, I was able to mentor women in similar ways that others before had mentored me. So, over the course of three trainings, I was able to experience the event through different lenses and my takeaways were different each time.
What female leader has been your biggest inspiration and what do you admire about her?
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell has been a huge inspiration for me. She is a first generation student who paid her way through university using Pell Grants. At the age of 28, she was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives, and six years later ran a successful campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Democrat elected from Washington's 1st Ccongressional District in 40 years. Later, she decided to gain some experience in the private sector, and rose through RealNetworks to, ultimately a vice-president position before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.
The first time I met her was during WWU’s federal lobby trip, where I travelled alongside our University President to Washington D.C. to lobby members of Congress and various other agencies. Something about our meeting with Senator Cantwell intrigued me; I knew from that moment that I wanted to intern in her office. As I learned more about her, I grew more inspired by her work and the unique perspectives she brings to politics. I most respect her involvement in energy policy and am extremely interested in the work she has done in that area. With this Congress, Senator Cantwell became the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and has made an incredible opportunity for herself and Washington State out of the power vested in that seat. The opportunity to contribute to her vision and work has been incredibly inspiring. Being a member of her staff has been energizing, and has helped me to further realize my own ambitions and goals.
What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
Don’t let people make you feel bad for being a stressed out, overachieving, perfectionist. It seems like yesterday that my third grade teacher assigned the reading of Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days! as a required extracurricular read. Milo, the main character, wants to be completely perfect. He is told that he can become perfect if he completes a series of tasks, but soon he realizes perfection is not what he desires and acquires a newfound satisfaction for being his imperfect self. The book impacted me in many ways, but in reality it only perpetuates society’s negative view of perfectionism. I have come to learn that possessing these qualities in reasonable amounts can be positive, representing characteristics many great leaders have learned to balance. I believe I have learned to manage these attributes while simultaneously embracing them; a healthy level of stress motivates me so that overachieving becomes a byproduct of my industriousness.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other young women about pursuing their dreams?
Do not limit yourself to one dream. As a perpetual over-planner, I find myself trying to map out my every future move, micromanaging details that are often better left to spontaneity. Six years ago, I thought I had it all figured out. What I quickly realized is that with the focus of tunnel vision you miss all the things you never thought could be; myopia limits the vision of possibility. I never thought I would be where I am today—I never suspected I would attend WWU, take the time as I currently am to work between undergrad and graduate school, or be living in Washington D.C. working for one of my state’s U.S. Senators. Dreams should be flexible, molded by the wisdom of experience, and that is the best part about them. Find your support system, work hard, and never limit yourself. Things always seem to work out, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
What is your career ambition?
Throughout my professional life, I want to be able to experience a little bit of everything. I hope to pursue a graduate degree (or two), work in government, run for office, and lobby on the issues I am most passionate about. Long-term, I have aspirations to run for public office. I think it is incredibly important to bring diverse voices to the public forum, and I hope that I can someday provide representation to those who might not have as many opportunities as I do. Currently, I do not have a specific goal in mind for a future ‘perfect’ career. What I do know is that I am a hard worker, a leader, and a changemaker who wants to make a difference in my community. And I think I am comfortable with the uncertainty. Though I do not know what path my professional work will take, I know that it will always be based upon my personal values and strong moral compass as influenced by the experiences I have had thus far.
What is your favorite spot in DC?!
After having been a tourist for 8 months, I can say with certainty that I have no one favorite spot. Washington D.C. is so fascinating and I enjoy exploring the city every opportunity I find. If forced to pick one single spot, though, I would say atop the Washington Monument, which provides the most stunning 360 degree view from 550 feet above the National Mall; another one of my favorites is the view of the National Mall from the Speaker’s Balcony.
Where is she now?
It is amazing to realize how much can happen in a year and a half! For many years, I had my heart set on living in DC, but I wasn’t sure for how long or where my professional life would take me. Working in the office of one of my U.S. Senators, I was determined to work hard and keep my mind open to all opportunities. And before I knew it, there it was, my “dream job” for this next chapter of my life.
I decided to move back to my home state of Washington where I have the privileged opportunity to help serve the communities closest to me as an outreach staffer in a Congresswoman’s district office. Every day brings a new adventure: new people to meet, new places to see, or a new topic to learn. Being able to engage with the various levels of government and local business, industry, organization and community leaders to learn first hand about their work in the district has been invaluable. If I have to pick just one favorite experience so far, I would say rafting the Nooksack River to learn about Wild and Scenic designation; a close second might be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to explore grizzly bear habitat. And those are just two examples of a day in the life!
So, my advice? Be patient, your time will come; learn from everything even if it seems mundane or pointless. Be present; enjoy every moment for what it has to offer. Don’t try to over plan your future; go with the flow and keep your mind open to all possibilities: Sometimes the best things are those least expected.
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