"Be ready to fight and work hard. Changing your career will not be easy. You will really need to put yourself out there to connect with people and let them get to know you."
Ellis Lanaux, United States
President of the IE Out & Allies Club
- Program studied
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am originally from New Orleans, LA and lived there until I went to Philadelphia, PA to get my degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I knew I wanted to do something to give back and help the city after I graduated. Thus, I decided to become a high school teacher in the public-school system in New Orleans. After two and a half years of teaching I chose to move to Istanbul to again work with high school students as a tutor for the Princeton Review. I had always wanted to live and work abroad and, after studying abroad in Istanbul during University, I was fascinated with the city. After almost two years in Istanbul I returned home to work with my family’s business in New Orleans. We own a small chain of gourmet grocery and wine stores and, after six years, I had completed a full digital transformation of the company and led its expansion into a new location. During that time, I realized I had a passion for digital transformation and technological solutions to business problems and thus decided to come to IE to earn an MBA and look for opportunities in the cloud computing space.
What brought you to pursue an MBA at IE? How and why did you decide to shift careers?
I decided to come to IE after I had finished all the projects I wanted to accomplish in my family’s business. I was running it together with my first cousin and, after streamlining the operations of the company with the use of digital solutions, we found that it really no longer required both of us to run it. Additionally, I discovered that my passion really lay with implementing these sorts of strategic solutions and thus I came to IE to find a path forward to those kinds of opportunities.
What are some of the challenges you are facing in your career? How is IE helping you in that?
The biggest challenge I am facing is the lack of direct experience on my resume as it relates to the jobs I am attempting to get. However, IE has put me in touch with a number of contacts who have helped educate me on the space I am entering and instructed me on how to present my history in order to align with the skills necessary to compete for these jobs. I think the most valuable thing at IE has been the people and the connections I have made.
What would you say to students who are thinking about shifting their careers?
Be ready to fight and work hard. Changing your career will not be easy. You will really need to put yourself out there to connect with people and let them get to know you. I think the most important thing when coming from an atypical background is to let people know the human side of you, to know your foundational strengths and weaknesses and then project from there on to how you would handle a particular job. You cannot expect your resume alone to speak for you.
Tell us more about the IE Out and Allies Club experience.
I have always been passionate about LGBT+ rights. However it was not until I came to IE that I become aware of the world of diversity and inclusion, its importance in the business world, and the number of companies and entities that are putting so much effort into and driving so much change in the acceptance of LGBT+ people in the workplace. I have met so many incredible people during this past year involved in this important cause and it has really become a passion of mine to invest in this work.
How and why did you become P of this club? What are your responsibilities as P?
A good friend of mine, Matt Davis, attended IE in 2016 and I came to visit him while he was here. He was a coordinator of the club at the time and through him I met Leonardo Lima, also a coordinator, and Michelle Raymond, then president. When I chose to come to IE myself, I met with Michelle, and feeling her passion for the club, I knew this was something I wanted to take on. I came to IE wanting not only to meet amazing people and get a great education, but to invest in something while I was here and make a difference. With the amazing work the Out Club does across a whole range of issues, I knew being President of the club was the opportunity I was looking for.
Will you keep supporting the Club once you graduate?
We are lucky enough to already know who the next president will be, Dmitri Tolkachov. I think the most important thing I can do going forward is to continue being a resource for Dima, to offer advice when he needs it, and to introduce him to all the amazing people that are affiliated with IE Out and Allies. Ideally, I will also convince my next employer to be a future sponsor for LGBT@Work.
Tell us more about the LGBT @ Work event.
I decided to give life to this event because the battle for LGBT+ diversity and inclusion in the work place in Spain is not over. LGBT@Work started 13 years ago because the Spanish business community was still very closed to LGBT+ people. Even recently a study said that only 40% of LGBT+ people in Spain feel comfortable being out in the workplace. It is the mission of LGBT@Work to get that number to 100% and we will not stop until we achieve it.
How did you gather so much momentum/sponsorships/attendees?
To me there are two reasons. One is the previous success of the conference. The growth of the conference over the past several years has been extraordinary and has really captured the attention of speakers and sponsors worldwide. The second is that ghd mission of the conference speaks to a shared mission of an entire ecosystem of companies and organizations. There are so many other entities out there who share LGBT@Work’s mission and we are lucky enough to have become a rallying point where they can all gather each other year to share stories, best practices, successes and failures, and learn and grow together.
What is your next step after graduating from IE? Where do you see yourself in the future?
While I have some ideas in my head of what I want to do and where I want to end up, the most important thing to me is to find a team and organization with a mission I believe in and team that shares my values. I really want to grow with a company over the next several years, ideally in the start-up world, as a way of developing the experience necessary to one day be an entrepreneur and start a company myself. Let’s see what the future holds.