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On Thursday, October 13th, ULI members and non-members attended the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s (WLI) second annual “View from the Top” event at the McNichols building in downtown Denver. This year’s event focused on women and men who forged winding paths to success, starting their careers in one industry and finding themselves in a completely different one.
In her keynote, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne of Colorado shared fascinating statistics about women in the state before talking about her personal experience. She was born in the ‘50s when women had little choice in their employment. Seeking change, Lynne decided to work in government. She began her career in the White House before moving to local politics in New York. After a period in the private healthcare sector, Governor Hickenlooper selected Lynne for her current role. Her secrets to success include being willing to take a risk, be wrong, and collaborate.
Eric Kornacki, Executive Director of Re:Vision and moderator for the panel, took the stage next to speak about his winding path. Now a food systems pioneer, Kornacki initially struggled with college and menial jobs. With guidance from his speech teacher, he ended up studying International Development at Denver University and traveling abroad. His experiences in Latin America led him to found Re:Vision in 2007. Re:Vision works in Westwood, a needy neighborhood in southwest Denver, training women from the community to be health leaders in their neighborhood, teaching people how to grow their own food and fostering a better understaning of nutrition. Kornacki’s is now moving from international development to real estate development as he expands Re:Vision and converts a junkyard into a health and wellness masterplan with a community-run grocery store.
Kornacki then introduced the accomplished panelists: Fiona Arnold, Executive Director of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade; Terrell Curtis, Executive Director of The Delores Project; Paul Tamburello, Owner of Generator Real Estate; and Janice Sinden, CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Each panelist spoke about their personal career paths and provided a short Q&A session.
Originally from Australia, Fiona Arnold first wanted to be a veterinarian, but pursued law instead., Her parents raised her with a sense of adventure and taught her about hard work. Arnold’s love of finding new doors to open determined her career path. She was General Counsel for a big company, started a small business with a friend, became a real estate developer in RiNo, and eventually accepted a call from Governor Hickenlooper for be the first women to serve in her current position.
Shifting from her childhood desire to be a nurse, Terrell Curtis is now in the nonprofit world, running a homeless shelter. She grew up in Denver, and after a brief stint in Chicago returned home. Her tenure as Director of Communications at The Gathering Place led her to her current position at The Delores Project, a shelter for women and transgender individuals that serves 450 people a year. Today she is stepping into a developer’s shoes with The Delores Project’s Arroyo Village, which includes 130 affordable units and a shelter space at a transit-oriented development site. This exciting new adventure will help provide much-needed permanent, supportive housing in Denver.
As a child, Paul Tamburello wanted to be a monk. Now, he wears many hats, including being one of Denver’s most creative developers. He found his love of place-making at an early age when he created small cities in the backyard with a friend. After spending 12 years abroad working with a nonprofit medical team, he came to Denver and began his career as a developer. His path has been about going through doors that he has no business going through, such as developing and repurposing buildings that would usually be torn down, publishing a dirt bike magazine, and developing a new and unique app.
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of a teacher and mentor, Janice Sinden initially pursued a teaching career. After almost completing the degree, that same teacher encouraged her to look higher. She switched her major to political science and began a career in politics. Sinden has worked for both political parties at multiple levels of government, and most recently served as Chief of Staff for Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. One quote from Hancock that she thinks about daily is: “Everybody’s fighting a battle you know nothing about.” This quote colors how she goes into each day and deals with each new person. She is the first woman to run the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which is the largest performing arts complex in the country.
The panel concluded with a great question and answer session moderated by Kornacki. Questions ranged from discussing tips on how to manage people to the participants’ aspirations for Denver.
This year’s View from the Top was another success. The panel inspired members and non-members alike, providing attendees some great stories and advice to help them in their careers.