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Chico State

5 Questions with Lauren Gruwell

Lauren Gruwell speaks at a conference.
Courtesy photo

As an undergraduate, Lauren Gruwell (Psychology, ’09) was fascinated by psychology but didn’t see it as her dream career. Little did she know a minor in marketing would prove the perfect complement, blending her interest in business with the study of humans. She began her career at a large tech company, worked for four years at Insight Global, and then returned to the large tech company, where she is now a business development manager, managing a portfolio of payments technology partners for North America. She shared her journey with students this spring at the College of Business Women in Business Summit, hoping to inspire and empower the next generation of Wildcat women.

What does the Chico Experience mean to you?

Class sizes were small, and I had easy access to all of my professors. I always felt challenged, supported, and that my professors really cared about the curriculum and their students. And it’s where I made some of the most impactful personal relationships of my life. I am still incredibly close with all of my Wildcat best friends I met at Whitney Hall and throughout my four years there. Beyond the classroom, the fellow students, campus, and the surrounding town, parks, and charm, made CSU, Chico my very own collegiate Disneyland. I hope my kids go there one day!

What college experiences still resonate with you today?

My favorite class was with psychology professor Penelope Kuhn, in which we got to literally examine brains! They were sheep brains, if I recall. I learned so much in that one course, I can still name every section of the brain and why it matters. It emulated what I love about psychology, it was like an educational drug for me. The concepts were incredibly complex and difficult, and I’m so grateful for the time I had to spend with Professor Kuhn to really understand them. Also, I joined the American Marketing Association student chapter, and I auditioned for and landed a role on Bill McGowan’s National Student Advertising Campaign Competition Team. That was the No. 1 most impactful experience for understanding what I wanted to do with my career. I loved the building, collaborating, innovating, working with a team, working to develop a campaign with different media, telling a compelling story, balancing a budget—all of it. Whether I knew it or not at the time, this became the foundation for what I still love to do today. 

When and how did you discover that business is what you wanted to do with your life?

Early on, I did perceive a “businesswoman” as what I wanted to be. I had no idea what that meant, but I wanted to work in tech, I wanted to make an impact, I wanted to get in the ring with the boys. I thought that being a woman in business was a way to do that. I wanted to be perceived as equal to men—and men were in business. I wanted the opportunity to afford a comfortable lifestyle and to continuously learn, be challenged, and interact with really smart people. I didn’t quite understand what that meant for my job title, and I’m only now (10 years later) beginning to figure out my true path. I’m currently in business development, which is this wonderful mix of sales, marketing, creating, partnerships, innovation—the best that business has to offer!

What qualities do you think make a good business person?

Beyond the tactical skills, I think the most important qualities lie in a business person’s brand—how you choose to show up and how you interact with your colleagues, vendors, partners, and boss. Your brand must be authentic and naturally shine through. I think the key to building that brand is by operating with integrity and working hard. Always do what’s right in front of you and to your very best ability. People will notice your commitment to your work and to the team or company. I also think just being kind to anyone and everyone you interact with will take you further than any perfection of negotiation skills you can acquire. Becoming a kind teammate, colleague, boss, deskmate, partner can help you grow and build your network. It’s just that simple. 

What advice do you have for women currently enrolled in the College of Business?

Take advantage of every opportunity CSU, Chico has to offer, to learn and grow and extend yourself in every way possible. Get involved, join groups on campus—or start one yourself. Reach out to any and all mentors you have access to. Take time to meet with your professors. Hear their stories. Beyond the classroom, they can teach you so, so much. I understand the data shows there are fewer women than men enrolled in the College of Business today. Make it your mission to make your voice the loudest! Speak up, speak out, raise your hand, make an impact.