Why I’m pretty much every Black Woman stereotype I’ve ever heard of, and a few reasons why it makes me a better professional.

As a new mom to a smart, funny toddler, I’ve spent the last few months looking within, and thinking about the kind of example I am setting for my daughter. I am admittedly one of those people who immediately look for the "Cons" and works myself back to the "Pros". I started thinking about all the things I’d put in the bucket of “I know I’m not,” and as I started to write that list I got the idea for this post.
This list is meant to inspire others to think of their differences as strengths that make each and everyone one of us Unique and a value to the organizations we choose to represent on a daily basis. Most importantly, never lose sight of WHO you are and HOW you show up on a daily basis to those you meet.
I came up with a list that was too long for a LinkedIn post so I picked my Top 4. Here we go:

Loud and Opinionated:

OH, this one has to be on the top of the list. Have you ever heard the saying "a closed mouth doesn’t get fed?” Well, for years, my mom would say this - day after day - and I wasn’t sure why she kept on telling me this until one day…
When I was around 10 years old, New York’s Child Protective Services came to our house and removed us from our loving home to tell my brothers and me where we would now eat and sleep for the foreseeable future. Being too young to understand what that meant, I just went along. After about 5 hours, I realized that my life would never be the same. My brothers and I were sent to multiple group homes and foster families for 6 months. That simple advice that my mother gave me about making my voice heard was going to matter more than I could have ever imagined. I now had to not only speak, I had to ask for food, clothing, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, you name it.
In order to get a positive response, I had to be louder than all the other kids and noise around me. I had to speak clearly and quickly. I had to, in some cases; provide a valid reason why I deserved to be treated like anything more than unpaid labor. I knew there had to be a better way so anytime I could get the ear of a person who would listen I would talk and talk and talk. I'd speak about the injustice, I'd speak about the abuse, I'd speak about the neglect we experienced and, for me, this was the only way I could imagine getting out of this awful situation. This was one of many early experiences that taught me how to what I now know as Work a Room.
When you hear me speak in a meeting today, I am loud. You hear the passion in my voice. I speak as if my life depended on it. I am clear and I get to the point. In my many years in Sales this is sometimes viewed as either Confidence or Arrogance, but to me it's how I feel most comfortable. I could not imagine doing things any other way. Why should you struggle to hear me if I have something of value to say. I, of course, use my pitch and tone to carry my message but I can speak in a room of 2 people or 2,000.
Call me loud and opinionated any day and invite me to your next brainstorm or ideation. I've been doing this for just about 30 years and have become pretty good at it. I'm no longer perplexed, the questions I now ask are "Why should I not give you my opinion or share my experience to help bring perspective to the meeting?" In no way am I indicating that my way is the right or only way but I'd like to have a seat at the table like everyone else. That is what diversity in the workforce is all about anyway. Right???

Poor and Under Educated

Poor has always been a mindset to me more than a reality. While my childhood was tough and I lived well below the poverty line in New York City my Adult life has been completely different. I've seen wealth that my family could only dream of. I can't say this wealth has been my personal net worth, but working within Financial Services and spending time working for global organizations has truly changed my view on being poor. My parents don't have LinkedIn profiles and if they did they wouldn't have a job to list. We lived 100% on government assistance until I was 18 years old and got my first "real job." I am thankful for growing up Poor. I am the most financially responsible person I know. I own property, I donate and support charities, and I have leveraged my perfect credit score to help others get loans for college. I dedicate 25% of my income to things I need to survive and I use the other 75% to build up my family and others close to me.
Not only do I understand the economy and how it all works, I've spent my entire career focused on Legal and Financial Services, in hopes of commanding as much knowledge as I can to help people in circumstances currently less fortunate than mine see light at the end of the tunnel and a way out of poverty. The cycle has to stop somewhere. Doesn't it?
Well, how does this make me a better professional? As I said, I studied Financial Services and Legal in real life and that is the same market I sell to on a daily basis. When I do research on my clients I never read their websites through the lens of what can I sell them. I use my passion for the vertical to see where I can provide real value with the product or service I offer. It's like having the blueprints of a landmark building, and walking the new tenants through explaining the history of the building that you've worked in for 20 years. It's your passion that keeps you focused on the client's success, not just your own. This is fulfilling for me on a daily basis and I continue to share that passion with my colleagues and clients.
Fun fact that I'll likely write a LinkedIn Post on in the near future: when I got my first Corporate Job in 1996 I made $12 per hour (Minimum Wage was around $4.25/hr), of course, this is the most money anyone in my family has ever made. Knowing that I needed to make a responsible decision, I started saving $20 per day (Mon-Fri) no matter what. If things got tough, I'd use a credit card and pay it back before the interest payment or find another way to not tap into these savings. Flash forward to 22 years later, I make more than $12 per hour, thankfully but I still save $20 per day in an account that I've never touched. I'll keep saving using this method or another until I'm no longer on this Earth. Even funnier, that account I started was an ING Direct Account, which is now part of Capital One 360, which randomly just became a client of mine last year. This is literally the bank that is shaping my future.
When I had my daughter 2 years ago, I changed the account to her name and she will use this money any way she sees fit when she comes of age. Let's hope I teach her to do something smart. Of course, $20 per day is not going to change her life but I hope the story will illustrate how you can control your circumstances; they do not control you. I've successfully done my job if she is empowered and doesn't touch the cash and continue to invest.
In case you're wondering and you're also a FinServ geek; yes, I have other accounts and savings is my way of making sure I never end up poor and homeless again. I invest in the stock market; I max out on 401k and Employee Stock options; I have several lines of income that continue to ensure my families stability and factor in multiple years of economic turmoil.

Asking for handouts and or assistance

Both of my hands are always out. "Can I ask you a quick question?" is something you'll likely hear me say on a daily basis if you work with me. For me, there is so much power in numbers many of us work in team environments for a reason. I absolutely love my team and everyone I work with. It's not just at LinkedIn it's everywhere I've ever worked. If you want to see a miracle take place, try stepping outside of yourself for a minute and hearing what others think about a question or obstacle.
At LinkedIn, we call it Leverage. I laughed when I first heard the term because to me, it's second nature. I understand how important it is to work in-group environments and my hands are always out asking for help when I know that I should be leveraging the skills of others. What this does for me is, it gives me a chance to work with people and learn on a daily basis. This not only gives me more tools to work with it also give me stories and experiences I can use to help my clients on a daily basis.
I am also the first one to volunteer to help a colleague or friend.

Nosey

This is a trait I just can't help having. I listen to EVERYTHING. I take in content from every source willing to give it to me. I overhear conversations in the hallway, read every sign I walk pass, stop to talk to people whom I don't know but look like they may be in need of help. That is just me. I'd say I am one of those people whom you bump into randomly on the street and wonder how you know them. I'll likely tell you when, where, how and why we haven't spoken lately.
Over the years, in my professional life, I have learned the skill of retaining large amounts of information that most would consider useless facts. I never realized this could be a skill or an asset until I started working in sales. I'd go to trade shows as a young sales rep and memorize the name tags of everyone who walked past my booth, even if I never spoke to them I'd retain their name, title, and company. I became a walking Rolodex. Truth is, I can't remember algorithms or calculations or anything that would have helped me on math quizzes in school but I do remember if you have siblings and if you're getting married or had a baby. What your favorite color or food is and what makes me proud sometimes on LinkedIn is "how and why we are connected?"
It took me many years to be at peace with this part of my personality but I've realized that I just really enjoy caring and sharing. The fact that people will take the time out of their day to tell you how they are doing or something personal about them deserves your attention. I take my relationships very seriously and feel a sense of joy when my clients become friends and business relationships become mentorships. Sometimes we all need to be a little nosey.
Powered by Blogger.