How Dzana Homan ended up as the CEO of the music education franchise program School of Rock is almost as nonlinear as how she ended up studying in at New Mexico State University.

A survivor of the Yugoslav Wars, Homan immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 with the intent of continuing her education in physics at theUniversity of Southern California.However, she ultimately landed at NMSU where she earned a masters of science in electrical engineering and physics, intent on gaining access to a high clearance government laboratory program post-graduation. She became CEO of School of Rock in 2013. We asked her why she left New Mexico and gave up a dream job with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and what her advice is for women aspiring to be CEOs.

How did you end up in New Mexico?

When I came to the U.S., I was completely uninformed and out of my mind. I thought in America education was free. I thought I could come to Los Angeles and go to school because I had been previously published for physics research in Slovenia. I thought this scientist at [USC whose work I had studied] would just take me in, which was not the case. He talked to administration for me, so I stayed in renovated dorms for two months — off the books — so that I could figure out what to do. I literally cold-called, looking for schools that were offering programs in physics. I just got lucky that the program director at NMSU picked up the phone.

What is your advice for women aspiring to be CEOs?

There is audacity in hope. You have to listen to that authentic voice in you. There is something that calls us all — everything around us is going to stack up. Daily responsibility. Everything comes your way. There are people that will tell you whatever they will tell you. Listen to that authentic voice and honor it. Be audacious about it. It’s incremental. It sounds like it was a big event, but it was incremental. It’s like long distance running — it requires stamina.

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Written by Sal Christ

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