E10 S11 Scaling& Leading: A Career in Social Justice, Academia, and Philanthropy

Summary & Key Takeways

In this episode, we sit down with Sushma Raman, President and CEO of the Heising-Simons Foundation, to explore her high-impact diverse career journey and the valuable insights she's gained along the way. As a leader in the realms of social justice, academia, and philanthropy, Sushma shares her experiences and lessons learned, with deep insights into careers in philanthropy, changemaking and beyond

Key Takeaways and Career Tips:

  • Embrace lifelong learning: Sushma's early experiences in activism taught her the importance of continuous learning and growth. To excel in a changemaking career cultivate a mindset of curiosity and adaptability.
  • Navigate the philanthropy-academia intersection: The intersection of philanthropy and academia presents unique challenges and opportunities. Learn to leverage the strengths of both worlds to drive meaningful change, just as the Heising Simmons Foundation has done through its strategic approach to education, climate action, and democracy.
  • Develop essential skills: To thrive in the philanthropy and changemaking sector, hone your negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution abilities. Seek out workshops, trainings, and mentorship opportunities to refine these crucial skills.
  • Tailor your applications: When applying for roles or funding opportunities in philanthropy, align your applications with funders' missions, Showcase your leadership experience and expertise to stand out from other candidates.
  • Stay informed: Keep your finger on the pulse of the philanthropy world by following foundation websites and LinkedIn pages. This will help you stay up-to-date on job openings, grant announcements, and industry trends.

Resources and Further Reading:

For those looking to dive deeper into the topics discussed in this episode, Sushma recommends two powerful reads:

  • "The Coming Good Society," co-authored by Sushma herself, offers a thought-provoking exploration of human rights and philanthropy.
  • "How the Word is Passed" by Clint Smith provides a poignant examination of America's history with slavery.

About Sushma: Sushma Raman is the President and CEO of the Heising-Simons Foundation, and serves on the Board of Directors. She is an interdisciplinary and experienced philanthropic leader, bringing over two decades of experience in launching, scaling, and leading social justice and philanthropic programs and collaboratives. This includes building the capabilities of grassroots human rights organizations and their leaders. Sushma has also taught graduate courses in the public policy schools at UCLA, USC, Tufts Fletcher School, and Harvard Kennedy School.

She serves as a Board Member at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2023, she was the Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy since 2015. Her extensive background also includes roles at the Ford Foundation, where she launched and managed a $100 million global initiative to support emerging human rights and women’s funds, and at the Open Society Foundation, coordinating a significant grantmaking program. Additionally, Sushma led the Southern California Grantmakers association as its President from 2007 to 2012.

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