Diana DeJesus is a Boise, ID-based entrepreneur and queen of all things collaboration! She is an Associate Director of Admissions at Idaho College of Law, as well as the founder of Collaboration Over Competition Mixer, LLC—a female-centric collective consisting of monthly networking mixers, business training workshops, and a membership-only portal called The Collab Collective.
Read our interview with her below to learn more about her career journey and learn from her incredible experiences and wisdom. Thank you, Dianna!
How did you determine what you wanted to study in college?
For my undergraduate major, I was inspired to pursue a degree in biological science due to my middle school & high school experiences. I was enrolled in an accelerated program catered to STEM-inclined middle-school students. I continued to study science when I was in high school.
Due to my various co-curricular and extracurricular activities, I became fond of public service opportunities. I decided to pursue a master’s in public administration to gain a foundation for administration within the public sector. The curriculum included procurement, administrative law, statistical analysis, and non-profit management.
And then decide to pursue and obtain both a JD and MPA?!
Yes, I wanted to maximize my credentials and career possibilities by pursuing an MPA and JD. With the skills obtained from both degrees and academic rigors, I acquired highly coveted skills such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, as well as gained sharp business acumen thanks to my academic training.
Walk me through your initial job search strategy and how you landed your first full-time role. Anything you know now that you wish you knew then?
Searching for a job post-law school is a part-time venture within itself. Given that I was only limiting myself to the Maine region (due to personal choice), I also limited by opportunities. After preparing hundreds of cover letters, variations of my resume, engaging in various interviews – I finally secured a position with the Maine Department of Aging Services as a grant writer. After a few winding roads, I ultimately started my career in the area I desired: higher education administration.
You’re a higher ed professional but also an entrepreneur (two things close to my heart!). Tell me about how Collaboration Over Competition Mixer came to be?
As the creative director of Boise Bucket List, I was meeting various women within the community eager to collaborate. Through my conversations with these women, it became apparent that they were seeking a safe space to meet other like-minded women. With my community-building hat on, I decided to fill this gap and created my first Collab mixer. Originally, I thought this would be a single event. Due to the demand and interest, I am now heading into a full year of Mixers (500+ women attended the events), a thriving social media presence, and the creation of a member-only portal.
What makes you so passionate about collaboration? Why is it important to you?
To me, collaboration is an opportunity to seek ideas, mindsets, and thoughts different from yours. It’s an opportunity to sit at the same table, engage in critical conversations, and identify ways to work together. I thrive in collaborative settings; it’s how I have emerged as a leader within my community.
Collaboration is important to me because it drives people coming together for a common purpose. To illustrate, two women met at a Collab Mixer last summer. As a result, they identified a business opportunity that would positively benefit Idaho women. They created #SheNetworksBoise — a monthly meetup where women learn about topics relating to social media strategy development. These women probably would have eventually met one another; my Collab Mixers provided them with the space to meet + immediately facilitate change.
What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue a full-time job as well as a passion project on the side (that could possibly turn into a full-time role!)?
Let your passion drive you and serve as an escape. Many ask me if I plan to quit my full-time job and pursue my “side hustles” full-time. My answer is no. My full-time job provides me with joy in various ways than my side-hustles. They equally add to my emotional bucket and give me balance.
If, however, you feel that passion project is taking over your life and you see it being a full-time career, do not hesitate to take that leap of faith. Many have done it and are proud to work for themselves and seeking a fulfilled life.
How do you define purpose in your life?
I live a purpose-driven life. I need to align myself with a career path that serves a purpose (helping underserved communities pursue their dream of attending law school) or pursue side hustles that also satisfy my purpose craving. My overall purpose in life is to inspire everyday people to celebrate the small moments in life, to enjoy the life around them.
I’m blessed with inspiring others to explore their city through my brand Boise Bucket List and inspire women to believe in their unique qualities and gifts with my Collab Mixers.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I have mentors that are part of my CollabCollective. Truthfully, I gain my inspiration from my mother and sister. My family is my source of inspiration and support (including my father and brother).
Final words of wisdom to young women who are strategizing to reach their education, career, or wellness goals?
You will doubt yourself. You may even battle with self-doubt and the imposter syndrome. When you face these naysayers or self-imposed negative thoughts, remember your purpose & who you are.
Your life is a journey, and it will be filled with triumphs and obstacles. Whether it’s the academic rigor of your education, many doors closed during your career search or multiple attempts to maintain wellness – you WILL persevere, and mindset is everything. Once YOU believe in yourself, the world is yours.
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