Christine Owenell

Christine’s soul-centered journey across the globe includes billionaires and racing

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Key takeaway: Focus on how you spend your minutes 

Top 5% in the world at: Listening generatively and being a mirror for people to recognize who they are in their highest expressions

When Christine walks into a room, the energy changes; people gravitate towards Christine for her authenticity and curiosity to connect in a meaningful way. She’s so good at connecting with people that she even made a career out of it! As an Executive Coach, Christine has a soul-centered approach to personal transformation. But she wasn’t just born with this skill. Through her global adventures, from beaches in Australia to billionaires in Spain, Christine used the mindset of “focusing on the minutes” to guide her professional journey.

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How She Did it

My childhood was pretty magical and effortless. I was really fortunate to have supportive parents; they used to say their most important job was keeping the air under our wings. My dad was super goofy and would tromp around the house singing crazy songs. My mom is a self starter and makes more money than my dad, which exposed me to unconventional roles.

Growing up, I struggled to overcome perfectionism. And it has really been paralyzing in a lot of ways. When I was finally able to let go of the need to be seen as perfect, sharing in the authenticity of the struggle is what allowed me to deeply connect with myself, my work, and the people in my life — both personally and professionally.

The summer before college, I went to Montreal and interned for an international company that made me fall in love with the European lifestyle. I had friends that were speaking Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English all at the same dinner table. I was going downtown with all these 35 year olds, wearing a suit, and drinking on rooftops.

I felt really deflated when I came back to Nashville with the prospect of attending a small southern conservative university. I was making waves at 18 with job requests. I didn't want to go backwards and spend 4 more years in a small southern town! I wanted that feeling I had when living in Montreal. This desire shaped the decisions I made throughout college.

I joined a sorority and it was interesting to me for about a month. I was trying to have meaningful conversations with other students about things that exhilarated me but I felt so disconnected from everyone in the midst of the party scene.

2nd semester Freshman year, I was craving adventure and the exhilarating feelings I had in Montreal. I found a program in Sydney and was so excited to get back out in the world so soon. I was told by the WFU office that they hadn’t ever had a 1st semester sophomore study abroad.

Study abroad #1: Sydney, Australia: I was in my zone. I lived on a beach, got a job as a waitress at the beach cafe, and studied international relations. My friends and I would strike up conversations with anyone and everyone, including backpackers from all over the world, so I began to appreciate the value of understanding someone's story. It was the pinnacle of my existence — I was just so present and confident as I got to know these new sides of myself.

How was the transition back to Wake Forest?
Extremely difficult. I was completely off beat with everything. Everyone had already formed all these tight friendships and I didn't handle it well. Instead of engaging with others and participating, I just shut myself off and became aloof, which isolated me even further. From this period, I learned that when it comes to creating relationships, the best thing to do is simply show up, show interest in others, and communicate meaningfully.

After finishing my requirements by the end of my junior year, I decided to go back abroad for my senior year.

Study abroad #2: Dubai as a Clinton Scholar studying global interdependence: My interest in the Middle East stemmed from my research practicum in Interpersonal Communication with Professor Rogan. We talked about crisis communication and how word choice and sentence structure can determine the psychological state of the person speaking. I studied counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, and high-stress negotiations.

One of my roles as a Clinton Scholar was to understand how to unite communication on topics based on different belief systems. Fear of what we don’t understand is what paralyzes our understanding of each other. I would collect people from different ideological backgrounds, ask difficult questions, and then watch as people worked through their differences from a place of patience and understanding. My experience in Dubai taught me how to live freely, interact with people of opposing beliefs, and develop meaningful relationships with strangers.

Did you have an idea of your career interest?
From my research practicum in counter-intelligence, I was certain I wanted to be in the CIA. But, when I started to focus on the day-to-day experience, instead of the sexy title, I realized it wasn't for me. Being an operative means spending your life pretending to be someone you're not, so how could you not lose who you are? That was scary to me.

How did you find this program?
My family friend introduced me to the Accelerator program, which was basically a consulting bootcamp for college students. My experience at Accelerator was transformative. I loved the intensity, difficulty of the curriculum, and its immersion in business topics. My favorite part was being surrounded by all the students who were equally intense and motivated to succeed.

How did this experience lead to a full-time job?
Companies came to Accelerator to interview students for full-time jobs. My final round interview with an IT consulting and recruiting company took place during a happy hour reunion, so the interview felt like a party. This gave me a glimpse into the company culture.

This job was a great transition from carefree college life to serious work life, because it fell somewhere in between. I clicked really well with my coworkers and enjoyed a full social calendar with many happy hours.

After some time, I recognized disconnects between what the career track looked like and where I truly wanted to be. The experience taught me the importance of finding and establishing boundaries. It was fun because I had all these built-in friends and activities, but I didn't agree with some of the fundamental business practices.

When did you realize it was time to move on?
When I realized that the minute-to-minute experience of my job wasn't what I wanted. The job title and social networks formed was impressive, but I didn't enjoy my actual job. I was being paid to take people to happy hours, golf, and social events. This may be other people's dream job, but I questioned its long term substance.

As with everything, the experience working there was a gift because it forced me to get clear on even more nuances of who I was and what I wanted to create for myself.

How did you find this job working for a billionaire?
Carrie, the amazing CEO of Triple 7 PR, was one of my close friends during this time (and still is!) She introduced me to a man named Robbie one night at a group dinner. We clicked almost immediately and started sharing stories of our global adventures.

Every time Robbie came to LA, we caught up and discussed business practices. He would ask me hypothetical questions about different companies and potential mergers, and gave me mini business assignments to do. Creating high quality proposals for him activated my mind in a way that I needed at that time. As it turns out, it was basically a 9 month covert interview process!

In September of 2012, Robbie called out of the blue and basically said, "When you get back to your office, I need you to quit and send me your preferred flight to Barcelona for next Wednesday.” I was so confused! I asked a series of questions in which he responded, "You’re going to work for my boss, and we will figure out all the details later. You’re just going to have to trust me." I thought to myself, "I'm young. I'm only 24. If this is a mistake and I faceplant, I have plenty of time for my career to recover.”

So, I flew to Barcelona and was escorted in a shiny black Mercedes to one of the tallest buildings in the city. The conference room was glass on three sides, providing a 270-degree view of the entire city. There I met a Spanish billionaire with all of these ideas but no team. He had just initialized a seed investment for Formula E, the world's first all-electric FIA sanctioned racing series. He tasked Robbie with hiring the perfect team to help him launch his business plan, all expenses paid.

What was your experience?
Robbie and I were traveling around Europe and the US, creating conversations about clean energy and smart cities. We created a narrative that Formula E was not only about racing and clean energy, but more about a publically-positioned platform for innovation that connected cities, governments, sponsors, and education.

What did you learn?
Working under different leadership can affect the potential success of your career. While Robbie truly wanted to change the world with Formula E, one of the principals was more concerned about gaining access to governments for influence. His mindset and demeanor at meetings would threaten the integrity of the deals Robbie and I worked so hard to create. Unlike the principal, we led meetings with our heart and soul. People wanted to work with us because of the unconventional way we approached deals, and because of the way it felt to be in the room with us.

How did you and Robbie approach these deals?
We would rarely go straight into business. We would get to know people individually, disarming the room by asking them why they were here and why they cared. I realized through these experiences that no matter who a person is, no matter how many billions they have in their bank account, people long to be known in this way.

After a deal with the Spanish government went sour, we lost one of our biggest opportunities. Veremonte divested from Formula E, and Robbie and I started a firm with a couple other people to continue working on the global deal flow we had been participating in. Our business set out to accelerate positive transformation and basically help stabilize global economies through technology and unconventional mutually beneficial partnerships.

Why did you leave after a few months?
It didn't feel right because Robbie was unable to see me as his equal. I was just his sidekick. And this was understandable because he plucked me out of my old life and basically provided an unreal, priceless set of experiences that molded me into the leader I am today. We amicably separated our business partnership and discussed options for future collaboration.

How were you feeling when you started Owenell Consultancy?
Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous. I still had my networks, I had just gotten married, and my husband had an amazing, stable job. If my company didn't work out for 6 months, I would've been fine.

When I started my company, it was initially centered on organizational consulting, which was based on the way Robbie and I did business at Veremonte. After just a few clients, I realized that the work that really lit me up was coaching CEOs one-on-one. I was drawn to how drastically personal transformation, alignment, and awareness affected business presence and success. This is what I'm really good at. My practice of “integrative alignment” executive coaching is professional, business-minded, and most importantly, soul-centered.

Advice for your career launch

Focus on how you spend your minutes
My first job wasn’t what was advertised on paper. There are a lot of broad terms like “consulting” that don’t describe what you actually do in the job. When I took the job in IT Tech Consulting, the actual minutes were me sitting in a parking lot in my car, cold calling the same people over and over, and feeling less-than-ideal a lot of the time. Cold calling and happy hours is not what management consulting is advertised as, so the minutes were very different from the description.

Don't be overly focused on the title
Don't focus on the prestige. Focus instead on how you're spending your minutes within a specific opportunity and exploring what truly activates you as you’re launching your career. Early in my career I was driven by recognition: the external optics. What drives me now is fundamental fulfillment in my lived experience: the internal optics.

Choose goals that align with how you want to feel
When we think about what we want to create in our lives, we so often put obstacles or future accomplishments in the way of our ideal lived experience. It’s almost like we have trained our minds to continue the “I’ll be happy when” narrative as a way to motivate ourselves. Instead, choose goals that are aligned with how we want to feel, and to enjoy the minute-to-minute experience of achieving those goals as often as possible. 

Drivers are always changing
The coolest thing about "drivers" is that they are constantly evolving as we grow and learn. Understanding that gives us the ability to continually explore who we want to be, where we want to go, and why. The answers to these questions are not static — they are always flowing in and around us.

Stop thinking you have to prove yourself above men
I think a common theme women face is the perception of having to prove themselves over and above the extent their male counterparts might have to. Being trusted without having to prove myself was a transformative experience - it meant that I had what it took already and that the person in front of me deeply believed in my intrinsic capability. Seeing myself in that way launched my confidence forward more than any learned knowledge or business logic ever did.