Curiosity. It’s the fundamental attribute of one of my greatest mentors. She seeks new experiences and regularly strives to develop and hone new talents. Her passion of decades is drawing out the best in herself and those around her. It’s what initially brought Liset Puentes into my life.
In her first semester as a transfer student, Liset was a journalist for the Nevada Sagebrush. She wrote stories about current events, the latest campus news, so she approached me for an interview as the founding Assistant Director at the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. With wide eyes and an unlimited series of questions, I had no idea this interview would be the first of many deep discussions with the woman who would later teach me more than I ever expected.
The semester after she published the article, I was hiring a media manager (i.e., Journalism student intern) at the Ozmen Center. There were a number of candidates but Liset stood out. She interviewed with a balance of confidence and humility; then her drive filled in the rest. I remember discussing her character and interests that made her the best fit for the position.
It’s like Liset was raised to be the leader of entrepreneurs. She stays calm and anchored, yet rides the waves of innovation, brilliantly contributing to the depth of an idea. With her natural curiosity, she works well with a variety of people and personalities. She cares about others and loves to see people ambitiously go after their big ideas.
I think her attitude and drive comes strongly from the influence of her family. Her father sought after his dream and became a sports reporter while Liset, the third out of four daughters, followed in her sisters’ footsteps, participating in debate and honors society at the Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas. She studied business and, just like her sister, she was elected the Nevada State President of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).
It takes the right amount of courage to run as the President of your peers in high school. Liset attributes her confidence in public speaking as her top asset growing up. Her father always asked lots of questions and groomed his daughters to regularly speak in front of people, including reciting poetry and storytelling at big family dinners.
Early on in her life, Liset learned some important lessons. In high school, she learned about responsibility. She was taking AP classes, was elected State President of FBLA and simultaneously served as the President of her school’s honors society. She was forced to learn time management and how to execute essential tasks. After a year with that lifestyle, Liset decided she doesn’t need to be doing a million things; she just needs to be doing a few things really well.
After high school, Liset took a chance on Saint Mary’s College in the Bay Area given its nice financial aid package. She had no idea what to expect from a small liberal arts school but put everything she could into it. It was bizarre sitting through discussion courses and walking away with no homework. In her first semester, Liset founded the Gael Sisterhood club with the vision that women would support each other, and as a result she attracted a community of friends. When Liset sought a Journalism education and Saint Mary’s didn’t offer that degree path, she reported for her own show Gael Vision and also applied for a student marketing position with the College.
It’s no surprise Liset founded a club, starting a reporting show and landed a job in marketing all in her first semester. She was determined to create her experience, regardless of whether it was available to her. But when the time came to sign up for her second semester, she knew in her gut Saint Mary’s wasn’t the right place. Her friends cried at her good-bye, but Liset left knowing something better would come on the other side.
She was accepted last minute into UNLV and spent her second semester back in Las Vegas. After being completely miserable, she looked to Northern Nevada. With her best friend at UNR, Liset took the plunge and moved to Reno to start her sophomore year of college. She took a similar path and started to create the experience she wanted. She quickly began writing for the Nevada Sagebrush.
On one of her first assignments, she chose to interview me for the story. I didn’t realize this at the time, but Liset knew after the interview that we would work together. She was right and I didn’t hire her for any other reason than because she was the best fit for the position. Liset was hired to fill specific needs with the Ozmen Center’s social media platform and newsletter publication. Little did we know that she would teach herself graphic design, video editing/producing and everything in-between to expand into a bigger role at The Center.
I didn’t mention this before, but during the time Liset studied Journalism and worked at the Ozmen Center, she was also a leadership facilitator. She was involved in Triumph Leadership (TRI Leadership Resources) and was a DECA coach. She traveled to conferences around the country where she incorporated design principles with life and leadership lessons. The workshop she offered was called, “Design Your Life”. She was also the recipient of the Nevada Broadcasters Association full-time scholarship and two years in a row was awarded scholarships by the Nevada Women’s Fund.
At the beginning of this story, I hinted that curiosity is Liset’s greatest tip for excellence. It’s what drives her to learn and teach herself new things. It’s what connects her to people and brings her opportunities she may not have otherwise had. It’s what initiates her recipe to design her life. We all have choices and Liset let’s her curiosity and passion for life drive her down pathways that can offer her the greatest learning and growth opportunities.
Two years ago, Liset came to me as a journalist for the Nevada Sagebrush. With wide eyes and unlimited questions, the multi-hour discussion became the first story on the Ozmen Center. She applied for a position at The Center and quickly became our greatest asset. I had no idea when I moved onto a new role in the community that I’d be leaving my first intern in the position I created for myself. I recommended that she take my place and couldn’t be more proud that she confidently leaned in as the new Manager of the Ozmen Center.
I’ve always been a firm believer that anyone, no matter their age, can be a mentor and be mentored but not always in the way we think. When we choose to hire someone or make the decision to take on an experience, we are opening ourselves up to reflection we would not have otherwise had. The work Liset and I completed together went well beyond the goals of the Ozmen Center, she taught me how to ask myself the right questions that continue to show me how to design the life I’ve always wanted.