After graduating from Whitfield, Danielle attended Stanford University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and a Master in Organizations, Business and Sociology. Danielle Kayembe is a female futurist and serial entrepreneur with a focus on projects at the intersection of women, innovation, and impact. Her expertise in technology, blockchain, and global economic policy makes her a frequent speaker at CES, SXSW, Cannes Lions, Blockchain Unbound, and the United Nations. Through her company GreyFire, she has an established track record of mentoring startups and advising large corporations on identifying overlooked and underrepresented initiatives. She is also currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at Nike.
Featured on CNBC, Forbes, Refinery29, Danielle is the author of "The Silent Rise of the Female-Driven Economy," a viral white paper centered on women and the future of innovation that reached an audience of over 1,000,000 readers. Danielle has over 10 years of experience in international consulting and finance in New York, London, and Africa and has worked on over $25 billion in business transactions for global banks.
She is an advisor to social impact startups and a mentor to Columbia University’s business accelerator, Digital Undivided, and Backstage Capital. She is an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, awarded to 20 Global Social Impact Entrepreneurs each year. Danielle has lectured at Yale School of Management, Barnard College, and Princeton University.
What message did you share with the Class of 2022 at graduation?
I focused on three messages: First, be true to yourself. Trust what makes you happy and follow what makes you come alive. Follow what gives your life meaning and purpose. Second, stay curious. Things will not always go your way. Never leave a situation without a lesson. Sometimes, you will have jobs or classes you don’t like. Always ask yourself in any situation: what am I learning that I can take with me? Am I learning a new skill or learning something about myself?
And finally, remember that it is your differences that make you special. I shared the larger truth that all of us - based on our unique perspectives - experience the world differently. And that those little daily discomforts you experience are valuable data points - because if something bothers you, it bothers millions of people.
Your unique perspective creates opportunities that no one but you can see. Your mission in life is to figure out how to use your combination of gifts and skills to make this world a better place. Your journey will be defined by how you use who you are, and what you learn, to build things that improve people’s lives - to make them feel seen, supported, and celebrated.
What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside of the classroom?
The quality of the teachers I had fostered a lot of imagination, openness, proactive learning, and discovery. In addition, I always felt like my opinions were valid and important; there were no wrong questions. Everyone in the classroom contributed in their own ways to the conversations we had, and that has always stayed with me. In my adult life, I have never felt shy to speak up, whether it was in a lecture hall, business meeting, or in front of a large audience.
What were your primary interests and activities while you were at Whitfield?
I was on Whitfield’s founding lacrosse team, the cross country team, and the dance squad. I was a leader in Model U.N. and President of Amnesty International. I also loved art and took this passion beyond the classroom; I even submitted an art portfolio to my prospective colleges.
What opportunities did Whitfield provide you that you might not have had elsewhere?
Whitfield provided me with the opportunity to try anything and everything I wanted. From dance squad to lacrosse to choir to Model U.N., if I wanted to be involved, I could be. The faculty sponsors encouraged me to explore my interests and supported me in this process.
What skills do you use in your career that you began forming at Whitfield?
My career has been shaped by curiosity. Whitfield was a place where I felt the freedom to explore things I was curious about, whether inside or outside of the classroom. I feel like I learned how to learn. I gained confidence in taking on new things. As a result, I’ve always felt confident to make changes and do things outside of my comfort zone. Whitfield reinforced for me that you can choose to learn anything that you want if you are curious and passionate.
Whitfield also helped me feel confident in my voice, and this confidence grew through class seminars and discussions. I’ve never questioned that my voice deserves to be in the room, and I don’t think everyone gets that from their education.