Annalyn Cruz w/ pink background

Annalyn Cruz ‘00 is this year's Gaucho Professionals Expo Keynote Speaker. Annalyn is an independent Leadership and Executive coach, whose passion is to help others pursue their career freedom and achieve the lives they truly crave. 

Stuck in the same routine and uncomfortable with making big changes? Not sure what steps to take to reach your professional dreams? Riddled with self-doubt and constantly second-guessing your decisions? You’re not alone. Sparked by her own journey and struggles to defeat her “Gremlins” and realize her professional goals, Annalyn Cruz ‘00 launched Grounded In Wisdom, a company that empowers women and BIPOC leaders to rebuild, advance, or completely transition their professional careers.

Annalyn graduated with degrees in Asian American Studies and Sociology. At UC Santa Barbara, there were staff and faculty who believed in Annalyn and encouraged her to pursue leadership roles, even when she questioned whether she was capable of it. The communal support inspired her to give back and be a servant leader that coaches, mentors, and inspires others to reach their dreams. As a Pilipina American, she learned through her journey that personal identities like race, ethnicity, and gender intersect to shape career and life experiences. Annalyn emphasizes how you must learn about who you are both inside and out to find your key to success. “A person's identity and intersectionalities is a pie with many slices,” Annalyn states,

“And they can influence your career choices and the type of life you want to have.”


Learn more about Annalyn as she prepares for her Keynote speech at the 2021 Professional Expo.


How did you become an independent Leadership and Executive coach?

A lot of the work I’ve done in the past 10 years has been in the HR and Learning & Development space in both higher ed and corporate. I transitioned from working with college students to supporting staff members within Student Affairs at UC Berkeley in 2012 and then went on to work for Electronic Arts (EA) from 2016-2021. In both places, I focused a lot on manager and leadership development, along with employee engagement. It was in 2015 that I discovered my passion for coaching. I’ve always been interested in how people connect who they are within to the work that they do and discovering their purpose and how their work is contributing to their greater good.

However, with the nature of my past job, I could not solely focus on the coaching that I loved so much. My intuition told me I could create my destiny forward rather than adhering to a certain structure of another company. I realized I could create the type of opportunities for myself where I can love what I do on a regular basis, and have the freedom and flexibility in the type of work I pursue and take on. And that was so exciting and empowering for me to think about. I started to fully pursue this idea of entrepreneurship as I worked with my own coach for a year; it was a huge process to work through all of the steps and the fear of leaving a secure job. I spent that year doing the inner work in knowing to bet on myself and recognize that I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

What skills did you learn at UCSB that you incorporate into your leadership role?

I started in the Residence Hall Student Government at Anacapa as a freshman and was in the Residence Halls Association my sophomore year. Before that time, I thought that student government was a popularity contest, but it wasn’t the case at UCSB. I soon realized how much being involved in student leadership experiences really shaped me and my college experience. My time in student government set forth my other involvements being an Orientation Staff member, a Counseling and Psychological Services Stress Management Peer, and a Resident Coordinator for Apartment Living.

A lot of my leadership/co-curricular activities helped me gain the skills I have now to be a transformational coach. In student government, I understood the psychological dynamics of a team and what we needed to do in order to be a high-functioning and successful team. As a Stress Management Peer, I helped students through times of transition and challenges. Being a part of O-Staff and Res. Life allowed me to be a stronger public speaker, and help advise my peers. All of those experiences play into what I do now. Different staff members at UCSB saw the potential in me; some people may not be fortunate enough to have that somebody believe in them. Through workshops that I create and coaching leaders I’m able to empower others to believe and have faith to go after the lives they want for themselves, and show up as the leader they aspire to be--in and outside of the workplace.

Being an entrepreneur, how did you promote your coaching business?

Personal and professional networks are more beneficial than most think. The business I have generated so far have been through connections I’ve made over the years professionally and/or personally. I have been fortunate that people have reached out to me for business too--folks who can vouch for me professionally, understand my work ethic, and what I’m capable of as a coach and a facilitator.

I just launched my website in September 2021. To promote this, I shared my website on my social media and LinkedIn, which is broader than my circle of friends and family. My website opens up many more opportunities for others to reach out and get a feel for who I am and the services I offer. It also gave me clarity for the type of work that I want to focus on, which of course is coaching but also designing workshops and doing speaking engagements like the keynote that’s coming up!.

Your philosophy is that people often have the right answers for themselves, but it may be tucked away for a variety of reasons. How do you assist in bringing these right answers to the surface?

I come from a school of thought that we are grounded in wisdom; it’s all within. Sometimes we need to be quiet in reflection and do the hard work to listen to our inner wisdom. People often know deep down about the path that they need to take, but they might be a little fearful to step into that bigger space for themselves. Each person intuitively longs for something more, so for me as a coach, how do I help bring that out for someone? Like the title of my keynote, “Sitting with the Fear & the Gremlins that Hold Us Back,” we all have those Gremlins/saboteurs that hold us back and create self-doubts that can keep us static in our professions or in other parts of our lives. I help empower people to see the greatness in themselves. I shine a light on them to champion what they want to do for themselves. If I think about my purpose, it’s that. How can I help people pursue the dreams that they want for themselves and truly go after them so that they’re living fully?

You are the keynote speaker for our 2021 Professionals Expo. What can alumni expect to learn from your discussion?

I’m going to share some of my own journey at UCSB and beyond, and how some of my own Gremlins have not served me. It’s my hope that the audience will be able to reflect on their own pivotal leadership and career moments in their lives and tap into their own dreams that they may have tucked away. I want folks to feel inspired to pursue what they truly want in their career and the type of life they want to lead moving forward. I’m excited for this opportunity to speak to our alums!


Learn more about Annalyn's talk and see the full event schedule during the Gaucho Professionals Expo