Career Pathways: Letting the Sun Shine

July 16, 2019

This article was originally published on the Council on Foundation's blog on June 7, 2019. Lyn serves as the director of regional strategies and networks at Philanthropy Northwest and is a member of COF’s 2019 Career Pathways leadership development cohort.

“Have a great day and let your sun shine!” These are my departing words for my 8-year-old daughter every morning at drop off. It’s my rally cry hoping she unleashes her true self on the world (well, ok, her second-grade classroom) in everything she does.

Why Career Pathways

The 2019 COF Career Pathways cohort has been a tremendous learning opportunity for me. For the last 13 years, I’ve been at Philanthropy Northwest steadily progressing in my responsibility in a variety of programmatic roles. Last year, I was promoted to the first-ever director of regional strategies and networks. As an organization serving philanthropies in six Northwest states, how might we be more intentional about our members’ effectiveness through collaborative efforts? It meant that I needed to shift too. What would it mean to move into a leadership position and remain my authentic self? A lot was at stake.

I was intimidated when I looked around the room at our first Career Pathways gathering in Houston. It was full of officers, directors, chiefs and c-suite folks, but I soon realized many of them were sitting with the same questions as me. We spent the gathering examining how we think we show up, how we really show up and where the gaps exist. Most importantly how can we take advantage of our whole selves?

Learning, Leading and Self-Reflection Through Philanthropy

I’ve learned a lot so far: What keeps me up at night isn’t the “what” of my work. What challenges me the most is the “how” and the many roles I find myself playing – relationship builder, evangelist, connector, a disturbance generator  – and the list goes on. Luckily for me, Philanthropy Northwest also believes this type of self-reflection as a discipline within philanthropy is core to our work in furthering diversity, equity and inclusion.

I’ve also appreciated the space and support to learn about my own leadership style. Guess what I’ve discovered? Being a collaborative leader is leadership. What a revelation! I learned that somewhere in my reptilian brain, by just being a young Asian American woman, I never really believed I was a leader. I didn’t look like, behave like, or sound like a leader – or what I thought a leader should embody. I had a mental picture in my head and it just wasn’t me.

Being Open to Opportunities and Change

I’ve been in the cohort for four months now. How would I know if anything is changing? I asked my CP executive coach Lisa. In her sage advice, she said “Observe how many times you’re offered opportunities you never thought possible. That’s how you know you’re changing. People are seeing you differently.” I’ve counted four opportunities so far. I used to spend my time working the plan; now I spend my time dreaming the plan. So yeah, I think my sun is starting to shine.

About the Author

Lyn Hunter serves as director of regional strategies and networks at Philanthropy Northwest. She helps build stronger connections between partners, communities and the region. Lyn’s work experience includes managing the Building Community Philanthropy portfolio; holding convenings for funders in Alaska, Pierce County and rural areas and facilitating the Women's Cohort; as well as, producing previous Philanthropy Northwest conferences. Lyn also connects, builds knowledge and works to inspire action in various areas of interest for members such as American Indian and Alaska Native issues and efforts to support immigrant and refugee communities.