February is black history month and March is women’s history month. Around this time of year, I’m often invited to speak on the topic of diversity. It’s one of my favorite topics because I’m so passionate about it and this month I was invited to speak to a group at a diversity event hosted by DHR International to provide my perspective on the topic. I was asked some great questions and want to share some tips on how to breakthrough to senior leadership as a diverse professional and become a diversity advocate in your organization.
1. How to break through from mid-management to the senior level
In order to break-through, the first thing you need to do is find the courage to display interest and pursue the opportunity. For me, the opportunity for that breakthrough came at a very difficult and complicated time in my life. However, I knew I was the most ready and qualified candidate in the succession plan and that another opportunity wouldn’t come around again for a long time. So, I found the courage and pursued my first director level position aggressively even though my son was in treatment for leukemia. I used my consistent past performance and the interview process to demonstrate that I was the right candidate for this opportunity.
2. Use your mentors and the lessons they teach you
Throughout my career, I did have many mentors. Most of them were my bosses and in my industry that naturally meant they were male. They each taught me something different and I took away the best from each one of them and applied their lessons to my career. Some of those lessons were:
• Do your homework: be an expert in your market, industry, field or subject matter
• Be accountable: if you say you are going to get something done, get it done, don’t wait for perfection because your word is your brand and your brand needs to be associated with delivering.
• You can be a good leader and a good person at the same time: have the guts to make the tough decisions but remember to be a good human being while doing so.
3. Become a diversity advocate yourself
I think I was always a diversity advocate but I didn’t have the courage to be as public about it early on in my career. That’s why it’s important to reach senior leadership level. With power comes responsibility. I took responsibility to be a public diversity advocate at the Women of the Channel East conference in December 2017. I was invited to be a keynote speaker shortly after reaching VP/GM level. I shared my journey with a large audience in a ballroom in NY. I shared personal stories about challenges and adversities I faced in my career but more importantly how I decided to be a character driven leader and not compromise myself or my values along the way. The overwhelming positive response I received after that keynote made me realize I had a responsibility to share with others and be that diverse, female mentor I always wished I had. I started mentoring women after that and also created this platform and these blogs to share my tips with you.