WW Sponsor Spotlight: Debby & David Hopkins
Debby and David Hopkins live year-round in Jackson, Wyoming where they run Double Chase Advisors. The Hopkins are major sponsors of the Women in Wyoming exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, founding partners of Women in Wyoming, advisors, mentors, and friends.
Debby is an Independent Board Member, and an active advisor in the Silicon Valley startup community. She’s served as Chief Financial Officer at The Boeing Company, was General Auditor at General Motors, and VP of Finance at GM Europe in Zurich. She started her career at Ford. Before relocating to Wyoming, Debby founded and was CEO of Citi Ventures, and Citi’s Chief Innovation Officer based in Silicon Valley. In addition to serving on national Board of Directors positions for Union Pacific and others, Debby serves as the Chair of Finance and Treasurer at St. John’s Hospital Foundation where she’s been influential in the Sage Living Center development. She is also a Trustee for Silicon Couloir, both in Jackson, Wyoming. Fortune twice placed Debby in the top 10 most powerful women in business, and she has been on the Institutional Investor’s Top 50 list every year since 2011.
David Hopkins was born in the UK and moved back and forth between the US, UK, and Switzerland, establishing his permanent home in the US in 1990. He is an accomplished business executive, with expertise in identifying, creating and implementing company’s “go-to-market” needs. Currently David serves on the Board of Directors at the Center for the Arts, the Competitive Grants Committee of the Community Foundation and is a trustee of Silicon Couloir. He is an active mentor in the MIT TEAMS program in Jackson.
Learn from WW Founding Partners Debby and David Hopkins about why they support Wyoming women, and their advice for living a bold, courageous life below.
Interview and portraits by WW Project Director, Lindsay Linton Buk.
LLB: You two have lived around the world and led or advised major global companies. What made you want to relocate and restart your life in Wyoming?
Debby: While we have fond memories of the many places we have lived, I think we would both agree that Zurich was our favorite. Former colleagues had raved about Jackson Hole, and I decided I needed to see what the fuss was about. When we landed at Jackson Airport we both said… wow, it’s like Zurich. Four days later we bought a house. It was completely unplanned and involved all sorts of crazy coincidences, but we were hooked. Good news…it has far exceeded our expectations. Each morning walking by the picture windows to grab a coffee I say…ok another beautiful day in paradise and feel enormously grateful for the incredible natural beauty of the mountains and for the amazing new friends we have gathered since landing here.
David: I grew up in England and have always liked places that have distinct topography. Jackson Hole reminded us of our time living and working in Switzerland. It immediately felt good to be here. It was a leap of faith (some would say foolhardy!) to jump in knowing so little about the area, and most importantly knowing nothing about the Community. That leap of faith has proved invaluable as we both have become very involved in the community where we live and in the broader community of Jackson Hole.
LLB: Debby- you’ve led companies like Ford, Boeing and Citi, to name a few. What is your number one piece of advice for women who want to live a more bold and courageous life?
Debby: Just do it! And I would add adopting two lessons I have given my own kids to live by in following their quests; never burn a bridge (ok, sometimes they get torched, but it can’t be without a soul searching attempt to avoid it), and own your integrity (at any cost).
Seek to understand your ‘horizontal resume’. It’s great to be able to list a pedigree education focused on a particular vocation. Interesting, but it far underestimates what you are capable of. What type of activities make time whiz by and leave you energized? What are your core skills? Are you good in a crisis? This knowledge cuts across the traditional training we consider fundamental to success, and I would argue these horizontal skills are far more likely to define your potential. If you look back at your life, you will find these patterns. Grab them, and explore how to play them to your advantage.
Most of all, experiment. The days of thinking you will land in one profession and in one industry are long over. Lines are blurring between industries at a dizzying speed. Look for openings that sing to you and jump in. It may not work out…that’s okay. What did you learn? How do you take what you learned and think about what’s next?
LLB: Mentorship is something you both practice and value. Why is it so important to you to uplift the next generation and particularly women?
Debby: Throughout my career I was often the only woman in the room. I had to create my own ways of surviving. It wasn’t easy. But my mother was a great role model and that helped me navigate the challenges. As I rose through management, I made it my business to bring other women along. I found women were hesitant to bust the apparent rules of the game.
In mentoring women, I find myself recommending some steps to follow:
Raise your hand. Some of the most transformational experiences of my life came from being ‘thrown off the back of the boat’ in what seemed an impossible assignment in the midst of a grand crisis. My boss said, “You will figure it out”. Oh my … sheer terror. But he was right, in a crisis you reach deep down inside and find the answers are there. Stunning life lesson.
Ask for the job. Women often won’t apply for a job. “But I only have 6 out of the 8 requirements!” Eh gads, there are guys who have only 2 and are lining up at the door.
Work for leaders. They will teach you. The great ones are very hard on you…because they want you to grow. Growing as a leader is what it’s all about. You have to create your own style of leadership…but listen, watch and learn from the best.
Trust your intuition. We all have this skill, but it takes effort to hone it. The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made is not listening when I sensed the warnings and decided to ignore them.
Take risks. Somehow I ended up in five different industries and three different professions. It wasn’t some brilliant grand design. But I took risks and got on the surfboard to ride the wave. There were some terrific near drownings AND some spectacular rides. But I’m not done yet and neither are you.
David: Since my early teenage years I experienced all types of people coming to me comfortable to share their hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions; somehow sensing that these were confidential conversations with feedback from me helping to shape their thinking. At first, of course I was too young to fully recognize this characteristic in me, so it took several years for me to shape this into mentoring, counseling, listening, and consulting roles.
Being with Debby for the last 30 years has exposed me to the particular trials and challenges faced by women in reaching their own potential. Although Debby’s challenges have been mostly in very large corporations, the issues women encounter seem to translate into many different environments whether it be trying to raise capital for their startup enterprise, or being passed over for a promotion for a role they have spent extraordinary effort preparing to undertake. And every imaginable situation between those extremes. I could write much more on this subject but will leave it at that!
LLB: Who are the women who inspire you, and why?
Debby: My mother. She was fearless and the life of the party. She juggled two jobs until she was 70 essentially working 7 days a week. I look back and realize she never complained. She faced every obstacle with courage and creativity. We have a picture of her at 17 visiting Florida astride an alligator surrounded by more alligators. That photo has sat on every desk I’ve had. Smile while danger lurks and you will find a way out. The stories about her are legendary and pretty hysterical…they are retold with joy at every gathering. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.
My mother died of Alzheimer’s in 2011. It is a horrific journey for any family to go through. When I moved to Jackson someone told me about the new Senior Living Center that St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson was going to build. It was to be focused on creating dignity in aging and dying. Week two of being on the ground in Jackson I was recruited the St John’s Hospital Foundation Board. I am now the Chair of Finance and the Treasurer. With delight and glee and in my mother’s memory I have had the privilege to play a role in getting the project funded and launched.
David: I am inspired by all the women who I have somehow, in whatever small or big way, helped launch them on their way to become the very best they can be at whatever level and in whatever endeavor they choose as their inspiration.
My mother has always walked a straight line, never deviating from her core values and beliefs. A wonderful role model for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is a stoic Scot right out of central casting, and she's still on that straight path! The 75th anniversary of D-day - which she vividly remembers - marked her 95th Birthday. She plays bridge three or four times a week, keeping her mind razor sharp. She knows how to keep me on my toes and inspires me never to deviate from the right thing to do. Reminds me of Debby!
LLB: You two have been huge advocates of this project through mentorship, advisory and funding. What speaks to you about the work I’m creating, and why do you feel it's important to illuminate the strength and spirit of women and girls?
Debby: I needed a new headshot for a board I serve on, David did some research and found you. When I walked into your studio, I was stunned by the power of the images from the Women in Wyoming project you’ve been working on. I was blown away with how you caught their spirits and power. Just glorious.
Throughout my career I have had many photography sessions. Never before had someone interviewed me in advance. You sought to get to know what makes me tick and what I wanted my portrait to portray. Then you used that insight to talk to me throughout the session. I was impressed. The rest is history…we are delighted to support your efforts to highlight the magnificence, grit, resilience and creativity of Wyoming Women from so many diverse backgrounds…each with a story worth hearing. Your idea to bring their portraits to life through audio of them telling their own story….priceless.
David: All of us, male and female, need role models that inspire us to overcome whatever internal doubts are holding us back from reaching our full potential in the fields of endeavor that appeal to us.
Documenting and celebrating women in Wyoming who have found their destiny, embraced it, and achieved much in their lives, serves as an inspiration to those who may doubt their own capabilities to excel. As Debby often says, “just do it”!
LLB: 2019 has been declared “The Year of Wyoming Women” to celebrate Wyoming as the first territory in the U.S. to recognize women’s right to vote, over 50 years before the 19th amendment was passed nationally. What does this historic anniversary mean to you, and how do you think Wyoming women are doing today?
David: Who can possibly ignore the historic milestones that women have uniquely achieved in Wyoming since its earliest days? It is a salutary reminder of the contributions to our communities and societies that can be made by women everywhere irrespective of color or creed, and wherever in the world they can seize those opportunities.