Passion To Profession: Women in the Active-Outdoor Industries | Myrian Solis Coronel
Myrian Solis Coronel, Next Gen Marketing Manager at REI Co-op, shares her biggest “aha” moments in the workplace and the outdoors—from growing up in Southern California to leading REI’s ten-years-and-running inclusivity initiative for multicultural millennials.
To recognize role models in the active-outdoor industries, we’re featuring women in a myriad of leadership roles—asking them about their backgrounds, their biggest learning experiences, and the influence of nature in their lives. Learn about Myrian Solis Coronel’s 10-year journey in the active-outdoor industries and the impact her work has made in creating a more inclusive outdoor space.
What is your favorite outdoor memory?
Growing up, a few times a month, my grandmother would pick up my brother and me after school and take us to Border Field State Park, a natural area located in the southwest corner of San Diego. I remember being in awe from turning to one side and seeing iconic San Diego landmarks—like Coronado Island and Point Loma—and to the other side, seeing Tijuana, Mexico.
We’d stroll the coastal landscape—a blend of dirt, sand, and ocean views—and after hiking, we’d always end right on the border of Mexico and the U.S. There my grandmother would share her stories and experiences with people standing on the other side of the fence. She would connect with them and share a chuckle. That exchange had a big influence on who I am as an individual. I believe her love for nature, her trust in others, and positive outlook on life has influenced so much of who I am, what I do, and how I’ve shaped my career. So many rich memories and much of my identity lie in this little nook of California.
Who knew that 30 years later I would be chair of California’s State Park and Recreation Commission. Border Field State Park is one of 280 parks across the Golden State. It’s funny how so much of life intersects.
What was your first job in the active-outdoor industries?
My career in the outdoor industry began at REI Co-op 10 years ago, where I was recruited to lead the Diversity in the Outdoors pilot. The goal was to better understand how REI could engage with the Latino community in San Diego, and it later expanded to Southern California. Before joining the Co-op, my background was in commercial radio and public media, but I was excited about this new challenge and felt at home with the community and multicultural engagement aspect of the new job.
My role and the program have evolved over the years, and the work has been really exciting. A few years after the pilot, I launched our national partnership program—through which I’ve met incredible people leading a movement to make the outdoors more inclusive and accessible for all. Since the launch, I’ve seen the growth and reclaiming of outdoor spaces by multicultural communities, and I’ve helped elevate these narratives in the Co-op and the industry.
I love my job. I get to collaborate with incredible women like Rue Mapp from Outdoor Afro, Karla Amador from 52 Hike Challenge, and others who inspire me every day. Working for REI Co-op embodies an expression of my purpose and promotes something that is so healthy and positive for all.
What is your favorite perk in working for REI?
It is the constant inspiration of the outdoors and the endless stories about people discovering new activities, and in turn, discovering something about themselves. Getting to experience that moment, where enjoyment in nature clicks for someone else, is an emotional perk for me. My personal outdoor inspiration gets supported by benefits like work-life balance and “Yay Days” where, two days a year, REI employees get to play outside or volunteer (PTO outside of vacation/sick time). I should also mention that the access to the product and technology is pretty amazing. It’s like being a kid in a candy store!
What is one piece of advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
1) Take more risks with work—try different industries; 2) enjoy the moment; and 3) travel even more. These are also constant reminders I tell myself today! If I could relive my early 20’s I would go live in a different country for a couple of months or a year—preferably by a warm beach.
Did you ever have an “aha” moment in your career? what was it and how did it inform your career path?
My “aha” moment is that you can actually have fun at work doing what you’re good at and also have a positive impact. I think I’ve had the same “aha” moment several times, but in different aspects of life. I know I’m an activator, and I understand I will work for a good portion of my life. What I’ve learned is that building a career in a space that I enjoy, using the skills I am talented at, and finding a place to bring these elements together, allows me to be a happier and more successful person.
What’s your one piece of advice for women seeking a career in the active-outdoor industries?
I tell women of all backgrounds and careers (accountant, attorney, designers, writers, etc.) “We need you!” We need a variety of professions to be part of the outdoor industry. You can learn about career opportunities by joining organizations like Camber Outdoors, doing informal informational interviews with people who have your dream job, and attending networking events.
Tell us about a role model who has impacted your life as a career woman for the better.
So many people come to mind. There is the legacy of my grandmother, who was filled with a love of the outdoors and its ties to culture. I’ve been very fortunate to have incredible supervisors who, in one way or another, impacted my life. For example, my former boss at KPBS, Deanna Mackey: she’s superwoman. From balancing family, a career in a traditionally male-led space, volunteering at one of the largest nonprofits in town, to enjoying life (whether directly or indirectly), she has coached me and prepared me for what was next.
At REI, I’ve had incredible mentors across the board, including my supervisor, Laura Swapp. I have learned so much from her. She’s incredibly smart, thinks outside the box, and has a great sense of humor. The combination of my work and working with her is one of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed working at the Co-op. She’s been a huge champion for inclusion, and I believe it’s because of her advocacy that REI has made tremendous strides in this space. Personally, she continues to challenge me in a way that only makes me and the outcome better.
All of these women have something in common—they’re incredible leaders, understand true hustle, uplift those around them, and know that having a good time is part of the equation. #sheros
You’ve been with REI for 10 years. What can you say about who you were when you started with REI vs. who you are now?
REI has given me a great foundation and confidence to try new outdoor activities. For example, when I tried kayaking for the first time, even though I wasn’t a swimmer, I knew I would be okay because I was there with an Outdoor School instructor, and he made me feel comfortable. I’m now a trail runner and not afraid of trying new activities. I think this confidence and deeper understanding of who I am and what I know also translates to my workspace. Because we’ve built a great foundation—from leading the pilot in Southern California to investing in organizations and leaders who align with our goals, I feel confident and proud of the collective impact we’ve had.
How has your relationship with the outdoors evolved during your time working for REI?
When I first came to REI, I was a beach-goer, a traveler, and a hiker. I then started to relive my beach camping days at the local mountains. I also started trail running. Now, I have a 4-year-old and 20-month-old, so my relationship with the outdoors has a new twist. I still enjoy the beach, and my family and I still travel and hike or run when we can. Feeding my constant need to get outside is balanced with ‘me’ time and being with my kids and husband. There are days when I can sneak a quick hike at the canyon near my house. Other days, it’s all about heading down the street to the park to play with my kids. I love both. The most important thing to me is to get outside, where I’m happiest.
How have you connected with REI’s Next Gen Program? Can you elaborate on the progress and goals of the program and what they mean to you?
It’s always special when you get an opportunity to launch a new program. I’ve had the pleasure of doing that at REI several times, including launching NextGen (which reaches and includes multicultural millennials in the outdoor space), and this is the program that will help us grow and be relevant for generations to come.
It is also incredibly rewarding to see the evolution and integration of the program. When I receive emails from local partners or REI saying they’ve connected and are scheming plans, it means so much to me. While I lead the national partnership program, those relationships don’t start and end with me. They’re being leveraged across the Co-op, and through them, we’re changing the narrative of who is enjoying time outside and how they’re doing it. NextGen reflects a range of stories and people, and in turn, it inspires them to explore more—either within themselves or the outdoors.
What do you see as the most prominent/important active-outdoor industries trend of 2018?
In 2018, I see an increased energy and conversation about the opportunity to bring in better race representation across the industry. We see national movements like #RepresentationMatters come into play in our space— now’s the time to step-up and do something together.
This is an opportunity to recognize great work done by trailblazers like Rue Mapp, who not only built a wonderful organization (Outdoor Afro) but also sits on the Outdoor Industry Association board. She and other amazing leaders have built upon the great legacy that leaders before them created.
I was recently in Oakland attending the PGM ONE summit, and while I was in town, I visited the Oakland Museum of CA. They had an incredible exhibit on the history of Hip Hop; one of my favorite music genres. As I moved through the exhibit, I was reminded of why Hip Hop started. It was a culture—a creative expression to resist, find our true selves, and bring a new voice to the masses. You have DJ’s, rappers, dancers, and graffiti artists in this culture. Some become celebrities, some don’t. What I love about it—and we can see this in the outdoor space—is that they all have a different journey and approach but want a similar outcome: Recognition of the issues that matter to them and who they represent.
In the outdoor space, we have non-profits, NGOs, brands, and activists trying to close the representation gap. If we can take a respectful approach, allow each brand and organization to enter this journey of change with no allegations, and take action, I know we’ll move this industry forward.
What’s your superpower? Multitasking. And now being a mom, multitasking has gone to another level.
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Going out for a hike at the canyon behind my house—accessible, good cardio, gives me the nature fix I need.
What book would you recommend? Save the World and Still Be Home for Dinner by Will Marre
Your number one outdoor hack? Safety. Never forget sunglasses and sunscreen.
A few words you think of when we say outdoors? Connection to self or connection with others.
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