Skip to main content

Wendi Yen Huestis

Wendi Yen Huestis

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Worldreader gets children reading so they can reach their potential. We are an international nonprofit organization working with partners to get children reading at least 25 books a year with understanding, because regular reading improves reading comprehension, social-emotional learning, and digital literacy. Since 2010, Worldreader has supported more than 21 million readers in over 100 countries.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I remember my first presentation with 85 Broads online - I was so nervous. I didn't have a mentor or another support system, and struggled. I'm so embarrassed now for how that turned out. But it was a growing experiencing for me that I don't regret and definitely learned from.

How would you define your professional mission?

An experienced leader of mission-driven organizations, I have worked for 23 years focusing on organizational strategic planning, fundraising blueprints, corporate social responsibility, employee engagement, impact investing, and providing access to capital to communities who would otherwise not be able to attend school, start businesses after being incarcerated or have health care. I focus on shaping public discourse on gender equality, education, climate change, mass incarceration & health care.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

You must love building relationships, having challenging conversations with people, being willing to navigate difficult (and wonderful!) people, and being okay pushing back. You should be okay asking for money and love pattern matching people's philanthropic interests with what your organization offers in terms of philanthropic offerings. Fundraising and marketing is an exceptional field for women and one I can't say enough good things about. There is no glass ceiling and it can be a lucrative career with no existential crisis.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

I have so many memorable career accomplishments - being able to do the PR for when Tim Cook joined the board of our Kennedy Human Rights Foundation. At my current organization, helping our CEO David Risher say goodbye to Worldreader and join the board of Lyft and put together the messaging around that. Working with children globally to help girls go to school and see books, newspapers and ebooks for the first times in their lives.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

People aren't always easy to deal with, but you have to build thick skin. This happens with personal development and self-growth. I promise, it gets easier. You can't change other people, but you can change how you react to other people.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

Being able to ensure 1B in lending happened at Kiva so that refugees, students and female entrepreneurs were able to start businesses and go to school at 0% interest with a 98% repayment rate. Additionally, having the opportunity for over 1M girls go to secondary school at $250 per child who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to succeed. I've been too fortunate in my life.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I have had the most amazing female leaders and bosses in my life who believed in me, promoted me, advised me, allowed me to lead individuals, then teams, then international teams, and more. I took these roles on with fear (for sure!) but being scared helped me go full force into trying to do my best. I listened to what my teams wanted and make sure I was there for each of my teams and my direct reports.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The impact I can have on my direct reports and the beneficiaries we serve. The relationships I get to build with my colleagues both locally and globally, my board members, advisory board members, and our constituents. I have had so many rewarding jobs and I have no regrets.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

I hope thousands and millions of lives in each of the fields I have worked in the last 24 years - education, access to music, serious mental illness, microfinance, access to capital, climate change, girls' education and more continue to grow so that we are able to build a more equitable society where all people have the chance to live the lives they deserve.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

A job is the right fit when you have a supportive job, helpful colleagues, it's the right culture fit, you're clear on your job description, you're learning a lot, and you're having fun. If you're not having fun and learning, is there a way you can make that happen? Do you feel comfortable talking to your boss to shift things around that are getting in your way to be more strategic to accomplish the goals that were set out for you to do? Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your boss wants - or should want - you to succeed.

Who are your role models?

My first fundraising boss could do anything and keep a calm demeanor and I admire her so much. My current CEO is the exact same way. They are intelligent, creative, dynamic, and collaborative. My mom was one of my greatest role models as she always taught me to be collaborative rather than competitive.

What is your morning ritual?

I get up, take my dog out, get my kids ready for school, try to fit in a quick 5 minute breathing exercise and then start meetings around 8:30AM as I have direct reports in Barcelona, the East Coast and West Coast.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

I love LinkedIn for making professional connections and a way to bounce ideas off each other.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower is never giving up and always seeing how I can turn any challenge into an opportunity. I'm also always willing to admit when I've made a mistake and apologize. Finally, I love giving credit to my incredible team because they deserve the applause.

What does success look like to you?

I feel successful now because I've worked for such tremendous companies so what more could I possibly ask for?

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I tend to be a workaholic but I love what I do? One no-fail tactic is when my dog and son are crawling all over me.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

You must absolutely go for it. You won't regret it and I'm happy to talk to you more about it!

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Each day is a new opportunity to start again.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

There is no such thing as balance, but you can get pretty good at juggling. Do your best at juggling and it's okay not to be perfect. You're doing your best and if you have an understanding boss who also has children, you're a superstar.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.