Darlington School: Alumni Spotlight: Kristin (Schlenk) Danganan ('83)
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Alumni Spotlight: Kristin (Schlenk) Danganan (’83)

Vicki Vincent | April 19, 2017 | 953 views

Alumni Spotlight is an ongoing blog series that features interviews with a variety of Darlington alumni about their careers and the impact their Darlington experience had on their lives. This week, I am excited to share a Q&A with Kristin (Schlenk) Danganan ('83).
Kristin lives and works in Orlando, Fla., as CEO of 6th Power, a leadership development company. Kristin launched her 20+ year career at PepsiCo as a Florida State University campus hire with a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. As the first female in the ’90s to lead a territory sales operation team in a tough-minded bottling culture, Kristin successfully navigated the executive ranks of PepsiCo through strategic business results and pragmatic perseverance. Her multi-faceted experience ranges from leading high-performance sales teams, territory P&L management, customer insights and marketing, and National PepsiCo Customer Strategy and Global Sales and Marketing Capability. She has since added Certified Executive Coach with ICF-ACC accreditation to her repertoire. Her professional leadership passion for empowering others combined with her insatiable quest for adventure embodies the magic of 6th Power’s unique Leader Corps experience. 

Hear directly from Kristin below.


What is your best memory from your time at Darlington?


Buying a crème puff during morning break in the school store after starving from early morning swim practice! On a serious note, it’s really about the friends that surrounded me while buying that crème puff. We work so hard in our achievements both academically and athletically, but our legacy and best memories are always in the relationships and connections we’ve made. It’s difficult to narrow down those connections to a single moment, so instead I describe my best memory of Darlington as a feeling; the feeling of joy in the simplicity, nurturing, and enrichment of “Dar life” with people that helped shape my outlook and perspective. That joy stems from gratitude for the friendships I not only had while in school, but most importantly the sustainability of many of those friendships in my life today. Darlington created an atmosphere to construct meaningful connections and friendships that were steeped in growth and excellence. The crème puff was just icing on the cake!  

Which teacher(s) had a positive influence on your life?


A cadre of teachers influenced my growth and maturation, but one stands out: Brad Gioia. To be clear, if you had asked me this question while I was actually attending Darlington, he would likely have been at the bottom of my list, as he was my most challenging teacher. I was far from Mr. Gioia’s best student and struggled to keep up with the literary rigor he engineered. My returned graded essays and research papers could have easily been mistaken for crime scene documents, painted in red with markings everywhere. While I was accustomed to a B or C paper grade, I do recall a proud moment receiving an A on a research paper. I originally thought I had someone else’s paper by accident and then realized it was in fact my work. I often wonder if he was watching me as I looked at my grade in complete disbelief and then with the pride of accomplishing the seemingly impossible. Hopefully he knew what a confidence boost he had given me in that moment. It reinforced an attitude to never give up, that if you keep pushing forward and learning through failed attempts, eventually you’ll find the recipe for success. That philosophy served me well when I entered the business world straight out of college, green and unaware of the rules for success. It wasn’t easy being the first female in a male-dominated industry, but I never gave up and learned the ingredients to the recipe for growth and advancement. I know my entire Darlington experience contributed to that mental acuity, but Mr. Gioia is the most demonstrable example of helping me overcome obstacles and strive for greatness.  

What was your career path after graduating from Darlington?


I graduated from Florida State University with a business marketing degree and was hired on campus by PepsiCo before graduating.  As mentioned, I was the first female in almost everything I did back then and worked hard for 25 years climbing the corporate ladder to an executive level. I left PepsiCo while leading Global Sales Capability and National Customer Strategy with my degree of influence at this multi-national conglomerate at an all-time high. It was difficult to forego a thriving career, but my destiny was meant to impact our future leadership talent in a broader and more meaningful way. I created 6th Power to help individuals and organizations achieve peak potential, lead with empathy, and deliver growth with positive impact. Leader Corps is our flagship offering targeted at getting college students ready for professional life after college in a globally immersive way. I realized, through mentoring younger talent in the corporate world, that as highly educated as this generation of emerging leaders is, there’s still a huge void in connecting individual purpose and skills to the appropriate skills necessary to thrive beyond academic life. It’s my passion to help individuals achieve their maximum potential, so impacting college students with the confidence to lead with heart is an immensely rewarding endeavor. We also influence beyond the college student and provide executive coaching, individual awareness to maximize potential, and leadership curriculum that focuses on demonstrating a philosophy of going Beyond I.Q., aka leading with E.Q. I continue to define my career path and love every minute of it!


What do you like most about the career you have chosen?


My corporate career was an incredible journey that helped me grow exponentially as an individual contributor as well as an influential leader. It led me to what I like most about my career now; the ability to see others have the “aha” moment as they grow and experience themselves in a new way. Seeing those lightbulb moments and the joy in increased confidence to step into one’s own light is incredibly rewarding to me. Ideally, I wish I could have had an experience like Leader Corps early in my career to have the same. I’ve come to realize that until you discover your own personal value and how you’ll best connect it to your value system, it’s difficult to truly contribute at your highest level. While I clawed my way to obtain the ingredients for leadership success, I realize now that my cupboard wasn’t fully stocked with all the perspective I needed to maximize my own talent. I live by no regrets, only learning, so I’m grateful that my corporate life has led me to this point of genuinely choosing a career of giving back, emboldening others, and creating great leaders for our future.

What impact has Darlington had on your career success?


It’s simple, work ethic. I transitioned to Darlington in seventh grade from public school and initially had a very difficult time keeping up with the academic expectations and pace. I always had to work a little harder just to keep up with everyone else. As a result, I think it instilled a work ethic and drive that likely would not have been as prominent elsewhere. That mindset served me throughout my career not only for my own success, but also when hiring talent. I always sought talent that demonstrated a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and desire to go above and beyond. It’s easy to teach someone with a strong work ethic the necessary skills of a job, but it’s difficult to teach someone who might have strong technical skills a strong work ethic if they don’t already have it. It’s a mindset and it represents our philosophy at 6th Power to go Beyond IQ and lead with traits such as purpose, empathy, and courage.

Darlington’s Motto is “Wisdom more than Knowledge, Service beyond Self, and Honor above Everything.” What ways have you applied the motto to your life?


I think we have the same motto! The Darlington motto truly exemplifies what the crux of Leader Corps is all about. I experienced everything this aphorism purports during a month-long leadership program in South Africa. Living in Blouberg, South Africa, one of the highest poverty and AIDS-stricken areas, while helping citizens create sustainable processes for survival, was a game-changer for me. It’s one thing to know there are starving people in other communities around the world; it’s another thing to create friendships with them while living as a resident of the community. Learning that women were eating rocks to fill their bellies so they could give their grandchildren some food (the parents dead from AIDS) is almost too difficult to comprehend. To actually meet one of those women, have her hug you and tell you that visiting them is a gift from God, is overwhelming. This is the true definition of wisdom more than knowledge.


I academically understood life existed in this form, but I didn’t have the wisdom that experiencing it gave me. This is why all of our Leader Corps sessions are partnered with Rustic Pathways, a global student travel company that specializes in local service experiences. Our first session is this summer in Peru and it will be an eye-opening experience about what’s happening to communities in the Amazon Jungle with deforestation, how girls in the Sacred Valley don’t have access to education even though the boys do, and what living sustainably in the villages really means. We guarantee every person will return from the program impacted with a sense of purpose, gratitude, and perspective beyond self. It really is a game-changing way to understand and embody Honor above Everything.   

What do you hope for the future of Darlington and its students?


Of course I hope all Darlington students eventually join us in Leader Corps! However, regardless of whether they learn it on a Leader Corps immersion or they discover it on their own, I hope every alum realizes a love for global travel that authentically immerses them in cultures uniquely different from their lives. Our winter break program will be conducted in Dominican Republic, which for some means island resorts and tropical beauty. While our students will see that life, they will immerse in the real challenges and needs of a culture and community rarely understood by the outside eye. This perspective creates genuine gratitude for all that we have in America and sparks a deep desire to give back and serve others both locally and globally. Those that are able to achieve this depth of empathy are our best chance at future leaders that inspire collaboration and growth for common good. Darlington is the foundation for this perspective and I’m proud to be a Tiger that reflects the values and philosophy of meaningful servant leadership.