27 #SpeakUp : Strategic Networking and Self-Advocacy

We speak with Corporate Alley Cat founder and CEO Deborah T. Owens about the importance of strategic networking and self-advocacy within the workplace.

Length: 39:04

Host:  Zach

Find out more about Corporate Alley Cat: https://corporatealleycat.com/

Connect with us: https://linktr.ee/livingcorporate


Zach: President and CEO Shari Runner of the Chicago Urban League once said, “Speaking truth to power means believing deeply in what you say and fighting every day to have that heard. It may not be popular. It means taking a risk. It means standing for something.” The context of the term “speaking truth to power” originates from the Quakers of the 1850s, who spoke out against institutional oppression to people who hold power, specifically, in their case, of American slavery to the government. Today, speaking truth to power means the same, and there are several institutions to which we could speak power. However, I believe there’s also value in speaking truth to yourself, because sometimes we can be our biggest barriers to walking in the power we don’t even know we have. I’d go as far to say that the day we speak up in affirmation of our own talents, our own voice and our own desires, is the day we step into levels of freedom that were previously unknown. The question is, “What does it mean to be an advocate for one’s self? And what, if any role, does networking factor into it?” My name is Zach, and you’re listening to Living Corporate.


Zach: So today we’re talking about being strategic in how we speak up for ourselves.


Ade: Super excited to discuss this topic. I believe us people of color, especially for women of color, it’s easy to default to not speaking up for much at all, be it wanting more responsibility on the job, dealing with a difficult colleague or challenging your boss, all in the name of not messing up the bag, being seen as problematic or as some sort of rabble-rouser.


Zach: And let’s be real, we’ve had these concerns for a real reason. I mean, it kind of reminds us of our episode about salary negotiation in the sense that, in my experience, I’m often told by folks who look like me to “just keep my head down and stack my checks.” Like, that advice has really held up as wisdom. I really don’t believe that’s a sustainable way of managing your career though, for practical development reasons or for your own mental wellness.


Ade: Definitely agree. I mean, I’ve seen more than a few folks who are in places in their career that don’t necessarily align where I think their skill set is, and every now and then I’ll ask them how they got where they are.


Zach: And what do they say?


Ade: They nearly always include some story about them asking for more opportunities for leadership or requesting a new project or manager or career counselor. Closed mouths don’t get fed.


Zach: And it’s funny, ’cause when I talk to folks who look like us, those same reasons–not having the right opportunity, being on the wrong project, having the wrong manager, a lack of support–all is reasons why they quit or, even worse, didn’t progress.


Ade: You know what? The thing is it’s 2018, bruh. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think today is a wholly different time than any time before us. If anything, we have more resources to tell us how to be, just maybe not the culture that teaches us that we have the right to do so.


Zach: No, I agree, and all of us are not all slouches in Corporate America, but, you know, that same energy that we have on social media of speaking up, calling out the shenanigans, canceling folks as need be, why can’t we take some of that same energy and apply it in the workplace?


Ade: To be honest, it comes right down to exposure and practice. People of color haven’t had to be in Corporate America at this number before. Like, you said it yourself, you’re one of the first in your family to be in Corporate America, and it’s 2018. I believe as more of us inhabit these spaces, in time the culture around us will change, but that could still be decades. We need help right now.


Zach: Yeah. You know, it would be great if we could talk to someone who was a corporate executive and has experience speaking truth to power in the name of their own career. Someone who’s maybe launched a company that really is the spiritual godmother of Living Corporate and that they provide advice and resources for professionals of all colors to best manage and advocate for their careers.


Ade: Hm. You mean like our guest Deborah T. Owens?


Zach and Ade: Whaaaaaaaat?


Zach: *imitating air horns* Sound Man, listen, you don’t even have to ask anymore. We’re like–Ade, we’re, like, almost done with the first season, so Sound Man, go ahead and give ’em to me.


[Sound Man complies]


Zach: That’s what I’m talking about.


Ade: Thank God I was not hoarse that time.


Zach: No, that went very well. No, it was a very moi–I don’t want to say moist, but it was–[laughs]


Ade: [laughs] I hate that word. All right, so next up we’re gonna get into our interview with our guest, Deborah T. Owens. Hope y’all enjoy.


Zach: And we’re back. And as we discussed, we have Deborah Owens. Deborah, welcome to the show, ma’am. How are you?


Deborah: I’m great, Zach, and thanks for having me on.


Zach: No problem. For those of us who don’t know you, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?


Deborah: My name is Deborah Owens. I am the founder and CEO of The Corporate Alley Cat, ’cause sometimes you gotta get scrappy, and we are an organization that focuses on helping professionals of color advance their careers. And we do this by helping them navigate the corporate environment with the goal of shortening the learning curve and accelerating success in the workplace.


Zach: So let’s talk a little bit more about The Corporate Alley Cat. Real quick, where did the name come from? I love the tagline, by the way. “‘Cause sometimes you gotta get scrappy.” I like that.


Deborah: You know what’s so funny? People always ask me about how I came up with the name, and what’s interesting is my inspiration for the name actually came from Congressman Maxine Waters. Many, many years ago, probably over 20 years ago, I saw a 60 Minutes interview she did, and I think it was Mike Wallace asked her about being an African-American woman in Congress and working with all of these men, and she said something to the effect that “That’s not a problem for me ’cause I have a little alley cat in me,” and I was like, “I’ve got some alley cat in me too.” So it just came to me, Corporate Alley Cat, because you really do have to be scrappy. It is not a place for the faint of heart. You have to use your voice, you have to ask for what you want, and you can’t be scared to tussle sometimes.


Zach: So when you say tussle–what do you mean by tussle?


Deborah: So what I mean by tussle is sometimes you have got to use your voice to say, “Hey, this is not right,” “Hey, I need some clarity around this.” You can’t always be scared to escalate. We have to get rid of this fear of rocking the boat, because sometimes when people say “rocking the boat” it just means that they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone, right? So say getting scrappy, you have to be willing to hold yourself accountable, but also to hold others accountable. You have to know your value, and more importantly, Zach, you have got to honor who you are in the workplace, otherwise you will become bitter and resentful, and you will turn into a victim, and so I always encourage people, you know, as a Corporate Alley Cat, to lead from a position of strength and knowing who you are and not from one of fear and uncertainty.


Zach: You’ve launched Corporate Alley Cat, and it’s been growing, and it’s been moving forward. What has happened since you’ve launched Corporate Alley Cat that’s affirmed for you that this is the right path and a viable space and the right thing to be doing?


Deborah: Oh, yeah. So one, we are very engaged with our audience. I talk to my audience in some form or fashion almost every day, so I get lots of notes, letters. I talk to a lot of people who have shared with me their stories and their challenges and also their opportunities in Corporate America, and they often share with me how they’ve used the information we’ve shared to make a change or to help them better have a conversation or to help them get a promotion. Since we’ve launched, we’ve started a membership community where people can come and have direct access to all of our webinars, many courses, an Ask Me Anything form, and just a lot of resources to help them navigate on a daily basis in their corporate environment. I did a video on LinkedIn that told the story of how I started The Corporate Alley Cat, and can I tell you–I think it was in less than two weeks we got over 30,000 views. I can’t tell how you how many people said, “This is my story too, but I didn’t know what to do.” So every day I get notes from people sharing their experiences, encouraging me–you know, on LinkedIn I get a lot of notes who just say, “Hey, I follow you. I watch all of your information. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s needed.” We are now working with corporate organizations who have also tapped into the power of The Corporate Alley Cat, and so we are sharing our resources with them. So we’ve grown from, you know, two years ago to not having much of an audience to having an audience of over 14,000 in less than two years. We have a very robust community online. Our email community is very large. So people have really responded to this, and I can tell you that all of our presenters who are corporate leaders, they’ve all said, “Absolutely I want to be a part of this.” So I’ve never had anybody–let me knock on wood–to say no. They all support the vision, and they want to give back, and so it’s been a really positive experience for us. It’s more than a business for me, Zach. It really is my passion, and it’s a culmination of stuff that I’ve been doing throughout my entire career.


Zach: Absolutely. And it’s so interesting that you say that. You know, I was talking to someone else who started a platform around black and brown experiences, but from–not just from a corporate perspective, but just in representation across a variety of lifestyle platforms and areas. And it’s curious, you know? Any time you’re doing any type of work that’s really focused on uplifting and affirming black and brown identities or black identities or brown identities exclusively or just underrepresented identities, it has to be the type of work that you truly care about because it’s not easy work, and it’s hard work, right? So it can’t just be a job for you or a side gig for you. It has to really be a part of, you know, your heart strings. It has to really be caught up in who you are, and I definitely see that within The Corporate Alley Cat, and it’s really–again, just really encouraging for us. As you know, today we’re talking about strategic networking and self-advocacy. Can you talk to us about how these elements in career management come together and why they matter?


Deborah: I would say what I’ve learned over the last two years is that most of the professionals of color who are part of our community–and these are people with advanced degrees and lots of experience–the biggest issue that they have is they don’t have strategic relationships in the workplace. The notion that you can just come to work and work hard and move through the organization is a myth. It doesn’t operate like that. Often times we come into work, we’re [smart about?] the technical side, but we don’t have the relationship side. And often times we view the networking and the going to drinks with people after work and the informal conversations as an extra part of their job. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have the time to do all of that,” you know? “I’m working.” Well, what I want to share with people is it’s not extra. That is a part of your job, to build those relationships, to build your network, because the bigger network your is and the more strategic it is, the better access you have to get things done in the organization. I’ll give you an example. Somebody called me recently, and they were very upset about a review they got. And I said, “All right. Well, tell me a little bit about your performance.” “The performance was great, but a lot of people didn’t know what they were doing.” I said, “Well, who do you know in the organization?” They said, “Well, what do you mean?” “Who do you have relationships with? What leaders do you have relationships with? Who can you go to that will advocate for you?” And they’d been in the organization seven years, and they were like, “Well, I don’t–I don’t really know anybody.” I said, “Well, that’s part of the problem. No one knows you, and when people don’t know you, they’re not gonna speak on your behalf. If people don’t know you, when they are positioning people for future and current roles your name isn’t gonna come up, and if your name does come up there’s nobody to vouch for you.” So building strategic relationships is really more than networking. It’s a very intentional process where you want to identify people where you both can bring value to the relationship. And the other thing is it’s a long-term relationship. It’s not one of those relationships that you build overnight, right? And the other part that I find with professionals of color is that for those who do have the relationships, they’re scared to leverage them. And what do I mean by that? They’re scared to go to somebody and say, “Listen,” you know, “I’m interested in this director role. Will you support me?” “I’m interested in this. Will you help facilitate some conversations?” “I’m interested in doing XYZ. I’d love to get together with you and figure out how we can create some opportunities here,” or “Hey, I’d like to get on this project. I know you’re leading it up. I want to be a part of this. Let’s talk about how we can make that happen.” Often times even if we do have the relationships, we don’t leverage them.


Zach: And why do you think that is though?


Deborah: I think a lot of it, to be perfectly honest, comes down to confidence. I think that’s the number one thing, and I understand that. I think a lot of it is fear. “What if I’m rejected?” I think a lot of it is people aren’t certain about what they can ask for and what they can’t ask for. They don’t know what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. And often times–listen, we haven’t had models in terms of how to navigate the corporate arena. Now, both of my parents are professionals, but my dad is an attorney. My mom was an elementary school principal. They were both, like, the kings and queens of their domain, right? So this whole idea about how you navigate and how you get mentors, and more importantly advocates, it’s new, and often times you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s really at the heart of why we created The Corporate Alley Cat. So we spend a lot of time talking about how to build those strategic relationships, but more importantly giving people the information about the how-to’s, how to build, how to maintain, how to nurture, and more importantly how to leverage those relationships for career advancement and career success.


Zach: You talked earlier about the fact that you said–you said sometimes you gotta get a little scrappy. Can you talk to us about how getting a little scrappy and having those strategic relationships come into play?


Deborah: Sure. The best example I can give you, Zach, would be to tell you my story. Many years ago, I found myself in a situation where there was discrimination. I was a high performer, never had a bad evaluation, had had a very successful career, particularly if you look at trajectory, and I found myself in a situation where none of that seemed to matter. This was a really difficult situation for me. It was really–I like to use the word horrific ’cause that’s what it was. I’ve shared openly that I lost 20 pounds, my hair was falling out, and it took me about three months to recognize that it was discrimination because I didn’t want it to be discrimination. And I didn’t know what to do, and if it was discrimination, what the heck do you do? I don’t know. You need me to build a business plan? Got it. You need me to exceed this or navigate that, analyze this? Got it, but how do you handle workplace discrimination? I haven’t a clue. So once I realized that that was the situation, I began documenting and sharing the information with the person who was doing the discrimination, and when I wasn’t getting the kind of results I needed, I put together a letter. It was a very clear, concise, and firm letter, and I sent it to the president of the company. I didn’t get bogged down in HR. I went right to the person that I knew could make a decision on this, and I basically said in my opening line, you know, “I’m being treated differently, I’m in a hostile work environment, and my boss is engaging in constructive discharge.” So I didn’t–you know, I didn’t put any flowery language in it, and then I closed it with “I am requesting immediate resolution.”


Zach: Can I pause you right there? And let me ask you something for our listeners, but could you please explain what constructive discharge is?


Deborah: Constructive discharge is when you feel like your boss is trying to get you to quit. Is that accurate? ‘Cause you’re HR.


Zach: It is. Yes, it is when your employer creates an environment, through often times passive-aggressive means, to make it so uncomfortable for you that you really have no choice but to resign.


Deborah: Right, and so I felt very much that he was trying to do that. And I wasn’t gonna allow that to happen, and the reason why is because I hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d never given me any constructive feedback, and I was not going to be a part of this. I was not going to acquiesce. I was not gonna go away quietly. If I’m gonna be uncomfortable, then you’re gonna be uncomfortable, meaning the organization, because I was [attacking this?] head on. And listen, I had my moments where I was very–I had a couple months there where I became kind of a shell of who I was, and then I had this moment where I was like, “What the heck are you doing? This is not who you are,” and then I got my bearings again, but I knew that I was not going to leave the organization unless they forced me to, and if they didn’t have anything then I would escalate that as well, but what happened was I sent the letter in. A week later, the president of the company called me, and I kid you not, in 20 minutes the situation was resolved. So what does that mean? That means that he called. He apologized. He said they should’ve intervened sooner. He said, you know, “I pulled together the leadership team, and we had a–we discussed this,” which, as you know, is your worst nightmare come true, that the leadership team has gathered to discuss you, and that [inaudible] me. And he said, “Unanimously we want you to be with this organization. We want to support you,” and so what happened is I took on another role, a more senior role, and I continued to grow with the organization and take on leadership positions. And more importantly–and this is the second phase of the “get scrappy”–when I got into my new position, I became determined that I didn’t want anybody else to go through this alone, so I became this very vocal, diverse in inclusion person in my organization, and I think I was very instrumental in making some significant changes. So again, I didn’t come out of this situation and sit in the corner and just be quiet and be happy. It let me keep my job. I came in there saying, “We’ve got to change some things, and I’m gonna be part of that,” and so we did. And so that’s what I mean by being scrappy, you know? You’ve gotta be scrappy to advocate for yourself, but you also have to be scrappy and advocate for others, those people who are coming behind you. One of the reasons that I was really clear about making sure I did a lot of documentation is because I said, “If this happens to somebody else, I want to make sure that this organization cannot say they didn’t know.” So again, having that foresight and thinking about other people who are coming behind you, and getting scrappy is getting out of your comfort zone. Do you think it was easy for me to write the letter? You know, my finger was shaking when I sent that–you know, hit the Send button, right? Because you never know what’s gonna happen, right? But that’s getting scrappy, getting out of your comfort zone and saying, “I will not stand for this. This is not right. I’m not gonna be a part of this. I’m going to address it. I’m going to honor who I am and what I am,” and you take those actions, and I think often times a characteristic that’s undervalued is you have to have courage. You have to have courage. If you are a person of color in the workplace, at some point you’re gonna have to really get out of your comfort zone and be courageous, and do it even though it feels uncomfortable. Do it, and you’ll be surprised by the results you get. And for me it was a game changer because not only was I able to make even more significant contributions to my organization and understand the work I did on diversity and inclusion was not my part–was not my job. I wasn’t a diversity and inclusion person. It was kind of my side gig at the job, right? So if it’s something you’re passionate about, use your voice. And what I say to people all the time, Zach, is you can advocate where you are. You don’t have to be in a senior leadership position to advocate, to make changes in the organization. You just need a voice and passion.


Zach: Would you mind talking a little bit more about The Corporate Alley Cat and classes you all have around to encourage and build the confidence around networking and self-advocacy and things of this nature? And I ask that explicitly and ask you to plug that beyond the fact that it’s a wonderful platform and you’re here and we want you to talk about it, but also because, you know, when you talk about being courageous and you talk about, you know, us not having the history and background to really know these things, I just–that resonates so true with me, and I can tell you, Deborah, as someone who is a millennial and who is still, you know, a younger professional, that it’s so–it’s so common, even within our space, even as social media and–I would say that, you know, we’re becoming a little bit more conscious about things in the world around us, even within the corporate space. There’s still an overwhelming narrative of, “Look, just put your head down. Stack your coins. Don’t say anything.” So, you know, what resources would you point our listeners to when it comes to really building up these competencies and learning more about this?


Deborah: Sure. And Zach, before I answer that question, can I go back to my story? Because there’s two key points I want to make about my story. So I was able to resolve that situation, not on my own. So one of the things that I had to do was I had to reach out to people, and I had to say, “Listen, here’s what’s going on. I’m not sure how to handle this. I don’t know if they’re trying to fire me. I really don’t know. I have no documentation. Nobody’s talking to me. I don’t even really know what’s going on here.” So the first thing I want to say is you’ve got to reach out to your community, and this is where your strategic networks come into play. When I tell you there were many people working behind the scenes in my situation to support me, I had at least two very, very strong advocates in leadership, and I had many more advocates in other positions, and more than the letter, that’s probably what helped resolve my situation. Because people knew me. This narrative didn’t fit. They supported me. They knew my performance record. So I want to encourage people to ask for help, and ask for help, as I always say, early and often. In the age of social media that you just mentioned, Zach, Instagram, Twitter, we’re all putting on this facade at times that we want people to think we have it all together, right? And some of us are barely hanging on on the inside. Get rid of that shame. There is no shame in asking for help. The real tragedy is when people don’t ask for help and they allow their careers to be derailed unnecessarily. So build your community, and I like to use the word community versus network because I believe as people of color, we are born into a community. This community wants to support your entire being. It’s beyond what a lot of people think is networking and that transactional type of process, right? These are people who care for you, support you. These are people who are alums from your high school, your college, your church family, your close family, your friends, your friends’ friends. I honestly believe that everybody has everybody they need already in their network if they would just reach out to them, but most people don’t reach out. So that’s the first thing I want to say, ask for help. And then secondly I want to say nobody does it by themselves. If you are spending time struggling to figure out something by yourself, you’re wasting precious, valuable time and energy. Ask for help. There’s always somebody who knows more than you and who can make it easier for you to navigate those situations. So build those strategic relationships, reach out to them when you need them, and ask for help. And don’t be scared to rock the boat, because I say rocking the boat is a good thing. Because think about it, Zach. If you’re in a boat, and you rock it, that’s how you get momentum, right? If you don’t–if you don’t rock the boat, what happens?


Zach: You’re not going anywhere.


Deborah: You’re not going anywhere. So when people say to me, “Well, I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to ruin my career,” often times one of the things I ask people–I’m like, “Well, it doesn’t look like you have a career here.”


Zach: Come on, now. That’s what I’m talking about. See? Come on now, Deborah. Yes. [laughs]


Deborah: Like, what are you trying to–you know, they’ve already said this to you. They’ve already done this. You’ve already got a bad review. You don’t have a career here. What little bit you have is about to go away, right? So that’s really–I want people to get away from using that as an excuse to get out of their comfort zone. All right, enough. Enough. I’m getting off my soapbox, Zach.


Zach: [laughing] No, this is good. Yeah, so where can people learn more about–where can people learn more about The Corporate Alley Cat? And where can people engage more with this content? This was a wonderful–been a wonderful dialogue. I want to make sure that people know where they can go.


Deborah: So you can go CorporateAlleyCat.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn under Corporate Alley Cat. You can join our Professionals of Color Facebook group. We share a lot of good information there. It’s on Facebook. Professionals of Color. We’re on Instagram, CorporateAlleyCat, and on Twitter, CorpAlleyCat. In addition, on our website we have blogs, so you can get a lot of free information there. At least once a month, we have a free webinar with corporate leaders. So all people need to do is go to our website and sign up for that. We have courses. So we have two summits that are available for purchase. One is called the negotiation summit, and one is called the performance review summit. They both walk you through those processes. We also have career coaches that are available to help you, and I want to say this is really significant because the corporate coaches that we have available to you are people who have been very successful in their career, and they have led HR or employer relationships departments, and so they can give you the real strategy, right? So we approach it from “Let me tell you how the organization is gonna look at the situation.” “Here’s what the organization’s gonna say, here’s what they’re gonna do, and then here’s what you’re gonna do.” Often times, people don’t have access to that strategy. They’re just reacting, and what we do is we help people map out that strategy and how they execute it, which is invaluable. We also have a membership community, and we are opening it up for enrollment in September, and that’s where you have access to all of our webinars, and that’s over 30. You have access to many courses. You have access to our monthly Ask Me Anything form. You have have access to our resource library. So there’s a lot of great information there, and I also do work with organizations, so if you are a corporation out there or you lead a corporation and you want to make sure that you are not just recruiting–’cause I think organizations spend so much time on recruiting they forget about retaining and developing that diverse pipeline. What are the things that your talent needs to know to be able to successfully navigate that corporate arena? And that’s a win-win for everybody. So there are a lot of ways that you can reach out to us, and we have–we are planning a conference upcoming, so stay tuned for that. But it’s not your traditional conference. It’s actually gonna be called The Corporate Alley Cat Experience.


Zach: When that is coming up to date, keep us in the loop, Deborah, and we’ll make sure to let the folks know about that as well.


Deborah: Yeah, and the other thing I want to say about our webinars is we do the webinars so people can expand their network. We bring in people that you normally wouldn’t have this type of access to, and all of our folks are open to linking in with you. We have people who share their cell phone numbers, personal emails, right? These are people who truly want to support you, but you’ve got to ask for the help. You’ve got to allow yourself to be a little vulnerable sometimes.


Zach: Absolutely, and Deborah, this has been a wonderful conversation. You know, we definitely want to have you back. Before we let you go, do you have any shout outs for us?


Deborah: Absolutely. I always want to give a shout out to the Corporate Alley Cat community ’cause they are bar none the best. The best. They are scrappy. If you’ve ever gotten on our webinars, they are engaging. I want to shout out to our Corporate Alley Cat leaders and presenters because, listen, our webinars–Zach, have you ever been on one of our webinars?


Zach: I’ve been on one webinar.


Deborah: Okay, and I–if you’ve been on, you know they’re not for the faint of heart.


Zach: They’re not. No, it’s real talk.


Deborah: We are real talk, and I always open it up by saying we treat you like family. We’re gonna be honest with you. You might have your feelings hurt, but we are coming at it from a position of love, and we are vested in your success. So I want to give a shout out to–there are too many people to shout to who support The Corporate Alley Cat, ’cause no one does it alone, Zach. No one does it alone, and that’s–if I could leave any parting message that’s what it would be, is nobody does it alone, you don’t have to be alone, and that there is a community out there that wants to support you and help you achieve your career goals, whatever they may be.


Zach: Amen. Deborah, thank you so much for joining us today. Again, your words, your passion, your energy around this are more than encouraging and invigorating. They’ve definitely encouraged me, even in this conversation, and I know that they’re gonna be definitely a blessing to everyone who hears it. So thank you again for your time. We definitely consider you a friend of the show, and we hope to have you back.


Deborah: All right, Zach. Stay scrappy.


Zach: Absolutely. I’ma stay scrappy. [laughs] You too. Peace.


Deborah: [laughing] All right, thank you.


Ade: And we’re back. I loved that interview, and I am excited to join the Corporate Alley Cat community and check out one of those chats.


Zach: Yeah, I’ve checked it out a few times, and I’ve enjoyed them every time.


Ade: So let me ask you this. What did you take away most from y’all’s discussion?


Zach: Honestly, I took away that your career is what you make of it, right? So to Deborah’s language, we gotta stay scrappy. It doesn’t mean that it’s some combative, negative, or violently confrontational thing. In fact, you know, it reminds me of the conversation we had earlier this season with DeRay. He was talking about his book, but we were also talking about how you push up against these systems, and he was saying, “Look, everything doesn’t have to be so negative,” right? But it is about being direct and demonstrating courage. So how did you feel about it?


Ade: Very similarly, to be honest. At one point I felt quite attacked, to be frank with you. She was talking about people she was coaching and that they’d say, “Well, I’m gonna hurt my career,” and she’d reply with, “Well, sis, you don’t have a career here,” and I felt dragged. I felt persecuted, frankly.


Zach: [laughing] She was knocking on your door?


Ade: What? She had kicked my door in, slammed some receipts on my–on my table. You know that Iyanla gif? “Not on my watch.” That was precisely what she was doing. [laughs]


Zach: Not on my watch. [inaudible] She was shaking your table?


Ade: And I was sitting right on the table too. Like, the table she was shaking had my whole career on top of it. So yeah, I really appreciated the approach that she was taking ’cause it was very, very relatable.


Zach: You know what? Sound Man, go ahead and drop one of those flex bombs for that, because when she said–when she said you don’t have a career? Boom.


[Sound Man drops the bomb]


Ade: Wow. [laughs] Wow, really?


Zach: I literally–in my mind I was like, “Wow, this is, like, one of those [makes boom].” Like, goodness gracious.


Ade: Yeah, yeah. It also reminded me of that famous quote from Alice Walker. “The common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” And for the record, we’re not victim blaming here. We’re never about that. What we are saying is that we are in the business of pushing up against systems, spaces, and cultures that were not created with us in mind, and that means that sometimes you have to be willing to advocate for yourself. And yes, it’s uncomfortable, and yes, it’s absolutely challenging, but like you said, your career is what you make of it.


Zach: For sure, and we’ll make sure to have info in the podcast for everyone who has access to learn more about Corporate Alley Cat.


Ade: Beautiful. Well, yeah. Awesome. Cool beans. Up next, we’re gonna get into our Favorite Things. Hope you guys enjoy the segment.

Zach: So my favorite thing right now is Marc Lamont Hill’s book “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson, Flint, and Beyond.” It’s a powerful, gripping read, and it pairs analysis of the stories we see on the news with emotional authenticity. It’s been out for some months, but I still really enjoy it.


Ade: Awesome. Continuing in that amazing literary tradition that we’ve set, my favorite thing right now is–actually I have two. One’s gonna be fun and one’s gonna be more scholarly. My scholarly one is–it’s called “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. It’s a book about the American criminal justice system, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for the idea of grace, and it was right in line with, you know, just the conversation about how there is such a dearth of it in the American criminal justice system. So if you’re ever interested in picking up a book–it’s heavy sometimes, but I recommend that everyone reads it. My second thing–it’s a little bit lighter. My favorite thing this week is a purple bag of Doritos. Sweet Spicy Chili. Try it out. You will not be disappointed. I love me some Doritos. [laughs]


Zach: Absolutely. Well, shout out to the book recommendation, and also shout out to Doritos. This is not a paid ad. Ade just likes to eat.


Ade: Okay. Well, sir, don’t we all? [laughs]


Zach: Right? We’ve gotta survive. [laughs]


Ade: That felt–that felt a little bit like an attack. [laughs] But yes, they’re quite delicious.


Zach: Well, dope. Thank y’all for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram at LivingCorporate, Twitter at LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. And that does it for us on this show. This has been Zach.


Ade: And I’m Ade.


Zach and Ade: Peace.


Kiara: Living Corporate is a podcast by Living Corporate, LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Brown. Additional music production by Antoine Franklin from Musical Elevation. Post-production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion? Email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and living-corporate.com. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.

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