Earlier this summer, Heather Barnabe was named CEO of our charity of choice, G(irls)20. With over a decade of experience in the not-for-profit sector, Heather knows what it means to manage complex, multi-country education interventions. Her career has thus far taken her across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America for Right To Play, advocating for women’s and girl’s rights around the world.
My first job ever was… Working at the movie theatre. We were allowed to eat popcorn on our break and after our shift. It was heaven.
I decided to start my own thing… I was fortunate to move into this role after Farah Mohamed, now the CEO at Malala Fund, started G(risl)20.
My education prepared me for where I am now by… Teaching me multidimensional thinking, reasoning and analyzing… the good, the bad and the ugly. It also opened me to the world of political, economic and feminist theories that have, in many ways, shaped my values and guided many of my career choices.
My proudest accomplishment is… Having worked around the globe, I’m proud of the incredible network of colleagues and friends that teach, motivate, inspire, amuse and push me to do awesome things.
My boldest move to date was… I’d say bold is a character trait many of my friends would use to describe me. Whether that be my career choice, my statements, my values, the type of wine I bring to a dinner party, or my strong eyebrows: I’m no stranger to bold moves. In fact, jumping into this CEO position felt bold – it’s exhilarating and terrifying and incredibly rewarding, like any bold move.
I surprise people when I tell them… How many countries I’ve visited.
My best advice to people starting in their career is… Understand this is a long game and adjust accordingly. Find a mentor, have a strategy, seize opportunities when you can and, most importantly, speak up.
My best advice from my mentor was… Go into every meeting, job interview, sales pitch, whatever it is, with a few well-formulated, critical points you want to make and don’t leave until you’ve made them. It seems obvious and simple but it has helped me stay focused when articulation and brevity are key.
My biggest setback was… I once found myself heartbroken, with a job coming to an end and living in a city I didn’t love. When everyone else seemed to be moving farther ahead in their lives, I felt lost, stuck and heading in the wrong direction.
I overcame it by… Besides leaning heavily on family and friends (and wine), I focused entirely on my career. I worked hard, ended up in a job I loved and found a fulfilment in my career that I hadn’t had in my personal life. When I look back at that time now, I feel like I dodged a bullet as that life was never going to be a satisfying one for me.
Work/life balance is… Finding time for self-care and fun. Self-care for me means exercise and proper eating. Fun is Greg, friends, family, laughter and getting outside. The balance is easier when you have a job you love and you find joy in work.
If you google me, you still wouldn’t know… That I’m a Jeopardy fanatic and my bucket list consists of one thing: becoming a Jeopardy contestant.
I stay inspired by… Look what I do for a living! I’m inspired every day by the young women who come into the G(irls)20 family to grow their leadership skills and give back to their communities in the most amazing, innovative and meaningful ways.
The future excites me because… When everyone else is complaining about millenials, I think they are the greatest generation. They care about the world around them, they are less prejudiced and they have innovative, creative minds that we already benefit from daily.
My next step is… To take G(irls)20 to the next level, growing existing programs, creating new programs and continue to raise awareness about the importance of access, resources and agency girls and young women need to reach their potential.