Photo by Kayleigh Omang
It’s been said that inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places. For Rayonna Hystead, Communications Coordinator at Microsoft’s Fargo campus and 2019 alumna of United Way of Cass-Clay’s 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program, it came in the form of a sticky note and a push from her 35 Under 35 peers.
In brief summary, what do you do?
As the Communications Coordinator for our Fargo site, I have three buckets: community engagement, partner and customer engagement, as well as our employee engagement. I support all three of those with communications like newsletters, our SharePoint page, social media accounts, and digital signage. I recently added on a new role, so not only am I supporting Fargo, but I’ll be supporting our business group for North America and Latin America. So that’s only a little terrifying, but I’m very excited.
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I love that I get to be an advocate for Fargo. I love to be able to champion all the cool things that we have going on at Microsoft in Fargo, but also in the surrounding community. People think Fargo is so small, they think it’s just like the movie, but it’s so much more. And I get to show people that. I also serve on the board for the YWCA. Microsoft does a really nice job of supporting us in those types of endeavors. For every hour I volunteer, Microsoft pays $25 to that organization.
How would you describe your 35 Under 35 experience?
Everyone gets out of it what they need. For me, it really was that career expansion. I knew I was looking for something more, and this program gave me the push and the support that I needed. I also wanted to find a network of women that are supportive of each other, not competitive. And oh my gosh, did I find that! That support didn’t just end with the program; we have really remained connected. I don’t know what I would do without them anymore.
What’s the most valuable lesson you took away from 35 Under 35?
In our emotional intelligence session, we talked a lot about understanding your emotions and controlling them at the right time, and there was one line that stood out to me: “No one will know your worth unless you know it and show it.” It gave me that confidence to go after what I wanted, even when I maybe didn’t think that I deserved it. You have to believe in yourself and let that show.
How has the 35 Under 35 program impacted you and your career?
Timing is everything. The session that we had our speeches was at Microsoft, and one of the women who was in the program with me actually worked at Microsoft. She started off her speech by giving each of us a sticky note and telling us to write the words “Be Brave” on it. She spoke about being bold, deciding what we want and just going for it. I stuck that note in my binder, and later that night I sat next to her at a gathering. She encouraged me to reach out to Sandi Piatz, the Site Leader at Microsoft’s Fargo campus, to have coffee with her and see if she could be a mentor of sorts for me.
It was totally out of my comfort zone to ask a stranger to have coffee with me, but the next day I just did it. I looked at that sticky note and I thought, “I’m going to be brave.” We ended up having coffee, I talked about my job at the time, she gave me some advice. She had mentioned that there would be a position coming available that I may be interested in. It wasn’t posted yet, but sure enough, a couple weeks later it was posted, I applied, and I ended up where I am now. I’m just eternally grateful. If it wasn’t for that sticky note, for that support of all the other women in my 35 Under 35 program, I don’t think I would have ever reached out to Sandi.
What does being a “Ladyboss” mean to you?
Being a Ladyboss is all about being bold and passionate and supporting other women. That’s the most important thing.
Who is your hero and why?
It’s hard to pick just one person, because different people inspire me in different seasons of my life. When I became a mom, my mom became my hero. Right now, I’m very focused on my career, so I’m inspired by the bold, articulate, and down-to-earth women I work with. I’m inspired by the women who lead the YWCA; their grit and their selflessness is amazing. And I’m inspired by my fellow 35 Under 35-ers. There are a lot of good women out there.
What is the best career advice you have ever received? Or, what’s the best advice you have to offer?
Everyone thinks of life as being a balance, but Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, says “It’s not a balance. It’s a harmony.” Balance implies that everything is equal, but they don’t have to be. By nature, we work more hours than we are at home, but those things can complement each other. One 35 Under 35 speaker said, “What’s on your calendar is your values statement.” What is on your calendar should be what is important to you, so if you want your life to be more family- or friend-oriented, then put more of those things on your calendar that support that. If I looked at my calendar six months ago, it was work, work, work. But now I have been much more intentional about coffee and lunch dates with the people that either I want to learn from or just make me happy.