HerStory: Women’s Career Journeys

Becoming a Leader: An Interview with Dominique Kleeman

Huzzle Author Charlie
Holly Stocker

Dominique Kleeman's professional narrative is a testament to the transformative power of ambition, resilience, and strategic career planning. As she charts her journey from a small town in Pennsylvania to a pivotal role at AlphaSights in London, her experiences offer a wealth of insights for young women aspiring to carve out their own paths in the world of work. Dominique’s story is not just about career advancement; it’s a blueprint for young women seeking to navigate their own paths in the complex world of work.

From Small-Town Roots to Global Perspectives

Raised in a small part of Pennsylvania, Kleeman’s aspiration to escape her hometown and explore the world drove her educational and career decisions. She reflects, "My primary goal was to be successful and financially independent. The first step was to go to university in a big city.” The combination of being the first in her family to attend university and the need to finance her education shaped her early career outlook, instilling in her a strong sense of purpose and determination.

Her passion for languages and international relations was kindled early on with exposure to French, Spanish, and Russian at high school, which led her to pursue a degree in international studies. Dominique’s experience at a congressional leadership camp further solidified her interest in diplomacy and law, steering her towards American University in Washington D.C., renowned for its international relations program and study abroad opportunities.

Internships and Early Career Explorations

During her time in university, Dominique completed an extensive series of internships that allowed her to explore various sectors including government, politics, and environmental advocacy. “When you’re a student the number one thing I can recommend you do, even if it's not required, is work. Try different things, get an internship, shadow a professional”. Work experience was invaluable, providing her with a broad view of career paths while highlighting her preferences and strengths. "I learned so much about where I get my energy from, what I value in a role and what I don’t like doing," she shares.

She recounts the challenging yet valuable experience of one of her internships as a fundraiser canvasser, a summer job while at university for her to pay her rent, where she learned about perseverance and determination. She recalls the ups and downs, the stress every week of hitting the targets, potentially losing her job if she didn’t, and also the adrenaline rush every time she did. Despite facing hardships, she found fulfilment in the job and acknowledged that the experience shaped her understanding of her strengths and career preferences. “I now reflect that if I'd embraced the challenges as learning opportunities and focused on the elements of the job I really enjoyed and my successes in the role, I would have entered a commercial sales role sooner than I did.”

Dominique advises students to pay attention to moments of enjoyment and success, as they can provide valuable insights into potential career paths. Her foray into the professional world began with a role at a leading law firm, where she quickly realised that her passion did not lie in this field. This realisation prompted a pivot towards more commercially focused roles, eventually leading her to AlphaSights, a global leader in knowledge on-demand. Dominique’s decision to join the then-startup over safer, more established career paths exemplifies a willingness to embrace risk for the potential of greater reward and personal growth.

Pivotal Moments and The Leap to Leadership

Dominique identifies several key moments in her career that significantly influenced her trajectory. The transition from the legal sector to AlphaSights allowed her to tap into her leadership skills and professional interests in a more meaningful way. The move to London to take on the pivotal operational role of building the European business amid the uncertainties of Brexit and the pandemic tested her resilience and adaptability. Reflecting on these experiences, she says, "It's been so rewarding to try on different roles and responsibilities outside of what I knew and see what I like even further."

Throughout her journey, Dominique has relied on a "glam squad" approach to mentorship, seeking guidance and support from a diverse group of individuals rather than a single mentor. “I have this one individual who is great at offering only constructive criticism, I’ll ask her to tell me all the reasons why an initiative won’t work. I have other mentors who are the Yes people, who will ask me ‘What do you need to hear right now?’ when you just need to hear ‘you’ve got this”. This strategy has enabled her to navigate challenges and hone her leadership skills effectively. However, she also believes it is important to rely on someone who is not in the detail but understands her role. This external guidance provides valuable insights and helps her maintain perspective in challenging situations.

Embracing Challenges and Balancing Priorities

Dominique candidly discusses the challenges of being a woman in leadership, particularly in navigating emotional expression in a professional context. She strives to build her emotional intelligence and assert her voice in a controlled and respected manner, especially in moments of confronting emotional responses from male peers, such as anger. Looking towards the future, Dominique emphasises the value of resilience and intentionality in career growth. Her aspirations involve leveraging her experiences to make impactful contributions, both within AlphaSights and through external networking and volunteering efforts.

To her 18-year-old self, Dominique would advise focusing on skills, interests, and environments that foster confidence and fulfilment. Asking ourselves key questions like "what am I interested in? How do I focus on carving a career path that combines my interests and strengths? What am I good at?" allow us to find roles that align with our strengths and passions.

Dominique’s journey is a testament to the power of embracing change, seeking diverse experiences, and making bold choices in pursuit of career success Her story offers invaluable lessons for young women aiming to navigate their own paths with grit, grace, and a deep understanding of their own values and capabilities.

Holly Stocker
Working to allow everyone access to a career they love and deserve. Passionate about start-ups, tech and diversity and inclusion.
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