Navigating Uncharted Territory in a Fight for Economic Inclusion
Updated: Jan 2, 2022
In 2009, I made a life changing decision to attend Savannah State University, the first public HBCU (Historically Black College & University) in Georgia. In my final year of study, I was recruited into Microsoft’s highly sought after, and high selective MACH program (Microsoft Academy of College Hires). I was interviewed and hired into the organization by Curt Kolcun who at the time, was Vice President of Public Sector sales. Although I was eager to work at a software giant and influence decision making at the highest levels of our Federal Government, I accepted a role at a large tech company to change the narrative of Black Women working in white male dominated spaces. Having completed internships in the industry, I sensed the lack of representation in large companies and understood the environment to be unwelcoming if you did not blend in to fit with the majority. As a Black woman and early career professional with experience navigating tough work cultures where equity and inclusion were not always present, I knew there was a higher calling for me at Microsoft. I was the first Black female college hire to be hired into the Federal sales organization and my four years at Microsoft became the most critical time of my life. It was an intense learning period where I grew into my authentic self, set boundaries, and learned what my true purpose was. Looking back, I was traveling in uncharted territory and broke barriers without having a blueprint or a standard to model myself after. Unknowingly I became the standard, and albeit censored and often disregarded, I learned early in my career that my purpose is anchored in elevating our image, visibility, and lending my voice to bring light to the inequities of Black Americans vigorously navigating professional spaces.
As my time at Microsoft was drawing to a close, I found myself unsure of what my path forward would be. I achieved my greatest epiphany in life when I realized that I held a special passion for helping Black Americans dismantle barriers to employment and achieve economic opportunity. After searching carefully for a company with a racially diverse leadership team, I joined the LinkedIn Learning Government team in July 2019. With the motto, “Always Be Learning,” I chose an employment-oriented company such as LinkedIn for its commitment to closing the employment and skills gap through continuous learning. Currently, I manage State workforce development initiatives and advise HR leaders on learning & development solutions that will train and prepare citizens to compete in a global workforce. Because I have always had a front row seat to the ongoing struggle for economic freedom and justice for Black people in this country, I value a company like LinkedIn whose purpose and vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.
As we celebrate National Freedom Day on February 1st, a precursor to Black History Month, Black Americans throughout the diaspora will begin to highlight the rich and often forgotten history of Black people in the United States. In 1948, President Truman declared February 1st as a day to commemorate the 1865 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all persons held as slaves shall be set free. However, until Black Americans are made economically whole, true freedom cannot be achieved. While this part of our story is overlooked, it propels my personal fight to reify economic access and inclusion, making my work here at LinkedIn worthwhile.
In closing, if I could travel back in time and gift my younger self with any piece of advice, it would be to walk boldly and confidently in your gift and watch the universe make room for you. To my Black brothers and sisters across the diaspora, “Tell Them We Are Rising!” Happy National Freedom Day and Happy Black History Month!