Office of Alumni Engagement

Julia Steyn '96

Professional Background

  • Julia Steyn '96Currently serves as Chief Commercial Officer of VectoIQ LLC – special investments company focused on future of transportation.
  • Served as CEO of Bolt Mobility – pioneer start up in business to business micromobility technology.
  • Served as Vice President, Urban Mobility and CEO of Maven at General Motors from 2015-2019. She joined General Motors in 2012 as vice president, Corporate Development and Global Mergers and Acquisitions, where she managed a diverse portfolio of GM’s global automotive and third-party partnerships as well as mergers and acquisitions.


What attracted you to Oberlin?
As a Russian immigrant, being able to pursue both of my passions—piano and economics—concurrently was simply a dream come true. Developing my skills as a performer and artist at the same time I was growing through exposure to liberal arts provided an exemplary and unique educational opportunity. It was through this blend of both worlds at Oberlin that I was able to realize my full potential as a student and professional.

Service on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees represents a significant commitment of time and effort. What draws you to this service?
As a leader in the “New Economy,” it is evident that a liberal arts education provides one a tremendous advantage. Problem solving, innovation, and collaboration are key factors to success in next-gen jobs. Creativity is the new currency. Given my hands-on experience shaping new business models, jobs and products, I am invested in ensuring Oberlin has a competitive advantage so that we may fulfil Oberlin’s promise: To provide a supportive and robust environment which supports the fundamental belief that “One person can change the world.” Oberlin was where I came to embrace my full potential. I am eager to give back to the institution that gave so much to me.

Share an Oberlin experience that shaped who you are today.
Oberlin is where I embraced philosophies inherent in liberal arts—to seek divergent viewpoints, understand what motivates people and, above all, remain inclusive. Blending the discipline of conservancy work with the boundless opportunities provided by liberal arts provided me a distinct advantage in the business world. From macroeconomics to piano performance, my unique approach to leadership is firmly rooted by my experiences at Oberlin.

What elements of your personal and professional life would be helpful to you in your service as a trustee?
As a concert pianist and economist, both disciplines require focus, creativity, and an ability to anticipate “what’s next.” Over my professional career I come back to key elements of true leadership.  To me, true leadership is leading with the heart, listening to diverse points of view and taking risks. Oberlin taught me these qualities and I would love to be able to support these principles institutionally as a trustee.

Tell me of one specific instance in which you wished to understand someone with different values from yours. What happened?
Embracing diversity of thought and seeking multiple points of view remain central to the liberal arts philosophy I learned from Oberlin. When early in my career and new to a global management consulting firm, I was led by a very demanding and intimidating person. Rather than cower when this executive approached, I stood tall and sought him out as a mentor. Instead of distancing his viewpoint, I sought to learn and understand his perspective. Through that relationship, he taught me a tremendous amount regarding his approach to business. My skills evolved as a result. I did not shy away as others did and thus developed a strong mentoring relationship with someone whose advice and insights guide me today.

What do you spend your time working on and thinking about?
My time is mostly spent focusing on encouraging and amplifying innovation. I think and worry about what kind of planet I will pass to my thirteen-year-old son. What will our generation's legacy be? How will our investments work towards higher good for the next seven generations? What knowledge do we pass in the current information age that is so fast? I feel that Oberlin has taught me to take a holistic higher gestalt/perspective that is a core value and skill that I hope current students organically develop. 

What else do you want your fellow alumni to know about you as they consider how they will vote?
It would be my privilege to support and protect the progressive ideals, dedication to excellence and commitment to creativity Oberlin embodies. I would like to give back to the community that made such a difference in my career and personal life. I have never thought that as a concert pianist and an immigrant I would be able to lead innovation at iconic American companies like Alcoa and GM. I am confident Oberlin as an institution will continue to unlock one’s potential to change the world.

2021 Alumni Trustee Election Homepage