In her role as Chief Strategy Officer at The Animal Foundation, Ariel Zhang is responsible for growing the Las Vegas organization from a municipal shelter into a community support resource. She’s a powerful voice in the conversation on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, and you can catch her at The Fall Conference for Animal Welfare Advancement, where she’ll be discussing inclusive strategic planning.
Name & Title: Ariel Zhang, Chief Strategy Officer at The Animal Foundation
Member of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement since: 2020
Q&A with Ariel Zhang
The Association: Describe yourself in three words.
Ariel Zhang: Curious, Caring, Resilient
The Association: Describe The Animal Foundation in three words.
Ariel Zhang: Resilient, Compassionate, Challenging
The Association: Tell us about one small victory you had this week—personally or professionally.
Ariel Zhang: We did our first rural vaccine event at The Animal Foundation recently. The closest veterinarian is over 45 minutes away from this town, and it felt meaningful for our organization to provide access where there’s a high need.
The Association: We are looking forward to your session at the Fall Conference on inclusive strategic planning, and we hear that you’ll be sharing practical actions that attendees can bring home to their orgs. Can you please give us a sneak peek of a tip or tool you will be sharing?
Ariel Zhang: One of the tools I will be sharing comes from software design. Designing software isn’t that different than designing a program or strategy. At some level, in both scenarios, you have to plan, define requirements, design, test, deploy, and maintain. We will be talking about building personas – a tool from the design stage. Especially as the industry moves to being more community-centric, the problems become more complex. As such, we can’t solve for the entire community, and nor do we have to. We need to segment what we are calling the “community,” and get good at communicating about and focusing on where the highest needs are. Just as we have researched, modeled, and communicated about the needs, locations, and motivations of the animals in our care, we need to put in the same effort to understand our communities. We’ll dive deeper into that in the session so hope to see y’all there!
The Association: What’s the last movie you saw or book you read?
Ariel Zhang: I’m bad at reading one book at a time but I’m almost done with both 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and The Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The second book was a gift from a friend and former colleague that I’m just now getting around to, but it’s been even more meaningful now that I’m in an industry where you always feel like there’s more to do every day.
The Association: Please share a hidden (or not-so-hidden) talent.
Ariel Zhang: I love all Latin dancing, but especially salsa and bachata.
The Association: You can invite 5 people from all of history to dinner. Who’s at the table, and what are you eating?
Ariel Zhang: I would invite Tony Hsieh, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, my grandfather, Ann Dunham, and Betty White. I always prefer to eat family style, so we would share a Chinese hot pot or various Ethiopian stews with injera.
The Association: What’s your favorite one-sentence leadership tip?
Ariel Zhang: Build Community.