Category: Mentors

Meet Alumna LaKisha Mack

Momentum would like to congratulate LaKisha on her recent promotion to Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration in the School of Medicine.

LaKisha joined the School of Medicine (SOM) Dean’s office in 2014 as the Associate Dean for Finance and Administration to ensure organizational alignment in the areas of Finance, Human Resources and Facilities. Since then, she has worked with countless faculty and staff across the SOM, allocating and approving budgets, conducting financial forecasting, interpreting policies, and managing federal regulations regarding funded research. She collaborates with our health system colleagues and SOM department administrators and plays an integral role in SOM leadership recruitments and retentions.

In her new role as Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration she will ensure policy compliance for the SOM and the university, participate in strategic planning and collaborate with the university and health system on all administrative and financial activities. She will continue to oversee the development of the SOM Dean’s Office budget, and will also lead implementation of the University’s Resource Centered Management (RCM) budget allocation model within the SOM and coordinate the Academic Enrichment Fund (AEF) funding and approval process

LaKisha’s UAB career began more than 20 years ago, in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she was a financial assistant in the Center’s clinical studies unit.  Following that, she spent more than 10 years working in various roles across Central Administration, the School of Health Professions, and the Department of Medicine, both in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology and the Chair’s office.

In the Department of Medicine, LaKisha was the Division Administrator and Director of Operations, building an infrastructure to support faculty growth and operational leadership across all three-mission areas – clinical, research and education.

A native of Long Beach, California, LaKisha attended Samford University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. She and her husband Donald have one daughter, Morgan.

What made you move to Birmingham?

I grew up and spent all of my time in California. I never really had the opportunity to travel much so when it was time for me to select a college I wanted to go out of state. At the time my grandparents lived in Birmingham, so I decided to migrate there for college. I always had the intent of going back home to California after I finished my degree, but then I met my husband and have been in Birmingham since. 

Why did you want to go through Momentum?

I actually did not know that I wanted to go through Momentum — it was recommended to me by my immediate supervisor and I really didn’t know what to expect. Therefore, while I did not originally seek out Momentum, I am glad I agreed to the recommendation because it certainly has offered me the opportunity to become much more self-aware of my areas of strengths and development both professionally and personally. 

What stood out to you the most about your Momentum experience?

The camaraderie amongst all of the women really stood out to me. We were a group of 30 women who started the program without knowing each other at all. Throughout the process, we really got close as a cohort. It was very profound for me to be in a room with women who were all going through similar situations as me both personally and professionally. 

How do you think your experience with Momentum prepared you for your new role?

First and foremost, it helped me build the self-confidence needed to know my self-worth. I now I know that I am just as capable, qualified, experienced and knowledgeable  to seek opportunities for which I would not have gone after before. I am just as competitive as anyone else with the same level of experience. Going through the Momentum experience has put me in the position to know my self-worth and that I have the ability to be able to speak and toot my own horn which I would not have done before. 

What advice would you like to give to women aspiring for leadership roles?

Go after what you want and do not let anything hold you back. If you feel like you have the tools for leadership positions, don’t let anything get in the way of accomplishing your goals. If there are areas of development within yourself then work on those and be self-aware, but know that you as a woman are just as capable to go after leadership positions as anyone.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

Momentum offers mentor matching as a free service to our community. If you are interested in learning more about the program and being paired with a mentor, click here for more information.

You Wanna Grow in Your Career… Do these 3 Things!

Barbara Mason is the CEO of Career Pathways, and a session presenter at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial conference

So many people say they want to grow in their career.  I can understand that because who wants to do the same thing the same way in the same position for the same company for the same 40 years? No one! So, I get it…it’s reasonable to desire growth in your career.

Well, I want to give you 3 ways you can accelerate the growth in your career:

1.      Network-yes, that’s right you must network. This is a class they should give you starting in high school. That’s how important it is. It is important that you stay connected to other people to learn new things, learn new people and learn about new career opportunities. In fact,  there are a large majority of jobs that are never posted, and you only find out about them through your network. Networks can be formal networks that you have at work with your boss,  or other leaders within your company. And networks can also be informal with people from your church, neighborhood or civic organizations you are a part of.

 

2.      Utilize Mentors-yes, everyone needs mentors in their careers. Mentors are helpful to be a sounding board, give you honest feedback and help you navigate your different career moves, twists and turns. There are several kinds of mentors you can have, and many people often have different ones for different things or areas they want to work on.

 

 

3.      Continuing Education-if you don’t want to be stagnant, then it’s crucial you invest in staying relevant in your field and continuing your growth and development. There are several free and paid options to stay abreast of your field and also to just personally sharpen the areas where you need help. Think about taking free classes at your local library, local universities or at work. Also, consider getting certifications or joining professional organizations related to the field you are in.

These 3 strategies will help you stay on a trajectory of growth in your career and ensure you do not cultivate complacency and stagnation.

 

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

The Leadership Challenge

Each year when our executive leadership class graduates, we throw down the leadership challenge:

With the leadership skills you’ve honed, the network you’ve established, and the increasing influence you’ve gained as a Momentum graduate, how will you create positive impact?

With their graduation, Momentum’s Class 15 is prepared to take on bigger, bolder challenges at work, at home, and in the community. Our hope is that they have a renewed sense of excitement about what they can accomplish. May their experience in Momentum remind them of their potential while reaffirming who they have already become.

We are all familiar with the expression “to whom much is given, much is expected.” So we ask of leaders everywhere, how do you put your leadership to work outside of immediate responsibilities for career and family? Where will you invest your time and money? How will you use your life lessons, your network, your influence to solve new challenges and pay it forward? Be creative. Find something that suits your passion, whether that’s within your organization, a non-profit, or something in a community initiative that hits close to home.

Leaders are busy people. Many people ask for their time. Yet the really accomplished leaders always find ways to align their passions, abilities, strengths, and schedules to do more. If you haven’t quite found the “more” that you want to do, here are some ideas to get started.

1. Form a Women’s Resource Group at your office. Women must lift, support, encourage, and learn from each other if we want to be our best selves. Women’s Resource Groups create a safe space to ask questions and share experiences that can be difficult to discuss in mixed company.

2. Adopt a mentee. Find someone who you can support and guide through the ups and downs of working life. You might just be surprised to see how you also benefit from the experience. Your relationship can be a short or long one. Boundaries are really important, so spell out the guidelines. If you are unsure how to go about finding a mentee, Momentum can help.

3. Volunteer with a nonprofit that supports women. Momentum can introduce you to a number of “mission partners” right here in Alabama who would value your time and experience.

Great leaders know that as they add things to their plate, they also have to let go of some things. Taking on a bold new project or a even a small volunteer opportunity is a great time to take inventory of your time and get rid of anything that zaps your energy or wastes your talent. Refill the space with something service-oriented that aligns with your passion, and you’re sure to feel a net gain in self-worth!

Women’s History Month

Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month. I have actually been asked by my own son why we need a whole month dedicated to women’s history or black history? Why don’t we just have a history month? Deep breaths. “We celebrate women’s history month and black history month because history, as we have learned it, is white male. It is written by white males and documents the achievements of white males. The contributions of minorities like black people and all women, who often achieved great things despite their repression, are rarely noted or celebrated. Having a dedicated history month helps to rectify that.” He seemed satisfied enough with that answer.

During the month of March we’ll post on the achievements of women, particularly right here in Alabama. At each biennial Momentum conference, we recognize women leaders who have made a significant contribution to community, business, culture or politics. The 2018 awards were held this past Wednesday and honored six new women with a Woman of Impact award. You can meet the new honorees, and each of our past honorees, here.

Last year we interviewed five of our sixteen honorees to get their stories and advice on film. Here are a few inspiring clips from that project.

 

 

Battling Slow Burn

I recently visited with a woman I mentor from time to time. She has been in the same department within the same industry for more than ten years now, but only three of those with her current employer. While she still likes her job, and her employer, the current job market is tempting her to make a change. In the end I believe she is experiencing the “slow burn”–the kind of burnout that happens when you fall into a rut and just grind away there for weeks, then months, then years. In many cases the slow burn can be rekindled into a fire in the belly, or at least a vibrant flame, without leaving your employer. Here are a few suggestions I gave my mentee:

  1. Learn a new skill. If you work in the IT department on the database side, maybe you want to try your hand at training end users or designing web interfaces. You are very likely to pick up new ideas and meet new people along the way. Trying something new that enhances your skill set can give you new enthusiasm and make you more valuable at work.
  2. Change up your work environment and daily routine. Think through the changes first and make a plan. Share your plan with your colleagues. Then set a date for the big “change day” and make it all happen at once, like the big reveal. Move your furniture, buy new accessories, get a stand up desk shelf, bring in art you like, invest in a set of herbal teas, come in an hour early and leave an hour early, commit to a walk outside every day at 3:05 pm and take a picture of something interesting you see…these are all just examples of easy changes we can make to our every day environment to give our biorhythms a little shuffle-ball-change.
  3. Rally for a cause. When you have reached a level of comfort and security in your job, reinvigorating our sense of accomplishment may come from outside the workplace. Maybe you believe strongly in workplace diversity, but your job has nothing to do with HR. Think about finding a local nonprofit that advocates for diversity and find out how you can get involved. Once you have some experience and some connections to the cause, you can bring it back to HR and executive leadership and pitch a few changes for the organization. Maybe they get implemented and maybe they don’t, but you are still making a difference through your advocacy outside the workplace, and earn respect from within your organization for going the extra mile for something you believe in.

Burnout can come in many forms, and there are many ways to combat it. HR Consultant Dawn Burke will share her top tips to fight burnout at the Health and Wellness session during the upcoming Momentum conference. We’ll invite her to share those thoughts on this blog soon after the conference, so watch for it!

(photo iStock)