Download our free guide to level up your leadership development
On leadership

Embracing Change: My Journey to Leadership at Next Shift Learning

Tina Hossain, Next Shift Learning's Co-founder & CEO, speaking on a panel
Tina Hossain, Co-Founder & COO, Next Shift Learning
June 17, 2024
5 min read
NSL's COO Tina Hossain with her parents and brother celebrating her graduation from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management MBA Program
Tina at six-years-old, shortly after moving to the United States
Tina, around age six, embarking on a new adventure in the United States.

From Shadows to Strength

Growing up as an undocumented Muslim girl in a low-income Bangladeshi-American family, I lived in the shadows of society. My parents worked tirelessly in dry cleaners and fast-food restaurants, because they had a clear vision. They weren’t just working to survive; they were dreaming of a future for me beyond the harsh realities we faced daily.

From a young age, my parents instilled in me the mantra, “We fight for you.” And their perseverance taught me that the essence of leadership isn’t found in professional titles at the top of an org chart, but in the courage to dream, the resilience to follow through, and the ability to motivate and inspire others to be their best.

Learning Emotional Intelligence

While I had the support of my family, navigating life both as an undocumented immigrant, and later, a first-generation college student, meant that I learned early on the importance of emotional intelligence. I struggled with uncertainty and the fear of the unknown in my youth. 

Over time, I discovered the power of understanding my emotions rather than trying to control them. I learned to tune in and really listen to my feelings of anxiety or restlessness. My intuition was processing the world and guiding me to logical decisions.

I still practice trusting my intuition every day. For instance, when contemplating career changes, such as taking the risk of leaving a defined path for the unknown world of entrepreneurship, I leaned into my intuition. 

These lessons in emotional intelligence have been invaluable in my role as the Co-founder and COO of Next Shift Learning, where understanding and addressing the emotional and professional needs of our clients and team members is paramount.

“I learned early on the importance of emotional intelligence. I discovered the power of understanding my emotions, rather than trying to control them. My intuition was processing the world and guiding me to logical decisions.”

Tina and Sergio, NSL's Co-founder and CEO, celebrating her U.S. citizenship in 2011
Tina and Sergio celebrating Tina's U.S. citizenship in the summer of 2011.
Tina celebrating her MBA Program graduation from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management with her parents, and her brother
Tina and her brother celebrate their academic achievements at Kellogg's 2016 commencement ceremonies.

Recognizing and Leveraging Strengths

Another thing I learned early on through my lived experiences, is that I had to chart my educational and career path for myself. I couldn’t simply follow the career path of my parents, or an older sibling. So, I put my hard work into school, and explored every option and resource available to me. This led to a fully-funded scholarship to attend a four-year college, then to a career in government and public policy. My early work in state government and public policy allowed me to drive impact for others like myself locally. While this was incredibly rewarding, I dreamt of creating impact at scale.

Pursuing an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management was a leap of faith. I believed it would sharpen my strengths in analytics and big-picture thinking that I had developed in the early part of my career, while shaping my views on tapping into other strengths to supplement my own. While at Kellogg, I learned the importance of strengths-based leadership and looked for opportunities in my early management years to put it into practice. 

One memorable experience involved a young colleague who had remarkable strengths in influence and building structures and processes. Recognizing her potential, I made it a goal to assign her roles in which she could flex and grow those skills. She soon became a "spikey" expert in those areas, significantly contributing to our team goals and earning a strong personal brand. 

That means anyone can be a leader — and that people at all levels need access to leadership development.

And, because like me, she was a woman of color, this experience reinforced my belief that true inclusivity in the workplace is about creating space where different strengths are recognized and developed.

Adapting Through Vision

My career has been a series of pivots driven by the desire to grow and adapt to a changing world. After earning an MBA, I spent seven years in Corporate America working with executive leadership to transform the healthcare system to deliver quality, accessible care to underserved communities. I relied on the skills and strengths I had developed throughout my career, and the diverse perspectives of people I had learned from, to make an impact. But I knew there was more I could do.

My life partner, Sergio Rosas, had already left his full-time job to pursue NSL’s mission. Through many conversations, we discovered our shared passion for supporting individuals to unlock their potential and to build an equitable workforce.

One of the keys to my adaptability is maintaining a long-term vision for my life, which I can articulate and return to despite changing routes. I also embrace the process of ever-changing and becoming new versions of myself. This mindset has allowed me to adapt to new realities, such as motherhood, while balancing entrepreneurship and parenting a young child.

Tina and Rumi enjoying the festivities of Eid-al-Fitr in April 2024. Rumi is 2 years old.

Balancing Motherhood and Professional Growth

Stepping into the unknown to become a full-time entrepreneur while raising a young child has been the hardest yet most rewarding journey. My son was 11-months-old when I began to grow NSL full-time, and now he is 2.5-years-old. Balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship has taught me the importance of resilience, adaptability, and pursuing one’s passion.

Reflecting on this journey, I wrote a letter to my son, Rumi, on my last day of parental leave. My intention is to have Rumi read it one day when he starts thinking about his own career, and the contributions he wants to make to create a better world. Here’s an excerpt from that letter: 

“I want to use my precious time away from you wisely. I want to take risks and grow something from tiny to big. I want to stretch my skills so I feel like a lifelong learner. I am aiming to pursue a career and impact that will both allow me to parent the way I want and create meaningful time and stretch for me while I am away from you.”

Turns out, even before I had the answers on where to take my career, I was communicating to Rumi (and honestly, to myself) that a new adventure was calling me. Motherhood has deepened my commitment to step into my power to drive meaningful impact.

I recommend that all parents do this, or a similar exercise, to help get to a point of clarity on where and how you want to spend your time and energy, each day — whether you work full-time or not. It’s a great way to tap into your intuition and passions. It also helps you design your own journey, both near-term and long-term, taking guidance from the things that matter most to you.

“One of the keys to my adaptability is maintaining a long-term vision for my life, which I return to despite changing routes. I embrace the process of the ever-changing, and becoming new versions of myself. This mindset has allowed me to adapt to new realities.”

Building an Equitable Workforce: Emerging Leaders 

Every step of my journey has reinforced my belief in the immense power of lived experiences. These are not just personal stories; they are the bedrock of authentic and intentional leadership. At NSL, our mission is to create an equitable workforce that thrives. This mission drives my dedication to running this company while being a working parent. It’s a calling to take my lived experiences and skills and enable others to build their own dreams and step into financial stability, regardless of their backgrounds.

Prior to joining NSL, I developed skills in building new organizations and teams, setting strategy and execution, making data-driven decisions, seizing transformational opportunities, and ultimately, creating faster transitions between ideation and execution.

In co-building NSL, I continue to take our team from vision to execution — from assembling a world-class team, to developing innovative product and services lines that empower individuals and organizations to reach their full potential. 

And here’s the exciting part — I am still on my journey. I’m still emerging as a leader. I never thought I’d go from being undocumented to building a business from the ground up. Now, more than ever, I realize the importance of evaluating how  I’m showing up for myself, my team, the company I’m co-leading, and others who wish to build something greater than themselves. 

In order for us to achieve our mission, we have made a bet on investing in content and training to propel future workforce leaders. We believe that investing in emerging leaders creates a ripple effect that gains momentum. First it impact’s one’s career. Then their team. Then the success of their company, followed by the innovations of their industry. 

This week, we’ll be sharing the launch of our Emerging Leaders Program. We created the Emerging Leaders Program because we saw a gap in how leaders are formed. Too often, companies think of leaders as people who have the “right title”, “right credentials” or “right network.” We believe leadership is about unlocking potential in others to do their best work. It also means that leaders are lifelong learners, leveraging their curiosity to consistently grow, and help others grow as well.

Our Emerging Leaders Program is built on this belief. It unlocks potential, boosts engagement and retention, and helps you create a culture of continuous learning where your people can thrive. Stay tuned for more.

Featured Posts

Sergio Rosas, NSL's CEO, speaking to a group of Snap Academy scholars

How Lived Experiences Shape the Mission at Next Shift Learning

Learn how the lived experiences of NSL's Co-founder and CEO shape the mission to create a more equitable workforce that thrives.
A group of learners developing new skills for career-readiness

So, What's a Workforce Design Studio?

We're so glad you asked. We're experts building the workforce of the future — one in which skills and a growth mindset replace degrees and connections as signals for potential.
Snap Academy scholars enjoying their experience at Snap Inc's headquarters

Snap Academies: Accelerating Career Readiness for Underrepresented Talent

Partnering with Snap Inc. to connect with the undeniable talent of diverse and untapped tech candidates through upskilling, mentorship, and professional development.