Spotlight: Kim Kingsley

Kim Kingsley

The Global Ambassadors Program was life-changing. For me, personally, it came at the most amazing inflection point in 2016. I had just left POLITICO after a decade and was thinking about what was next for my career. Then I was invited to go to London to mentor a young woman named Khadija, from Morocco.

Kim Kingsley (left) with Khadija Idrissi Janati of Morocco

Khadija owned a public relations firm, and she was a force of nature. Networks, connections, and a Rolodex that you wouldn’t believe. We talked endlessly about how to leverage networks and relationships to propel your business forward. Through that, there were so many moments when I felt like I was being mentored by her on the power of connecting and getting out in the world.

The whole experiencewhich I thought would be structured mentor/mentee business classes with speakersturned into this dynamic, enlightening, inspiring series of conversations and connections with women from all around the world. It gave my mentee and me the best kind of reset and this re-energized sense that what we’re doing back at home, and the work that we’ve done, and the work that we’re about to do, is meaningful.

Less than a year later, when the program needed a last-minute Global Ambassador replacement in Sydney, I leapt at the opportunity. I was matched with the most wonderful menteeHue from Vietnam. She ran a marine conservation and community development enterprise, and while our backgrounds didn’t mesh entirely, in a short day or two I realized why we were paired together.

Kim Kingsley (right) with Nguyen Thu Hue of Vietnam

Hue was an entrepreneur thinking about how to grow her business, and she faced all of the classic challenges of running a company. How do I have tough conversations? How do I get through balancing my life and wanting to have a mix of personal and professional throughout the day, as opposed to 14 hours of professional non-stop growing and building this business? How do I tell my story and get my brand out there?

Many of the challenges that she was facing, I faced while building POLITICO. It felt like we were just mirroring each other in our challenges and opportunities.

It was through that connection when I realized there’s such a commonality between women in business across the globe who are trying to figure out how to do things well for their businesses, for their families, and for themselves.

For women executives and entrepreneurs building businesses, it can get lonely at the top. You forget that you have people around you who are experiencing similar struggles. GAP helped us realized we are all going through the same thing. Whether it’s storytelling, having tough conversations, asking for a raise, raising money, managing a budget—all of the stressful situations or the anxieties of running a business are shared by everyone in the program.

The network this program creates is powerful and long-lasting. What I thought would be a connection for a couple of days with a number of women in London and Sydney turned out to be long-lasting friendships, connections and relationships where we check in on each other. We update one another about what it is we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We ask tough questions. We share challenges that we’re facing at home and at work.

There’s this sense of the world that I don’t think women outside of the program would get. It allows for women to feel connected on a much deeper, more personal level. Not just connected, but understood. Whatever they’re experiencing in Vietnam, Morocco, London or wherever GAP has gone, someone understands, is there to listen, and is willing to share advice on how to get through it.

When you know you have a toolkit like the one I hadexperience building a company, running a company and managing people, it’s all about what you do with those tools and how you use them later. The Global Ambassadors Program gave me a much clearer sense of purpose, and of giving back to other women. It has allowed for me to think more about significance, purpose, and the importance of strengthening and empowering women in a big way.

Kim Kingsley is head of Content Strategy at Airbnb, co-founder & former COO at POLITICO, and member of the 2016 class of Henry Crown Fellows and the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute.

Photography: David Hume Kennerly