Karin (Kari) Kibena-Sorensen
Karin (everyone calls her Kari) was born in Seoul, Korea and raised and continues to live in Northern Virginia.
What words do you live by?
“Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there.”
Who influenced you the most growing up?
“My mom…she has always supported me every step of the way and is my sounding board to get advice. When I need to hear the truth, good or bad, she’s there to tell me.”
Share with us the importance of Family
“My husband Derek is my best friend and partner. We built our foundation on the same set of values and beliefs, and we play balanced roles in our marriage and family which makes us succeed. We tackle life as a team! Since having our two daughters (Kylie age 6 and Brooke age 4), I am more cognizant of my behavior and how I live my life in an effort to be the best role model for them to grow into strong, self-confident young women.”
Has there been a significant incident in your life either with health, family or your career that you had to bounce back from and how did you do it?
“I’ve been a part of my company for 15+ years. However, in 2009, I decided to take a leap of faith and join another company to explore other opportunities. After 4 months, I realized that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I was fortunate enough to have my previous company welcome me back with open arms. I learned that’s important to never burn bridges because you never know what the future will hold. I also gained perspective on the value of job satisfaction in my career. Although I had to take a couple of steps back upon my initial return, in the long run it has helped me grow by leaps and bounds.”
Have you had a significant life experience that has helped define you or help you realize more about your heritage/roots/family and how has that altered your course of life?
“Indeed! I was adopted from Seoul, Korea when I was just 2 ½ months old. At that time, I was one of the youngest babies ever to have been adopted out of the country by my amazing mom and dad who raised me to be who I am today. I’ve always known that I was adopted from the time I can remember, but it never made a difference to me and I’ve always felt ‘whole’ and at peace with it. However, I received an Ancestry.com gift from my parents last year for Christmas which did not provide any revealing information. However, it did peak my curiosity about my heritage and roots. I always had information on my birth name and adoption agency, so with a bit of ‘googling’ on the web, I found the link for post-adoption services in the agencies website. Within 24 hours of clicking a few buttons, I got a brief application to fill out. I sent it back and didn’t have many expectations. I figured I might get a response within a few months if I was lucky. Low and behold, 48 hours later, I received an email that unveiled the beginning chapters of my life and where I came from. It was a surreal moment in time for me.”
“I learned that I was the youngest of 8 children (4 older sisters and 3 older brothers) and the only one given up for adoption due to unsuitable conditions that my birth parents were living in at the time in the 1970’s. The rest of the family remained together through the years. I found out that my birth parents have both deceased (mother in 2002, father 2016), but the siblings are all very close with one another and have large extended families of their own. I learned that my youngest brother had been searching for my whereabouts since the early 2000’s, but with little success. However, once I reached out, the adoption agency contacted him immediately and told him the news. We immediately connected and began to email back and forth. He shared with me details about my birth parents and what their lives were like growing up. We soon made plans for me and my family to make the journey to Korea to meet one another. “
“This October, we finally met after 40 years! I was filled with a million different emotions on the 14-hour flight and did my best to remain calm. As we got off the plane, I just remember taking deep breaths and putting one foot in front of the other as we walked through the airport to meet my birth siblings who were on the other side of the sliding glass doors. I saw a banner that said, “We LOVE Kari!” In that moment, a sense of reality swept over me and we were greeted with a million hugs. We spent the next week and a half traveling around the beautiful country of Korea and getting to know one another.
“My birth family was so gracious and kind to us, ensuring we were always taken care of and in good hands. Although we have many cultural differences, I always felt comfortable, loved and at peace. It was amazing to see that I came from a large, beautiful and loving family who enjoy having fun together! By discovering answers to many questions and learning where I came from, my life has become more enriched. I know that only 5-10% of adopted Koreans are able to discover their birth families. My story is very rare and I know there are so many out there that are not fortunate enough to have made the same discovery. I know I am blessed, and I will never take that for granted.”
What did you want to do/be growing up and how has that evolved?
“I grew up always wanting to be a teacher. Although I ended up choosing an alternate path, training others in their career development and their job functions, generating processes, and applying my organizational skills to Project Management are all traits that were instilled in me since I was very young and that I apply to my career today.”
Share with us about career, aspirations you have the roles you play in the community, why you love what you do, and what drives you to be the best.
“I’ve been in the telecom industry since graduating from Virginia Tech in 1999. Currently, I am a Director of Corporate Development within the Mergers & Acquisitions team managing our integrations. The majority of my career has been at GTT Communications since it was a ‘start up’ and I was the 13th employee. We are now a global cloud networking firm with 1200+ employees. It’s been rewarding to have been a part of the evolution of this company since its inception and know that I’ve played a role in the development over the years. Failing is not an option for me and is what drives me on a daily basis to do the best job I can.”
Describe the ways you influence others you spend time with, work with, and/or impact daily?
“I’d like to think that I one of the most rewarding parts of my career comes from those whom I’ve had the pleasure of managing and have hopefully helped their personal growth and professional development.”
Do you have a personal mission statement you’re committed to that gets you up in the morning?
“Simply put, it’s to GET IT DONE!”
What brings you joy?
My family first and foremost and also my friendships bring me the greatest joys in life.
Tell us about the people you surround yourself with and how you’ve developed those relationships.
“I would say that I have a ‘squad’ from pre-children era and another ‘squad’ that has developed since having children. Since I’ve stayed in the general area that I’ve grown up in, I have some long-lasting friendships as far back as elementary school and those from my twenties that have stood the test of time and when we see one another while not as often as I would like to, we can always pick up right where we left off. They know me better than I know myself at times! Then I have my squad that has developed since having my girls and residing in a new community. We are like-minded people on many topics, our children are friends, and we can rely on one another at all times. Plus, we have so much fun together and have become great friends! I feel blessed beyond words to have friendships from my different walks of life.”
What are some of the greatest adventures you’ve been on?
“My greatest adventure is never ending, which is raising my 2 girls with my husband. That in itself is full of twists and turns and I continue to be surprised and amazed by them on a regular basis. Besides that, I have had the luxury of traveling internationally over the past several years. Bali, Indonesia and South Korea are on the top of my list. Both were amazing cultural experiences that are unforgettable. Bali was rich in beauty and had the most amazing people with the richest souls. Korea was the greatest personal adventure for me, discovering my birth siblings and learning where I came from.”
Where would you most like to travel or adventures you like to have in the next five years?
“We are fortunate in our careers to have opportunities to travel to an array of locations around the globe. I am open for going on any adventure in the world, the more diverse the culture, the better!”
What are the best things you’ve ever eaten and where did you eat them?
“Korean BBQ in Korea, Sushi at Sen Min (NYC, 33rd and Madison) , Vietnamese food and Persian kabobs….really anything international! Locally, I love Maryland blue crabs! “
Tell us about your cooking skills;
“Fortunately, my husband is the best chef in the house and can whip up the best BBQ on the planet. When I do cook, I always use Skinnytaste as my go-to resource. Everything I’ve made from their ‘vault’ is amazing and delicious, especially their Mediterranean quinoa salad and Spicy California Shrimp Stack! “
Do you have a favorite drink?
“Dare I say wine?”
What are your secrets to staying organized and working forward each day?
“Planning in advance, keeping organized with lists keep my life and being efficient with my time are what keep me moving forward without letting the balls drop flat on the ground. “
How do you stay focused on what’s important to you or how have you secured the time to do so?
“One of my top wishes is to have more time in each day. Since that’s not a reality, I have to make the best use of the time we are allotted. Once I had 2 kids, watching virtually any TV took a back seat.”
Do you have a favorite item in your closet you cherish?
“I always love my denim jackets paired with maxi dress and military twill jackets paired with my Frye boots. Tunics are also a staple in my closet no matter the season. Most recently, I’ve been into duster cardigans to complete my outfits, and they’re super comfy.”
Do you have a favorite shop or brand that you like to indulge in or a special approach to finding items that you cherish?
“My favorite store is Nordstrom and Stitch Fix. No special approach unless you want to consider online shopping as my technique. It’s a game changer for me as a working mom.”
Tell us about any and all beauty routines, products that you believe in or secrets you’re willing to share that have helped you?
“I keep it pretty simple and consistent. #1 priority is keeping my skin moisturized at all times, but I don’t use many fancy products. #2 is using primer for everything…foundation, eyeshadow, and lashes. This year I started using Rodan and Fields Lashboost which has done wonders since my regular lashes are virtually non- existent.”
If you could do anything and not fail (and we all supported you) what would you do?
Oh, you really don’t want to know…but jokingly (well kind of), I have always dreamed of being a singer. If only I had a set of pipes on me to do so! Wishful thinking…
Thank you Kari for always being Timeless and sharing your story with us!