KING
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“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn...resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook.” - MLK Jr. 1967

King said this 52 years ago. 52 collective years have passed that has included hundreds of deaths by the hands of police, multiple communities displaced by gentrification, schools re-segregated, the continued disproportionate imprisonment of black and brown people, an ever increasing household wealth inequality gap, families separated at the southern border and the election of one a man who adopted Bull Connor’s political platform like no other, and here we are still.

By definition, “ignorance” describes a state of not knowing. In a large sense, it is innocent – after all, there are many things that one does not know. However, what makes the racial ignorance King was speaking to here particularly insidious is white America’s refusal to acknowledge the historic and present oppression of non-white folks and their participation in it, complicit or otherwise. Again, the ignorance here is intentional and obstinate. Terms like the “race card”, “race-baiter”, “colorblind”,  and similar terms are all attempts to push the fallacious narrative that anti-blackness is a trope, a played out, tired refrain in the cacophonous chorus of victim-hood.

Practically, this phenomenon shows up in interesting ways at work. Diversity and Inclusion programs, led by white people, drive discussions centered around white comfort. New language is created to ignore the reality of systemic racism within the workplace.  “Diversity of thought” is the ultimate ideal - effectively justifying mostly white, mostly male leadership. Gender is the shiniest silver medal with no attempt at inter-sectional engagement, erasing non-white identities and the history attached. Unconscious bias training is the cure-all, driving the presumption that the majority is not intentionally bigoted. In the best scenarios, attempts to bring these truths to light are met with soft nods, a commitment to continued dialogue and little else. This does little for those in the minority who continue to see and be the witnesses and recipients of inequitable treatment.

America’s response to being presented one of the greatest speakers, leaders and minds of modern history was harassment from the FBI, assault and imprisonment by police, and murder. Despite this, in a world wrought by so much chaos, corruption, and immorality, I still have hope. The largest misconception is that hope is an intangible feeling, a wish upon a star billions of miles away that things will somehow get better by the notion that it simply must do so. For me however, hope is a verb. Hope is the pairing of intentional and strategic behaviors with clear, desired outcomes. Until that happens, “resonant resolutions about brotherhood will continue to fall pleasantly on the ear”.

Living Corporate
Emotional Maturity

Written by Meagan Harding

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It was some time last year when my brother called me in sheer frustration to discuss an issue he was having at his corporate job. For those not familiar with play family, he’s not my biological brother. This kind of imputed familial status is popular in the black community and a real sign of deep approval, but I digress.

So he called me and he was so upset about the microagressions he was enduring on a day to day basis. He was seeking advice on how to best communicate said frustration and did not understand why his boss was so passive aggressive. This was especially complex because he was hyper aware of the fact that his black body was considered threatening by simply occupying space in the room. It broke my heart because he’s a sensitive guy who cares deeply about relational care. I responded, “there are a lot of emotionally immature people who have positions of power. It’s actually astounding.”

Most job applications do not require that you explain your emotional maturity. They do not test for the ability to manage your own feelings in an non-intrusive manner that does not require babysitting. Emotional maturity is one of those intangible job skills that can greatly impact a person’s experience in th work place but often becomes apparent when it’s too late. There are lot of people managing others who have no business doing so because no one knew or checked on their relational capacities.

Sometimes, it takes extraordinary restraint and patience to be a person of color in homogenous work places. We often have to compensate and side step people’s emotional immaturity while being expected to exemplify extraordinary levels of restraint. It’s exhausting in a different way.

Then, there are also times when we have to check our own emotions. There are triggers everywhere and sometimes keeping it one hundred is inappropriate. It’s important to be able to take criticism, digest it and reflect before responding. I have found that my first thought is usually not the best one when it comes to anger.

Here are some things that I have found to be helpful:

1. Observe first. Take a certain amount of time to just watch and listen. That will give you an idea of where the land mines are and what type of finessing certain topics or people will require.

2. Find a work buddy. It’s important to have someone you can vent to safely and also get input on how to handle some things. This buddy does not have to be the same race; they just need to be down and understand how your existence at the company might be different than their own.

3. With the work buddy, don’t do all the talking. The sharing needs to be reciprocal because no one wants to be spilling their guts to someone who isn’t transparent.

4. Be direct when necessary. Sometimes you simply cannot placate people and you need to create boundaries. Some things just will not work for you and should not be tolerated and it’s okay to make those known. As I grow, I realize that it is okay to tell people how to treat you, even if they are a superior.

5. When you are feeling triggered, even justifiably, sit with it for a beat and allow yourself time to process. That can mean going for a walk, lunch out of the office or closing your office door for a while. In work and in life it helps to breathe before responding.

6. Pray. It’s hard working for and with people. Sometimes you just gotta send one up and ask for help.

Meagan is a creative and a justice advocate. She is the co-founder of REBEL + REST, which is committed to helping restore the humanity, value and joy that the world daily tries to take away from us through the lie of racism. They do this by creating thoughtfully curated, all-expense paid retreats for social activists and advocates to rest, restore, rejuvenate and replenish. You can find her on Twitter @meagantharding or Instagram @meagan.harding.

 

10 Practical Ways to Embrace Mental Wellness in the Workplace

Written by Christa Clarke

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I meditate in my office. I have a tea corner. I grow plants. To my current coworkers, I am very conscious about my mental well-being while at work. However, I did not always consider the office a place where I could practice mindfulness and take an active role in my mental well-being. Taking mental health days is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sharing 10 practical ways to embrace mindfulness and maintain your mental well-being while in the office.

1. Create a Morning Ritual for the Office

Instead of diving straight into piles of paperwork or emails after the morning rush hour, take a moment to ease into your workday focused and relaxed. For example, my morning ritual consists of watering my plants, brewing a fresh cup of loose leaf tea, and reading a short devotional. As I sip my tea, listen to peaceful gospel or classical music as I eat breakfast and prioritize my to-do list. A simple morning ritual when you arrive in the office is the perfect way to take control of the way you start your workday.

2. Stretch or Do Desk Yoga, Plus Rest Your Eyes

When working primarily behind a computer screen, our bodies build up tension. Shoulders. Neck. Legs. Eyes. The tension and stiffness can even lead to pain. When you are starting to feel tense or even just need a boost of energy, try these desk stretches or desk yoga poses. Don’t forget to relax your eyes by following the 20–20–20 rule.

3. Take Shorter Breaks More Often

There is a psychological cost to working hard, especially when working on tedious or difficult tasks. Basically, you will get tired, lose your ability to think creatively, and start to make more mistakes without taking breaks. Many of us fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy to take breaks. We aren’t. Breaks are necessary to improve attention, increase energy, as well as to retain information. Try using the Pomodoro Method to increase your productivity by working on one task for 25-minutes, and taking a 5-minute non-work related break. Pivot between focused working periods and short breaks. Every 4th cycle take a 20–30 minute break.

4. Be Realistic about Your To-Do List

If you are like me, you may have the tendency to overfill your to-do list and find yourself dissatisfied or overwhelmed by the number of items remaining that will spill over into the next day. If left unchecked, this can become a vicious cycle of feeling like you are playing catch up more often than you are not. By utilizing the Pomodoro Method that I mentioned earlier, you will learn how long certain tasks will take you to complete. After learning this intel about yourself, you can effectively schedule the tasks that you prioritized during your morning routine in between meetings.

5. Stop Multitasking!

In a nutshell, multitasking is not just inefficient but it is also stressful! Switching your focus back and forth from one task and its objectives to another can actually cost you up to 40% productivity time. Coupled with your to-do List (see above) this can lead you back down the path into the vicious cycle of feeling like you are continuously playing catch up.

6. Find Time to Meditate or Breathe

The beauty about meditation is this you can literally meditate anywhere, almost at any time. Learning to meditate is simple: just breathe and pay attention to the rhythm of your breath. An easy way to get started with meditation or breath-work in the office is by creating a sign that reads “Meditation in Progress” and place it on your office door or visible in your cubicle. Set aside 1 minute or even 5–10 minutes of time to yourself. Take a moment to note how you are currently feeling, without judgment, and then just breathe. One of my favorite apps for guided meditations includes Headspace.

7. Leave Work, At Work

In a previous workplace during the busier seasons, I found myself often unable to fall asleep because my mind was racing about what I needed to accomplish at work. I even had the occasional vivid dream about work! I ultimately decided I need to create better barriers between my work life and home life. My first step was removing emails from my phone. Not all of us are fortunate to have a job where your boss is okay with waiting until the next working day for your reply. If this is your current situation, you can still create barriers between your work life and home life by creating rules about when, where, and how you are willing to work while at home. For instance, no working in the bedroom. Another rule, no working from 6 to 8 PM and all work ceases by 10 PM.

8. But, Make Your Office Your Home Away from Home

While creating boundaries for work outside of the office, it is equally important to create an environment in which we are comfortable while at work. Therefore, you should not be afraid to show your personality and add personal touches to make your office feel more like home away from home. In my office, I have: plenty of plants, a painting, pictures of my spouse and me, and an accent lamp. Bring elements into your office that will contribute to your happiness, creativity, focus, and relaxation.

9. Volunteer to Coordinate Quarterly Wellness Activities

I currently work in an office that hosts quarterly wellness activity for employees in the various departments that we work closely with. One quarter we took a morning stroll outside. Another quarter, we painted during lunch. Quarterly wellness activities for the office is not only a great way to get to know your coworkers, but also a fantastic way to start introducing wellness into your office culture.

10. Talk to Your Boss about Mental Health

Talking to your boss about your mental health or even utilizing a mental health day can be a difficult conversation. However, it can also be one of the most important conversations that you will have during your career with your boss. If you have a mental health concern or illness, The Muse (a digital career resource platform) has a practical how-to guide on how to discuss your mental health with your boss. If you are wanting to ask your boss for a mental health day, Brit + Co (a digital media company) has an excellent how-to guide on how to ask your boss for a mental health day.

Christa Clarke is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and project manager. She is passionate about providing success-minded women of color the tools and resources to flourish in their careers and lives. Learn more about her and her work by visiting her website www.FreeingShe.com and connecting with her over on Instagram @heychristaclarke.

The Gift of Professional Reinvention

Written by Tyeshia Miles

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   Have you ever pretended to be happy with your career yet, you secretly desired something else? I can relate because that was me a few years ago.

At twenty-one years old, I earned my first six-figures in seven months simply by using my natural talents and skill sets as a cosmetologist. I vividly remember that feeling of financial relief; something that I was not accustomed to. I grew up in the projects watching my mom work several jobs, barely making ends meet to provide for her four girls. $243.12; an amount forever stuck in my mind. That was the amount on my mom’s check stub for two weeks of work. It serves as a reminder that I control my earning power. I will not allow anyone to profit off my labor more than me. It was motivation for my entrepreneurial journey. I opened my hair salon, The Signature Salon, with nearly $40K in cash, one year after serving my first client. Discipline and delayed gratification made opening my shop a dream come true. This journey was not without obstacles. I endured being racially profiled and I was discriminated against. I persevered while searching for a building, networking, creating sustainable revenue while enduring the mental pressures that

encompass entrepreneurship. Soon after, my business generated more revenue than I expected, and my life was good. Finally, my blood, sweat and tears paid off. I didn’t realize I generated over half a million dollars until my accountant told me. I no longer worried about being able to pay my bills. I wondered what I would do with the additional money. I had enough money for my needs, my wants and I was able to be a blessing to my family and others

in need. I asked myself, “what can I do to add another 100K to my income?” Adding more clients was the answer but unfortunately, it meant more time away from my family and on my feet. I had all the signs of success, yet I didn’t feel the freedom of success. Money was no longer my motivator. I knew I was meant for more and was not scratching the surface of my full potential. I wanted to do something that fed my soul. I had no clue that what I was seeking would require me to realign my complete life and career to obtain it.

   One day, I was in a group of heart-centered entrepreneurs. We all wanted the same things – to use our gifts and skills to earn money doing what we loved while positively impacting the lives of others. A seed was planted. I chose to become a certified professional coach. I invested in a high-level business mastermind program to surround myself with like-minded people to hold me accountable to achieving my new goal. The idea of professionally realigning was overwhelming, intimidating and scary. My journey of realignment also became a self-discovery deep dive. I strongly believe that we cannot

find our purpose without understanding who we are as a person. We must know what we want in order to obtain it. In my realignment, I discovered there are several questions that we must answer to gain clarity in order to move forward.

• Who are you and what do you value?

• What do you want to be known for?

• How much money do you want to earn?

• What problem do you want to solve?

• What are your strong and weak skills?

• Do you feel you deserve better and do you believe you can achieve it?

• Are you committed to doing the uncomfortable actions needed to achieve your desired professional goals?

• Do you need additional training or education?

• What obstacles do you need to proactively overcome?

• What is your financial plan to sustain you during your realignment?

   I diligently worked through each of these questions on my realignment quest. I am a former hairstylist and salon owner who is now, a sought-after business strategist, Inner Work Coach, author and speaker. I help unfulfilled entrepreneurs and professionals, who are ready to push past their fears to create practical plans for achieving both the career and lifestyle they desire with confidence. My journey of professional reinvention stretched me beyond familiarity into unchartered territory to create a fulfilling career and lifestyle. I happily work with less mental and physical effort while earning more money. More rewarding than that, I am blessed to use my life experiences and expertise to inspire and help others live their boldest life, NOW!

Tyeisha Miles is an international coach. Her mission is to teach service-based entrepreneurs, experts and speakers who  are tired of living beneath what they know is possible for their life and who are ready to profit from their passion and how to authentically share their knowledge to  help others and earn great money doing what they love. Learn more about her and her work at https://tyemiles.com

Leadership IS Allyship
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Written by Amy C. Waninger , author of Network Beyond Bias

Do You Aspire to Be a Leader?

If you aspire to be a leader, you're not alone. So many corporate employees aspire to leadership roles in their organizations. They seek out high-profile projects, promotions, and executive sponsors. To really stand out in a company, though, you need to stand for something other than your own self-interest. Specifically, you can position yourself as a leader in your organization by being an ally to others.

You Have More Power Than You Realize

Many of us are tricked into thinking that because we marginalized in some way, we cannot (or need not) be allies for others. You have more power than you realize. You may lack privilege in some situations. But there are countless ways you may be taking your own privilege for granted.

Recognize Your Relative Power

I’ve compiled a list of examples, organized alphabetically, to help stimulate your thinking.

If you are… you can be an ally to…

  • Able-bodied … people with disabilities, chronic illness, chronic pain, and/or mobility issues

  • Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American … Each other

  • Cisgender … transgender and nonbinary individuals

  • Employed … people who are unemployed or underemployed, independent contractors

  • Female … men and nonbinary individuals

  • Gay or Lesbian … people who identify as bisexual/pansexual

  • Hearing … people who are deaf or hard of hearing

  • Heterosexual … LBGTQ individuals

  • High school or college graduate … someone without formal education

  • Industry insider … someone new to your company or industry

  • Literate … someone who cannot read

  • Male … women and nonbinary individuals

  • Middle- or upper-class … the poor, the working poor, people who are or who have been homeless

  • Millennial, Gen Z, Gen X, Boomers … Other generations

  • Native English speaker … someone for whom English is a second language

  • Neurotypical … people on the Autism spectrum, people with mental illness

  • Non-caregivers … people caring for adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, people caring for elderly parents or parents with dementia

  • Non-veterans … veterans and active-duty military personnel

  • Not in prison … people in prison or with a criminal record

  • Parent … people without children (and vice versa); partnered parents can also be allies to single parents

  • Safe at home … someone in an abusive relationship

  • Seeing … people who are blind

  • Sober … people with addictions to drugs, alcohol, or prescription painkillers

  • White … people of color

Be Honest with Yourself

Can you identify one or more areas where you have more power than others (in other words, privilege)? Is there an identity, experience, or demographic group that you’ve noticed has been belittled, bullied, ignored, or excluded in your workplace?

Now be honest. Have you contributed to this abuse in the past? Or have you been complicit by staying silent when you know abuse is taking place? You may have missed opportunities to be an ally in the past. You may not have recognized that you had a role to play.

Where to Begin

Begin your ally journey by reading books, blogs, or magazine articles from the perspective of someone with a marginalized identity, demographic, or experience. Do this often. Soon, you'll begin to see nuances in different people’s perceptions of the world from within a shared perspective.

Think critically about how different individuals would feel in the situations you’ve witnessed at work. You may not know yet how you will intervene in the future, but training yourself to recognize opportunities is a good start.

Build a Relationship

Next, imagine you’re having dinner with a famous person whose identity, experience, or demographics match those you seek to support. You would probably talk to them about their body of work, their family, their upcoming travel plans. You wouldn’t ask them to educate you about their experience of difference.

Now, can you imagine a similar conversation with a colleague? Invite them out for a cup of coffee and get to know them as a person.

Do the Work of a Leader

Finally, speak and act with courage. Leaders must be willing to do what is right, especially when doing so goes against the grain. When you speak up for others by addressing microaggressions or calling out blatant discrimination, you establish yourself as a person of integrity. Others will see you as a leader and an ally. And, in those times when you feel you are being cast aside, you might find that you have new champions who speak up for you.

After all, you’ll already have set an example for them to follow. And isn’t that what makes a leader?

Amy's passion is to help others develop their leadership skills and reach their full potential at work. She is am the Founder and CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, and the author of the book Network Beyond Bias. She speaks and writes on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and career management.

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Living Corporate in the “Proverbial Closet”
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My introduction into corporate America’s version of diversity and inclusion in 2006 was at the pinnacle of my career in financial services. And boy, was it an eye-opening situation.

I was recently promoted from Personal Banker to District Manager within the company and was on cloud 9, to say the least. Overnight my salary more than doubled — and I no longer was responsible for a team of one but a team of nearly 200 individuals. On top of that, I had a book of business to manage that was valued at nearly one billion dollars. I was experiencing a series of “YO!” and “YIKES!” moments all at the same time. I was excited to walk into new territory but nervous to have so much authority.

Shortly thereafter my promotion, my manager nominated me to be a part of the company’s diversity council. This was a group of middle-managers and senior-level executives whose goal was to improve diversity and inclusion initiatives within the workplace. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement...until I received the application.

Let’s press pause right here for a quick background story.

During onboarding, my manager shared with a good friend of mine who also served as the recruiting liaison TMI (too much information). He expressed how excited he was that my promotion was approved because the residual effects of my promotion meant he was able to “check the box” of having a black, lesbian woman on his team.

Side note: Clearly another blog is needed to address “How to have Courageous Conversations as a Manager Leader.” What I know for sure is that his heart was pure, he simply lacked understanding. Only colleagues that I considered friends and this particular manager knew of my sexual orientation. But I digress.

Now, back to the application.

It captured the normal data like, age, religious belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation... <SAY WHAT?!?>

I freaked out! All I could think about was the fact that this application was asking wayyy to much and would reveal something that I did not care to share at the time.

I immediately called the Human Resources (HR) representative who spearheaded the council and explained my reservations about “outing” myself to peers and senior executives. See, my career was on a fast track. I had made Vice President by 27 in a predominately white-male industry. I was convinced I’d be committing career suicide if I shared my sexual orientation with the people I was being groomed to become their successor. The HR representative

reminded me that the very purpose of the council was to highlight occurrences like mine – to create a safe workplace for all team members. She also expressed confidently that my experiences as a young, black woman, who happened to be a lesbian, would be impactful.

What she shared with me was all well and good but...I wasn’t convinced!

I picked up the phone and called my sounding board, my big sister. She said something so profound that I’ve used as a guide ever since: “Kay, if your performance is overshadowed by who you love then you don’t want to work for that kind of company.” Man! My big sister was right! I completed the application with courage and ease. And at our first meeting we publicly identified gender, sexual orientation, all the other corporate taboos that once kept us bound. In that meeting, I entered the LGBTQ circle with pride.

Opposite to what I imagined, the reactions I received to “coming out” were warm and welcoming. I received hand written notes from fellow senior council members thanking me for sharing my personal experiences. They shared that our interactions helped them navigate courageous conversations within their line of business and at home.

I’m living proof that my life didn’t suffer because I shared my truth. As a matter of fact, my quality of life improved — there’s nothing like releasing emotional weight.

My career was unscathed, and I received several promotions since that defining moment not just professionally but personally. That moment fostered safe space for me to embrace my uniqueness which allowed me to fully express myself. My performance grew overall, and my team’s performance improved exponentially. As a result, several team members were promoted and secured sales and service trips! My whole team was winning.

“National Coming Out Day” is Thursday, October 11th. So, before you make the choice not to celebrate it, remember that day is a celebration of who you are—everywhere and every day. Better yet, every day can be a “National Coming Out Day” when you choose to truly bring your whole self everywhere.

What’s the moral of the story? The proverbial closet isn’t exclusive to the LGBTQ community. Your “closet” could be military status or mental illness. As a human being, you have the right and the privilege to bring your whole self everywhere, every day. Now, I share with you the same advice that was once given to me by my big sister, “if your performance is overshadowed by who you love then you don’t want to work for that kind of company.”

Adopt this quote and mantra that has served me well as you journey through life. “Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Already Taken.” -- Oscar Wilde

Khaliah Guillory is on a quest to fuel her passion and fulfill her purpose. At the core, she is a Performance Productivity Expert, Lover of Humanity, and Philanthropist. These are a few words that describe her contribution to the universe.

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Your Personal Brand is Really Your Reputation | Your Power is in Your Story
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*Written while listening to "Everything" by Nas

"See 'cause you've never been the same as anyone else.

Don't think the same as anyone else."

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"Personal Branding" is not just social media or public speaking… in a corporate setting it is your "personal reputation" especially when you're not even in the room.  More importantly as an emerging leader, your personal reputation is assessed by both your own skills and results AND your ability to lead, coach, and amplify the work of others.

 

"Networking" is not about what you can G E T. It's about "building relationships" and "building connections" based on using your unique gifts.  More importantly as an emerging leader, think about how to use those gifts to G I V E and pour into others. Think about how to sow a seed that grows into fruit only if you are able to nurture and water that relationship consistently over time.

 

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For those who know me, thank you for your support.  It has empowered me to continue to P O U R into others up until this point.  For those who don't know me, My name is Osazuwa George Michael Okpamen. I'm the first of three boys born to pastors Michael and Christy Okpamen.  They came over to the United States from Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria over 30 years ago.  After giving birth to me in Dallas, Texas my family moved to Houston where my two younger brothers were born.  Growing up in Houston, I wasn't too proud of my Nigerian heritage. I can still vividly remember being made fun of and being called an “African Booty Scratcher.”  Even worse I was made fun of because of how I smelled. My Dad was a hustler who worked at the hospital during the day and sold stockfish at night. He would cut the fish I N S I D E the apartment.  If you've ever smelled any fish, let-alone stockfish, you know how it can seep into the fabric of your clothes. He was the number one supplier to all Nigerian restaurants and stores in Houston. Over time, my Dad had made a large enough profit to move our five-membered family from a small two bedroom apt in Houston to the middle-class suburb of Stafford, Texas.  He also became the assistant Pastor of one of the largest African Churches in Houston, Chapel of Praise. Fast forward a few years, My dad opened his own church, and I became a stand-out high school athlete who in my junior year of high school, had an epiphany about my family's history and legacy after traveling to Nigeria to meet my grandparents for the first time.  That trip changed my life forever.

Without that trip, I won’t turn down football scholarships to pursue pharmacy at the University of Houston.  If I don't F A I L to get into pharmacy school the first time, then I won’t get mentored by Rebecca, the president of SNPhA (Student National Pharmaceutical Association). If I don't get mentored by Rebecca for a full year, then I won’t realize the P R I V I L E G E of getting into pharmacy school on the second try across the street at Texas Southern University.  If I don't try to pay her back by running for SNPhA national office, then I can’t help more people behind me. Without running, I won’t win the election and have a P L A T F O R M to showcase my leadership skills and amplify the work of others.  Which means I won't get my rotation (internship) at the FDA, or my post-doctoral fellowship at Lilly, no "Ted Talk" for George, and most importantly no Living Corporate podcast to share my perspective on navigating a Fortune 200 company in corporate America.

Now, I could have easily introduced myself as George, listed out my schools, degrees, and shared a few key takeaways from the personal branding podcast.  But as the title says, your P O W E R is in your personal story. The stuff you won't find on your CV/resume, or on LinkedIn - your highs, your lows, your family background, why you were named what you were.  In essence, What makes you - Y O U?

In honor of me and Beyoncé's favorite number AND being the fourth guest on the show, I'll share FOUR quick takeaways to establishing a positive personal brand at work.

1.       Understand that your "personal brand" is really your "personal reputation" | It is what your colleagues think of you when they work on your team, how your manager talks about you to other managers in meetings, it is the perception your VP has of you when he runs into you in the elevator.

2.       Understand that "networking" is really "building connections" at least OR "building relationships" at best | Have a mentality to give first instead of get.  Also remember you are sowing a seed, so the fruit only grows if you nurture it consistently over time

3.       Take intentional time to reflect on your values, passions, and superpowers | It is this self-awareness that will allow you to understand how to be authentic about who you are, what you stand for, and what you are actually good at.  It also will allow you to be vulnerable with your weaknesses and give you the opportunity to show and demonstrate growth over time.

4.       Be Persistent and Consistent |  You will hear NO.  You will fall down.  You will fail. All of that is part of the process.  It is through these trials that you figure out who you are and find out how to leverage others.  You can only G R O W through what you G O through. It was the 21st call to CVS that got me my first pharmacy tech job.  That means there were 20 other "NO's" that were not the store I was supposed to work at in front of it. Imagine if I would have stopped calling at 19?  If you have a vision for what you want - GO after it.

The name Osazuwa translates to "God's Gift of Wealth".  And for the first ~17 years of my life I never really appreciated what that truly meant.  In meeting my grandparents, they let me know that "wealth" wasn't money in the literal sense.  It was that I was the first born and "gift" to the family. I brought "good fortune" and therefore had the responsibility to C R E A T E the legacy for future generations.  My gift was inside me the whole time and I was hiding it - ashamed because of what others saw, what others felt, what others said. This is very similar to what a lot of us do when we walk inside that corporate building.  We hide our gifts. If you take nothing else from this blog, my podcast, or the TedTalk - take this - "No one is Y O U, and that I S your P O W E R"

Own and tell your unique origin story.

Give first before expecting to get.

Operate in your gift.

"Go.  Go do what they say you couldn't.  Go be who they say you wouldn't. Go." - George Okpamen

Beyond The Bag
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When I think about the role of higher education and wealth building for college graduates from a working-class background, I can’t help but think that the wealth building as a relay race. A relay race is no doubt a team effort that not only requires speed to win but a successful baton exchange. I am afraid that when it comes to college graduates from a poor and working-class background, we think that higher education is so powerful that it enables one to sprint to wealth. Now, by sprint, my focus isn't on speed but a race where winning is incumbent on the individual athlete, not the team.

To help you understand what I mean by wealth building as a relay race rather than a sprint, allow me to tell you about two talented young men from Houston’s Sunnyside community, a historically African American community where the median household income is $28, 817. As you will see, they are both interested in the arts.

Please keep in mind, these young men's stories aren’t unique because of their interests in the arts. Their stories represent the masses of black and brown college students seeking to improve their quality of life.

Working Class College Student A

College student A has musical talent and is currently pursuing Jazz Studies at an excellent liberal arts college in New York where the tuition is more than $60,000 per year. This school was on his list of colleges among other equally impressive colleges but selected because of the stellar faculty in the Jazz Studies department. This young man has musical talent and dreams of being a music producer and wants to be the best.

But he faced a problem: A remaining balance of $30,000. Eventually, the college awarded additional scholarships, but it was still not enough to cover the remaining balance. How was this talented young man able to attend this excellent liberal arts college? You guessed right; his mother had to take out loans to cover the remaining balance.

While he had a remarkable freshman year, the cycle continues More loans to continue his education.

Working Class College Student B

College Student B is currently attending Houston Community College after transferring from a 4-year public university, also known as reverse transferring. This young man is a talented abstract artist who too wanted to be taught by the best.

Like Student A, he needed more funding to attend his dream college even after qualifying for the maximum amount of Pell Grants and federal loans. Unlike Student A, his mother could not take out additional loans because she wasn’t deemed creditworthy. The financial aid administrator received authorization from the Department of Education to award him additional federal loans.

About a year later I followed up with his mother to check his progress, and she informed me that he transferred to Houston Community College. She plans to improve her credit so she can qualify for additional loans so he would be able to go back to the 4-year public university.  

The Lesson

What is the lesson that these two talented and capable young black men’s story ought to teach us about higher education and wealth building? When we consider the average starting salary (just over $50,000) and the college debt of a college graduate, it teaches us that it is unlikely that college graduates from a working-class background will be able to build a substantial amount of wealth in their lifetime.

Several factors compound the problem of wealth building for said group, but one element is the role educational attainment plays in shaping their taste and preferences. For instance, a student from a low-income household who grew up in the hood does not have the desire to move back to the hood with their parents and siblings, grandparents, and other relatives. Low-income college graduates once they secure employment are more likely to spend money on housing on top of college debt. After taxes, housing, transportation, and college debt, there’s nothing left.

For college graduates from a background that matches their tastes and preferences, moving home to save up is a viable and preferred option. I am reminded of a friend who moved back home with his parents in Katy, TX after graduating from law school and securing a job at a top law firm in Houston. He continued living with his parents for about two years. It wasn't because he didn't know how to live in the real world or needed to develop life skills, his mindset, and his parents' mindset was wealth building.  

Unfortunately, for college graduates from the hood, moving home is not a preferred option. For the masses of college graduates, higher education not the key to wealth building.

For African American’s living in a capitalist system, I think we should start considering Du Bois’s view of education, which is that the responsibility of African American higher education is not the creation of wealth but the cultivation and preservation of African American culture. When higher education becomes a tool to develop human souls and create beauty, the next generation will be better positioned to secure the bag.

- Jarvis Taylor, Founder of Project College Counseling

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Securing the Bag
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 “In business, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” – Chester Karrass

In our last episode about salary negotiation, Latricia shared some data regarding wage inequity in the workplace, namely that (1) in 1979, the average black man in America earned 80 percent as much per hour as the average white man. By 2016, that shortfall had worsened to 70 percent, according to research from the San Francisco Federal Reserve, which found the divide had also widened for black women and (2) analysis from Institute for Women’s Policy Research says if the wage gap keeps narrowing at the pace it has been the last 50 years, Black women will not catch up to white men until the year 2124 (that's 106 years from now), Hispanics until 2248, and white women until 2056. 

Considering that the reasons behind the issue of wage inequality are far-reaching and complex, it would be irresponsible and intellectually dishonest to claim a single behavior would solve it. With that in mind, we believe that strategies around salary negotiation could tip the scales in our favor, even if only a small amount. With that being said, let's dive into the key points of effective salary negotiation as explained by Kyle Mosley, senior executive recruiter with Walker Elliot:
Do Your Homework
Do you know the details of the role you are applying for? Do you know the financial performance history of the employer you are interviewing with? How about the background of the CEO? These are just a few easy things you can google and research ahead of the interview so that when your interviewer asks "what do you know about us?" or "why do you want to work here?" you have something thoughtful to say. Remember, Google is free and has a strong ROI! 
Speak to Your Practical Work Experience During the Interview
Part of being able to tie your practical work experience to the job you are applying for is dependent upon you doing your homework. Remember, the goal of your interview is to communicate your value to your potential employer. Being able to tie what you have practically done and seek to do helps connect those dots for the company seeking the best fit, and when it comes to finally getting to the brass tax of talking salary dollars, you will be better able to defend why you want a higher number. 

Ask Questions
Kyle shared that this is the main space that he sees POC falter in compared to their white counterparts. Do you know the salary range of the job? What about the benefits? Do you know who will be involved in your interviewing process and more specifically, who you should be speaking to when you get onsite for in-person interviews? Do you know how long the company has been seeking to fill the role? These are questions you can't Google, but you can ask during the interviewing process. You want to be equipped with as much information as possible to (again) inform what - and how - you negotiate.
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Kyle also mentioned building your network through LinkedIn. This doesn't just mean reaching out to employers, but recruiters as well (reach out to Kyle here!). They can help you prepare for making the next move and perhaps, securing the bag. 

- Zach

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Feeling Alone In Lonely Places
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“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Steven Furtick

In our first podcast, we discussed the topic of imposter syndrome, which is the conundrum of being unable to internalize your own success. We kicked off our first show with me sharing a story of my first day of orientation with a major retailing company. Allow me to paint the picture for you by re-sharing my intro:

It's 2011 and I just graduated from the University of Houston. I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed and I'm scared out of my mind. It's my first day and a large retail company an HR Manager and since I'm an "Executive Team Lead", there's a big orientation with all the other "Executive Team Leads in the region. At 20 years old, I'm easily one of the youngest managers in the company. I look around the room and I see people way older than me and seemingly much more comfortable in their own skin. I should be excited. I should be thankful. I should be happy. Instead, I only had one statement seared in my mind. First a whisper, then finally, a clear assertion:

I don't belong here.

Honestly, that was a challenging season in my career. Back then, I wish I knew the following two truths as they would have helped me better deal with the anxiety of being exposed as incompetent or incapable relative to my peers:

1.    You are Here for a Reason

Partially because I didn’t have a strong network of corporate professionals to share insight and partially because I was often one of a few black men in any room, I constantly questioned if I was just there to fulfill some quota or if I had simply schemed my way in the door. The reality is, whatever space I inhabited, I was there for a reason.

Yes, I know it sounds cheesy. Yes I know you may have read it on your social media timeline along with some “rise and grind’ message, but it’s true. Wherever you are employed, you are employed there for at least one reason. Companies have many options to choose from when it comes to who they hire. You applied, went through the interviewing process, were offered a salaried position, were onboarded and are here because there is at least one thing you bring to the table that companies are willing to pay you for. Not only should that give you a certain piece of mind, but the fact that everyone around you is also here for a reason should help level the playing field mentally.

2.    No One Really Knows What They’re Doing

Going back to my first real rush of imposter syndrome, what struck me was how comfortable and knowledgeable everyone seemed. What I realized is while some do it spectacularly well, others do not, but the reality is from speec, to dress, to humor, everyone is presenting their idea of what success looks like every day. Much more often than not, that is a thin veneer covering a host of insecurities, anxieties, doubts, personal frustrations and everything else. No one really knows what they’re doing. Everyone is figuring it out by some degree. This should help you twofold : (1) you don’t have to take everyone (including yourself) so seriously and (2) help you remember that again, you’re all in the same boat.

As we shared on our first pod, multiple studies show that a majority of people suffer from imposter syndrome at least once in their career, so you aren’t alone. As our first guest Fenorris Pearson shared during our interview and in his book, How to Play the Game at the Top, being true to who you are, remembering that you are where you are for a reason and that no one has it all together will keep you on the right path.

- Zach

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A Seat at the Table
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Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. (TIAA), Kenneth C. Frazier (Merck), Marvin R. Ellison (J.C. Penny’s); as of today these are the names of the only black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the lowest it has been in over 15 years. While diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a higher priority for companies, white males continue to disproportionately occupy the majority of corporate leadership positions.

When I started my career in management consulting I didn’t fully understand how these statistics would impact my career progression. I soon realized hard work, stellar performance metrics, and subject matter expertise weren’t going to be enough to get me to the next level. I started to learn about informal support systems such as the “good old boys club” and “partner trains” - all of which were white male-dominated spaces. There wasn’t a clear path for first-generation Nigerian-American women like myself.

My hope is that Living Corporate brings visibility to the extremely talented pipeline of corporate leaders from underrepresented groups. It’s time we pull up our chairs and start having REAL conversations about the diversity and inclusion issues in Corporate America.

We out here for real, y’all!

-Latricia

The Hope and The Dream
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I’m a young, first-generation, queer black woman out here just trying to do it right. Except I’m not super sure what “right” is. Or what it looks like. At my very first corporate job, I took the absolute first offer I received and then realized later that I was one of the lowest paid in my cohort. I never knew I could negotiate, nobody ever told me that. While platforms are changing the level of transparency involved in negotiating your pay, I don’t believe that people who come from the background that I do are having the same empowering conversations.

I also struggle with what it means to bring my whole self to work, struggling with deciding when it’s appropriate to talk about my amazing weekend with my partner while everyone else is sharing theirs. I struggle with not appearing unfriendly or even hostile to my coworkers while also protecting my privacy and sanity.

Living Corporate is important to me because I believe in the standing on the shoulders of giants. Someone somewhere has lived this life before, has been in these rooms, has dealt with these same struggles. I am not unique in my experiences in corporate America, good and bad, and I would like to reassure others of the same. Living Corporate for me means a safe space, a platform for conversations I can participate in wholly, and be myself.

- Adesola

Representing!
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My experiences thus far in the journey to Corporate America have left me with the shocking awareness that corporate spaces today continue to be the exact opposite of what they market themselves to be; diverse and inclusive. I can count the number of times when I have not been the only professional who is black, female (or both) in the room. These instances are mostly limited to conferences and events that are specifically geared towards black professionals.

This is in many ways problematic, not only to those who are already in corporate America but those who seek to join it at some point in their lives. The sheer lack of representation and continuous pressure to conform in order to succeed are the norm and navigating spaces that in many ways are alienating is a challenge to many.

This is why Living Corporate is important to me; I see it as a platform to have frank dialogue about everyday issues facing underrepresented groups in corporate America. I believe representation matters and hope that the conversations we have are beneficial to everyone else out there and help people understand that they are not alone in whatever challenges they face.

- Parin

We Out Here!
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The first time I saw a room full of black professionals felt like a sweet shock to my system. Over 4,000 Black engineers and aspiring professionals in one opening ceremony - I was at the National NSBE Conference and in my final year in college. I was finally looking for a job post-graduation and was overwhelmed at the sheer size of the conference, and the number of large companies that invested so heavily in recruiting black engineering talent.

I knew there were plenty of black people out there in professional spaces, but to see thousands of us in the same convention center was a wake-up call for me. For all of the axes of my identity (including race, gender, and sexuality), I could see that there were many of us navigating often homogenous corporate spaces, and succeeding while breaking the mold.

That’s why I’m excited about Living Corporate. I want to share insights and have discussions about corporate america because the culture shock is real, and the pressure to assimilate is real, and the best way to feel more comfortable about preserving our identities in career paths that historically reward a certain kind of performance is by sharing our experiences and opening up more conversations.

We all have different ways of coping with the overt and subtle ways we’re asked to change ourselves to fit in, and I’m excited to hear from everyone else who wants to join in this conversation.

- Olabimpe

Baldwin Taught Me

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” - James Baldwin

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I don’t believe when Baldwin used “rage” here that he meant some mindless, violent blind fury - a reckless, hulk-like aggression that swings into the void, striking nothing. No, I believe the rage Baldwin was referring to here was the feeling when one understands - by any degree -  the overwhelming, ever present, inescapable reality that is white supremacy. White supremacy is what established our 13 colonies and the bedrock upon which our government stands. White supremacy undergirds our economy, the structuring of our neighborhoods and schools. White supremacy provides the mark by which we measure acceptable behavior, language and dress. It is what makes diversity and inclusion programs necessary -- if only for window dressing -- at our jobs. It is what makes Living Corporate, LLC relevant. Baldwin states that rage is consciousness for the marginalized, and I agree. 

Eventually, I had to ask myself what I was going to do with my rage. If you are reading this blog, you are seeing it. Living Corporate is a space that was created by a group of relatively conscious people representing a wide array of perspectives, religious beliefs, nationalities, sexual identities and cultures. This space isn't to comiserate with one another, screaming against instiutions too expansive to wrap our arms around. This space is meant is to provide a platform to celebrate, educate and empower underrepresented identities in Corporate America in authentic, approachable ways. As we've said before, we want to engage with other voices that often go unheard and have our conversations out loud.

My hope is you join us.

- Zach