It Girl | KRISTINE SLOAN
I first became familiar with StartingBloc a few years ago when my uncle was accepted to their Boston institute. I wasn't super sure who they were or what they did, but I knew I was interested. Fast forward to about two months ago, I saw something about StartingBloc starting an institute in Raleigh-Durham, where we are based. I then connected with Kristine not too long after and was encouraged to apply to the program. Through what little interaction I had with her, I knew she would be a great It Girl for us to feature. The very nature of StartingBloc is phenomenal and Kristine serves as CEO of this incredible organization. Read all about Kristine here.
Name: Kristine Sloan
Job Title/Company: CEO/StartingBloc, Raleigh Facilitator/Tide Risers
Education Background: Masters of International Studies, Rural Development – NC State University. Bachelors of Arts, Economics – NC State University. Bachelors of Arts, International Studies – NC State University.
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
I’m driven by a core set of values – authenticity, respect for human agency, desire to see the planet thrive, loyalty, generosity, and liberation. I strive to live my life in alignment with these values, whether through my work, how I allocate my budget, or through the ways I spend my downtime. I’ve lived in many places all over the world, but I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC and the Southern identity is strong, y’all.
2. What sparked your interest in your work with StartingBloc?
I had worked in a lot of incredibly impactful direct service companies. Due to under resourced and under trained leadership (at the systemic level, outside of these organizations), these organizations shut down or failed. Frankly, I got tired of seeing good work mean nothing in the face of poor public-sector leadership. StartingBloc looks at every issue or opportunity of significance in our world today and says: let’s train, support, and walk alongside the folks doing the work. Let’s ensure that the paradigms through which they are leading are actually aligned with their values and are actually shifting the needle forward towards greater equity and a thriving planet. That orientation to impact inspires me and keeps me engaged in this work.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
Gosh, so many humans. I’m influenced by poets and poetry. I love Rilke, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Naomi Shihab Nye and William Blake. I’m influenced by writers and activists like bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Octavia Butler, Krista Tippett, and Dorothy Day. I’m influenced by the close friends and family in my life – the beautiful ways that people show up for one another on a day to day basis and the beautiful ways that people maintain relationships over the long term.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
I was a lifeguard! I worked at a pool for a long time – from the time I was 15 until I was 21. In college, I had four jobs and it was the only job I could find that had hours before classes started. I would work from 5am-9am most days and then head to class. That job also helped me put money towards my first car (my parents also helped), kept my tan game consistently strong, and paid terribly.
5. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
I’m deeply proud of the fact that I have lived a life without too many excuses. If I’ve wanted to do something, I’ve done it. I have an insatiable appetite for experiencing the world and I’ve spent years in nine countries throughout the African continent, months in South India, working remotely in Bali, and studying and working in France (+ traveling throughout Europe). I’ve also walked away from positions that I knew were overworking me or weren’t the right fit. I took a three-month break in between my last job and StartingBloc, bought a van, lived in it, and traveled all around the American West seeing my own country. I’ve never had much money but I have had rich experiences and deep conversations and joyful memories. I’m proud of that.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
Ha! I thought I would be working in international development my whole life. I thought I would do direct service work, specifically in rural poverty (which I am still deeply aligned with). I believed my work would remain central to my sense of self. I no longer do those things. I no longer work in direct service and I no longer believe that my work is central to my identity. That said, I’m driven and I’m high achieving, so here I am stepping into a CEO role for an organization with a global audience. In my experience, it has been in the letting go of my own story and expectations for how life “should be” that has allowed me to truly make an impact with my work and my life – I’ve been open to new roles and experiences that have transformed my career.
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through your experience at StartingBloc?
Facilitating experiences is hard work and is a skill. It’s not something that everyone knows how to do well and StartingBloc has given me the experience and the training to do it with grace. That’s helped my personal conversations, it’s given me nuanced language to talk about myself and my relationships with others, and it’s allowed me to connect with people in a more meaningful way.
8. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
I have no idea. I’d like children. I’d like a backyard. Beyond that, I hope I’m happy, fulfilled, and still going to yoga.
9. What is a typical day like for you?
The mornings are really important to me – I like to give myself plenty of time to wake up, make myself eggs, drink a cup of coffee, listen to a podcast or to music, and then I sit down to work. I like to start my day with creative projects – something like writing a grant application or answering emails that need a more thoughtful response. My boyfriend and I recently adopted a puppy and he requires me to take lots of breaks through the day to go for walks or play, which honestly has been nice. I go to yoga or to the gym after work. Also, I’m the worst at the evenings. It’s a struggle for me to even make myself dinner most nights. I’m on the eat-a-can-of-beans-for-dinner-even-though-you’re-almost-thirty diet. On the weekends, I like to go for a longer walk or a hike and have some type of adventure – whether that’s checking out a local thrift store or having daytime margaritas with a friend.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
Workplace politics and gender. I’m atrocious at playing the corporate game, I’m a staunch feminist with no time or patience for the patriarchy, and yet, life. It’s a real struggle for me to show up in spaces where I feel that I am being asked to be someone other than my authentic self and to be frank, that’s most of professional work culture. We work really hard to make StartingBloc a different work space and I’m proud of that.
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Listen. Pause. You are not in control. Also, kindness wins.
12. When do you get your best ideas?
In the mornings, when I’m running, in the shower, and when I’m supposed to be meditating in yoga class.
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
Oof. I have failed so many times. The times I’m most ashamed of are the times I have failed to show up for people in a way that honors their dignity and is kind. My personality is Type A, direct, and I can be harsh with people so it’s something I continuously work on. I hate leaving an interaction with that sense of knowing that I didn’t listen, care for, or treat another person with respect. Unfortunately, it takes real work for me to make sure I give folks true presence and attention.
14. How do you unwind?
Music. Walks in the mountains or in the woods. Alone time. Binge watching Billions.
15. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
Come on in! We need you! Also, if you’re entering the space of leadership development, you better be ready to do some deep inner work and you better have patience with yourself and with others. This is not something that happens overnight and this work is personal.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
Life is messy, no one knows what they are doing, and it’s important to show up for ourselves and for one another over the long haul.