Tag: alumnae

ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: BRITTNEY SMITH

 

What did you gain from your Momentum experience?

Relationships. I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible women who are making an impact in Birmingham. Some of them even went on to become friends, which is something I count as my greatest gain. Another thing that contributed to my Momentum experience was the specific professional season I was in. There’s a point in every career where you have achieved quite a bit, but there’s still much more to go in terms of navigating the journey and taking ownership of your career, and Momentum helped me take more control over my career journey.

What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?

Early on in my career, someone shared with me a piece of advice that still applies no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and that’s the need to trust that your God-given ability will always make room for you. If you give your best in whatever position you’re in, do right by people, and be authentic, the right opportunity will always come to you. When I think about people that have given me advice I think it’s especially important, that when the door of opportunity is opened you’re ready to walk through it, and also leave the door open for other people to follow. 

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?

The first thing I would say to my younger self is that success is a journey, and never compare that journey to others. The other thing I would add would be to learn at every stage and step of your career. No matter how difficult the job or the season may be, there is always something to learn.

What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders faces?

The first thing that came to mind would be balance. In the new normal of work, more and more companies are allowing people to work remotely, though that’s a huge plus, it increases the difficulty of drawing an important line between work and home. Both men and women have different home priorities, but it is especially true for women. 

The second thing that came to mind is connectivity. Relationships are incredibly important and it’s much harder to fully connect in a gratifying way in a virtual world. Women need to find ways to be intentional and overcome that obstacle to build and maintain relationships as we move away from traditional work experiences. 

What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?

Mckinsey & Co. produced a report in partnership with the Lean In organization back in 2019. According to the report, for every 100 men hired or promoted into a first-time manager role, only 72 women are hired into that same position. These numbers are even lower for women of color. That’s a gap. When I think about potential solutions, I immediately think of sponsorship. Companies have the opportunity to consider putting more thought into building out a framework for sponsorship specifically for women and underrepresented minorities. Most people are willing to mentor, and I think that mentoring is an incredible opportunity, but women need sponsors, advocates, people willing to invite us to the table and have our voices heard to truly experience growth. 

What three words do you think should characterize every leader?

The first one is integrity. Good leaders should do what they say they’re going to do. People should be able to trust their words. A good leader will do the right thing, even when no one is looking. The second word that comes to mind is vision. I think the ability to cast a vision as well as bring others into that vision and help them see how they fit into the vision is a sign of a good leader. The last thing I associate with a good leader is empathy. Good leaders can connect with people and share the feelings of others.

How do you manage your career, home, and community life?

This is something I am in the process of restructuring how I balance all of those. One of the things I have been doing is making sure I know my priorities. For me, my priority is my family. I always want to be the person that thinks of my family and uses them as the drive for my success, not the other way around. One of the things that helps me balance my priorities, which I learned through one of the Momentum courses is taking a survey of all of my activities and responsibilities and ranking them based on what I can control. It’s also important to take the time during the day to accomplish the things that I need to accomplish so that it doesn’t carry over into my personal life. 

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

My advice would be, talent is a start but it’s not enough. Sometimes we focus so much on the base talent of intellect or creativity and that’s great. What’s equally as important is development. Invest in your development. Develop your environment, and that includes your network, your skillset, and your character. 

Persistence Through the Decades

Chelsea Brewton, Upward Class Two

Finding a good time to interview 98 year old Harriet Cloud, grandmother of Upward 2020 alumna Chelsea Brewton , was challenging because her schedule was completely packed. Once we talked, you could tell that despite a busy week, she was calm and collected. She has been dedicated to healthcare since she graduated in 1944, and she is a “lifetime learner,” according to her granddaughter. Just the other day, Harriet was looking to take classes on web design to develop a site for her business, Nutrition Matters. Harriet’s tenacity and curiosity are unique attributes that have allowed her to stay up to date as the field of dietetics has changed over the past seven decades.

Harriet Cloud, Founder, Nutrition Matters

Harriet had her eyes on the goal from the start. She majored in dietetics at Kansas State, interned at John Hopkins, taught at a nursing school, got married, and then moved to Birmingham, where she had eight children. She took time off to be at home with her babies but started working again as they got older.

Harriet was employed by the Jefferson County Health Department as their only nutritionist in 1958. She developed a heart for underserved populations as she assisted clients with food stamps and frequently traveled to housing projects in the city. She also began her foray into extracurricular leadership as chairman of the nutrition council at United Way.

“If you want to be a leader, you can be a leader.”

However, it helps to have support. Even though many women were facing discrimination in the workplace at the time, she only received support from her male colleagues. Harriet partially attributes this anomaly to the fact that the field of dietetics is made up of many women.

When asked if it was challenging to manage eight children and a position at the health department and UAB, she responded, “not really.”

Her grit and determination carried her through twenty-seven years in dietetics at the Sparks Center at UAB where she developed leadership grants and taught graduate students. According to Harriet, she would tell her classes, “I got up at 5 am, and I hope you did too,” when explaining the importance of hard work. Shortly before she accepted the position at the Sparks Center, she completed a master’s in nutrition at the University of Alabama. This degree gave her more access to opportunities there and eventually led to her becoming interim director. She encourages students to continue to learn and gain degrees as they lead to more career opportunities.

Looking back on her career, Harriet attributes her strength to self-esteem, a spiritual base, optimism, and persistence. She has been successful in her pursuit of leadership, but she acknowledges that many women face a variety of challenges in that pursuit. For example, the field of dietetics has a low percentage of Black women, and workplaces have to acknowledge why this gap exists and how to promote diversity in the short-term.

Working mothers still face the dilemma of balancing childcare and their careers. Harriet is a proponent of daycare coordinated by employers, but she recognizes that this mission has a long way to go.

Harriet’s main takeaway from 76 years of working is that you need to like what you do. When you take a job, always look for other opportunities or projects you can pursue. We’re excited to see what Harriet will accomplish in year 77 of her career!