Photo of Daniel with a white backdrop for the primary graphic

From Opportunity to Achievement: Insider Strategies for Career Advancement 

by Elaine Fernandez Bravo

Making Waves Education Foundation » Resources » From Opportunity to Achievement: Insider Strategies for Career Advancement 

“I’m supremely ambitious, and I don’t shy away from that. I want to be great; I want to be seen as great. I want to be a better version of myself every day,” shared Daniel Shaw (he/him), a member of the first-ever cohort of Making Waves students. 

Originally from Richmond, California, Daniel has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Morehouse College, an HBCU in Atlanta, Georgia, and an MBA from UCLA. He is an accomplished global business leader with extensive experience in the health and wellness technology space.  

Though 87% of students in Making Waves’ college and career success program are first-generation college students, Daniel is among the 13% who was not the first in his family to go to college. His grandmother was a top executive, his parents went to college, and his older brother graduated from UCLA.  

“College was always the reality for me,” he shared. 

What Daniel finds most meaningful in being a part of Making Waves is the community. 

“Making Waves puts you in a place where everybody was striving to be better, which is amazing to have as a young person,” he shared. 

“Now I am able to bring that experience to the next generation of people, which allows them to be able to think about careers in a different way,” said Daniel, who recently spoke at a Making Waves’ careers in healthcare panel

As Daniel reflects on his more than three decades as a Wave-Maker, he shared: “I’ve been proud to have this new relationship with Waking Waves now, supporting the new generations of Wave-Makers.” 

As a Wave-Maker myself, recent graduate from UC Davis this spring, and as someone getting ready to start my career at Deloitte, I was excited to interview Daniel to learn more about his career journey and share some of his tips for career advancement.

Daniel has an impressive career journey: From his first job out of college at Deloitte Consulting to General Mills, Under Armour, Fitbit, Eli Lilly, and to his most recent role as vice president of digital health product management at Aetna, a CVS Health company. 

“For me, it was less active in terms of looking for the next opportunity and more open to the opportunity when it presented itself,” Daniel shared. “I find that the people who are most successful know: When an opportunity presents itself, they listen, but they don’t go for every single one.” 

“Always be open to every opportunity and pick the one that’s going to get you to wherever it is you’d like to be,” Daniel said. 

Daniel has always been a big advocate of the mindset about belonging in rooms to which you’re invited. When asked about imposter syndrome, he said it was not something he struggled with as he thinks about it in two ways.  

“Number one is if someone hires you, they think you can do the job. No one’s hiring you to fire you. I know when I get in the room, they think I belong in the room. Number two is I’ve chalked up enough wins to know that I can win. I’ve lost a lot too, but I have succeeded way more than I have failed.” 

“I take with me the lessons I’ve learned from my fails but the fact that I understand that I can’t succeed every time I go into these rooms is a feature that I think is most important,” Daniel shared. 

Daniel added how crucial it is to also know your place in the room. He discussed how you can’t always enter a space thinking you own it.  

He said, “I understand if I’m the VP in the room, but the CEO is there; I understand if I’m in the room with interns, and I’m the VP, what my place would be there.” 

Having had many unique experiences, Daniel is full of knowledge and valuable advice. One of the biggest pieces of advice he’s received is from the head of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors who stated, “You should be more passionate than ambitious.”  

Daniel explained, “If you are passionate, if you bring this idea of wanting more, to understand more, and to be better, ambition will come with it. Every time I speak, every time I’m in front of people, I bring that passion, bring that excitement, bring that energy, and hope that it exudes to people.” 

Another piece of advice Daniel has is simply to work hard.  

“To be successful, you must work hard,” he shared. “I know that sounds trite, but a lot of the value that young people can bring is going to be in the effort and the time that they put in when trying to do their craft and do their work.” 

For example, Daniel shared that a new employee is not going to know more than someone who’s been there for years. He said, “A 22-year-old does not know more than a 44-year-old, but what a 22-year-old can do is come in, hit the ground, get into the details, and then bring me those one or two nuggets that are crucial for leadership to know.” 

“Work hard and understand your role and your place on the team. The insights and the value that you bring to make your boss’s life easier are going to be things that will get you seen and that will allow you to grow and develop,” Daniel shared.  

“Anytime you can make it possible to make other people’s life easier, it’ll only help you.” 

With Daniel’s busy schedule, it’s been an ongoing effort to make sure that he’s still accomplishing everything he needs to do while simultaneously giving himself grace. “I am doing better at balance, at finding time for family and time for friends,” Daniel shared.  

He does state that while his balancing is improving, he still feels like there’s work to be put in.

“I think there’s always going to be a constant balancing act of trying to be the best business version of myself, the best professional version of myself, as well as trying to be the best personal version of myself.” 

Photo of Elaine Fernandez with a white background

Elaine Fernandez Bravo is a Bay Area native, a Wave-Maker alum, and a graduate of UC Davis, after double majoring in managerial Economics and Sociology. She enjoys being involved and is a Management Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) Fellow, Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) Scholar, and President of Sigma Pi Alpha Sorority, Inc. She loves getting the opportunity to give back and support Making Waves in all the ways she can just like they’ve always supported her.


At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.

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