Employee resource groups are way beyond social groups.
Bio for Kristina Fusella
Kristina Fusella is a purpose-driven commercial leader with a collaborative approach. She relentlessly pursues excellence while advocating for innovation. Kristina joined Novo Nordisk Inc. in 2015 to be a pioneer in the disease state of Obesity. She’s moved across several commercial groups in that journey, from insights & analytics to sales to market access, successfully managing steep learning curves with each jump. Prior to Novo Nordisk, she had a generalist career in consulting at IBM and ZS.
Kristina has a passion for people and culture. She co-led the Millennials Employee Resource Group for two years and fostered a platform that empowered early talent to push for innovation and new ideas in the organization. During her tenure, Place to Work® named Novo Nordisk one of the “Best Workplaces for Millennials.” Currently, Kristina co-leads the Women in Novo Nordisk Employee Research Group, partnering with the organization on ways to maximize women’s potential at work. A native New Yorker, Kristina graduated from Columbia University and is a new mother of a little girl.
Kristina Fusella is a Chinese-American who grew up in Queens and Long Island. Her parents were immigrants from China, and she watched them work hard, especially her mother, who was the breadwinner. Kristina’s mum always encouraged her to have a practical career and, if possible, become her own boss.
After graduating, she joined the banking industry and later moved to IBM as a consultant. After IBM, she moved to ZS Associates because she wanted to be in a place where her contributions could be felt. While at ZS Associates, she did pharmaceutical consulting for Novo Nordisk for two years and fell in love with Novo Nordisk as a company.
In this episode, Kristina shares her career journey and shares some nuggets on the essence of having employee resource groups. Listen and learn.
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- “Sometimes there are things that we take for granted, but the things that we do, for some people that’s like their dream to have.”
- “When you’re comfortable in a place, you don’t want to change it, but without pushing yourself, there’s really no growth.”
- “We have created this world where the benchmark for success for women looks like they have to be superwoman.”
- “I believe that positive energy is the faster way to achieving your goals than just being in a negative space, and that mindset is really critical.”
Kristina’s family moved from Queens to Long Island so that she could attend a good school. They signed her up in a Catholic school because the public schools there were not the best. For some reason, the school would have half days on Wednesdays, and Kristina’s grandmother would pick her up from school. One thing about Kristina’s grandmother was that she was obsessed with Burger King to the extent that if she missed a week, she would be visibly cranky.
Every time they went to Burger King, Kristina couldn’t help but notice a man who used to beg for change. One day, Kristina and her grandmother went to their usual Wednesday lunch, but the man was not there. Kristina was disturbed, and kept wondering where the man was. When they sat down, she noticed the man sitting at a table next to theirs.
The man had ordered the smallest burger on the menu, small chips, and had nothing to drink. Kristina noticed how the man was enjoying every bite of his food. It dawned on Kristina that some things she saw as mundane were a dream for other people.
Kristina and her mom once went to a local store for some Chinese takeout. A lady who was in front of them in the queue had her purse open, and she was okay with it. When the lady got to the counter, she realized she had forgotten something in her car. She placed her belongings on the counter and headed out. To Kristina, that would never happen in Queens. The woman knew that her belongings would be safe.
Growing up, Kristina drew her inspiration from her mother, who was an immigrant and ended up in corporate America. According to Kristina, her mum was always working. She barely made it home for family dinner, and every time she came home, she always had work to do on her computer. By the time she retired, she was a very senior person in government. That said, Kristina’s mum always urged her daughter to ensure she has a work-life balance which became a principle for her to date.
Kristina didn’t have a chance to experience the Chinese culture growing up, but there are values that she holds deeply from the culture. For instance, she is grateful to the earlier generations for paving the way for her to be who she is today. She also strives towards being successful because deep within her, she feels it is her obligation.
Groups Kristina has Chosen to Belong to
The group that Kristina has chosen to belong to recently is women. Growing up, Kristina never had a gender lens. When she had her daughter, Kristina had postpartum anxiety and depression. What astonished her was women from different parts of her life kept reaching out to her. She would share her story, and the women, too, would share their own. When she shared her story in their organization, numerous women reached out to her, saying they had experienced the same thing. Kristina developed a newfound appreciation for women’s experience.
Temperaments and Personality
Kristina believes negativity is a strength, but it’s also a trap. She also believes that positive energy is the faster way to achieving your goals than just being in a negative space, and that mindset is critical. Kristina has been actively changing her mind in terms of her self-limiting beliefs and knowing what imposter syndrome does to her.
A research study by Kristina’s firm on AAPI and people of the Asian diaspora was conducted to listen to their voices and understand why they shy away from leadership positions. What hit Kristina hard was the American culture, and their culture was different. For Americans, blowing their trumpets is the order of the day, but for people in Asian and Chinese cultures, it’s the exact opposite. They love harmony, being humble, and never want to brag about themselves. They let their work speak for them.
What Brings Out the Best in Kristina?
To bring out Kristana’s authentic self, she needs an environment where people are valued for their individualism and differences rather than wanting everyone to conform to a standard and a certain recipe for success.
Kristina encourages organizations to look at employee resource groups if they have them. If not, think about how they invest in them. She believes it would lead to positive culture changes and business success.
Kristina Fueslla has a career with breadth in a variety of disciplines ranging from engineering to analytics and sales to Strategy and Rare Disease director of Novo Nordisk specializing in obesity research. From her childhood memories, she recalls developing an ability to see things from other people’s perspectives. Eating at Burger King with her Chinese grandmother and becoming aware of homelessness and poverty was later juxtaposed with trying to find her place in a primarily white school surrounded by wealthy families. She was keenly aware of both the appreciation and joy of a homeless man mindfully savoring his small burger and the lack of awareness characterized by wealthy teens purposely crashing their father’s expensive cars just because they could. Using the Chinese cultural gift of respectful listening and the American value of telling your story, she has created a career characterized by bringing diverse voices to the table and ensuring there are ears to hear them and hearts to respond.