We had the good fortune of connecting with Johanna Tropiano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johanna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve stumbled into risk taking. It’s not necessarily a trait I would have chosen for myself, but I’m told over and over again by friends and colleagues that one of the things they most admire about me is my lack of fear for “stepping into new things.” This year I’m turning 40, and as I look back at my life and career, I definitely see a pattern of “risky” decisions. I’ve never been afraid of change and the challenges that come with that. But I suppose it’s more how we define risk. Most of the key decisions in my life that others would view as “risky”, felt more like taking the risk was the only option especially if I wanted to grow as a person. So I would say yes, risk is good, but it’s most definitely been calculated and centered around personal and professional growth. Every decision I’ve made, personal or careerwise, I’ve made trusting I would be ok whatever the outcome. For example, in 2014, I left a great job working for a large anti-trafficking organization for a small tech-based start-up that was going to disrupt slavery in supply chains using proprietary technology. I knew it was a huge risk to leave a stable organization and move to a start-up. But I was stuck in my career and not growing. Within three months, the start-up folded, and I was out of a job. While it was a difficult time in my life, I grew tremendously. It lead to many great opportunities for me, including co-founding a non-profit, writing a book, getting into fundraising consulting, and most recently, helping lead a global organization on adopting new fundraising strategies. And I’m very proud of all of that work.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My career has had many fun turns. I started as a 7th grade teacher, then moved into pharma sales for nearly a decade. In 2011, I changed course completely, left my small Tennessee hometown behind and moved to DC to work for the largest anti-trafficking organization in the world. Activism would prove to be the career I most love. I’m a survivor of child sexual assault and domestic violence, so fighting for equality and anti-abuse is what gives me life. It has not been easy. But I don’t think any good work is, nor should it be. To do effective activist work, I’ve had always look inward in order to acknowledge the blind spots and lingering trauma that could hold me back from engaging in activism in a healthy and effective way. I’ve always believed that an activist’s greatest strength lies in his/her vulnerability. That’s what I always try to model and that’s how I approach my work and also the book I’m working on.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so much to do in Long Beach, LA, even Palos Verdes, so I’d focus on those areas. In Long Beach, we’d do lots of vintage shopping at 6th and Detroit, Make Collectives, Ay Que Vintage, The Hangout. We’d do dinner and wine on Retro Row, maybe start at Lola’s for taco tuesday and then head across the street to Art Du Vin. In LA, it’s all about the Museums for me. I’m a museum junkie. And not being able to go since Covid has been tough. I get so much inspiration from LACMA and The Getty. I’d love to finish the week hiking in Palos Verdes. We’d check out Wayfarer’s Chapel, hike down to a secret tide pool and then finish with guacemole and drinks at Terrenea Resort.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve had many great people who have leant me valuable council over the years. But most recently, I want to shout out to my book coach, Ziza Bauer. I’ve been working on a memoir for three years, and she has helped me craft and cultivate my voice. She’s been such a champion for me.