Lynn Mento is the first woman to lead the 60-year old Friends of the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Each year, she and her team welcome some 2 million visitors through the zoo’s gates. While most come to be wowed and delighted by amazing creatures, Lynn’s primary goal is to educate while also entertaining, something she refers to as “the cheese on the broccoli.” Under her leadership, the National Zoo is also collaborating extensively on preservation and conservation efforts that include developing and sharing research about where viruses — like the coronavirus — emanate and what individuals can do to prevent them.
Armed with tremendous experience over a 30-year career in advertising, marketing and membership campaigns prior to joining the Zoo, Lynn was incredibly well-equipped for certain aspects of her role, but she knew next to nothing about zoology or leading and collaborating with an army of dedicated conservationists, veterinarians, staff, and volunteers. She talks about the importance of playing to your strengths, and shares advice for getting buy-in from a new team when you take on a new role. Lynn also shares powerful lessons for embracing a new and unplanned career pivot, as well as why understanding and utilizing “social capital” has been essential in her success.