Bird's Eye View News

HRS Alumni Making a Lasting Impact on Careers and Communities (Part 1)


Collaborating on a Nationwide Scale 

The diverse and impactful journeys Head-Royce alumni pursue after graduation showcase the unique talents and achievements within our community. Whether simultaneously or on different timelines, the shared experience of attending Head-Royce creates a familial bond that extends beyond school years. With over 5,000 alumni at-large, our network is robust; it's not surprising that former classmates become colleagues and that the name “Head-Royce” opens doors and establishes immediate trust. 

We met up with alumni to hear about their career journeys and how they are working together. Their stories highlight not only individual and shared successes but also the strength of the alumni network across fields. What they impart paints a picture of vibrant and engaged citizens, where alumni and students alike contribute meaningfully to their communities and beyond. 

Andy Rabens '01, Special Advisor to the Vice President for International Economics and Global Partnerships, next to Air Force One

  Andy Rabens '01 in front of Air Force One

Andy Rabens ’01, the Special Advisor to the Vice President for International Economics and Global Partnerships, began his political career interning on Capitol Hill by day, while making ends meet selling theater subscriptions in the evenings and weekends from the telemarketing bullpen of the Kennedy Center. The week he had started college was the same week the Twin Towers fell and nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives; a day he recalls “opening my eyes to the larger world around me.” As his dream of becoming a professional tennis player began to fizzle, his interest in global politics and international affairs sparked after he took a few government courses; growing into a passion that has continued to the present day.

He laughs fondly about his time in ticket sales, admitting that selling tickets is a little like selling ideas. “You have to be willing to talk with anyone without fear of being rejected; a good life skill!” Andy continues, “Too often we discount skills that are honed in unusual places even though they can be very transferable.” During his years as a student-athlete at Head-Royce, for example, sports had a big effect on his belief in the importance of a team-oriented approach to work and life. Learning to be a team player can be challenging but the benefit of working together on a shared goal is in itself a reward.

“Individuals can offer up big ideas to spark change, but it often takes a team to mobilize around those big ideas and deliver meaningful and lasting impacts.”

While starting his career in politics took a little time, it was not the most difficult challenge Andy has overcome. “I had a severe lisp as a kid and grew so frustrated by my inability to enunciate the ‘dr’ sound in ‘Andrew’ that I began using ‘Andy’ instead.” The years he spent working on speaking more clearly have paid off, as have his efforts to overcome an earlier fear of public speaking. “By attending countless Toastmasters classes and forcing myself to repeatedly get in front of audiences, I improved.” The good news, he says, is that public speaking, like many skills, is one that can be learned. “We can invest in and get much better at it with work and practice, allowing us to overcome some of our fears, perceived roadblocks, and challenges.”

From 2001 Nods and Becks, the HRS yearbook, Rebecca Friedman served as President of the Middle School Student Council

        Dr. Rebecca (Friedman) Lissner '05, pictured in the
        2001 Nods and Becks

Andy is currently in his 15th year of work for the U.S. Government across four presidential administrations and six Secretaries of State at the U.S. State Department and sees himself squarely as part of Team USA.

“I've worked across numerous presidential administrations, beginning with the end of the Bush administration, continuing through the entirety of President Obama's and President Trump's administrations, and now I am proud to be serving in the Biden-Harris administration.” As a civil servant, he sees presidential administrations a bit like an Olympic relay race where you may have your preference of runners to run different legs of the race with their unique style or approach, but at the end of the day, you are part of Team USA.

“I am doing my best to help whomever the American people elect be successful.” 

The reward? So many different components come to Andy’s mind. “Getting to work on issues that matter and can potentially change peoples lives for the better at home and abroad and being part of incredible teams like the current Vice President's team where I’m surrounded by inspiring colleagues who care deeply about the country, the issues they work on, and the power of government to positively enhance people’s lives,” he reflects. 

He now works in the office of the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, along with Head-Royce alumna Dr. Rebecca (Friedman) Lissner ’05, who is the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President. “I work with Dr. Lissner (aka Rebecca) on a day-to-day basis and she is an incredibly dynamic leader, thinker, and writer; an absolute rock star.” Andy notes that they have a shared connection from growing up in the diverse community of the Bay Area, and attending Head-Royce.

His parting message to those interested in but perhaps shying away from careers in government or public service is: “Give it a go. Government is only as good as the people willing to work in it to create the changes that we seek. Personally, I’m still energized by what the government can do!” stressing that we need more young people with fresh ideas to help shape the future. “Yes, things may feel divisive now," he says, “but I truly believe that the more we talk to one another as people, find commonalities, and break down the armor that many of us wear, we will find greater common ground, less divisiveness, and opportunities for further collaboration.”

More Alumni Collaborating on a Nationwide Scale 

Samir Sawhney '17 and Claire Rose '19 at L'Oreal Offices

  Samir Sawhney ’17 and
  Claire Rose ’19 at the
  L'Oreal offices 

We asked Claire Rose '19, L'Oreal Marketing Associate, what has been the most meaningful aspect of working with Samir Sawhney ’17, another HRS alum?

"I think that the most meaningful part of working alongside an HRS alum is having a friendly face to be candid with! As I am just starting in office life, there is a lot to learn both professionally and socially. Trying to make friends in the office looks a lot different from our days at HRS, and having someone who I know and can go to for advice and support is such a game changer! I've already been bugging Samir about help on mini projects, and he is always such a help. It's always good to have someone who isn't judging your questions or confusion, and [is] there to be in your corner!"

When asked what challenges she has faced in her career and how did they lead her to where she is now, she explained:

"As a recent graduate from Colgate University, I am at the very beginning of my career. There are two challenges that stick out to me. First, getting the job I have today was of course a challenge as networking, applying, and interviewing were all very new to me. I wish I knew more about the HRS alumni connections program when I was applying to jobs, because I know that Jayhawks are always excited to help each other out. I have already had a couple of younger HRS alum reach out to me and I am already eager to talk to them. Secondly, it is difficult to show up authentically at work. I am new, I am young, I am inexperienced and (let's be honest) awkward most of the time, so finding out how to share my true personality is something I am continually striving towards. This is another thing I love about working alongside HRS alum, it is refreshing to have someone around who knows me as “Claire,” and not as the “new Marketing Associate.

Business partners Tyler Lohman '04, Oliver Kremer '04, Marcus Byrd '11, and Leo Kremer '98

We also checked in with Tyler Lohman '04, Oliver Kremer '04, Marcus Byrd '11, and Leo Kremer '98 (above), four HRS alumni who went into business together after college, about their experiences of working together.

Leo Kremer '98, Co-Founder and former Co-CEO, Dos Toros (with Oliver Kremer), currently Founder-at-Large, Founders Table Restaurant Group and Partner, Shtetl Ventures (Oliver holds the same roles) shared:

"The most meaningful part of working with other HRS alums was the automatic trust, respect, and playfulness.

We had bedrock shared perspectives on communication, teamwork, and importantly, burritos. It was also fun being able to reminisce about teachers, sports teams, and various academic projects.

Every day at work with Tyler, Marcus, and Oliver was a pleasure. We faced many challenges around growth and the need to adapt the organization at each stage to our new reality. Every business has ups and downs and we learned how to face both with tenacity and equanimity. We found with Dos Toros, and I continue to believe, that one of the greatest risks in business and life is inaction."

Tyler Lohman '04, Co-Founder and Vice President of Development, Dos Toros; currently Senior Vice President, Development, Health Hospitality Partners added:

"[The most meaningful part of working together was the] inherent trust based on our shared HRS experience. Whether we overlapped or not during our school years, I knew that by working alongside other HRS individuals we had a solid foundation, well-developed IQ and EQ, and clearer understanding of the world and each other, that would not be possible from the outset had we not had that common HRS experience.

Successfully working alongside friends for so many years sets an unrealistically high bar for comparing future opportunities. My post Dos Toros job search ("retylerment" as I came to call it) coincided with the onset of COVID-19 and lasted a full year, in large part due to my fear that no other experience could match what I previously had. I took my time and explored a wide range of fields and opportunities, but continued to be inspired by young, mission driven companies. In March 2021, I accepted an executive position with Health Hospitality Partners (HHP), which is a healthcare amenities company, coincidentally also started by two brothers; I think I've found my next career."

Marcus Byrd ’11, Head of Marketing (2015–2020), Dos Toros; currently Director of Marketing and Brand (employee #1!) for Hart House (2020–present), Kevin Hart's new hospitality concept, explained: 

"I've lived in 3 other major cities—Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles—and there is nothing like people from the Bay Area! More specifically, I think Head-Royce does a great job of helping students develop an innate sense of self, while always working toward the greater good and the community.

Despite never living in the Bay Area after high school, I have fully embraced working at start-ups in my professional life. I love how fast-paced the environment can be when no two days are the same, however, it also requires immense organization. As a marketer I love finding omnichannel ways to grow a business, but it is incredibly important to try to measure each tactic on its own merits so you can digest what worked before reapplying or changing tactics. My motto for 2024 is 'Dream big, but aim small'!"