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Alumni Spotlight: Kate Solley Sullivan

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight


1990’s Decade
: Kate Solley Sullivan
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1999
High School: PACE Academy
College: Furman University 
Current Role: Director, Technical Program Management, Warner Bros. Discovery 

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

21CL helped shape my understanding of leadership at an early age. It’s not just management, people with big titles, or the “face of the brand.”  I learned leaders can play roles at all levels regardless of their role or the size of their sandbox. 

I began a career in project management. I didn’t have a dedicated team, but I was in a highly-matrixed organization with high expectations and many competing priorities. In order to be effective in my job I had to lead through influence. I had to tailor my messaging to my audience. I had to apply my etiquette lessons and learn how to present myself in a way that brought respect, but also how to build and maintain relationships with a diverse mix of people.

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.)

The 21CL summer camp was an eye-opening experience for me.  As a self-proclaimed introvert and a teenager with limited life experiences, I met a very diverse group of kids that gave me lots of new perspectives and appreciation for different life paths.  

I remember a girl in my group sharing that she was going to be the first in her family to finish high school and go to college.  I had taken it for granted that I was expected to go to college, and I remember thinking, “That’s impressive!” Charting new territory and going where no one in her family had gone before seemed adventurous, but she was brave and confident.  

Another highlight was after camp when I met a camp teammate up in north Georgia to go hiking.  He was from the mountains, and I lived in Atlanta.  Towards the end of the hike, he was laughing as he realized the things my city ears were not tuned to hear or recognize.  He started to point things out and tell me what I was hearing.  We have so much to learn from one another!

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how? 

One thing 21CL taught me and I hope I practice regularly is to be a good listener. Good leadership does not resemble a dictatorship. A leader should never lose touch with the people they want to lead or represent, so it is important to hear their thoughts, concerns, suggestions, and give that insight thoughtful consideration.

Why do you believe programs like 21CL are important? And what advice would you give to a current or future student?

I think programs like 21CL are important because they help provide tools and perspectives that most people don’t get elsewhere, or don’t get until they are in the work world.  But to get opportunities, it’s helpful to know how to interact with adults, how to conduct oneself in a business setting, how to present ideas so that the audience is both engaged and understanding the message.  Having access to practice these skills with real business professionals is more meaningful and impactful than role-playing with your peers, and more positive and empowering than learning through trial and error or worse yet failure.

Share the inspiration!