- United Way Volunteer and Investor
- United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program Alumna and Volunteer
What is one lesson you have learned? How did you learn it?
I have learned the importance of failing forward and the value of coming up for air. In life, one must step out of their comfort zone and take risks in order to grow. Often, this comes with mixed emotions and increases the chance of miscues. So many people have a fear of failure; but if we take fear off the table, we open the space to learn instead. Fearing failure only leads to more failure or stagnation. We must embrace disappointment as a means of changing outcomes the next time. Not only do outcomes change, but growth also becomes tangible. Some of life’s greatest lessons come from the most unlikely places, failure being one of those places. It is our relationship with failure that needs a shift. Fail forward, and it becomes a stepping stone to success.
Additionally, I have learned the importance of “coming up for air” and the ability to intentionally turn off our busy minds. Being turned off allows us the time for rest and reflection. Often in these “off” moments we find our inspiration, develop new ideas and solutions, or finally have the chance to examine a situation from a more holistic point of view.
How has your experience with the 35 Under 35 program shaped who you are as a professional?
The program provided the opportunity to surround myself with a remarkable group of successful, intelligent and competent women. The synergy alone is invaluable. The program also inspired me to take a deeper look into myself and to embrace my strengths. The agenda stretched me, introduced me to new topics, and provided me tools to refine my own skills. The program also highlights ways we can serve and give back to our community.
The unique experiences females face and overall views on leadership are dynamic, always changing. The program does a fantastic job of generating current and relevant topics for discussion and exploration. In fact, the last session I attended before the pandemic disrupted all our lives, Dr. Faith Ngunjiri facilitated one of the most eye-opening discussions about race that I have ever encountered. Fast-forward a few months and similar discussions are transpiring across America and within all our institutions.
At another session, we were asked to come up with a visual representation of leadership. As a result of the question, I remembered a James Keller quote, “a candle does not dim by lighting other candles.” The program has served as a candle within our community for over a decade. The number of candles lit by this program is immeasurable and has become its legacy. That is why the program continues to grow in size and influence. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this program, serve my community and meet so many astonishing women.
What advice do you have for women trying to build their professional careers?
Get comfortable taking up space. This does not come naturally to most females who have been socialized to participate in the shadows. Women often worry about being perceived as too unconventional or too aggressive. Women need to get past these obstacles and take ownership of their value, and the competence they bring to the table. Exposure is important in breaking down cultural bias. Intelligent and capable women must get comfortable taking up space, especially in those organizations where space is limited. Ask for what you want. Many women think recognition is the product of hard work. They believe acknowledgment and rewards will be organic. Though this can be true, being honest and direct about professional goals can be a game changer.
Don’t wait to get noticed. Invest in your own careers by initiating conversations with management about performance and expectations. Make sure your understanding of professional enhancement aligns with leadership in order to facilitate growth, progress, and recompense. Navigate opportunities intentionally, not indirectly.
Find a mentor. So many associate mentorship with someone older, more experienced. Don’t narrow the field, thus the value of mentorship. One might benefit from a younger mentor, as they may be more adept in technology or less bound by ineffective tradition. The important thing is to find someone willing to provide constructive feedback, someone willing to invest time in your growth, someone who is enthusiastic about sharing the skills and knowledge you wish to acquire. Above all, never stop learning and asking questions.