Category: Alumni Stories, Hoya Highlight

Title:Hoya Highlight: Kuri Yasuno (C’97)

Kuri YasunoAuthor and Stay-At-Home Mom


Your Time on the Hilltop

What was your major at Georgetown?

I majored in Spanish and Japanese and minored in Music and Fine Arts.

What was your favorite class or who was your favorite professor at Georgetown? Why?

My favorite classes were my fine arts classes, particularly the drawing and music classes. I didn’t know that Georgetown had them, but I stumbled into a drawing class, for example, and really liked it. I enjoyed my music class with Professor Taka—he was a great teacher and always made the class very interesting. I’d always played music, so that was a fun thing for me. I went to school under the serious guise of my languages, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the classes that ended up being my double minor.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

I lived at home with my parents throughout high school, and then when I went to college, my parents moved to Japan. One day I was walking to Lauinger Library and came across the John Carroll statue in front of the Healy building. And for some reason, I realized that I was independent. I remember thinking, I need to remember this moment. My parents aren’t taking care of me and every decision I make is mine—that was kind of cool. I could do whatever I wanted, good, bad, or evil, but that was all me. And then I went to the library. But I realized I wasn’t a high school kid anymore.

What advice would you give your younger self (or a current Georgetown student)?

From my experience, I would tell Georgetown students to take other classes outside the required courses. Take classes that genuinely interest you, and take advantage of the whole campus. Go to the gym and use it, take the shuttle buses into the city, etc. The other thing I would say is: leave campus. I never did: My world ended at M Street and Wisconsin. I would recommend Georgetown students leave the bubble sometimes, and take opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Go abroad, talk to strangers, and enjoy the easy access to your friends that dorm life offers. Take advantage of it all, and if you don’t love something try something else. It’s a unique time in your life where you’re independent, but you don’t really have responsibilities. Find opportunities, take them, and enjoy them.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

I made great friends, and college taught me how to be independent. I grew up kind of sheltered, and I had really strict parents, so I learned how to budget time and prioritize—life skills. In terms of academics, I know a couple of languages now, and that’s come in handy. But more importantly, I learned how to be myself. I learned how to manage my day, how to get up in the morning and not rely on others to take care of me. Georgetown prepared me for life.

Career Information and Reflections

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

The best thing I have learned working in law firms and companies is to try to learn from everyone. Be interested, interesting, and respectful. I learned just as much from the guys who ran the copy machine as the lawyers I was the legal assistant for. I would be in a jam, the copier guys would show me how to fix the machines, and then I ended up being the person asked to fix the machine. Never miss an opportunity to learn, no matter who you’re interacting with.

What is the hardest thing you’ve done professionally?

The hardest thing for me was realizing that I was replaceable. I take my job very seriously, and I felt like I was irreplaceable everywhere I worked. Nobody could do the job better than I could. But later I had to go on maternity leave, and I was so worried that when I left, they would fall apart without me. Let me tell you what a rude awakening it was that in my three-month maternity leave, I did not get a single phone call. I was totally replaceable. I did do good work, but it was hard for me to realize work is work, and life is life, and I am not as important as I thought I was.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

When my jewelry pieces were worn on TV shows, that was very rewarding. My youngest, Seth, was really into these superhero TV shows, and I wanted him to see me as cool. So, I was going to get one of my pieces on this show Arrow. I really wanted it worn by this specific character, but it ended up being on a different character. It was still on a superhero show, which was awesome, but from the time it took between me sending it in and it being on air, my son was over superhero shows! Also, of course, writing a book and holding the printed copy in my hands was really amazing.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

I liked how my career went—I always stumbled into interesting jobs, but I should have gotten into the things I really wanted to do sooner. I worked at a law firm out of college because I didn’t have a plan. I loved it, but maybe I could’ve started in a creative position beforehand. I didn’t get to the fun part, like working for Discovery and National Geographic, until later.

To what do you credit your career success?

I credit my success to chance and luck. Every job that I’ve had I’ve met really interesting people. That always helped, because being with interesting people makes life more interesting. I also think being very organized has really helped me. My first job after the law firm, I was an administrative assistant to two directors, and they were both named Mark. Because of this, I created a system: work for one Mark was all in blue, and work for the other was in orange. Being organized and having systems made things go smoothly, from work to parenting my autistic son.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking about changing career paths?

If you can, do it. We, as humans, are always afraid of trying new things. Don’t make irresponsible decisions—if you have a job, and you need a job, don’t start something that is careless unless you have another way to back that up. Or start small and do your passion projects on the side and cultivate them. If you see a feasible opportunity and you think you’ll be happier, do it. Don’t waste your years doing something that doesn’t make you happy, because nothing is permanent. If it makes sense to try it, do it.

What led you to make your career changes?

I didn’t want to be a lawyer, so I left my first job at the law firm. I loved working in marketing, and then Discovery imploded, and National Geographic was hiring. I worked for National Geographic and then I moved over to their education department, where I was building websites for shows. Then I had a baby and was able to stay home with him during my maternity leave. One day, I had a friend mention she loved a certain jewelry store, and I knew I could make the pieces they sold, so I decided to try making my own jewelry. From there it grew and I had a shop. People were contacting me about getting my pieces in TV shows, and I was receiving larger wholesale orders. Eventually, I had to stop making jewelry because it had gotten to the point where I would have to either hire more employees to help grow the business or let it go. I enjoyed making jewelry, but I didn’t really have the ability to work a job like that with my kids. After that, a friend of mine wrote a book, and she said I could (and should) write one too. So, I wrote a book. And now I’m working to raise awareness about autism and inclusion.

A Day in the Life

What does your workspace look like? Are you at a desk frequently or on the road? What do you have on your desk at all times?

I don’t really have a set workspace, but I do always have a notebook, water or tea, and snacks. And of course, I also have my readers now. The notebook is really important for me. I used to write things on pieces of paper, and those were hard to organize, so I trained myself to always use my notebook, or tape my notes into the notebook so that everything is in one place. I have a system for using specific spots in my notebook to put contact information, too, which helps keep me organized.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

Having a cup of tea in the morning and being with my kids!

Who or what is a source of strength and inspiration in your life and why?

A little bit of a lot of people. My mom is such a good human. She doesn’t gossip, she is very reliable and very funny. My husband inspires me, because he always knows the right thing to do. He has the best moral compass. And having that person at my back is great, because you know you’re never going astray. And my kids. I like to see myself in them, and also see how they aren’t like me. My father is also very impressive. He worked in the States for his whole career, and one thing I always found inspiring was at the end of his career, he worked in Hawaii. In English, they pronounce words differently and would emphasize the second syllable of our last name (ya-SU-no). His mission was to have everybody know how to properly pronounce his name (YA-su-no), and he succeeded in that.

What’s one book you’d recommend to everyone?

Autism with a Side of Sushi, of course. But also the Marie Kondo book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, with a caveat. I think cleaning out your life and choosing joy is great. She is writing for a Japanese audience, however, so I think it’s important to read knowing that you might have more space to hold onto some extra things. But I think choosing joy is a really great message.

What are your words to live by?

Just start. If you want to write a book, who cares how it ends up? Just start. Because if it’s not great, whatever, but if it’s great, even better. A lot of times, I would mull something over and then waste time. Another thing is something I learned from a TED Talk and that is not being afraid to hear “No.” Just ask. People are afraid to start and do things because they are afraid of hearing the word “no.” But, surprisingly, people often say yes. As long as you’re respectful and kind, there is no harm in asking.


As an author, what does your typical day look like? What was the process of writing your book like?

I found that for me, writing stream of consciousness was the best process. I then sent it to my editor, and she marked it up. For me, it was just best to block off time to sit down and write.

If you could go back to the beginning of the process, what advice would you have for yourself?

I wrote the book, and then my son wasn’t comfortable with the book I had written. He and I had talked about writing the book, and he had been okay with it, but when he found out that I had written about his tantrums, he felt less comfortable. My book was a story about me, but it was also very much about him, and he essentially asked for me to remove half of my book when I was almost ready to hand it in. I sat down and discussed with him in more detail what he was and wasn’t okay with, and ultimately, we sent a revised version to my editor. We still felt like there was enough there to get the message out, so we went forward with publishing it.
If I could go back to the beginning and give myself a piece of advice, it would be to be very specific with people about what you plan to write. In hindsight, I would have definitely saved myself some editing time.