You know those people who walk into a room and you just feel their energy?
So that happened to me the other day in a doughnut shop while my kids had their faces happily pressed up against the glass eagerly spying their impending sugary, delightful breakfast.
I felt a strong presence enter the tiny shop….and I turned around and there he was…Kobe Bryant was towering over me with his dark gray hoodie pulled over his head…and a HUGE grin. Like he knew his cheerful energy had just consumed the room. I should probably introduce myself one of these days b/c these run-ins around town are getting awkward.
There’s a young woman whom I adore who had this same effect on people. Katlyn Grasso, Founder and CEO of GenHERation, is a 23 year old woman from Buffalo, NY who graduated from Wharton undergrad in 2015.
Last November, as a freshly-minted U Penn grad, she walked into a room filled with 200+ influential Penn alumnae from around the world.
And the room stopped.
Ms. Grasso took to the podium and gave a passionate and emboldened speech about empowering young women by giving them opportunities to learn about career options.
“If you can see it, you can be it.”
I was quietly sniffling and crying through Katlyn’s speech as I was so moved to see a young person doing good for others. Her passion is infectious; her dreams real; her purpose sincere.
My mind was reeling: “Who is this young woman? Who are her parents? How’d she get here? How can I help her? How can I be her?!”
As it turns out, the rest of The Trustees Council of Penn Women (TCPW) in the room that day also felt the same and we informally galvanized our support of Katlyn’s efforts to build GenHERation.
Fast forward 6 months when Katlyn and I grabbed a coffee. She was direct, friendly, knew exactly what she wanted to ask, and casually invited me to sit in on her interview on Wharton Business Radio on Sirius XM with Google’s Ashley Mohan. I sat in and again was blown away by Katlyn’s composure, ability to communicate so succinctly and passionately.
She was announcing GenHeration’s Discovery Days, a bus tour hitting 5 major cities to introduce high school and college women to female executives. You know, Google, Twitter, TOMS, Uber, Facebook, EY. No big deal companies. Many of which hail female executives from TCPW. Yes, TCPW rallies, we rally hard.
The following week, Katlyn was on CNBC to announce Discovery Days. CNBC. Really. Here’s proof.
….and NBC NY, DC, and Philly, too. I mean, who IS this woman?! And who is her publicist!?
Well, as it turns out…Katlyn’s her own publicist, but I suspect that won’t be for much longer as GenHERation is kicking into high gear.
So naturally, I hitched a ride for two days on the LA Discovery Days bus this past summer and truly was impressed with the caliber of executives Katlyn gathered to speak at each firm. The young women had two full days of visiting and touring companies, learning, pitching, and asking questions. What an amazing experience it was for these students to hear from women at the highest levels of their firms and gain an honest understanding of what it’s taken to get there.
We heard from women with kids who discussed how they balance life and work.
We heard from women whose college studies led them to exactly where they are today.
We heard from many women who said their undergraduate degrees didn’t lead them in a direct path to where they are, but that every experience counts.
And we had a ton of fun along the way.
Just this past weekend, Katlyn texted me to say she was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to a special Let Girls Learn event on Broadway with Stephen Colbert, Queen Raina of Jordan, Sara Bareilles, and the Tony Award-winning cast of The Color Purple!
What’s palpable is that everyone who meets Katlyn wants to help her and get involved in some way. She’s one to watch as she empowers young women to reach for the stars and energizes the world with her positivity.
We at TCPW are proud to call her a friend and all look forward to supporting the amazing adventures ahead of her!
Here’s a video about GenHERation if you’d like to learn more!