Podcast·2 min read

Emily Hikade on Going from CIA Officer to Entrepreneur

January 18, 2023

From navigating war zones to negotiating with affiliates of terrorist organizations, Emily Hikade lived for the thrill of working as a CIA officer. But a near death experience at work made her realize: it was time to try a different kind of adventure. While in East Africa, Emily worked nights to start her luxury sleepwear brand, Petite Plume. Today, Emily shares how working in diplomacy prepared her for the challenges of being a founder and CEO.

In this episode, Emily Hikade shares:

  • Why she knew she’d have an international career from an early age

  • The moment she started feeling vulnerable in her CIA career 

  • What her near-death experience put into perspective for her

  • How she managed to start her business while working full-time and being a mom of three 

  • Advice on how to know which investors are worth working with 

On the Hardest Thing She’s Done in Her Career

Emily: I was heading to a mission in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It was a high threat meeting, and there was a storm and I was on a single prop plane. My plane started to go sideways and the lights went out and people started screaming and the plane started spinning toward the ocean and we were losing altitude and spinning. And all I could see were the faces of my three little kids. At the time, the youngest one wasn't even a year old. And I think that was my aha moment because at this point I had been doing this for over 15 years. But I thought: my kids needed me more.

On How the CIA Prepared her For Entrepreneur Life

Emily: I think that things that hold true and make you a successful agency officer also makes you a successful CEO. It's about thinking on your feet. It's about being prepared for anything that's coming your way. It’s about resilience. One of the keys to success in life is resilience because everybody falls down in every career, but it's whether you get back up and you keep moving forward, which just breeds momentum. It’s about being risk averse or managing your risk as much as possible moving forward. Whether it's with a company or whether it's in a meeting with an agent. And it's about relationships. I wanna underscore that both of them, it's very important to have strong relationships. Being able to rely on each other and your team – I think that's another major motivator.

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