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Author: Eduardo Pujol

Empowered Women: What to Do When Called Bossy, Tips from Annette Ballou

Have ever been called bossy? I am sure you have. If you are a woman who ever tried to get anything done (which is all women) you are called bossy, at least once in your life.

Surprisingly this word is used only for women, and has a negative connotation.

When someone calls you “bossy” it’s often about their insecurities than about your personality or attitude.

In a quick conversation today Annette Ballou, J.D. Strategic Advisor to the President’s Office at University of Massachusetts, gives us quick and easy tips on what to do when you are called bossy.

Please let us know what are your thoughts on how to deal with the situation when called “bossy”.

I remember replying I am bossy because I am your boss. How do you reply/react? Would love to know!

Empowered Women: Speaking Up as a Woman, Conversation with Annette Ballou

Sometimes you don’t have the courage to speak up and sometimes you are shut down even when you speak up. Is the solution in you building your courage or does it have to do with your organization’s culture?

How to Speak Up as a Woman, a Conversation with Annette Ballou from refine+focus on Vimeo.


Listen to Annette Ballou, J.D. Strategic Advisor to President’s Office at University of Massachusetts , she shares her thoughts on importance of innovation based organizational culture and how speaking up is foundation of it.

What do you think we should do so that everyone has an equal opportunity to speak up? Please tell us in the comments!

Empowered Women: Sasha Feldstein on How to Not to Invest in Invisible Emotional Labor

Being an empathic leader should make you a stronger leader, right? Well, not always. Sometimes, it only results in loads of invisible emotional labor at work and at home.

This emotional labor can and should be shared. Listen to my conversation with Sasha Feldstein of California Immigrant Policy Center to learn more.

If you’ve heard last Thursday’s interview with Sasha, skip the first minute. Leave a comment to tell us about your emotional labor.

Listen to more such interviews with Empowered Women here.

Empowered Women: Sasha Feldstein on How to Negotiate as a Woman

Negotiating doesn’t come easy for many women. The more we share our best practices, stories and proven techniques, the better off we’ll all be.

In this episode of Empowered Women Empower Women, Sasha Feldstein of the California Immigrant Policy Center shares her experiences negotiating. While Sasha doesn’t claim to be an expert in negotiations, her real-world, relatable experience & helpful formula will help you succeed. I’ve already started following Sasha’s advice. And I’ve seen the results. You will too when you check out this episode.


In the comments below, Tag the most skilled woman negotiator you know–we’d like to hear their wisdom, too!

Every Thursday a new conversation with an empowered woman is posted. Subscribe and join the tribe of empowered women.


Curiouser with Google’s Amrit Dhir

Curious people make the best teachers. They ask insightful questions, follow their instincts and solve problems in unexpected & refreshing ways. Notice how their mind works: everything seems possible when you’re around them.

Amrit Dhir, Head of Global Operations at Google for Startups, exemplifies this. He’s a startup pro, gentleman scholar, rockstar, culture builder and truly authentic soul. I’m confident you’ll learn not only from what he has to say, but also from why he says it. You don’t want to miss this interview. Curious?

Jump to the highlights:

1:50 – Get Inside Amrit’s Head


5:05 – Listening & Leadership


9:35 – Curiosity and Strategic Planning  


16:00 – Rapid Fire Q&A


Empowered Women: Yoselin Bugallo on How to Make Others Value Your Career

Your gift for the International Women’s Day is here!

As women, we often have to convince others of the value of our careers. How do we find balance and draw boundaries in our personal and professional lives?

This episode of “Empowered Women Empower Women,” is with Yoselin Bugallo, the Director of Admissions at the NYU Stern School of Business. As a specialist in career development, Yoselin has learned a variety of lessons over the years—and one piece of advice that stood out to her was that who you choose as your life partner is one of the most important decisions you make in your career.

We’re trained to look at our life in buckets that we keep separate. Everyone has a career bucket, which we’re told shouldn’t mix with our personal bucket. But we don’t really live in buckets. What happens in our personal lives and in our support systems reflects on our career. Surrounding yourself with a support system that can pitch in when you ask for help can be the framework for a great career.

Enjoy your gift and share it with others!

Interviewed by: Purnima Thakre

Video edits by: Allison Yu


Empowered Women: Naheed Chowdhry Speaking about Speaking Up

Happy Women’s Day to all empowered women and the ones aspiring to be one!

Ever thought, why do so many of us find it hard to speak up? And what can we do to make our voices heard without being perceived wrongly?

The first episode of “Empowered Women Empower Women,” is with Naheed Chowdhry, the founder of iWill. With a focus on gender equality in the workplace, iWill helps augment, not reinvent, the gender-disparity policies of global leaders.

Naheed emphasizes that the best way to shift the mindsets of others is a mix of data and empathy. It’s only when something becomes personal that you can feel the impact and the desire to change your unconscious behavior. She also points to the benefits of safe spaces, where you can open up and discuss experiences without being judged.

When you have an idea, it’s important to have your voice heard. Communication is the one tool that can enable the creation of so many bridges. So talk with facts. Try to remove the opinion. If someone’s questioning what you’re saying, use data and ask for examples from them.

Celebrate this Women’s Day with listening to Naheed’s effective framework for communication and sharing that gift with women you want to empower!

Interviewed by Purnima Thakre 

Video edits by Allison Yu

Curiouser And Curiouser: Insights From our October 2018 Innovation Showcase

At refine+focus, we believe that connecting different perspectives helps drive innovation, growth, and insight. At our October 2018 Curiouser & Curiouser innovation showcase, we turned these beliefs into action. Over good food and even better conversation, we gathered individuals from across industries to spark an evening of idea sharing.

The event

Each Curiouser event is about building connections – between people, ideas, and experiences. We invite people who span industries, generations, and global perspectives. We gather with the simple purpose of sharing ideas. Along the way, attendees often swap stories, personal passions, and lessons from personal experiences.

How it works

Curiouser is all about building a space where everyone can feel brave enough and safe enough to share the ideas that matter to them. Each attendee arrives armed with an idea. From these ideas grow conversations, questions, and a wealth of inspiration for each attendee to return home with. We promise that each attendee will meet at least one (though often many!) people who interest them throughout the evening and won’t leave the event without one or two new ideas that excite them.

What we discovered

The October Curiouser event had no predefined theme, yet many natural connections cropped up between the ideas that attendees shared. We discussed storytelling and art, strategies of personal improvement, and how we each choose to help and serve our communities. Each idea was rich with meaning and opportunities for further exploration.

Eduardo Pujol – How do we value nostalgia? Though companies are constantly focused on innovating to create the next big thing, they are perhaps overlooking consumers’ desires to tap into nostalgic preferences, like the simple pleasure of a vintage record, an old-school Nokia cell phone, game console, or even memorable childhood TV cartoons.

Chaya Pomeranz – Coaching can catalyze both professional and personal growth. Yet, it’s also often lonely and inaccessible. The Coaching Fellowship is working to change that. By providing free coaching to young women as well a community of people who want to help young women succeed, TCF helps invigorate women to fulfill their potential as global leaders.

Christopher Haylett – As automation continues to replace jobs, could Universal Basic Income (UBI) be a more effective social safety net than existing social welfare programs?

Pankaj Jethwani – In India, 43% of children are malnourished, yet the needs of India’s vulnerable children are often disregarded. The Breakfast Revolution is working to help solve this issue. It runs holistic programs to help educate communities about malnutrition and provide tasty and affordable nutritional meals for communities in need.

Katie Martensen – Gratitude is not only a feeling – it can be a practice as well. By keeping a daily or weekly list of things that you’re grateful for, you can learn to live more presently, less anxious, and increase your happiness. That’s because you can’t physically hold gratitude and anxiety in your brain at the same time – Psychology researchers have proven that human beings can prevent stress and unhappiness by listing three things that they are grateful for each day.

Amanda Lewis – The traditional Japanese art form of Kintsugi embodies the beauty that exists in the broken. By repairing broken pottery with a paste made of gold, silver, or platinum, Kintsugi artists turn broken pieces into a more-beautiful whole. This philosophy teaches us to value the breakages in our own lives, and then put care into piecing them back together.

Purnima Thakre – So you think you can’t dance? Don’t worry, Artificial Intelligence has solved your problem. Engineers at UC Berkeley have created an AI program that can turn a few photos of you into a complete dance video.

Greg Harris – The Alexander Technique is the attempt to increase our consciousness of these small movements – our hunching, our clenching, and our personal ticks. By becoming aware of these movements, we can become the agents of our own bodily comfort.

Ornella Boti – How is art evolving? In a recent exhibition in Paris’ first digital art museum, visitors walk through art by using projections and music. As a result, art is not only something that one can look at – it’s a fully immersive experience.

Michael Cucurullo – While travel photography can capture a specific moment of a trip, sketches can encapsulate a trip’s character. That’s what the bike tour catalogue, Ciclismo, is attempting to do for bike trips. Rather than simply map out the route, the sketches in Ciclismo capture the underlying vibe of the places that cyclists can ride through.

Zach Braiker – For one tiny restaurant in Maine, eager diners can only make reservations by postcard. It’s called The Lost Kitchen, and each summer, the restaurant is completely booked up. By breaking from restaurant reservation norm, this restaurant paved its own brand of success.

AK Ikwuakor – Modern technologies like phones and laptops seem standard today, yet were inconceivable mere decades ago. What further technological development is human innovation capable of achieving?

Nicholas Abruzzo – Our phone cameras allow us to constantly document the world around us. Yet, their ubiquity can also strip the meaning from their photographs. By using polaroid photographs to capture portraits, we can create a more authentic representation of who a person is.

Rebecca Redelmeier – ProPublica’s recent foray into community-driven reporting demonstrates how journalists and content creators can build connections through social media that are more powerful than a simple like or share.

Ellen Krause-Grosman – Empowerment self-defense for women aims to equip women with the tools to disrupt violence in real time, be comfortable standing up for themselves, and assert themselves in multiple different environments. By equipping women with the self-defense skills that help them feel safe, we can intentionally build communities that are inclusive of women’s’ needs.

Glenn Morgan – Through having empathy for all living beings – even for those who have committed crimes and done us wrong – we can empower our own healing and help to strengthen our communities.

An invitation

Did any of these ideas resonate with you? Are you interested in developing authentic personal connections while sharing great ideas and engaging in thoughtful discussion? Check out our Curiouser page to stay in the loop about future events. We can’t wait to hear what ideas you have to share.


Cover image by AAron Lee Kuan Leng

Curiouser And Curiouser: Insights From our May 2018 Innovation Showcase


As summer nears and brings us warm weather and changing seasons, this month’s Curiouser event saw many fresh ideas and exciting endeavors to bring change. Shared inspiration abounded.


While attendees came from many different backgrounds, our gathering of entrepreneurs, academics, writers, business and media professionals, scientists, and innovators found themselves sharing common themes relevant to pressing issues in today’s social backdrop, with many concepts converging around ideas reminiscent of Porter’s Shared Value concept.



Despite no intentional planning to coordinate the topics of the various Curiouser presentations, many concepts within the shared 3-minute pitches congregated around ideas of strengthening communication and building common understandings between people, through innovations involving the arts, community endeavors, business models and startups, and even some philosophical elements. Others dove into different ways through which “double impact” endeavors could bring business success, but also bring positive benefits to their stakeholders.


As you’re likely curious about these ideas shared at May’s Curiouser, here’s a list highlighting the heart of each concept shared with us last week:

Jay Neely – The potential for Boston to emerge as a leader in media thought leadership and innovation. Could a gathering of resources in education, networks, and funding facilitate the growth and connection of media leaders in Boston?

Eduardo Pujol – How we can take lessons from examples within Cuba’s history in the second half of the 20th century to understand what’s happening in Venezuela today? History repeats.

Purnima Thakre – Oscar Mayer’s unique marketing promotion, which took advantage of a trend seemingly unrelated to their product and built a creative marketing campaign: Bacoin (bacon meets cryptocurrency).

Christopher Haylett – The idea of “Futility Thinking”, how this psychology manipulates our generosity in the background, and how we can help people overcome it with new giving methods.

Jayati Doshi – How we can build commonality and make sense of life through active listening, the sharing of perspectives, and self-discovery alongside others. Sorting out meaning and discovering ourselves collectively.

Greg Harris – Bulgaria was the only Nazi-occupied European country in which the entire population of Jews survived WWII. How? Harris explores the power of face-to-face encounters.

Amanda Lewis – What if we had real mood rings to visualize our emotions and increase empathy and emotional intelligence? How could we be influenced if we could easily see each other’s emotional states at a glance?

Gonzalo Veloz – Discovering ways to build a middle-ground between old Latino culture and new Latino-American culture. How to bring a strong latino presence into media and facilitate examples of leadership through the sharing of stories.

Annabelle Slingerland – How science, history, culture, and people, all engaged together, can explain diseases better than science alone. Opportunities for holistic explorations of health.

Steven Biondolillo – The need for society to collectively refocus on “what makes us human”. How community gatherings, focused around poetry, can be used to build commonality and heal divisions in modern society. See his Jacob Challenge for more insights.

Jorge Sanabria – An AI tool that simplifies privacy policies and terms and conditions. An intriguing way to visualize and translate thick legal contracts and agreements with the power of AI.

Robin Bose – How youth programs involved in outdoorsmanship and camaraderie can bring appreciation for nature, build relationships with peers and adults, and even help individuals become a bit entrepreneurial.

Gaurav Keswani – Possibilities to solve the crisis of plastics pollution with the advent of rocketry technologies – by launching trash off of Earth and into space.

Zach Braiker – The concept of a “Digital Sabbath”, how one day a week spent disconnecting can perhaps contribute to productivity, health, and replenishment.

Raghu Appasani – Finding a way to boost mental health and resilience building through tech. With modern tech often being utilized to facilitate endless bullying, how can it be used to instead help young people gain confidence and grow their mental resilience?

Kevin Luke – The potential for opportunities to utilize “ancient low-tech” in the development of innovative modern technologies and use cases.

Joel Alcon – Is there a way to build a franchise model that unlocks the unique skills of immigrants and helps them to apply them in the American economy?

Michael Prentice – How could one begin to look at the economics of all things waiting in economies (i.e. labor, inventory, etc.), and what sort of lessons could we take from this economic arena?

Veronica Rechul – We love food. We love going out. We love watching tv about food. But cooking is hard for many. Could an app that functions like a digital, social media cookbook succeed?

Sadaf Atarod – Dancing brings many people joy. Could requiring a dance activity before work promote creativity and improve moods?

Aline Park – New, innovative technology that uses paper and modular blocks to make disease testing and diagnosis simple, efficient/low-cost, and portable.

If any of these ideas sparked curiosity in you, then you should consider joining us next time. Check out the Curiouser & Curiouser page to know more details about our next session and how to attend.

Please forward to a Curious person!

Curiouser and Curiouser: Insights from our February 2018 Innovation Showcase

On Valentine’s Day Eve, 19 friends, collaborators and colleagues of refine+focus came together for an evening called Curiouser & Curiouser that we host regularly. The theme of the event was “Share the Love,” and everyone who attended shared an idea that was dear to them and our theme.


If you take a closer look to the attendees list, you’d find a wide range of people: artists, consultants, attorneys, professors, novelists, data scientists, and videographers. This evening is marked by an atmosphere of creativity, sharing, and learning.


This month’s event followed the same format as previous months’ Curiouser evenings with each attendee bringing an idea that excited them and sharing it with the rest of the group in three minutes or less.


We know you’re curious about the ideas people share at Curiouser, and we’ve recapped them in this list:

  1. Rachel Cossar – A social psychologist’s book ruminating on how love and passion are at odds
  2. Eduardo PujolSoap sculpting as a form of stress release captures all five senses and eases the body into relaxation
  3. Max OsbonGeorge Valliant’s 75-year study at Harvard University identifying predictors of healthy aging that lead to comfortable lifestyles and a better quality of life as a positive impact of the warmth of relationships 
  4. Edward Boches – Photography from the “Seeking Glory” collection showcasing the life stories of boxers overcoming obstacles such as poverty and gender inequality, and sometimes simply life
  5. David Tames – A book explaining how our own worlds are built around our own experiences and exploring the usefulness of metaphors in making sense of these worlds
  6. Greg Harris – The idea of teacher education in prisons and the potential for a bridge organization that creates evening programs where ex-convicts can incorporate their unique perspectives into teaching
  7. Jesse Baer – Exploring what self-love actually means in modern society when negative self-talk is so prevalent
  8. Zach BraikerLondon’s #1 restaurant that never actually existed and its social implications
  9. Aman Chheda – A personal story about the creation of a business targeting Big fat Indian weddings that focuses on customer empathy and led to the launch of a new business
  10. Shirin Mojarad – An idea of educating people on how their data is being used, from targeted Google and Instagram ads to call center training
  11. Ben Glass – A request to the attendees to help rebrand “climate change” as “climate chaos” as a way to spark activation and positive impact on human behavior
  12. Purnima Thakre – A shoe box full of love letters originally written by a couple in the 60’s stumbled upon at a thrift shop emphasizes the emotionality of cards and the value of the quotidian
  13. Keith Hopper – The idea of helping people arrive to conclusions through the usage of powerful, meaningful questions: “Who do you love?”, “What does that person need the most now?”, and “What would you do for that person tomorrow? (Valentine’s Day)”   
  14. Raghu Appasani – The personal meaning of home when a family is split between two countries and its reflection in the poem, “Flying”
  15. Daniel Hoyes – The idea of an app that communicates love by transforming plain words into emotional poems, emojis, and video clips
  16. Theo Hanna – A touching story of two kids discovering that love is an infinite resource by understanding it was possible to love their parents, uncles, aunts, and others simultaneously
  17. Michael Cucurullo – What love means in the form of a sketch that reflects various aspects of personal life such as splitting time between cities and dealing with the temporality of connections
  18. Mike Douglas – A monthly subscription package to “Hunt A Killer,” a real-world spy/detective experience
  19. Ann-Fleur Vaartjes – An idea to partner with airlines for a luggage delivery service using electronic bag tags with Bluetooth functionality to transfer information



We’ll be announcing next month’s event in the near future, so keep an eye out if you’d like to be a part of these inspiring evenings.  Until then, keep warm!

Did any of the ideas you read spark a new one within you? Do you have ideas of your own you want to share? If you’re a curious person and interested in attending our future “Curiouser and Curiouser” events, feel free to send us a message at


Cover photo by Mara Ket

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