Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Adamson Duda '99

By Lauren Goulston '94
Nicole Adamson Duda, '99 credits JTD with cultivating her executive skills and confidence throughout her professional career. “Even in the early years at JTD, there was an emphasis on rigorous study skills and presentation. While only a small part of the curriculum, these skills gave me such confidence as a student by empowering me with the ability to not only learn information but also retain it, organize it, and think critically about it.” She credits these skills with providing the foundation for her to pursue a career working with tech startups, building Facebook's Privacy Program as part of a 3-person swat team in 2011 before pursuing a law degree from Stanford Law School. Now, she leads the corporate legal function at Notion, the $10B connected workspace start-up.
Tell us about you now.

I have lived in San Francisco for the last 15 years and met my husband here a few months after my college graduation. We got married almost 10 years ago down in LA and now have two little boys. Bryce is five and our younger guy Nolan is three. My brother Stephen ‘02 was actually just here this morning visiting from LA and had breakfast with them before they went off to school. 

My mom splits her time between LA and San Francisco. She bought the place across the street from our house here in the city! It is literally directly across. We all love it, especially for last minute babysitting!

My dad passed away almost four years ago from glioblastoma. We miss him a lot but still marvel at the fact that despite all the chemo and radiation, he went out with an amazing full head of hair. Both my boys inherited his great hair genes and similarly have big mounds of hair. They also have his exact mossy green eye color. We feel his presence all the time – he was a large part of my time at JTD and a huge fan of the school. I have so many great memories of JTD father-daughter activities.

Other than the father-daughter activities, what are some of your favorite JTD memories?

The carols hold a special place in my heart. There's something indescribable about the atmosphere —a time-tested tradition steeped in history and warmth. The white robes, flickering lights, that distinctive scent in the darkened hall—I loved being part of that legacy. 

Sports also played a significant role in my JTD experience. I didn’t consider myself a natural athlete, but the emphasis on sports as part of the curriculum cultivated a love for athletics that I don't think I would have had otherwise. As a parent, I now understand the value of commitment to team sports; it serves as a natural platform for lessons in focus, teamwork, resilience, and  graciousness in both victory and defeat. JTD made sports accessible and enjoyable, and I took real joy in not only the lessons from team sports but also the great fun.

Then there were the class trips, like camping on Catalina Island, that were a true testament to the unity instilled by JTD. These trips provided a chance to get to know teachers and classmates in a setting outside the walls of the classroom and to experience a bit of independence and adventure.

Tell us about your path from JTD.

I went from JTD to Harvard Westlake, and then to Stanford for college. Later, I returned to Stanford for law school in 2013. Having spent significant time as a student at rigorous institutions, I credit JTD with excellent preparation for student life. The School not only fostered a love of learning but also equipped me to execute on that, even in competitive academic environments.

Initially, I anticipated pursuing a career in politics. As a political science major and junior in college during the momentous 2008 presidential election, I was inevitably drawn to a career working in government. But it was also an incredibly exciting time in the technology industry, and being at Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley made this impossible to ignore. I interviewed for positions with the State Department and Facebook, ultimately choosing the latter—a decision I consider the best I've ever made. 

My focus at Facebook primarily centered on privacy. I began my career in operations in a role that evolved into building out and managing Facebook’s first formal privacy program. Despite feeling underqualified, I embraced the opportunity to be on the front lines, drank from the fire hose and learned a ton. Working alongside Facebook’s incredible legal team on cutting edge legal issues inspired me to go back to law school and ultimately return to my original love of advocacy.

After graduating law school, I spent several years at Cooley LLP’s San Francisco office in their general corporate legal practice group. I then moved in-house and now oversee the corporate legal function at Notion. I wear a lot of hats, but my day job encompasses corporate governance, real estate and corporate transactions like M&A. At high growth startups like Notion, my role as an attorney is to facilitate and to minimize distractions and streamline the legal and compliance side of the house so the company can focus on building and growth. 

What has been your biggest professional challenge to date?

Learning how to be a working parent, for sure. Before I had kids, I had found a way to strike some semblance of work-life balance, but having kids throws everything for a loop. Building flexibility and resilience - learning how to roll with the inevitable curve balls thrown while raising young kids has been a challenging but important lesson in my career and in life.

What are three skills that have been important in your success?

Resilience is the most critical, but communication and building strong relationships have also been pivotal. Oral advocacy is a skill I’m always looking to improve — not only being able to convince someone of a position, but also to translate technical or nuanced information in a way that's accessible and actionable is key. And of course, being able to build strong relationships and leverage them. When I’ve needed help or advice, having trust built up with people I can rely on when it mattered most has made such a difference for me.

Anything else that you want to share?

I love JTD. I'm so fond of the School even 25 years after graduating! JTD has influenced so much of my life and even now is influencing how I view early education for my two boys. I am forever grateful to the entire JTD community. JTD was one of the most formative experiences of my life.

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