Author: April Benetollo

Leveraging LinkedIn: Tips from Social U

CEO, Social U

We had an Intentional Tuesday session with Caryn Terradas this week on how to leverage LinkedIn to boost your professional brand. Caryn is a social media guru and owner of a digital marketing company, Social U.

Caryn shared so many highly practical tips, it was easy to leave with lots of action items. We’ve recorded the whole session and will be posting here, but if you just want a few of the highlights, here are our top five take-aways:


1. Update Your Profile

Use an updated, professional headshot. Edit your LinkedIn url so people can find you easily; if you have a common name, try adding your city or your position to your name (e.g. Christin Johnson_CPA_Birmingham.) Keep your Summary to a few short sentences, with your main “selling point” in the first line. Get more detailed in your work experience, listing out each position you held in a company to show progression. Don’t forget to list volunteer experience! Get about 10 good recommendations; the higher profile the recommender, the better.

2. Connect with Other Users

Start with people you really do know. Look at the suggestions LinkedIn proposes (connections of your connections) and add the ones you know or would like to meet. Get to 250 as quickly as possible. Connect with thought leaders in the Groups you join. Once you hit 500 connections, LinkedIn just displays “500+ connections.”

3. Join Groups

Speaking of groups, join a few. People are not using the Groups in LinkedIn as much as they used to, but if you can find a few active Groups in your field, it’s a good way to show your professional interests and to expand your network beyond the local scene.

4. Post Content

Ideally you want to generate content on LinkedIn about 20 times per month. It’s easier than it sounds. You can share content from others, post links you spot elsewhere on social media, comment on current events (diplomatically), post events, and share volunteer opportunities. Make your posts part of your daily routine, and post during business hours. A good habit is to post first thing, upon your return from lunch, or when you need an afternoon break.

5. Use Graphics

The more visually appealing you can make your posts, the better off you’ll be. Canva is the free, easy to use tool Caryn suggested for making professional looking graphics quickly. Canva has social media templates that are already correctly sized, and hundreds of royalty free photos. She also suggested Unsplash for even more royalty free photo choices.

Connect with Momentum! (Okay, so that’s #6)



Momentum has an active LinkedIn page, so please connect with us! We would also love for you to connect with our team:

April Benetollo, CEO

Andrea McCaskey, Director of Programs

Mindy Santo, Mentoring Coordinator

Katherine Thrower, Logistics Manager

Tina Upshaw, Director of Operations

Lead Through This

April Benetollo, CEO

We’ve all been through a lot in recent months. A global pandemic, worldwide economic instability, and an explosion of outcries against racial injustice. We stand with those outraged at the killing of George Floyd and the countless other Black lives lost to racial discrimination and oppression.

Your families, coworkers, and friends are looking to you right now for reassurance, and that’s a lot of pressure. If you are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, confused, angry–we are here for you. We may not have the answers, but we will listen. We will provide support and connection: Contact Us.

As an organization, our core mission is to advance women in leadership—across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and political affiliation. As leaders in our state, it is up to each one of us to check our own biases, to call out injustice when we see it, and to advocate for people of color. We call on the women of Momentum to lead by example, and to navigate these uncertain times with empathy, reason, and resolve.

In the coming weeks Momentum will share, via blog and social media, some resources, volunteer opportunities, and specific actions you can take to support girls and women of color. By standing together for justice and equality, by taking actions to promote diversity and inclusive communities, and by respecting a wide range of viewpoints, we can be tremendous agents of change.

In the words of Andrea McCaskey, “you were created for a time such as this.” We are the women the world needs now. 

Lean on one another. Lead with us.

April Benetollo

The Great Equalizer

Ashley Gann, Chief Meteorologist for CBS-42, business owner, public speaker, mother of 3.

As a full-time Chief Meteorologist and a parent, in the blink of a pandemic eye I also became a full-time teacher, cook, housekeeper, gardener, and field trip organizer. My home has become the school, playground, office, and TV set. I’m a planner and a crisis communicator by trade. I forecast future weather for crying out loud, but I never saw this coming. No one else saw it coming either, which is why this global pandemic has become a great equalizer.

While there is much uncertainty amidst all of the change, there is also so much opportunity. We have adapted to new workflows, processes, systems. Some have had to make a complete career pivot. Some have taken on delivery jobs just to make ends meet. From the C-Suite to the frontlines, the shutdown and social distancing have affected everyone. For some, the change may feel like a small ripple. For others, more like a tidal wave.

Let’s get one thing clear…Depending on the plates that you’re spinning, some days are probably a haze. You’re struggling to hang on between the homeschooling or care-taking, the house chores and work responsibilities. The cooking, the cleaning, the disinfecting– it all piles up. It’s a lot. In that, there will be things that go back to normal soon, like kids going back to school. We will be able to send spouses out of the house to run errands again. Our walls won’t seem to be pushing in on us as much as we move forward.

As we emerge on the other side, I do hope businesses take a hard look at how this pandemic has forced change. I believe this could open up doors for women by creating more flexibility and empathy in the workplace. This may be a solution for retaining talent long term. For women, climbing the corporate ladder often is stymied due to a lack of options and being forced to choose between personal priorities (children, spouse, aging parents…) and a promotion. Remote-working strategies can produce greater productivity, create long term loyalty, and pave the way for future growth. This is a game changer!

In this global pandemic, the rigid walls of corporations have had to morph into malleable support systems for their employees. We’ve all gotten to see inside each other’s world. I think we’ve been more honest with one another and we’ve seen more authentic bonds being made, because it’s hard to ignore the golden retriever stealing the show on your daily Zoom call from home. We’ve allowed for grace and we’ve been able to see each person in a new way. I believe this could be a defining moment in how we move forward in retaining the best and the brightest in business. We are redefining what collaboration, communication, and productivity look like.

We are proving, through these new work models, that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can attend high powered meetings one minute, while scrubbing dishes and teaching our children the next. I have come to realize a woman can be as successful in her office with a view as she can be at her dining room table covered with crayons. The view may look different, but giving women choices on how they take flight will give them the greatest chance at soaring as high as they can. We must not dismiss these work from home changes as temporary, but see how that can radically redefine workplace culture and ultimately attract the very best to your brand and business. Giving someone options and flexibility is a tremendous value-add for every organization.

Upward Resources – 2020


In order to get the maximum benefit out of each Upward session, you will need to complete a “pre-work” assignment. Each month the assignment will be posted here. Some assignments must be turned in to Momentum. Others are prep-work for the class and should be printed, completed, and added to your binder. Specific instructions will be given for each assignment.


March Session

Momentum Conference Vision 2020

All conference information and session handouts are still available through the Guidebook mobile app.

Go to the Session Tracks in the menu, select a category, select a session, and look for the handout after the session description and speaker info.



Each of our keynote speakers has great information, video, books, and other resources  on their respective websites.

April Session

Learning and Development “Selfies”: Understand Your Purpose and Take Control of Your Career Development

Facilitator: Dawn Burke

The concept of “career” has changed dramatically in the modern workplace. Careers are no longer a lifetime pursuit of one distinct career path, but rather a pursuit of many talents, skills and roles, resulting in more fulfilling work.

In this interactive session you’ll learn:

  • What research teaches us about the importance of continuous career development
  • How to create a written career development plan incorporating “purpose” in your planning
  • How to overcome obstacles and accelerate your career development

Recorded ZOOM Session (Dawn’s content starts at 19:00 min)

Dawn’s wrap up (the last 20 minutes)

Session Handouts:

May Session

Working in Teams

Facilitators: Andrea McCaskey, April Benetollo, and Momentum Alumnae Jeannine Bailey,  Kathy Boswell, Leigh Davis, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Christy Thomas. 

In this session we tackle building trust on teams, working through conflict, unwritten rules, managing up, remote teamwork, giving and receiving feedback, and working across multiple generations. The format is via Zoom with breakout discussions led by Momentum Alumnae.

Recommended reading:



Decoding the CARES Act

Lauren Millard, CDFA
Morgan Stanley

Many small businesses are under extreme financial pressure as a result of the shelter in place order across the state. Though many of those restrictions are easing, the economic restart will be slow. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s order to lift some restrictions still includes a “safer at home” message for employers. Restaurants are still restricted to deliver and curb-side service, and salons, barber shops, entertainment venues, and health clubs must remain closed.

Congress passed additional funding to the Corona Virus Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act this week. There are temporary provisions within the CARES Act that could positively impact cash on hand and reduce taxable income, specifically deferral of employer SS taxes and expansion of losses. These are in addition to the loans and enhanced unemployment benefits available to small businesses. The Act is cumbersome to comb through, so here’s a resource to help make sense of it from your friends at Morgan Stanley.

Take Time to Assess

Every leadership journey begins with deepening your understanding of yourself and how you relate to an ever-changing environment. We have all gone through some big changes as a result of the Corona virus. Now that most of us are working from home (WFH), it’s a good time to reassess your personality and what WFH strategy will work best for you.

A fellow leader and friend of Momentum, Gayle Lantz, shared a complimentary assessment to determine your WFH style and how you can be most productive. It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and the assessment at the end had some good pointers for me.

Take the Work from Home Style Assessment

I hope you will find it helpful, too. Not everyone has the same work from home style, so we all need to approach it in the way that works best with our personalities.

Here are a few other free self-assessments that we’ve found to be helpful:

16 Personalities
Very similar to the Myers-Briggs personality test. The paid version is actually well worth the $30, IMO.

Fun and currently very popular among professionals. 

Who Am I
This is an interesting visual test where you choose your answers from a bank of pictures rather than words. I recommend skipping the non-essential consumer questions at the end. 


Why Doing Good Feels Good

April Benetollo
CEO, Momentum

If you are like me, you may be feeling powerless to change much about a global pandemic and pending economic crisis. Many people feel overpowered by dark imaginings and back into the shadows of apathy, depression, and anxiety.

One antidote is to identify local ways to channel your thoughts towards helping others. It’s a scientific fact that doing something positive for others has tangible benefits for the giver. Studies show that regular acts of benevolence make us feel better, improve mental health, and can even increase life expectancy.


Here are a few suggestions for doing good things locally during the corona virus quarantine. Guaranteed you’ll feel better when you do!

Support our frontline medical workers. The teams treating COVID-19 patients have all the same stresses and worries about this pandemic that we do, plus they are short-staffed, have short supplies, are risking their lives daily, and there is no end in sight. I have spoken with friends in the medical field, and they said the community support really does make a difference. Packing a giant basket of snacks, sending Insomnia Cookies, or catering a meal for a frontline medical team you know personally would make a dark shift brighter. You can also donate babysitting credits through Wyndy–you’ll be helping a medical worker with childcare and supporting a local startup at the same time! Find out more about how you can help on the following sites:

Give blood. Cancelled blood drives and school closures have created a real shortage in available blood supplies, according to Jess Merrill, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. Blood banks are still taking donations by appointment and are in great need of healthy blood donors. Find a location.

Donate to a Food Bank. The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama can do more with purchasing power from monetary donations than food items, so consider giving online here. If you have pantry items that you will not be using, check out to find a collection site near you.

Volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is a great way to make a huge impact in a short amount of time. By delivering meals, you bring nutritious food and a friendly visit to eight to 10 seniors and people with disabilities in your community.

Grocery shop for an elderly or at-risk neighbor. Our neighbors may not always ask for help when they need it. We may need to take the first step to say, “Hey neighbor, am going to the store today. What can I get for you?” The more we can help our elderly and at-risk neighbors at home, the greater chance they’ll have of getting through this. This eldercarelocator can help match you with an elderly person in your community who may be in need of periodic assistance to get prescriptions, a ride to doctor’s appointment, or essential grocery/hygiene items.

Share your expertise. There are so many avenues to share your professional experience to the benefit of others, and now is a great time to do it! Consider signing up for Momentum’s mentoring program, offering to conduct a webinar for your alma mater, or volunteer to speak to your kids’ school class. Educators are looking for innovative ways to engage students during this period of adjustment to online courses!

During.a time of crisis, we all have the opportunity to be a “first responder.” Be proactive, make it part of your routine, and reap the many personal benefits of doing good for others.To learn more about local response to the COVID crisis, visit

Equal Pay Day Matters More in a Crisis

Today marks Equal Pay Day, the time on the 2020 calendar it took for women to catch up to what their male counterparts earned by December 31, 2019 doing equal work. The data on this topic is extensive. Women, on average, earn .80 for every dollar their male colleagues earn, costing women an average of $10,000 dollars a year. The situation is even worse for women of color.

The pay gap matters even more in a time of crisis. Earning less over time means women have fewer resources to weather critical events. Women are the breadwinners in half of the households in America. That means families depend on their paycheck.

In Alabama, the gender pay gap is even wider. Women earn 73% on the dollar comparing average median income. According to the AAUW, that puts our state in 48th place for equal pay. At the current rate of change, the projection for when women will earn equal compensation is 2059.

The pay gap is not just a matter of individual salary negotiation. Unconscious bias runs deep through all levels of the employee lifecycle: recruiting, hiring, promotion, and compensation.

Equal Pay Advocate, Lilly Ledbetter

Closing the gap will require action on several fronts:

  1. Public policy protections on the national and local level, such as the  Equal Pay Act and Lilly Ledbetter’s Fair Pay Act.
  2. Greater protections at the state and local level, such as salary history bans and wage reporting by gender.
  3. Build pay equity into your management training. As a leader, you have both the influence and the responsibility to advocate for fair hiring, promotion and compensation practices. The Society for Human Resource Management has great resources for managers here.

The pay equity gap isn’t a women’s issue, it’s an economic issue that affects our society at large. On a national level, if women were paid fairly, we could cut the poverty rate in half and inject $512.6 billion into the U.S. economy. At the state and local level, pay equity would help us recruit and retain top talent, as well as fuel our local economy and improve prospects for education and investments for thousands of families.

Let’s use our Momentum network to accelerate the rate of change in Alabama.


Staying Productive Working Remotely

We are all adjusting to the new normal of working remotely amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. I have had the opportunity to work remotely before, I have managed remote team members, and I have conducted countless meetings online. This is the first time, however, that I have been homebound with my spouse, children, and trying to work, so that’s getting interesting.


Here are a few ideas that I have found to be helpful:

  1. Defining my workspace and setting boundaries. While I don’t have a dedicated home office, I have asked my family to avoid whatever room I decide to work in for that “shift.”
  2. Set my hours. I work best in the morning, so I roll out of bed, stretch, pour my coffee, and get started straight away. Morning is the best time for me to plan, write, and do any task that requires concentration. I like to do my highly abbreviated “get ready” routine when I need a mid-morning break, then get back to work.
  3. Check-in regularly with the team. We use Slack to do a morning check-in where we post our priorities for the day. We use Zoom for our weekly team meetings where we go over our top 3 priorities for the week, talk about what we accomplished since last week, and discuss any help we need from one another.
  4. Limit interruptions. If I need heads-down time, I will shut down Slack and email until my next break. I also let my family know what I am trying to get done and why I need them to let me focus. It’s amazing how much more productive I am when I am not switching gears constantly.
  5. Break for lunch. Everyone in my house is capable of making their own lunch, so I’ve decided on my workdays that we can each prepare our own lunch, but we try to eat together. This gives us a chance to come out of the quiet zone we’ve been in all morning and catch up. I like to keep lunch simple but tasty, like an unusual salad (this one is persimmon) or buddha bowls made from left over dinner items.
  6. Move around. I don’t like to work in the same space or same position for too long, so I move around. I also take walk-around breaks for a few minutes every hour. Whether I just go downstairs and put laundry in the dryer, lay down in the floor to stretch, or walk around the block when I get a phone call, I try to move often.
  7. Self-care is a priority. It’s been a challenge for me to practice self-care my whole career. This pandemic situation is different. If I am not eating well, sleeping, exercising, meditating, journaling, and hydrating, then I can not stay healthy and provide for my family and my community. I’ll admit that I’ve traded time I used to spend on wardrobe, hair and makeup to make time for self-care, and I may just stick to that new routine!
  8. Indulge in one “perk” a day. I like to spend about 20 minutes in the afternoon to do something I wouldn’t normally do if I was in the office. It might be dancing with my daughter in the kitchen, saying hello to a neighbor, bringing in flowers from the yard, or taking a quick nap. Those little breaks bring me home-bound joy!


I am a long way from having this all figured out. I may have to change things up again next week. I’d love to hear how others are managing their new work from home routine. Feel free to share your experiences and preferences by leaving a comment!

Stay healthy. Stay productive. Stay sane.




2020 Conference Recap and the New Normal

How fortunate we were that the Momentum Vision 2020 conference got to the finish line, that most attendees were still able to come, and the majority were able to stay through until the end. There was a lot of elbow bumping over handshakes, and it was super difficult to refrain from hugging our friends. Whether you were able to attend or had to sit this one out, we want to make sure you have some Momentum in your next steps, even during this new normal of social distancing and remote working.


So if you missed the conference all together, or you attended but couldn’t get to all of the keynotes, sessions, and Expo Hall, here are 10 ways you can keep the Momentum going:

  1. Review the conference materials for each individual session in the conference app.
  2. Think about each session you did attend and how you can ACT (Apply Change Teach) what you learned.
  3. Explore the blog posts and articles on D&I from opening keynote Risha Grant, and repost at least one with your own thoughts. Bonus: Order Risha’s book That’s B.S. (Bias Synapse)
  4. Check out morning keynote Hillary Wicht’s TedTalk on voice and gender.
  5. Watch this 16-min video that hits the highlights of Robyn Benincasa’s keynote on building successful teams. Bonus: Order Robyn’s New York Times best-selling book How Winning Works. 
  6. Take mini-breaks throughout your day to watch the 2-minute videos of our five Woman of Impact Award Honorees (click their photos for a bio and link to their Award Video.) What inspiration, right here in Alabama!
  7. Check out the resources from Social U on managing your social media presence.
  8. Request a mentor from the Momentum Mentor Matching network. You can also sign up to BE a mentor here.
  9. Follow Momentum on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter for more news and events impacting professional women.
  10. Pay it forward to help support Momentum and the advancement of women in leadership. Text “ML2020” to the number 41411 to give.


Over the next few weeks of social distancing due to COVID-19, our small Momentum team will carry on! We are working remotely, with each person rotating into the office once a week. We are exploring options for hosting our leadership series via webinar, holding virtual classes, and rescheduling some our celebrations.

These difficult times require extraordinary leadership, and we know women are a great source of strength, reason, and resilience for their families and communities!

Check back in for tips on  staying sane, productive, and connected during the critical few weeks ahead.

Stay healthy,

The Momentum Team