8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant. Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best.But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me. The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.


Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.


Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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