All Articles Tagged "black professionals"
by Sakita Holley
The beauty of studying successful entrepreneurs is that you can learn what took them 30, 40 and sometimes 50 years to learn in a matter of hours. And no matter what industry you’re focused on, you can always find that common thread that links everyone together.
So even when you think business owners like Tiffani Bell, Daymond John, Jacqueline Nwobu and Damone Roberts are worlds apart in terms of experience in the game, you’ll find that they all share at least one or more of the following attributes.
1. Passionately curious
Most entrepreneurs have an insatiable appetite for information about their field and related industries because they are always searching for that tiny nuance or lingering question that could lead to their next big break.
2. Have a great team
No self-made man ever got that way on his own, which is why most successful people in business surround themselves with individuals that are often more intelligent and capable than they are. Oh, and then they delegate which is a huge reason why it seems like they are able to do it all.
3. The right to be wrong
They say that the fastest way to get to success is to experience your fair share of failures. Because if you’re not failing then that means you’re not taking any risks.
4. Laser-like vision and focus
The most revered business owners are known for sticking to their plan no matter what is happening around them. When the proverbial blinders are on, no industry change or economic volatility can deter them.
by Lauren DeLisa Coleman
Business analysts are showing that even with the recent economic upheaval, tech-related companies are standing strong and with billions of dollars in actual cash-on-hand. Not only is this sector representative of a financial behemoth, it is also one that is directly responsible for creating innovative and exciting new platforms of communication, entertainment and lifestyle enhancement – the extent of which we’ve only just begun to see. Yet there is still room for, shall we say, improvement. For example, even though many brilliant and creative people drive this modern tech industry, the gender disparities that plagued many industries in the past are still very much alive, though changing.
In fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sanderberg recently began a movement to create and support more female leaders in Silicon Valley. But it’s extremely important, given that oftentimes female consumers of color out-index all other groups in mobile usage and social media frequency (source: Pew Research), that particular visibility, recognition and focus be given to building and supporting female leaders of color very much under-represented in the tech space.
We need to ensure that the vision of women in tech is as expansive and inclusive as possible, particularly since we are witnessing the browning of our country each and every day. So welcome to the series that spotlights some of the best and the brightest who are using their intelligence, experience and unique perspective to disrupt the old school in the very best way, while acting as catalysts who will encourage the next generation of hip Black women in tech-related occupations.
My first profile is an Q&A with Bonita Stewart, VP U.S. Sales at Google.
Here we go….
How did you get your position at Google?
I was directing interactive communications at Chrysler in 2006 when Google reached out to speak with me about leading their US Automotive sales team. It was an exciting opportunity for me because it gave me the chance to not only step into a new business space, but to bring my learnings about consumers and products — and the transformation taking place and being driven by consumers and their behavior in the marketing world — to a broader audience.
Did you have to answer many of those notorious brainteaser style questions we hear about?
I definitely had to answer some interesting questions, and had a number of interesting conversations, prior to joining the company. The questions were less about brainteasing, though, and more about discerning whether I had the ability to work in a flat organization and respond to a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment. Googlers are passionate about their work and tend to attack problems with flair and creativity — rolling their sleeves up to get things done — and apply their interests and talents in order to innovate for advertisers and users, and make the world a better place. We like to make sure that our employees communicate openly and ethically, and are committed to exchanging ideas to create a successful, collaborative, inspiring work environment.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your current position?
The most challenging aspect is continuing to stay at the forefront of a constantly changing digital world. It is important that I am confident in leading my team and clients into this new world; the technology and capabilities are there, but staying on top of such an always-evolving world, though incredibly interesting and fulfilling, is often challenging.
What is the best encouragement/direction you might give to young women of color who would like to work for digital leaders such as Google?
I would suggest that anyone who would like to work for a digital leader such as Google, that they focus on adding value to the solutions they’re offering to their particular audience, that they are tenacious in their pursuit of excellence and results, that they have a plan, and that they never stop learning. It’s key to set a high bar and continue to pursue excellence, and to seek — and really embrace — feedback along the way.
How was your experience at Howard?
My experience at Howard was excellent. I majored in journalism and minored in business, and ended up becoming so enamored by business that I chose not to graduate early in order to take more business courses. The education I sought out and received at Howard gave me a great foundation on which to begin my career.
Have you found it challenging to be heard/break through as a woman? of color?
Diversity is a major part of Google’s culture. We believe that diversity in the workforce brings diversity of opinions — which in turn brings a diversity of solutions to help our diverse users and advertisers. More and more companies, and people, recognize the importance of diversity at all levels — and how it drives innovation — which is a major positive for both companies and the world.
I believe you were at Chrysler during the introduction of the 300? If so, what was that like from an Interactive perspective given that urban culture was responsible for so much of the sales of that particular model?
The Chrysler 300 was an outstanding product designed by Ralph Gilles, an African American automotive designer. His unique design style drove the many accolades the vehicle received when it was introduced.
What do you think about the current movement for greater inclusion of women in both tech and advertising (and some saying that they don’t want to be considered just on gender)?
I am very optimistic about the movement toward women in leadership roles in technology, advertising, and the world in general. I see many talented women every day, at all levels of leadership, and find that their diverse perspectives — like those of any diverse group — bring nothing but good to the company and its offerings. Smart, interesting, talented employees with a unique perspective on the world are invaluable, no matter their race or gender, and I am incredibly happy that more and more companies are embracing this way of thinking.
How do you see greater balance of diversity coming about in our industry?
I see greater balance of diversity coming about as leaders recognize the value of a diverse workforce and make that a priority, and as the world continues to evolve and recognize — and reward — talented people with varying backgrounds and perspectives on life.
Any challenges regarding moving up the tech ladder and balancing marriage/home?
Work-life balance is never easy, particularly if you love what you do, but it is incredibly important to take the time to recharge and pursue passions outside the office. I’m lucky that I work in technology and am therefore not tethered to a desk; I can check email and do most of my work remotely, which allows me to step away from my laptop and enjoy my friends and family when I’m not at the office. I try to set a good example for my team by staying off the grid when I’m on vacation, and by not sending emails unless there is an emergency on the weekends.
Don’t get it twisted, there are plenty of things that black professionals know how to do very well, including landing a job, throwing frou-frou networking events with fancy cheeses and crackers, wearing pearls and snazzy bow ties and handing out business cards. However, with all their social grace and refinement, there is one thing that the Black professional class doesn’t know how to do and that is throw a decent party.
Even with my taste for Brie cheese and Moscato, I still consider myself to be down to earth. As such when I go out for a night on the town, I like to have a good time. For those black professionals reading this and have no idea what I mean by “a good time,” let me elaborate: the music from the DJ booth is bumping, the liquor is flowing and everyone is out on the dance floor, smiling, laughing, and heeding the advice of the late-great Michael Jackson, leaving “that 9 to 5 up on the shelf and just enjoy..”
But that never seems to be the case at events geared to the young black professional sect. Most of these events have all the elements for a good time (good food, plenty of liquor and a decent DJ) – but everyone appears too self-conscious or self-indulgent to cut loose. The women in tight bandeau dresses, cluster together in a group, leaning on one another’s shoulder to relieve the pain of those 4 inch platform pumps. And the men, dressed in either suits and ties or button down and slacks, stand against the wall, sipping on a glass of wine they had for the last 40 minutes. There are maybe a handful of brave souls out on the dance floor but for the most part, professionals stand around, dressed to the nines, and look at each other, waiting for something to happen.
I was reminded of this last Friday when I attended an NABJ party here in Philadephia. After a rousing performance by Kindred and the Family Soul, ?uestlove, of the legendary Roots crew, took to the stage and got the party started off right by spinning the very best in 70s, 80s and 90s R&B classics. Never being one to ignore a trip down musical memory lane, I proceeded to pick a spot on the dance floor and get into the groove of things. However, when I looked around the hundreds of well-dressed beautiful black folks, I noticed that dancing was sporadic at best.
Granted the audience ranged from 20 to 60 years of age; however, I really challenge anyone to listen to Outstanding by the Gap Band; followed by Poison by Bell Biv Devoe, followed by the Big Payback by James Brown and not find something to your liking. Even a footloose Roland Martin, who managed to shake a tail feather in a white suit and ascot on – at the height of summer, no less – couldn’t motivate the crowd enough to get into the swing of things.
I don’t want to sound as if I am picking on NABJ because this aversion to the boogie is indicative of just about every “grown and Hot” party, “Business attire” mixer or somewhat upscale Black event that I attend. It’s glaringly obvious that for many in the professionals crowd, working 70 plus hours a week in hopes of climbing that career ladder has left them uptight, easily embarrassed and tittered by what others might think, even when they are supposed to be safe in their own environments. It seems that spitting out resumes and boasting about HBCU alma maters and Greek-letter affiliations have replaced any semblance of having a good time. I guess my point is that life is hard enough for black folks, especially those walking a very narrow line of acceptance in corporate America. And if you can’t be comfortable enough to let your hair down and go H.A.M. on the dance floor around your own folks, who do understand your struggle, who can you be comfortable around?
But you know who is partying? Black folks in the ‘hood. The hood knows how to turn a scene out. Pick any spot, which is known to be frequented by the rough and roughed in America and I guarantee you that this is the spot to be at – that is until someone get’s stabbed or shot. That’s what we call a grand opening and a grand closing in one day. Sigh There’s has to be a happy medium where worrying about what school you went to 15 years ago and getting shot to death for accidentally stepping on someone’s shoes plays a distant second to a drink and a two-step.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
(News One) — African-Americans have been working hard from the first days our ancestors saw these shores, yet we have yet to reach full representation in many of our nation’s leading industries. Forty years after the civil rights movement, our level of representation in many fields lags severely behind our percentage of the general population. The good news is that more leaders in these fields are taking diversity seriously, which can be a boon for blacks in the coming decades. Industry watch dogs, political organizations and professional groups are pressuring hiring managers to step up minority recruitment and retention efforts.Black have been underrepresented in the following fields for years, but now there is an emphasis on rectifying the problem.
(Chicago Tribune) — A Chicago Bears fan, Dwayne Hirsch was happy when he was finally able to get together a group of friends to watch the games on TV. What he found at the get-togethers, however, was that a lot of time was spent talking about work and career dreams. Hirsch, a radio exec, thought, “Why not bring these like-minded people, many of them small-business owners, together to network?” He and AnDrea “Fuzzy” Dixon, a bartender who already was organizing a Monday-night networking event at a South Loop bar, turned it into an event that combined socializing over pizza and drinks and formal business pitches. That was two years ago. The free event, Business Spotlight Network, outgrew the South Loop location, and Hirsch moved it to the Red Kiva lounge in the West Loop, where 50 to 150 people attend the meetups each Tuesday night. He also changed the format, setting it up like a talk show. The Crete resident says he has plans to start a south suburban event this spring on a different night. Presenters varied, from a pastor to a magician to politicians, said Hirsch, 39, development director for Real Estate on Radio. There’s a waiting list to get onstage, he said. ”Tonight, we have an artsy theme,” Hirsch said, picking up the microphone on Red Kiva’s small stage on a recent Tuesday. He and Dixon are co-hosts, jumping in with questions to keep the presenters on their toes.
(Black Enterprise) — Using the “Responsibility” platform and positioning, Paul G. Alexander, Senior Vice President, Communications for Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. is the innovator that builds the brand of the nation’s fifth largest property and casualty insurer. To promote the company’s responsibility theme, Alexander went to one of the most iconic figures on the planet: Oprah Winfrey. Since April 2010, Liberty Mutual has been spreading the message of Oprah’s “No Phone Zone,” a campaign to end distracted driving habits that kill nearly 6,000 Americans a year.
(Seattle Times) — WHEN YOU’RE not from here, it can take some work to understand what sort of place you’ve landed in. A job with The Seattle Times lured me to the Northwest after stops in Cape Town, South Africa, Boston and New York City, and I actually made some of the transition quickly. I started running, flirted with the idea of commuting by bicycle. And after receiving some admonitory stares, I even learned to politely stop until given the walk signal before crossing the street. But three months into my new Seattle life, one thing eluded me still: Where was Seattle’s community of young black professionals?
Everyone loves a well-made car, but did you know that many of the executives working behind the scenes at the top companies in the auto industry are African American? And our history shows that this is nothing new; the automatic gear shift, the traffic light and the stick shift were all invented by African-Americans. Detroit was once one of the most important destinations for African-Americans migrating from the south because of its reputation for car manufacturing. But success for African-Americans in the auto industry came as a result of a hardship and hard work. Here are some of the present day movers and shakers who are literally driving the automobile industry.
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By Steven Barboza
As the black owner of a hair salon with such celebrity clientele as Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Phylicia Rashad, Diana Ross and others, Daisy Curbeon managed a staff of six hair stylists for more than 10 years. A former runway model, she had worked her way up from sweeping beauty shop floors to styling for the stars. After opening a salon on Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue, she ran into resistance from some of her own black employees, women who “dissed” her largely because of race.
“Because I’m a black boss, they thought they could come in late,” Curbeon said. “If they had some daddy-mama drama, they might not come in at all. You know, a white salon wouldn’t put up with that. But in a black salon, I’d have to deal with it and be sympathetic because I’m a black woman too.”
She added bitterly: “There was too much familiarity and lack of respect because of race. Familiarity breeds contempt. People try to fit in like family, and then it becomes a problem at work.”
Curbeon’s difficulties no doubt were partly due to her informal management style, but her experiences are not unique; they’re just not widely discussed—in public. In truth, many black managers don’t care to see themselves as too lenient on “their own,” so this “race secret” is glossed over among friends. And business school professors are only now scratching their heads, trying to develop theories on how to deal with this peculiar racial dilemma.
The New Power Brokers
The issue is especially pertinent today, though, because a new “black power” is taking shape nationwide, and black leaders are better positioned than ever to make hiring decisions, from the variety store to the boardroom to the corridors of political power. The nation now has 2 million black-owned businesses.
In addition, the nation has tens of thousands of black executives, several hundred black directors of Fortune 500 firms, 650 black mayors, a handful of black governors—and its first black President, a shrewd and savvy operator credited with running the finest campaign ever launched by a candidate for our highest office.
Despite this clout, blacks are suffering disproportionately in the Great Recession. According to September data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black male unemployment rose from 16.7% to 17.3%, compared to a rate increase of 8.8% to 8.9% for white males. Thus, black male unemployment is 94% higher than the rate for white men. The unemployment rate for black women rose from 12.9% to 13.2%, whereas white women did not see an increase.
African-Americans cannot afford to let insubordination serve as an excuse for not getting hired. Yet, it is a real, though mostly unspoken, concern among black bosses. While black–on-black disrespect on the job is hardly universal, it does occur when black employees use common racial bonds as a pass to excuse under-performance.
Slack performance can mean the difference between success and failure for black-run organizations, from barbershops and banks to charter schools and tech firms. Sabotaging a manager’s effectiveness could prevent a firm from winning new business, hamper overall work quality, or prevent a firm from gaining access to traditional pools of capital—and black-owned firms already face higher hurdles in this area than non-minority firms.
Off The Record, Here’s The Real Deal …
Many black executives won’t even discuss this issue “on the record” for fear of causing friction among employees, or because they’d just as soon keep the company spotlight off a hidden race problem, especially one in which they themselves might be enmeshed. Others are altruistic about their avoidance of this issue, saying that revealing this problem might put a damper on opportunities for blacks to climb the corporate hierarchy.
Off the record, however, these same black bosses and entrepreneurs can easily recall black-on-black impertinence, ranging from backtalk to a “do-it-yourself” demeanor that could be grounds for dismissal.
“An African-American manager asked his black subordinate to schedule travel arrangements,” a nonprofit executive confided. “The employee felt it could have been done by the manager. You could tell from her tone, which was entirely too familiar for the workplace. It’s challenging on the management side because you can’t respond as you would to a family member, and that’s where tension comes in. An African American manager needs to be able to lead in such a way that’s going to cultivate the support and respect he or she needs to get the job done.”
“Our book is not a page turner in the usual sense,” said Thomas Kochman of the book he co-authored with his wife Jean Mavrelis. “It’s a book that requires some thought and reflection. One of the strengths of it is that people can go away with accurate research and information that will help them climb that corporate ladder.” What their book, Corporate Tribalism, may lack in entertainment, it certainly makes up for in value. It chronicles more than 20 years worth of research from two cultural anthropologists about the implications and affects of cultural differences in corporate environments.
Mavrelis and Kochman are diversity training veterans, having conducted training in the field since its inception in the 1980s and working with companies like AT&T, Boeing and McDonald’s. Passed over for a seemingly well-deserved promotion? Fade into the background in the boardroom? Kochman and Mavrelis argue that in some cases it has less to do with the quality of work or ideas, but more to do with the quantity of cultural differences that can keep some ethnic groups from relating to those in the mainstream.
“The whole goal of our book is to develop and promote multicultural flexibility,” said Kochman. “It’s not to make everybody the same, but to develop the ability to manage differences.” The concentration on ingrained cultural differences as opposed to the skin-deep brand of diversity training is what makes their services resonate so personally with their clients.
They examine how different cultural practices relate to those in the mainstream (white) culture in corporate environments. Kochman explains that while some cultures are taught to be more reserved and tend to shy away from being braggadocios about their work, it can translate into meaning that person is not assertive enough for a leadership position in mainstream corporate America.
“It’s not politically correct anymore to be racist,” Mavrelis said. “So people discriminate based on culture and a flippant comment such as ‘she’s not leadership material’ can be career ending.”