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Career 180: Getting her hands dirty to support women

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HANDOUT Photo Credit: CRISTINA DEVITO

Cristina Devito is the CEO and founder of Mudderella, an untimed, team-based obstacle course that encourages participants to “Own Your Strong” -- and have fun. Mudderella, which is slated to take place in different locations several times a year, is a five-to-seven mile event that features 12-15 obstacles. The courses are designed by women for women, but men can participate if they are invited onto a team.

The first challenge was on Sept. 21st in the Poconos and the next two ain Englishtown, N.J. on May 10 and Chicago on May 31. Mudderella partners with Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence. Before diving into her muddy new business, Devito, 34, was at the consulting firm Bain & Company until January 2012. She lives in Union Square.

Why did you switch careers?

Making a switch to starting a new brand from scratch for me was really an incredible opportunity. Mudderella is a brand that encourages women,and men, to define what strength means to you and own it … I ran several mud runs in the last two years … it’s really about being [a part of] something that’s inspiring, that’s motivating, that helps people to either overcome or to set a goal for themselves and really earn it. And we wanted to create an event that is for women that really encourages “Own Your Strong.”

What inspired you to help empower women?

I think for me as a woman, being able to create something that I think is inspirational to women and really providing an opportunity to celebrate strength is something that’s important to me. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow as an individual and to be strong and being able to create that opportunity for other women, for me it’s something that’s just an innate desire. And I think that Mudderella really gives a forum that is different and unique where you can really feel inspired and supported and you can really push your boundaries in a way that is supported.

What are some pros and cons in your new job?

There are a lot of pros, but I think that the biggest one is that we get to create a brand and experience that really means something to a lot of people and to provide an experience that encourages our participants to be active … and to be confident in who they are. … I think the con is pretty typical to a lot of start up companies: that you want to do everything at once and there’s a chance of really becoming impatient.

What motivates women to finish the course if it’s not about winning?

We spoke with a lot of participants when we were in Pennsylvania … and the common theme is, ‘I didn’t think that I can do this, I’m setting this as a challenge for myself and I’m going to go out there and I’m going to finish it and I’m going to do this with my team.’ A lot of folks we spoke with, this was a way to get back into shape … and it was a way to prove themselves. … Most participants really view this as an athletic challenge.

What was the hardest obstacle for you?

For me, honestly, Wheels in Motion was trickier, because it’s a full-body obstacle and you need to have timing and balance and you have to get the rhythm right. (It is six big tires and they’re hanging from a wooden structure with ropes and they swing, so you get on the first one and swing onto the next one and sort of hop yourself across.) But on the flip side it’s also really fun.

Looking back, do you wish you had started off in this career?

In my view every experience in life, career-wise, sets you up for the next. I’ve learned a lot from [Bain & Company], from working in finance, to how to think through problems strategically, how to build relationships, to how to think analytically. …I think that my career really helps me take advantage of opportunities as they come up.

So are you happy with your career switch?

Yes. I really couldn’t be happier. It’s been a blast to create something from scratch and to see it come to life. I’m just so proud of the team … I’m really excited to see what 2014 and onwards brings for Mudderella. … It’s just a very human experience. It’s a very kind of human desire to want to support and encourage others and I think that’s what this event gives me the opportunity to do.

Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?

The biggest advice for anyone is just to be bold and don’t wait for something to come your way, just get out there and make it happen. And I think it’s also really important to be honest with yourself and ultimately, don’t let fear get the better of yourself, just be confident.

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