Role Models


Inspiration, curiosity and drive for someone with a growth mindset can be sparked or fed by role models. Here are just a few of the many role models that inspired me


If we consider the possibility that the potential lies within each of us to be a Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai if we were willing to assert ourselves, one might think that could be tremendously inspiring.


However, I believe it can also be depressing and disheartening to think we are making impacts such as those role models, simply because we don’t have the conviction and stamina to do it. It’s much luck saying “Happiness is a Choice.”


If it’s truly that simple, then what’s holding us back? If you embrace the possibility, it’s also very daunting; where do 10xers draw the courage to try? Why then do some get up, why do they actually enjoy the challenge, what allows them to believe that is the only sure way to break through to the next level?


I would argue it’s because these people have all somewhere in their lives had someone that role modeled that it’s possible, that helped them find the way, a mentor, advocate, coach, teacher, parent, manager, partner, supportive friend, etc.

Role Models I Met or Worked with

Dalai Lama at U.Va

Another person that inspired me by the shear impact of a brief personal encounter with him is the Dalai Lama whom I crossed paths with as a student. Though I’d not heard of him when we met, the impact of that encounter remains fresh in my memory as a reminder of how powerful a simple encounter can be.

Brad Smith Herd Shirt

One person that inspired me in business is Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit  (currently at an over $50B). Brad was also mentored by Bill Campbell (aka Trillion Dollar Coach) who Intuit’s Chairman of the Board at thhe time. For quite some time, I had the privilege of meeting with Brad weekly as he reviewed the internal start-up I was running at Intuit named SB-Connect. Where did Brad find his inspiration? It could his amazing Alma-mater football team that rose from the ashes – the We Are Marshall! Where did they find their inspiration, perhaps it was their coach… Or, did Brad also find inspiration from the former CEO of Intuit Steve Bennet who re-energized Intuit before him and who was Brad’s Mentor. Where did Steve find his inspiration? Perhaps it was getting inspired by Jack Welch during whose tenure at GE, the company’s value rose 4,000% .

Other inspirations in business came from the five women who were VPs of Engineering that I reported to in my career.

Patricia Swanson

One person who really opened my eyes to various theories on how we learn and how we can help others learn has been Patty Swanson, Chair of Teacher Eduction at San Jose State whom I was lucky to have as a professor as I was working toward my teaching credentials. Among the things Patty introduced me to in 2002-2003 was work of her former colleague’s at Stanford – Carol Dweck‘s notion of Fixed and Growth Mindsets which she published in her book a few years later.

Family Role Models

Another source of my inspiration came from my father who was a physicist known by some as the father of atmospheric electricity. I was fourth generation physicist with a history of changing the world. My father was also inspired by his father’s colleague, Albert Einstein – my father remembered Einstein coming to dinner at their house. Certainly I was also inspired by my mother who also has a tremendous history to be proud of – on her side of the family, I’m fifth generation teacher.

I’ve also had the rare privilege of my career in software engineering to have reported into five different women as my VPs of Engineering. Each of them had to persevere in this field to make it to that level. I suspect they all had some mentors, role models and/or advocates in their lives that inspired them.

Kristy and Chris D

I also had a tremendous collection of teachers throughout my schooling at Groveton High School in Virginia. However, the person that has consistently inspired me the most is someone I believe to be the most talented, curious and fascinating engineer I’ve met in my 35+ years in software engineering. She was one of the first engineers in the field of Artificial Intelligence in the mid-80s at Intellicorp. She is also one of the most self-driven athletes I know. I’m lucky to have her as my partner, even though I often feel like an imposter that needs to pinch myself that I could be so lucky.

It’s also important in thinking about motivating others that we consider in Inspiring The Future to Redraw The Balance (a great short video to watch) so that those among us we may discount due to cultural or historical biases, not get get unduly discounted. One of our inspiring board members, Anita Sands, gave a great talk on finding not only mentors but also advocates. I believe in taking that a step further to also being a mentor and an advocate.

So, if it’s the people in our lives that inspire us to do more, then is it not true that some of us are luckier than other for those that we have in our lives? I believe their is some truth to that.

One thought on “Role Models

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.