Alum Nairobi Kim Urges Students to be Bold and Creative

Nairobi Kim Roundtable group

Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan’s roundtable discussion series welcomed alumna Nairobi Kim, the founder and CEO of Blossom Beyond, an enterprise that taps into people’s strengths and leadership potential. She generously shared her advice with students on navigating their post-graduate paths and the importance of challenging themselves within their careers.

Graduating with a degree in mathematics in 1996 from what was then known as Polytechnic University, Kim embarked on a career in systems and enterprise architecture at IBM, Safeway, and Wells Fargo, where she also worked in security strategy and risk management. During the roundtable, she touched upon her time in Silicon Valley, when systems integration and cyber security were emerging markets; the differences in working for start-ups versus established companies; and her journey as one of only two women majoring in chemical engineering and mathematics.

Kim addressed the ever-present barriers women face in engineering and technology, both in academia and in industry, but shared her approach of not allowing gender to be an obstacle. “There are so many people around me who are doing that in so many different ways, and I can’t do that to myself,” Kim said. “I’m going to be powerful and be authentically myself, because that’s the thing that matters, and that’s going to allow me to not only live in this environment but thrive in this environment.”

Many student attendees were eager to learn how Kim had transitioned from her academic life to the ‘real world,’ as well as the best ways to market themselves to employers. She emphasized that in addition to possessing the technical skills, it is equally essential to promote one’s unique personality and ideas. “Make it a point to do the things that other people can’t and won’t do,” Kim said. “Find those things that are different, find those things that are unusual.” She also noted the importance of being bold, creative, and open — crediting her success to her “willingness to learn and willingness to be exposed to different things.” She also encouraged the students to continue seeking challenges and learning experiences even while working. “Become lifelong learners,” Kim said. “Your journey’s not over just because you graduated.”

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018