Humans Of Berkeley – Alysha Guenther

Written by Alysha Guenther

17 April 2024


From my love affair with books and creative writing to my experience as an actor, writer, PR professional and mother, I’ve diligently gathered stories like treasures, recognizing their power to define, inspire, connect and transform since I was a child.

A story collector

Storytelling isn’t just a skill I’ve cultivated; it’s been a guiding light through every chapter of my life, an abundant source for learning, validation, connection and growth. People have always called me a storyteller, and recently, I took on the title of Chief Storyteller of North America here at Berkeley. But the title of ‘Storyteller’ never seemed to fit quite right or fully define my relationship with stories.

I’ve come to see myself more as a ‘Story Collector.’ While I enjoy crafting and sharing stories I also find great joy in discovering, curating, preserving and amplifying narratives that enrich our lives. My relationship with stories is more like that of one with a lifelong best friend. I experience life through and with stories.

A background in storytelling

As a child, I would immerse myself in the characters of the storybooks I read; imagining what it would be like to live in their world and see it through their eyes. And when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always “an actress.” Not for the fame and glory – so that I could play in the world of story and become my favorite characters. I give my parents credit for not redirecting my enthusiasm when I told them I wanted to pursue my childhood dream and study theatre in college. As a theatre major, I reveled in studying the fundamentals of storytelling. I learned how to bring narratives to life, fully embody characters to convey a story that transcends words and connect with an audience on an emotional level.

But then the reality of adulthood crept in, and bills needed to be paid. And like that, my childhood dream felt silly. My degree in theatre became an anecdote that I would share when people wanted to learn something interesting about me. I got a job in the ‘real world’ as a receptionist at a large corporation and tried my best to climb the corporate ladder (because that’s what all successful adults do). I was made to feel ashamed that I ‘wasted’ so much time in my life studying something as superfluous as the art of acting and playing out stories on a stage. The corporate world reduced my experience to something meaningless, and for far too long, I believed them.

Storytelling in the PR world

But when you love something as much as I love stories, it will always find a way to creep back into your life. When I finally stumbled into PR and communications as a career, I realized love for stories was, in fact, my superpower.

In every corner of my career and personal life, stories have proven their power time and again. They don’t merely convey information; they are opportunities for connection and can inspire action and reflection in a way that mere facts cannot. Whether shared in the formality of a boardroom presentation or the intimacy of a coffee chat with a dear friend, stories linger long after they are told and infuse our lives with meaning and purpose.

For too long, I allowed doubt to cloud the significance of my passion for storytelling, allowing others to underestimate its worth. But now, I see the undeniable value stories bring to every aspect of communication and connection, especially in business. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the Berkeley team, where I can share my passion for storytelling with those who recognize its potential every day.

Who’s your favourite storyteller? My 6-year-old daughter. She reminds me that imagination and creativity are not a finite resource.

What would you sing at a karaoke night? It’s a no for me dawg. But I will be your biggest fan – no one will cheer louder than me. You’ll feel like a total rockstar with me in the audience, regardless of your ability.

What is the most used app on your phone? I use the Notes app to keep track of my musings, observations and life’s to-dos. It’s always open, always there. TikTok is a very, VERY close second.