What would you do if you were not in PR?
I’d most likely lead a nonprofit organization that lifts people to self-sufficiency and better equips them to pursue their dreams. Nothing excites me more than planting seeds and watching them bloom, whether it’s through mentoring or exposing a child to something that sparks excitement about their future or helping individuals overcome barriers to their personal success. Everyone has potential that’s waiting to be ignited. While I have the opportunity to do that in my work today, I’d do even more if I weren’t working in PR.
Talk about the last time you experienced a truly fist-pumping victory moment.
This may seem odd, but seeing the movie Hidden Figures energized me in ways I didn’t expect. It felt amazing to hear the stories of my three Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters who had overcome incredible challenges to be pioneers as African-American women at NASA. Their stories were no longer hidden and the world is better off because they now know what these women accomplished.
History for women and people of color is often untold. It’s a wonderful victory the movie has been so successful because it also serves as a much-needed reminder that there is so much brilliance around us. It will take all of us to remove the barriers that get in the way of that brilliance emerging.
When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment, a total wipe out? What did you learn from that moment?
I once had a boss who saw the world very differently than I did. At the time of my performance review for the year, I was shocked to see how I was rated in some of my objectives. It just didn’t line up with how I saw my team’s performance or my own contributions. I felt deflated to have worked so hard and to have been judged so harshly.
Over time, I moved from disappointment to anger to ultimately pausing to find nuggets of usefulness in the feedback. I realized it was less important how my performance was rated by that individual, and more important that I picked up the pieces and identified ways to better align on expectations and clarify what success would look like. From that point on, I never took for granted that my boss and I were on the same page. I am very intentional about aligning on expectations and checking in regularly to make sure we stay in sync.
How long ago was the last time you truly took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
I am a member of a nonprofit organization called Jack and Jill of America that encourages us to "work hard, play hard." I live that mantra by taking the time to recharge on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting in my favorite chair with a lit candle watching House Hunters International and dreaming about retirement on an exotic island. Other times it’s hopping on a plane to cheer for my son as he competes on the court with the UC Davis Aggies. For me, recharging is about doing something that gives you joy with someone you love.
What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
It’s frustrating when we don’t live up to the sacred values of our profession. For example, truth, the first Page Principle, must be the very foundation of what we do. We absolutely have to tell the truth, the real truth, and not alternative truths. When we stray away from this principle, everything is lost: credibility suffers, the public is confused and misled, and trust in organizations nosedives. It’s an absolute lose-lose proposition, and it drives me nuts when professionals in our industry don’t appreciate that.
When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
I love that I am part of an organization that operates with integrity every day. I was particularly proud during the market collapse in 2008 that Northwestern Mutual did not suffer some of the negative consequences that others in the financial services industry did. We maintained our financial strength and commitments to our clients because of the long-term view and values that guided our decisions. It’s gratifying to work for an organization that rarely has to apologize for its actions.
Words to live by?
There is nothing more powerful than saying I love you when you mean it and being willing to say I’m sorry when you’ve done someone wrong.
Vodka with tonic and a twist of lime.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Take the time to enjoy the moment and don’t obsess about how fast or how far you can go to reach the next level. Be excellent at what you do, keep learning and growing, enjoy what you’re doing, and success will come.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
Well done, my good and faithful servant. You made a positive difference in the lives of others and helped make the world a better place.