Kristin Naruko, Vice President, Provider Services Operations, National Marrow Donor Program/Be the Match

What do you do in your current role?

I joined Be The Match 14 years ago in a role working directly with transplant center customers to facilitate unrelated donor stem cell donations for their patients with life-threatening blood cancers and diseases. I immediately became hooked on being a part of the team, providing hope and a second chance at life for patients in need. I am grateful to have been able to grow my career at Be the Match over the years. I currently lead the teams responsible for the identification, facilitation and delivery of stem cell products and services to transplant center and cell and gene therapy customers.

When and why did you join the TRUST?

I joined the TRUST in 2014 at the recommendation of my leader, who felt the networking and development opportunities that the TRUST offered would benefit me as I grew in my career at Be the Match. I currently serve as an Associate Board Member and member of the Forum Planning Committee.

Do you have a favorite TRUST memory so far?

Not a single memory, but what I’ve appreciated most about the TRUST is the networking and getting to know and work with some amazing fellow leaders in the health care industry. I’ve especially appreciated learning about serving as a Board member through the TRUST Associate Board.

How has a mentor helped you the most?

I’ve not had a formal mentor, but I’ve had colleagues and leaders who I’ve considered informal mentors through the years. The greatest gift I’ve received from those informal mentors is the gift of honesty. Through sharing their perspective, in the most honest and kind way, I’ve grown and been able to take that advice and feedback to heart in my career and daily life.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

“Lead the way you want to be led.” This seems simple and obvious, reminiscent of the Golden Rule we’re taught as kids, but it has been a great reminder throughout my career. I want my team to know that I would never ask them something that I wouldn’t be willing to commit to myself.

What support do you need now to evolve your development as a leader?

I believe we’re constantly learning, whether through formal or informal mechanisms. It is important that leaders are provided the space and the grace to learn and try new things knowing that not every idea or change will pan out.

How do you support other women in their leadership journey?

I try to be a listening ear and honest source of feedback and insight for the women around me. I am open to sharing my areas of growth and development to bring visibility to the fact every leader has something they are working on or toward.

How do you cope with the demanding aspects of your career?

There have been times over the last few years where drawing the line between work, world events and family has been near impossible. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and, in turn, our teams. I have found that having a strong support system both at work and home has been instrumental to leading through tough times. Finding people you can trust and lean on is invaluable.

How do you maintain or improve your health and well-being?

My escape is the horse barn. Horseback riding is something I’ve done most of my life, but also the thing that was the first to get set aside when kids, life and career got busy. Finding my way back to horses and riding has kept me feeling balanced and sane the last few years.

What is something not many people know about you?

I always imagined I’d have a job that required physical movement throughout the day; I used to tell my parents that I could never have a “desk job.” Yet here I am. Completely passionate about my career with Be the Match and satisfied to be at a desk most days, knowing the impact my “desk job” is having.

Who inspires you? My kids. I look at them and their optimistic view of things and feel like I learn as much, if not more, from them than they learn from me.