Terry Trailblazers Point to Purpose, Authenticity as Keys to Building Inclusive and Productive Workplace Culture

Merritt Melancon

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

For the four Terry College alumni recognized as 2023 Terry Trailblazers, achieving success in their careers isn’t a reward for the hard work and dedication they’ve put into their jobs. It’s a call to action, a responsibility to create the community they needed when they were starting out.

“There’s a responsibility not to be afraid to speak up, and to challenge why things are the way they are,” said Lael Chappell (BBA ’06). “Just taking the time to think how something may feel for someone else isn’t as bold as creating safe spaces to have those (hard) conversations and let people know they’re not alone.

“That is such an important part of the journey. I’m grateful to have had individuals around who provided that chance for me, and I always do my best to try to pay it forward for future generations.”

Chappell, chief marketing and business development officer at cloud-based underwriting IT system Desq, was on a panel of four Terry Trailblazers who gathered on Feb. 23 to answer questions for Terry students about being leaders of color in the modern corporate landscape.

He was joined by fellow Trailblazers Chloe Kelley (BBA ’06), executive vice president and account manager with PIMCO; Ameet Shetty (BBA ’96), chief data officer for the Pilot Corp.; and Kim Adams (BBA ’99), vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and talent acquisition at Ulta Beauty. In addition to the roundtable discussion, each Trailblazer had flash mentoring appointments with several Terry students.

Each year the Terry College recognizes a group of distinguished alumni who reached new heights in their careers, mentored young people, created inclusive communities at work and fostered the next generation of leaders. 

For Chappell and Shetty, that work has taken the shape of mentoring students and young professionals in their fields. For Kelley, it means sponsoring other young women in the finance industry and building employee resource groups and support systems inside PIMCO. For Adams, it means being cautious about where she puts her time and talent to work.

She took her position with makeup retailer Ulta because of the value it places on a diverse workforce, the way it fosters growth in its employees, and its embrace of diverse representations of beauty.

“I joined Ulta because their values align with mine and wouldn’t work for a company whose values didn’t align with mine, and I don’t think you would either,” Adams said. “Live out your core values and your purpose.”

For these Trailblazers, part of that purpose is building pathways so companies have the diverse teams of talent needed to solve tomorrow’s challenges. They urged students to build inclusive communities as they move into the workforce and never forget to reach out to those behind them.

“You can’t control the date you’re born, and you don't know when you'll leave,” Chappell said. “But you have the opportunity to know what work you've put in, the lives you’ve impacted and the people you've motivated during your time on Earth.”