As young professional women, we have read more Levo League articles than we can count and have watched all of the Office Hours videos. While watching Office Hours, which is a series of conversations with extraordinary leaders, we were fascinated not only with those being interviewed, but the woman doing most of the interviewing. Freyan Billimoria is the host of Office Hours and the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Levo League, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her for a Professional Spotlight.
Freyan has worked in luxury marketing, managed donor relations at Teach for America, and has been the Director of Development at The White House Project. Freyan now spends her time managing partnerships, engaging influencers and leaders, and producing and hosting Office Hours at Levo League. Freyan’s ambition, organization, and work ethic are truly inspiring. Read on to learn more about how Freyan has learned to be a leader, what a day in her busy life looks like, and her latest favorite books!
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”
Freyan Billimoria: Exploring your world, trying new things, and learning every day.
CJ: You created your own interdisciplinary major focused on globalization with a minor in English for your undergraduate degree. How did you determine what to study and why create your own major?
FB: I entered Berkeley interested in the impact of globalization, but every time I took a course – whether in political economics or development studies or English – I felt like I was missing a part of the story. In order to understand the full picture, I thought it was important to draw upon many disciplines. Plus, I always got to take classes I was passionate about!
CJ: You are the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Levo League. You also host and head production of the video series, Office Hours. What do your roles entail and what skills do your roles require?
FB: My role at Levo is a total mix of things – true startup style! I manage partnerships with corporate clients, from startups to Fortune 500s; help engage leaders and influencers as they get to know Levo; and produce and host interviews with folks like Natalie Morales and Ariel Foxman for Office Hours. This entails a lot of relationship management, the ability to oversee multiple projects, communication skills, a clear head under pressure, and a healthy dose of caffeine.
CJ: You’ve done many interesting things throughout your career such as organizing concerts in college, luxury marketing, managing donor relations at Teach for America, and being the Director of Development at The White House Project. What have you learned from these experiences and how have they influenced you with your current job?
FB: The importance of working meaningfully with people has been a huge thread throughout every role I’ve had. I’ve really learned the power of forming authentic relationships rather than operating transactionally. This mentality has been hugely helpful whether rallying community support for expansion, raising funds, navigating internal teams, or interviewing experts.
CJ: One aspect of your job entails producing events. What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in event planning?
FB: Event planning is one of my favorite activities, both in my personal and professional life! I think it’s vital that you have the ability to think strategically about the big picture – What is the purpose of the event? What do you want people to get out of it? How should they feel? – and to get incredibly micro when it comes to the details. And, of course, never underestimate the power of feeding people!
CJ: In your various roles, leadership has been important. How have you learned to lead and what does it mean to be a leader?
FB: I think leadership is always an evolution: no one is born a leader, and no one is ever finished with the process. I see it as the ability to move other people to collectively work towards an objective, especially in the face of uncertainty and changing conditions.
CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?
FB: My second role at Teach For America was working on a growth strategy team helping to launch new sites. The opportunity to deeply understand communities in places like Ohio, South Carolina, and Appalachia was incredibly exciting and rewarding. To say no two days were alike is an understatement – no two hours were alike! We developed relationships, formed partnerships with school districts and universities, raised funds, and changed laws – sometimes all in the same day!
CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?
FB: An average Monday starts with a quick breakfast of oatmeal with walnuts and dried cherries while powering through the news, emails… and, let’s be honest, my horoscope. Then it’s out the door I go. Once in our Union Square office, I set myself up with a cup of tea and dive in.
Mondays are chock full of meetings with our entire team, the editorial team, and occasionally the sales team. In between, I’m speaking with clients, working with our content team to plan for upcoming features, orchestrating future video shoots, navigating corporate requests, and wading my way through emails. In the evening, I head back to Brooklyn, where my partner and I convince ourselves to do a quick workout with varying degrees of success, and then give up and pour ourselves a glass of wine, sit down to dinner (favorites at the moment are homemade mushroom ramen and roasted eggplant with couscous and harissa), often with a friend dropping by. As it gets late, I close out a bit of work, take an old-lady constitutional around the neighborhood, and then it’s five minutes of (incredibly low-level) yoga before reading in bed.
CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?
FB: I’m obsessed with email organization and my Google calendar. The only things that remain in my inbox are open items that require action – everything else is filed, whether it goes under a client’s name, or strategic planning.
My calendar is my baby – I believe in including everything you need time to do, from meetings and personal appointment to reminders and general “work time.” I color code so at a glance I have a sense of where my energy will go throughout the day.
CJ: What are your favorite books?
CJ: Any favorite news publications?
CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?
FB: Learning to say no! At Levo, we’re lucky enough to have a lot of opportunities come our way, and part of my role is knowing how to graciously decline when the match or timing isn’t right. The same is true in my personal life – I’m learning to say a big YES to things that excite me, and a guiltless no when I find them draining.
CJ: What is a cause or issue that you care about and why?
FB: Ensuring women have opportunities to succeed is close to my heart. At Levo, we’re working to offer women the connections and resources they need to build careers and lives they’re passionate about – in turn, creating happier, healthier outcome for all of us.
CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?
FB: Some combination of walking around the neighborhood, shaking up a cocktail, planning an amazing Friday, and sleeping a whole bunch usually does the trick. The key is to get out of your head and remember that work is only one part of your life.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
FB: It’s all going to work out. Maybe not how or when you think it will, but amazing things are always around the corner.
Images by Freyan Billimoria