Devry Boughner Vorwerk balances many careers (CEO, Activist, Mom)

by | Dec 23, 2022

Meet Devry Boughner Vorwerk. She’s a multi-careerist based in Minnesota and a friend. We’ve known each other for years, and we recently met at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. She has infectious energy and is leveraging her skills for the global good.

Devry’s careers:

  • CEO of Global ESG/Sustainability Advisory and Strategy Firm
  • Agripreneur (food + ag tech start ups)
  • Professional Presenter and Public Speaker
  • International Trade/Geopolitical Expert + Adviser
  • Food Security Activist and NGO Founder
  • Executive Career Adviser
  • Elementary School Track Coach (yes, its a paid position)
  • Kick a$$ mom (paid in love)

On her motivations for having many careers

I am passionate about the food system and ending hunger and malnutrition, so that all humans can reach their full potential.

I have come to realize there are many ways beyond a singular corporate career to impact change across business, communities, cultures and countries.

Having the flexibility to decide where to put myself to first best use really inspires me and ensures that I do not get locked into a rigid agenda of any one entity.

On how long she’s had these careers

I am still in the process of perfecting my portfolio.

I began to deliberately construct the “portfolio career” in mid-2019 when I left my corporate role.

That said, the core elements of the portfolio have been in the making since I set my career goals in college.

My longstanding goal was (and still is) to be a global leader in food and agriculture in either government, business, or the non-profit sector.

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

Sit and be still and breathe into the impact you want to have in the world.

Center yourself on the impact so that when opportunities present themselves you have a core filter to use to determine whether you should spend time on that opportunity.

Also, spend time on creating your own P+L for the portfolio and estimating the revenue streams for each activity. Run your portfolio like a business.

On overcoming obstacles

As a corporate officer for a global company, I found it difficult to manage anything other than the corporate role, and it was not acceptable to have other “allegiances” beyond the company, so the biggest set back I had was remaining inside the corporate apparatus.

I overcame the set back by having the courage to leave and start my own company at the young age of 45.

On how a multiple careers are mutually beneficial

On the personal level the benefit of working for myself and directing my own time has been immense.

I am healthier, physically and mentally. I am present with my children and I can attend their school events.

I am able to contribute to my community and church like never before. I am getting paid to do what I love.

Most important, I am able to surround myself with colleagues that feed my soul and my spirit.

On personal time

Family comes first. Full stop.

On what she wishes she had learned earlier

I wish I had been presented with the concept and some of the mechanics on how to make it work. The scariest thing for me is figuring out the financial model to support my family.

It is completely workable, but I was not courageous enough to leave a “steady” job to pursue multiple workstreams.

What to read

  • Flux by April Rinne

On the stigma of having many careers

Yes, I feel there is a stigma, however since COVID, everything has changed. All of the “portfolioists” are finding each other.

We are building networks and new companies together. It’s something that is becoming more acceptable and understood in the marketplace. Mismatched experiences are less scrutinized on resumes these days.

On what to share with others

When I was in the corporate world, it was critical to check in with the General Counsel to ensure there were no conflicts with the secondary pursuit.

Other than that, the notion of other interests was not entirely acceptable. If having a corporate role is one of the careers in your portfolio, choose a company that embraces the notion.

On sublimating ego

I always remind my team, “Never forget how to use the copy machine.”

What I mean is, we all know that banal office work is a necessary part of doing your day job. Find a way to meditate on it as you do it. Mundane tasks can be relaxing. Don’t dread it, or it will get the best of you.

What else should we know?

In fact, I am a huge fan of Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I have used his values-based planning since the early 1990’s.

Annually I review my values and goals and score myself on a scale of 1-10 to determine where I may be off balance.

At a high level the values have remained the same: My core values are Family, Faith, Health, Education, and Career. In my late 30’s I added Financial Security.

A Day in the Life

The only constant in my schedule is my morning quiet time!

5:30 am: wake up make dark roast coffee and read the news and check emails and all social accounts, sneak in 30 mins yoga, journal and/or write poetry, finish writing articles for publications, make international calls (It’s my time before my school aged children barrel down the stairs);

7:30-8:20 am: (Fall and Spring): coach elementary school running club; Off season,

7:30-8:20 am: (make lunches, have breakfast with kids off to school bus);

everything after 8:20 am is not a “typical” schedule.

I love the variety in my days.

I thrive on the variety.

Zoom meetings with clients/collaborators, coaching sessions, in-office client visits, podcasts and virtual panels, meeting with high school students to engage them on food security, cross-country ski for a lunch break (in the winter) or Peloton break;

sometimes there is the call from the school nurse to pick up kids (it happens!).

3:45 pm: walk to bus stop to get kids.

4:00pm-6:30 pm: work in my home office and sometimes need to dash the kids to ice hockey or math tutoring.

6:30 pm-830 pm: make dinner, help kids with homework, read with kids.

In bed by 9:00 pm.

Where to find Devry

Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.
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