Hi, I’m Carissa!
I help BIPOC professionals & entrepreneurs liberate from societal definitions of success and design lives they are proud of.
I’m a 2nd generation Filipina American daughter of immigrants.
After nearly 15 years as a successful intrapreneur and company leader who wasn’t fully seeing eye to eye with the rigidity of the corporate world, I decided to follow my own light and seek out sparks in others – it was in my own journey of self-actualization that I realized that entrepreneurship is my liberation, and empowering others to reimagine success on their own terms is my activism.
My experience spans across both the operations and human sides of business – on the side of business strategy and execution to get the job done, and on the side of people and organizational development to support those who make a business thrive.
Whether it’s dancing on the beach, hiking with friends or supporting schoolchildren in the Philippines through my non-profit, Green Mango International, I continue to value the connectedness and inner peace found in simply doing good. In both my personal and professional worlds, it’s working with bold, determined individuals who want to move intentionally through this world that gives my life its purpose.
I’ve had the honor of working on many interesting projects with incredible people and companies, and from the outside, the experiences may seem disconnected. I see it as multi-talented.
Humans are complex, layered, multi-faceted. Our paths are not as linear as society would like us to believe.
I have nearly 15 years of strategy and planning in the fashion industry and leading various teams in the buying offices of some of the most renowned retailers including Macy’s, Ross Stores, Saks, and Zappos.
I have a deep background in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work, and created leadership development programs that include teachings from Simon Sinek’s Why Workshop, Brene Brown’s The Daring Way, and Second City’s Yes And programs. I work in Nigeria, in the Philippines, and plan to expand across the globe.
I can’t be labeled or boxed in. I don’t have to be and neither do you.
Paying it forward is my activism.
There is power in change and my change has been a lifelong journey.
Like most first-generation Americans, I grew up thinking success meant making a 6-figure salary, becoming a doctor or lawyer or executive at a Fortune 500 company and to achieve that by getting good grades and always working hard.
Spoiler alert: I wasn’t quite the poster child of a “model Asian daughter.” I didn’t take school seriously - I didn’t understand the ROI - and I didn’t really care about going to a prestigious Ivy league. But my true education never came from a classroom anyway - my real education came from running clubs (and starting my own when they didn’t exist); my entrepreneurial spirit has always been there.
Everyone’s life is its own journey, and reflecting back on my own, it’s become clear there are certain themes that have popped up again and again, illuminating a path we intuitively know and simply need to learn to listen for and follow.
As a bit of backstory, I worked with three female founders after leaving corporate. And, more important to my journey than what I learned in those roles, is the story of how I manifested them in the first place.
I had never worked with these founders and only met them a few times through serendipitous meetings, yet got called up and given opportunities to work on projects with these organizations I cared about because of recognizing the immediate and authentic connection we had and nurturing those relationships throughout. Years later, when we reconnected and the timing was right, I had a new job-ready.
The lesson? Learn to be vulnerable and open with others so that you can get past the small talk and have deep conversations with people. Oftentimes that one meeting can turn into a lifelong genuine connection that can lead to limitless possibilities.
My corporate career path took an unexpected turn when I earned my "seat at the table” and was asked to start and lead a new team for the company. For the first time, then, I really began to understand what it meant to be a woman in leadership, as well the newest, the youngest and the only female and minority in the room.
After starting a women’s group to get support from other female leaders, I pitched (and landed) the role of Head of Diversity & Inclusion. But almost immediately I was stricken with that unseen foe: impostor syndrome. What did I get myself into? To fortify my resolve, I took graduate classes to help and, to my surprise, I uncovered that a racist experience I had endured from a little boy when I was nine years old subconsciously influenced all aspects of my life, even as an adult: how I lead, who I date, how I often find myself defending and sticking up for others.
I now had words like “internalized racism”, “intersectionality” and “microaggressions” to express myself and my frustrations. Other realizations came up, too, such as body image issues rooted in my childhood or hiding my talent to sing because it was too emotional; emotions are not something to talk about with stoic asian parents.
Looking back, diversity was always important to me: in high school and college, I co-founded and led multicultural clubs. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as self-actualization, have and always will be central to my work, both at the individual and systemic level.
In 2012, I experienced my quarter life crisis.
Mine took me on a journey to a divine encounter with God. I was tapped on the shoulder and told to “listen and follow, and I will take care of you.” Before that, I was repeating the classic story of most Americans: continuing to climb the corporate ladder because I was good at what I did, despite feeling more and more dissatisfied with every new raise or shiny new title. At my peak unhappiness, I left a job I thought I really wanted within four months because the values just didn’t align - and then immediately panicked because, as a child of immigrant parents, you just don’t do that!
After some self-loathing, I put on my planning and strategy hat and started by asking myself “What do I really want in my life and what is important to me?” I decided I would use the skills I had acquired and the values that drove me to find a job that aligned with my mission. I cold outreached on LinkedIn and one company called me back: Four months later and two all-day interviews and I was flying out to Las Vegas to start my new life on the west coast.
But God was just getting started with me.
Even with a values aligned company and the opportunity to create my own roles, I was still unsatisfied as an intrapreneur. In January 2018, I took the leap and dropped out of corporate. For the first time, I had no plan, no next move, no assured next paycheck. But I strategized again, this time not feeling alone but armed with faith. More importantly, I realized that every time I “let go and let God”, something I had prayed for came to fruition and turned out exponentially better than what I had originally asked for. Now, I trust that it will work out, and trust in myself to follow my intuition.
Starting with values first, I started my own non-profit, Green Mango International, to give back to my roots in the Philippines and created CONSCIOUSXCHANGE to help others discover their purpose and design their own lives and define success on their own terms.
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