With an Entrepreneur’s Passion, She Creates Conduits to Connect People

With an Entrepreneur’s Passion, She Creates Conduits to Connect People


Kristin D. Ashcraft’s (’09) leadership across UCLA Anderson’s network has earned her the 2024 Outstanding Alumni Service Award

March 27, 2024

  • Kristin D. Ashcraft has received the 2024 Outstanding Alumni Service Award for her leadership across UCLA Anderson’s network
  • The healthcare industry executive is now serving as a fractional C-level leader and advisor to growing companies across industries while cultivating a new business idea of her own
  • An entrepreneur’s passion has guided Ashcraft through her corporate career as well as her service to UCLA Anderson, where she is committed to connecting current students with alumni

Business schools like to talk about the “entrepreneurial mindset,” they like to say that the entrepreneurial approach is not just for MBAs looking to launch the latest startup. In fact, they’ll make it clear to b-school students that entrepreneurial qualities are just as important for a manager at a Fortune 500 company.

But what, exactly, is that mindset? What are those “impactful” qualities that so often underlie success, regardless of professional setting? There’s no formal, official list, but do a little online research and you’ll see that the same characteristics keep coming up:

Solution-oriented, adaptable, creative, tenacious, visionary, motivated, passionate … You get the idea.

Though she has not always found herself working with early-stage startups, make no mistake about it, Kristin D. Ashcraft (’09) is driven by the entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout her varied and successful career, mostly in the healthcare industry, she’s manifested the aforementioned qualities in a variety of roles — whether bringing new products to market, developing new lines of business within established companies or leading teams of hundreds of staffers across multiple locations.

After earning her undergraduate degree at Duke, she worked at Gap Inc. for seven years, beginning in marketing. Later, she moved to international sourcing, rose through the ranks and took on more responsibilities. The more she worked with that company’s leadership, though, the less sure Ashcraft was about a future in retail.

“That’s actually what brought me to Anderson. I felt like if I wanted to get into a different industry, an MBA was a great way of resetting the platform, to learn about new industries, build a network and develop the skills to get me where I wanted to go,” Ashcraft says. She took on a number of student leadership roles at Anderson, and one of them was president of SOMA, the Strategy and Operations Management Association. “The first company to reach out to me was DaVita. I was not familiar with them, but because I felt accountability to the club, I went to the info session just to make sure that it went well and the members and company were happy,” she says, explaining how her career journey into the healthcare industry was perhaps a stroke of serendipity. During the event, Ashcraft learned of a post-MBA, entrepreneur-in-residence program the company was offering. “Many of us coming out of Anderson have that entrepreneurial streak,” Ashcraft says, “and this was a very interesting combination of company and opportunity. Fast-forward: I got the job.”

Ashcraft began her post-Anderson career at Falcon EHR, an electronic health records company under the DaVita banner.

“That’s when health records’ going from paper to electronic was new and there had to be Meaningful Use certification and incentives for physicians. It was a big shift and we took that business, as they like to say, from zero to one,” Ashcraft says. “There was a proof of concept in the technology, but there was no business model around it, so we did everything from figuring out who the customer was, to the pricing to the logo. Then we brought it to commercial readiness and brought it into the market. And we met our first-year revenue target.”

“I work extremely hard to build relationships and be intentional about how I interact with pretty much everyone in my life. That’s so I can really galvanize them toward a common goal.”

After she got Falcon up and running, Ashcraft was herself off and running. Over the next decade-plus, she made professional contributions to her industry with increasing leadership responsibilities. She moved into another area of DaVita, a later stage startup with 1,200 staffers. With a desire to go into operations, she went on to lead a 400-person team across multiple sites. “We had a lot of success turning around teams that were underperforming, improving the way they operated, which is something I love to do,” Ashcraft says. By the time she and her husband Matt had twins, Ashcraft was looking for greater accountability. So she accepted an offer from a genetics lab called Counsyl in Commercial Operations. This then led to an SVP of business operations role reporting to the CEO at MyHealthTeam, a startup that created social networks for people facing chronic health conditions. Ashcraft went on to serve for three years as COO at Genome Medical, which brings genomic medicine to everyday care. Most recently, Ashcraft is expanding her professional reach providing services to companies across industries as a fractional C-level executive and advisor. In addition, she continues to follow her entrepreneurial bent as she is also exploring a new business concept.

Ashcraft’s career has followed a non-traditional path, and one can’t help but wonder if she sees some throughline that ties it all together so far. She believes there are two.

“One — and I think I probably share this with a lot of people — is that in everything I work on, I try to seek out positions and opportunities where the mission aligns with my personal values so that I can be an authentic leader,” Ashcraft says. “I’m not going to just take on any role or responsibility. I have to feel it in my gut, so that when I stand up in front of a team from one to one thousand, I can be genuine in how I feel about what I’m working on.

“The other,” she says, “is that I work extremely hard to build relationships and be intentional about how I interact with pretty much everyone in my life. That’s so I can really galvanize them toward a common goal in a way that not only meets the needs of whatever team I’m working on, but it also meets the personal motivations of the person I’m working with. I really do work hard to know every person that I interact with, whether it’s an employee, a friend or a volunteer, to know what it is they are trying to achieve, so I can marry that to a common goal that I’m trying to attain with the larger organization.”

Ashcraft credits her experience as a new student in a large high school with providing the foundation for her philosophy. As a teen, she joined a peer coaching group and was trained in effective ways to listen to others, to be empathetic and to help others succeed. That approach carried through to her Duke college days, when she served in leadership roles aimed at connecting students. At Anderson, she became social chair of her MBA section and says she was always looking for ways to foster relationships and build community. She was tapped to join her 10-year reunion committee.

“I jumped in 100%. That’s what I love to do, I love to bring people together to remind them how great their classmates truly are,” Ashcraft says. “But it’s not just about having fun or raising money, it’s to build those connections and then reinforce them when they start to weaken a bit over the years.” Once she jumped in, she saw opportunities to participate in even broader ways with Anderson. “My time at Anderson was so valuable to me, I loved every minute of it and I made it a point to ensure that I maximized my two years to the nth degree. I took part in everything I could because I wanted to soak it all in. I appreciated my classmates, the faculty, the staff, and now, being part of the alumni board, it’s like an extension of that experience.”

In addition to volunteering for her class’s 10-year and 15-year reunion committees, Ashcraft has contributed to the alumni network in a variety of ways. She’s hosted a number of “Dinner for 12 Strangers” events and hosted the Bay Area alumni chapter at her home. She serves as alumni president of the full-time MBA Class of 2009 and chairs the Reunions & Communications Committee and Class Presidents Council as a member of the executive council of the UCLA Anderson Alumni Network board. All of this activity has earned Ashcraft some deserved accolades, as she is the 2024 recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Service Award, which recognizes alumni whose dedication and volunteer service has enriched and strengthened the UCLA Anderson Alumni Network as well as the quality and reputation of the school.

Ashcraft values her Anderson education for reinforcing and building her confidence, and opening up opportunities to try new things.

“Just getting the foundational elements of the core courses was a game changer for me because I realized that there was a lot that I did know. And what I didn’t know, I could learn.” Ashcraft says. “But what I really enjoyed about Anderson was the opportunity to explore things outside my comfort zone. For example, I didn’t have specific interest in real estate finance, but I’m so glad I took that course because it was a great chance to step out and try something and push myself.”

“I hear from alums who want to interact with students but don’t see a clear path to providing that service. So, that became my mission, I wanted to create a conduit for people to be better connected.”

She says her current board role is really about connecting current students with alumni, and also connecting alumni with each other to increase the value of the Anderson network for its members. “I promote student club activities with alumni because I hear from alums who want to interact with students but don’t see a clear path to providing that service,” she says. “So, that became my mission, I wanted to create a conduit for people to be better connected.”

She is proud to have established a mentee-mentor relationship with a student active in the Women’s Business Connection (WBC), an organization Ashcraft was active in during her two years in Westwood.

“Really, I do it because I want to give back to a school that I loved,” Ashcraft says. “I want to interact with people that I enjoy working with, which includes Anderson people that I meet, even if I never knew them. And I can tell they’re Anderson because of the way they interact with me. I just want to keep bringing people together and helping build people’s networks.”