23 Aug IU Ventures EIR Releases Book “All Pride No Ego” Detailing His Journey As A Queer Executive
Bloomington, Ind. — Jim Fielding, EIR at IU Ventures, shares his experiences working for The Walt Disney Company, Claire’s, DreamWorks Animation, and AwesomenessTV while navigating the C-suite as a queer executive.
“All Pride No Ego” is set to be a trailblazing book, for young professionals, and in particular the queer community and other underrepresented communities that may have lacked representative role models. “There have not been many openly, out, gay CEO, C-suite level executives. By sharing the mistakes I’ve made and my moments of vulnerability, I am hoping that others will be called to own their thoughts and bring out the best in themselves and therefore their communities,” Jim said.
In his book, the author explores several key themes and lessons:
Servant Leadership: Leading by serving others. This approach, he believes, not only benefits the employees but also brings out the best in oneself. He emphasizes the creation of safe environments for employees to enhance personal growth.
Authenticity: Being genuine to oneself. The value of active listening in fostering this environment is stressed.
Blending Personal and Professional: While the book isn’t an autobiography, it incorporates personal elements. Personal and professional anecdotes are woven into each lesson, revealing the author’s vulnerability and experiences. The book also touches on challenges the author has faced, such as being bullied, dealing with his mother’s alcoholism, and going through a divorce, and how those experiences helped mold him as a leader.
Jim grew up in Toledo, Ohio in a blue-collar middle-class family. When assessing where to attend college, something most of his fellow students did not aspire to, Jim’s fathe
r recommended Ohio State, a local state school where he could receive in-state tuition. However, Jim was eager to be further away from his hometown yet receive a good education. An influential high school teacher, Mrs. Koontz, recommended he visit Indiana University due to its physical beauty, specifically, the campus’s limestone architecture and his potential to receive a great education at a Big 10 school. Jim received a scholarship to attend IU and the rest was history. While at IU, Jim majored in political science and was actively involved in his fraternity and the student foundation.
After relocating to the west coast, Jim lost touch with IU and Bloomington, IN. After an IU fundraising officer visited him in Los Angeles, prompting a discussion about his intentions for his financial resources, he recognized his desire for philanthropy and the idea of giving back. Whenever he returned to the IU campus, he felt a strong connection to the student body and was inspired by their potential to impact the world. Because Jim did not have any children himself, he decided to allocate the funds he would have used for their tuition to create scholarships for students, helping decrease the amount of student debt held by college-educated individuals. Feeling proud as the campus changed from a state school to an internationally represented school with an endowment of over $4 billion, Jim was eager to serve on the IU Foundation Board and as an Executive in Residence for IU Ventures.
Despite his passion for political science, Jim’s entry into the workforce, assisted by IU’s business placement office, led him to the prominence of retail training programs. His first job at Dayton Hudson department store company proved to be a pivotal moment where he excelled and relished the training provided. Transitioning to The Gap during the heyday of specialty retail, Jim gained exposure to catalogs and e-commerce, realizing the potential these avenues held for transforming the retail industry. This newfound expertise caught the attention of Disney, leading to a significant shift in his career. At Disney, Jim ventured into catalog, media, and entertainment pursuits, channeling his passion into products and experiences. Although he enjoyed 12 fulfilling years at Disney, a challenging boss, and personal struggles prompted him to reevaluate his path leading to a pivotal choice, leaving Disney and becoming the CEO of Claire’s.
Dealing with private equity, navigating debt conferences, and managing a retail company posed a steep learning curve. His outlook underwent a transformation when his father’s sudden passing brought home the reality of life’s unpredictability, ultimately leading him to conclude that the CEO lifestyle was no longer aligned with his aspirations.
Invited by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jim moved back to Hollywood and joined Awesomeness TV, a transition from a corporate CEO role to a startup environment. This experience ignited a revelation that his true passion lay in crafting products and experiences, transcending the traditional CEO responsibilities. However, the startup world came with new challenges, and a large amount of merger and acquisition activity ultimately led Jim to work for corporate America again, a place he did not want to be.
Jim decided to take a severance package and leave the confines of corporate life. As the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown emerged, Jim was stationed in California and hardly stepped out of the house. With the world in disarray, he felt a compelling urge to voice his thoughts on LinkedIn. Disney’s mishandling of the “Don’t say gay” initiative struck a chord with him, and he refused to be silenced, even against the weight of the state of Florida. His LinkedIn posts began to take a political turn, reflecting his convictions which attracted magazines tempting him to write a Disney tell-all book. While intrigued, Jim didn’t want to embark on a journey of divulging secrets and controversies or “bite the hand that fed him.”
Then, John Wiley, his publisher, entered the scene. Curious about his potential as an author, he encouraged Jim to pen a 5 to 10-page piece about what Jim’s 56-year-old self would say to the 26-year-old version of him. “The challenge was exhilarating, and over a single weekend, I poured out my thoughts, addressing my younger self’s doubts, decisions, and aspirations,” Jim said. “It felt like a cathartic conversation across time.” Jim was inspired to write the book to share his insights and experiences with others. He weaves his real-life inspirations and stories into the book to make the lessons relatable and impactful.
The book tour won’t just consist of traditional signings. Jim intends to engage with audiences through a variety of events, such as bookstore signings, member-exclusive gatherings at places like SOHO House, podcasts, and fireside chats.
In terms of his future, Jim’s approach seems to be guided by the idea of positively impacting the world. He embraces the mantra, “May we leave our corner of the world better than we found it.” This sentiment underscores his philosophy of servant leadership and the themes explored in his book. His commitment to creating a positive and meaningful legacy is evident as he embarks on this journey of sharing his insights and experiences.
You can purchase “All Pride No Ego” at your local bookstore or Amazon. Bloomington folks, feel free to check out Morgenstern Books and purchase a copy! Indianapolis folks, feel free to check out Tomorrow Bookstore and purchase a copy!
About IU Ventures:
IU Ventures invests in and supports IU-affiliated early-stage companies. Its investment programs include the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, Shoebox Fund, and Innovate Indiana Fund. It further supports IU founders through the Executive in Residence Program and IU Founders and Funders Network. Student support is provided through a variety of engagements, including the new IU Venture Fellows Program. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. IU Ventures is a recognized leader in increasing opportunities for diverse and historically underserved entrepreneurs and investing in Indiana startups with a shared commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Emily Atkinson, PhD