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Leading Ladies Spotlight: Allison Nelson

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

We are excited to introduce another wonderful professional with lots of advice to offer. I had the opportunity to hear from Ms. Allison Nelson of the KC STEM Alliance. She draws from her experience in leadership and her professional career to lend us aspiring leaders some wise words to keep in mind.



Interview


Kripa Gauba:

How have you gotten to where you are today in your leadership position?


Allison Nelson:

I currently work with a handful of nonprofit organizations, KC STEM Alliance being my largest consultancy. I consider myself a leader in some capacity at each role I take at each organization. I got to where I'm at today by making myself uncomfortable. I am not a naturally talented public speaker and I had to really practice and put myself out there before I become good at delivering speeches or directing groups. I would also say that I've always tried to treat others with compassion and respect at all times. The combination of hard work, making myself uncomfortable, and being kind is how I got to where I am today.


KG:

What would you say is your leadership style?


AN:

My leadership style is conscious and imbedded. I like to be a part of the work, but I also like to be very considerate of others' work styles and preferences. By conscious, I mean that I try to be aware of my actions and the circumstances. I try not to place blame and let overwhelm take over. I also think it's really important to ask for help whenever you need it!


KG:

As a female leader, have you been confronted with any gender-related roadblocks?


AN:

I don't think I've faced any significant barriers related to my gender. I've been lucky to work with folks who respect me as a person and value the contributions I make to the team without undermining or dismissing. I will say that I can be a bit of a people pleaser and that has led me to situations where I am taking on more than I should be. I try to be very thoughtful about saying yes. I recently heard Jane Fonda interviewed on a podcast called Wiser than Me and she mentioned that the best advice she ever got was that 'No.' is a full sentence. I plan to use that more often.


KG:

Across your entire career path, has there been any one pivotal or very significant moment that made you realize that what you're doing really mattered?


AN:

I love this question! I have this feeling all the time working with mission-driven organizations. It's why I work with nonprofits! Recently, I was writing student profiles for students that are a part of an organization I work with called One Thread Project. These students live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and face unprecedented challenges to overcoming poverty and finding good education. One Thread Project runs a vocational sewing center in Congo. I was writing about each of the students this year and many of them are women my age. It hits home how privileged I am to live here and have access to food, water, shelter, safety - that I can be economically empowered as a woman in this country. It makes me want to do everything I can to support them and uplift these women. It also serves as a deep reminder not to take my life for granted.


KG:

Were there any specific women who inspired you or played a large role in you being where you are today?


AN:

Yes! Mentorship is so important. Alana Muller has been an incredible mentor to me. She provides strategic planning, networking, and general consulting under the LLC Coffee Lunch Coffee. I met her when I began an internship at American Public Square at Jewell my senior year of college. While I was in college, she gave me many opportunities to learn and grow with her. She has also always treated me as an equal despite the fact that she is a seasoned and well-respected professional in the community. I'm approaching a point in my life where I really want to mentor to pay it forward. Women like Alana inspire me to do so!

And I kind of build safeguards for the people that I led, where now I'm OK with letting those safeguards down and letting people fail because I know that the learning occurs then.


KG:

That's amazing. Going off of that, what do you think are some other ways that women can support other women?


AN:

We need to continue to uplift one another and look at others with eyes of potential. How can you plug this person in to your network? What's one small thing you can do to share your resources or time? I also think it's important to be a listening ear for one another. I am always saying to friends and colleagues 'I'm here if you need to vent!'.


KG:

What do you think are the most important qualities of a well-rounded, successful leader?


AN:

Kind. Brave. Compassionate. Creative.


KG:

What do you think is the greatest risk that you've taken in your professional career?


AN:

I took a year and a few months to freelance full time. It was scary, but it provided me with a period of time in which I could truly rest. Rest, I've learned, is what restores my creativity and allows me to dig deeper into my passions and purpose. I thought that I would have a hard time finding a full-time job, but when I started looking, I had a wonderful gig within a MONTH of putting out applications.


KG:

How do you find time to take care of yourself and maintain a good mental health?


AN:

Moving my body DAILY is really important. Even if it's just to stretch for 15 minutes or go for a walk. I also like to run and go to the climbing gym a few times a week. Getting good sleep is also so important for me. I could go on and on about this one because it's something I'm still learning about for myself. The last thing I'll say is that it's so important to talk with people about how you're feeling. Verbally processing is a tool I use every day to check in with myself. I often don't realize I'm feeling stressed until I say it out loud to a friend or family member.


KG:

What is one piece of advice that you would either give to your younger self or just to young women out there who are starting their own leadership journeys?


AN:

Ask for help more often. Don't measure your success by comparison to your peers. Define your own goals and strategies for how you will achieve them. Ask for help when you need it! Yes, it is worth repeating!


Closing

Leadership knows no boundaries. We encourage each of you to embrace your unique qualities and strengths, knowing that you, too, have the power to shape your community and create a lasting impact. GirlsLead looks forward to bringing you more inspiring stories and conversations that will continue to empower our leadership abilities.



 

About Allison


Allison K. Nelson is a communications and education professional in Kansas City. Her work has been mostly focused in the non-profit sector, using her skill set to provide high-caliber events for students and teachers in the Kansas City metro. She also freelances as a Digital Media Consultant, providing small non-profit organizations with marketing, graphic design, and strategic communications support. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her incredible husband and her loving and supportive friends. Allison also enjoys baking, watercolor painting, and hiking.

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