The Girl Scouts CEO Is an Actual Rocket Scientist
‘I attribute my lifelong passion for outdoor adventure to my time as a Girl Scout.’
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You may know Sylvia Acevedo as the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. But before that, she was a rocket scientist. Acevedo worked as an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories, IBM, and Dell. Then in 2017, she took on her newest challenge: growing 21st century leadership programming for the Girl Scouts.
As CEO, Acevedo immediately got to work tackling membership declines. She targeted outreach to African American, Hispanic, Asian, and other minority girls in the United States, and she backed major technological advancements for the organization. But she’s not done yet; Acevedo has big plans for taking the nation’s nearly two million Girl Scouts and turning their collective action into leadership.
This week, Acevedo spoke with Medium about her love of the outdoors, the importance of travel, and her favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie.
I tend to wake up around 5:30 a.m. I use an alarm clock because I regularly travel across so many time zones that my body clock is always shifting. After I wake up, I make a cup of tea. Then I eat a high-protein breakfast. This is very important because it fuels me through the day. My favorite breakfast is a smoothie with kale or spinach, bananas, berries, non-dairy milk, OJ, and protein powder.
I spend my mornings going through my email. My most productive time is before work. Then I’ll work out or do stretches and weights. I love to exercise in nature when I can, whether that means hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, or strolling through a park. The outdoors is an essential part of Girl Scouts’ programming and my Girl Scout experience is what sparked my love for exploring nature originally.
Weather permitting, I walk to work most days because it’s my chance to be outdoors. After that, I’m typically in back-to-back meetings all day with occasional breaks to check email. Serving 1.7 million girls is a 24/7 job.
I usually eat a lighter lunch. My go-to is salmon with broccoli. I also like to drink a ginger kombucha in the afternoon. If I’m in the mood for something sweet, I indulge in Thin Mints. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the country’s largest financial investment in girls annually, and it’s the tastiest way I know to support the next generation of female entrepreneurs and leaders.
During the work week, I often have after-work events or dinners, so I tend to get home late, with only a couple of hours to catch up with family and relax. Those outings also tend to include fuller meals.
If I don’t have an event, I like to walk home at the end of the day. I have a Fitbit and my daily goal is five miles and 14,000 steps. I’ve been known to walk around the block a few times at night to make sure I get my steps in.
In the evenings, I like to read before bed. I always have several books on my Kindle, both fiction and nonfiction. Right now I’m reading The Silk Roads. Sometimes I watch a few of my favorite shows (which I record) to help me to relax. Currently, I’m catching up on The Crown.
This year my goal is to go horseback riding once per month. I’m working on doing more yoga and stretching every day. I’m also trying to use my standing desk more often, especially when I’m answering emails at work.
I’m all about balancing work and life. As a lifelong Girl Scout, I pride myself on being prepared. I spend significant effort making sure the relationships that are important to me get my time and attention. And because I spend a significant portion of my time traveling, it’s important for me to plan down time for exploration, reflection, restoration, and exercise. I also love taking trips to do adventurous outdoor activities when I’m able to take time off for personal travel. My last vacation was to New Zealand.
It’s so important to give girls opportunities to experience the outdoors. I attribute my lifelong passion for outdoor adventure to my time as a Girl Scout. Getting girls outside and in nature helps them develop a healthy lifestyle, build problem-solving and leadership skills, and learn how to protect our environment. In fact, research shows there is a correlation between outdoor experiences and girls’ leadership development. Girl Scouts are almost twice as likely as non-Girl Scouts to participate in outdoor activities.