Welcome to another “Behind The Click.” We continue with the longest running profile series of African-American women in tech with Lauren Wesley Wilson. I’m a fan of hers not only because we both share the same first name but because of her achievement in creating a trade association, ColorComm, that brings together women of color working within the communications field, many of them involved in digital areas. I had the opportunity to meet the founder and chief networking officer as an invited guest at a tea the organization had in Washington, DC and I wanted to be sure that I shared information about their work with Madame Noire readers. Here we go!
Current Occupation: Founder of ColorComm, Inc.
Favorite website: Forbes Woman
Favorite read: Got What It Takes?: Successful People Reveal How They Made It To The Top by Bill Boggs
Recent read: Little Bee by Chris Cleave
2012′s ultimate goal: To evaluate my place in this world
Quote Governing Your Mission: “Surround yourself with people who light up your life and make you laugh till it hurts.” If you don’t surround yourself with people who make you feel good, how can you become the best version of yourself? And you need the best version of yourself to accomplish your goals and make an impact in this world.
Twitter handle: @ColorCommntwk
Lauren deLisa Coleman: How did you decide on Spelman and what was it like attending college there?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: Spelman was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; a choice that truly took me out of my comfort zone and provided an opportunity to interact with and learn from people who looked just like me, something I wasn’t used to. Growing up, my environment and upbringing included little diversity. I attended St. Louis private schools since kindergarten and had only one black friend. Spelman was what I needed to understand who I am and to know that there is an intellectual black community that exists in droves. I entered Spelman as an only child and graduated with plenty of sisters.
LdC: How did you decide on your major? What role did it play in your later position with public relations powerhouse Hill & Knowlton?
LWW: I majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. It was very fitting to have a well-rounded education with global experiences to work at a global company. Some of my clients included Qualcomm, SunEdison, and Wipro.
LdC: How did you transition from that to your work as communications director for a member of Congress?
LWW: I knew there was an opening for a communications director for a Texas Democratic Congresswoman, because the previous communications director came to work at Hill & Knowlton. When I was ready to move on from [the firm], I reached out to a colleague and friend in that office and became the new communications director.
LdC: You then went on to apply your skills to the Obama campaign. Tell us more about your work for Obama at the Florida campaign headquarters?
LWW: For the short time that I was in Florida, I learned so much about media booking and media relations. It was a great learning environment for me, because I’m used to being in control and feeling as if I know everything. Working in Florida proved that this wasn’t the case.
LdC: What led you to start ColorComm?
LWW: This answer is very long and I welcome any coffee meetings with folks who want to hear the true and uncensored story. The short version is this: I wanted to see more examples of women of color in leadership positions in my field. The PR industry is not dominated by women of color. Frankly it’s just the opposite. It is important for us to come together at the mid to executive level to share our brainpower and resources to better ourselves professionally and personally.
ColorComm started off as an invite-only luncheon series in May 2011 and transitioned into a membership organization in July 2012 with a chapter in Washington, DC and a presence in New York and Chicago.
LdC: What is the mission for the organization? What is the biggest challenge you have in running ColorComm?
LWW: [As it says on the website], “The ColorComm mission is to personally connect women with other like-minded individuals to build a strong network of leaders by creating mentors/mentees, business relationships and friendships. ColorComm offers a unique opportunity for women to share experiences and learn from one another to enhance their personal and professional development.”
The biggest challenge is balancing it all with our full-time jobs and extracurricular activities. ColorComm has such a great leadership team that we are able to make this work, despite all our crazy schedules. We carefully plan each program several months out, because the most important thing is to continue maintaining the quality of our organization and to service the needs of our members.
LdC: Describe the membership base for me.
LWW: Our membership base is pretty diverse in age and background. We have members that are [ages] 25 to 60-plus and that are in all industries of communications (PR, media relations, advertising communications, small business owners, digital communications, etc). It’s an environment where we can all come to the table and learn from one another.
I would say that if you’re involved in ColorComm, most likely you use digital strategies on a daily basis to service your clients. You also use digital platforms to connect with members outside of the programs. It’s great to see members connecting online and supporting each other’s events and activities.
LdC: Why is it important to have organizations like this for women of color, particularly in the digital age?
LWW: Women bring a unique energy to networking and to the conversation. Because there are few of us at large PR companies and in the industry as a whole (in comparison to the majority), it’s truly important for us to know one another and to collaborate with each other.
A woman of color in this field will experience a different set of challenges because of who we are and our perspective. ColorComm provides an opportunity for us to come together and learn how to navigate our way through this industry. The programs and events are unique experiences that challenge our thinking and allow us to form meaningful relationships with like-minded people.
LdC: What advice might you have for women who are particularly interested in the convergence of tech and politics?
LWW: Read, read, read, read some more. Follow the people who you strive to emulate and join organizations. As a woman of color working in policy, my challenges were met by having a strong outside network. This is something that anyone can create. Just remember that connecting initially should be genuine and less transactional.
LdC: What are your plans for ColorComm for 2013?
LWW: To continue building the ColorComm network and to focus on expansion in other key major cities.
So, there you have it! Be sure and watch for the next profile. In the meantime, please follow me about all things digi-social via my new Twitter handle @ultraLdC.