Interview with Executive/ Coach, Meghna

Interview with Executive/ Coach, Meghna

AW: Thank you Meghna, for making time for us. To get the conversation started, who are we referring to when we say “firsts and onlys”?

MM: You’re welcome, Adrienne. The term refers to folks who are either the first from their family or community to be where they are or the only one like them in the room.

AW: What made you want to start coaching firsts and onlys?

MM: My parents emigrated here years and years ago. I was a consultant for many years. I made every mistake in the book when I started in the corporate world.  It was about ten years ago that I started to learn about executive coaching and started doing more people-oriented work.

AW: What does coaching “firsts and onlys” entail? What are the issues that are most common to them?

MM: There are a few. One of the issues is that because they are the first or the only, they don’t have anyone from their family or community who understands the “rules” of the game. I like to share an example from when I was in second grade. I was in a spelling bee and I misspelled the word “deceived”. The next day there was a news report about the spelling bee. The reporter said, “If only she had known the rule, i before e except after c, she would have won.”

I have always remembered that. Knowing the rules makes your life easier.

The second issue I refer to as “imposter syndrome”. Many firsts and onlys from South Asian culture, for instance, have and show a lot of deference to those in authority. When they move into the American corporate world, there is a need to push back or, at least, respectfully ask questions. Firsts and onlys ask themselves, “Why is this harder for me?” The answer is simply that they are managing relationships differently than they did in the communities from which they came.

A third issue is that firsts and onlys are unique and tend to be externally validated. People-pleasers. They tend to wonder if they are fitting in or if they are excelling…so issue number three emerges from the two previous issues.

AW: That sounds incredibly exhausting and potentially painful. How do these challenges impact the professional lives of firsts and onlys?

MM: These challenges make it very difficult for firsts and onlys to sustain success. There exists a feeling of disconnectedness or always getting the short end of the stick. Some feel like they’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do but these feelings persist.

AW:  So, what are some solutions?

MM: Well, it’s really, really important that firsts and onlys seek to build community. Try to have one or two professional friends who have a different perspective, who see things differently than you do. Secondly, cultivate mentors.  Of course, hard work is central to moving up but having an advocate is also super important. Who is going to “bang the table” for you? Connect to those above you because they can help you move up. Try to have coffee with someone who is senior to you on a regular basis. Try to learn what they are learning.

AW: What are your goals for the American workplace?

MM: I want to see a rainbow nation of leadership groups. I want to see different experiences reflected in the workplace because it is diversity of thought and experience that makes companies stronger.

Meghna Majmudar can be found on LinkedIn and The Permission.

Getting Fired Can be a Blessing

Getting Fired Can be a Blessing

So you were fired. It might feel like the end of the world…but it’s not!  

This article is not meant to retrain your brain like Clooney’s almost-heartless character in Up in the Air. Quite the opposite. This could, in fact, be the start of something exciting and new. This is a call to self-defibrillate – to retrain your heart.

 

  • You hated that job, they did you a favor.

Getting fired or as I like to call it -not quitting fast enough- can be a blessing in a remarkable disguise. 

 

There’s a reason you got fired. 

You wanted to quit. 

You’ve wanted to quit for a while but you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it. 

 

It may have been financial obligations or the overwhelming sense of missed opportunities. Maybe you were in denial about your unhappiness or maybe it was just the idea of being a freaking failure.

 

Whatever the reason, others could tell. It was affecting your work and your demeanor. Now someone else has solved the problem so you don’t have to suffer through it anymore. You’ve just been liberated from a crappy job you hated. 

 

So, smile. You owe it to yourself! Now, let’s create a plan and work it!

 

An opportunity for introspection.

You were probably let go (the exception being wrongful termination) for poor performance. Does this mean you’re a failure? No. 

 

Does it mean you are lazy? Mostly likely not. I don’t believe in laziness. I believe in malaise and a lack of inspiration.

 

Are you a bad person? No way. You were in the wrong job. In Shadan Delaveaux’s Fortune commentary entitled “Here’s why even the best employees get fired”, he surmises that sometimes your skillset is simply not what your company needs at a certain point in time. It is not a reflection of you. It is simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

So, the good news is that it really is an opportunity to take your first step toward doing something you really, really want to do.   

 

So, what do you really, really want?

 

In Eckhart Tolle’s inspirational book,  A New Earth, he claims that the process of making thinking the servant of awareness is key to determining your life’s purpose. This process, and the amount of time it takes, varies from person to person. But the first step is to take your daydreams out of your head and start acting on your desires.

 

Step 1: What did you spend all of those hours researching? 

 

What is your recurring life fantasy? The one you’ve been dreaming about on your lunch break for the past five years. Write it down. Many researchers believe that the act of writing a dream down helps to take it from the abstract to the concrete.

 

Step 2: How can you take the first steps toward pursuing it?

 

After you write it down, make a list of steps to pursue. Maybe the first step is to reach out to someone in the field in which you want to be. I have a friend who reached out to everyone she knew in the field. One person, from those dozens, walked her resume into a senior vice-president’s office and a month later, she was hired. 

 

Step 3: Don’t give up! 

 

Tolle encourages us, once we recognize what we really want, to recognize that the most important thing has already happened: the separation of thinking and awareness. What you do and who you are are separate things. Once we begin living in alignment with our primary purpose, the things we are put on Earth to do will become more and more evident with time. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up!

Interview with a Developer – Thomas Williams

Interview with a Developer – Thomas Williams

Family background – Thomas is the brother of Adrienne Williams, Founder and Principle at ETP.

TW:To start off, entrepreneurship runs in our blood. Our paternal grandfather ran a grocery store. Our dad did a lot of government contracting work.

Adrienne has a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in her. This is something that is rudimentary to our identities. Adrienne is the oldest. Then Spencer – he is also a web developer- then me, I am the youngest. Adrienne is ten years older than me.

AW: How did you learn to code?

TW: I learned to code, well dabbled in it, growing up in the 90’s. Game development. I used game design programs that people could use without programming knowledge. I wanted to do more so I learned how to program after college. I went to business school – Krannert School of Management at Purdue. I earned a business management degree there.

AW: What was your first year on the job like?

TW: I first worked as a consultant but didn’t like it too much. I wanted to develop games. I joined a programming bootcamp – it was a one year program. I studied web development ten hours a day and after six months I worked on my first project.

AW: What about now? What is your experience like now?

TW: I work at Benchprep now. It’s a start-up. It’s very diverse. That’s why I chose it. It’s not perfect, of course. But I do feel heard. My current manager is reasonable. My team is small and tight-knit. That plays a huge part. Also, we’re all about the same age so that camaraderie is significant.

AW: Have you ever experienced racism at work?

TW: So, I have. In the past, there has been this implicit racism. For example, in a certain corporate environment, there was this soft pressure to adhere to a certain standard. Even down to clothes. I felt I had to wear J. Crew. (TW chuckles a little.) J. Crew is not meant for African-American body types. One thing nice about tech-development, it gives you more freedom in terms of what you can wear. We have more liberties; of course, it might also depend on where you live.

AW: What advice would you give to people of color who want to enter the tech field?

TW: I would say find a source of inspiration in tech. Everyone I know had an interest in games or something like that. Develop a sense of wonder so that you don’t feel lost.

AW: What are your future goals for yourself or for the industry?

TW: I want to put myself into a position to create things that benefit humanity. I want users of my creations to have healthy and wholesome concepts of humanity. I want to be an active and helpful member of the human race.

AW: So, little brother, what’s your next big thing?

TW: My company’s name is Grand Scheme Games. My mission statement is to “Make games that warm hearts and bring smiles to faces.” For people who have felt trapped in a beleaguering circumstance, the game I’m creating now aims to provide the player with the opportunity to have faith…in something.

For more information, go to grandschemegames.com.

Always Hire Experienced and Effective Managers to Lead a Team: Part 1

Always Hire Experienced and Effective Managers to Lead a Team: Part 1

It may seem obvious but if you are running a company, effective managers should ALWAYS be hired. Leigh Branham, author of “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”, interviewed over 4,000 employees who voluntarily left their employers since 1998. She found that there were four areas that were linked to their departure: trust, hope, respect, and competency (training).

What is a Manager?

I’ve worked in tech for over a decade. I started at the bottom as an HR assistant filing I-9s, answering phones, and running errands for the HR team. As I worked my way up through recruiting, I’ve learned a lot. I share that with you here.

A manager is defined as a person who is responsible for controlling, administering, or operating all or part of a company or similar organization. He or she is in charge of the activities, tactics, and training a team in order to maintain or transition to a smooth operation.

What are the expectations?

These are the key traits and responsibilities that are expected from a competent manager.

Remember, the goal of every manager is three-fold:

  1. Every team member is in the right seat on the bus –  a busful of competent and exceptional employees operating in their skillset.
  2. Organizational operations are seamless.
  3. The organization is retaining its best employees.

Here are the essential traits to look for in an effective manager:

  1. Consistency. (Is this person the same person today as she was last week?) TRUST
  2. Exceptional communication skills. (Are there vestiges of narcissism, hidden agendas, or brown-nosing embedded in his communication praxis?) RESPECT – as Aretha would say…
  3. The ability to give authentic praise. When an employee displays an exceptional work ethic, the manager should be able to recognize and praise that employee accordingly. This inspires employees to do their best. TRUST
  4. The ability to provide mentorship, training, and feedback. HOPE
  5. The ability to create a positive culture. In our talk with each other – we are creating something. The question is: What are we creating? Is culture fun? Or depressing? Exciting or dull? HOPE and COMPETENCY
  6. The ability to create a culture that treats mistakes as opportunities to grow. In Michael Jordan’s infamous Nike ad, he confesses that he was trusted 26 times to take the winning shot and he missed. But, he says, it is because I have failed over and over again, that I succeed. Yeah. COMPETENCY

This will mean that for employees who committed some mistakes, they should be able to trust the manager to provide them with constructive feedback and support. There are a lot of Michael Jordans out there.

  1. The ability to provide clear vision. TRUST
  2. The ability to exhibit strong leadership skills. RESPECT
  3. The ability to welcome accountability. TRUST and RESPECT
  4. The ability to solve problems. RESPECT
  5. The ability to refrain from micromanaging. RESPECT, HOPE, and COMPETENCY

I’ll be sharing more with you as the days go on. Please subscribe to our newsletter here.

What Lies on the Other Side of Fear

What Lies on the Other Side of Fear

After 10 years of consulting at some of the world’s top tech companies (Google, MongoDB, and Dell EMC to name a few),  I could recruit in my sleep. So, I decided that I would start my own business. The first year it was just me. A few days after my first anniversary, I hired my first employee. A few weeks after my second anniversary, my team now numbers seven.

My road to self-employment was bumpy in the beginning. The first version of my website was created by a friend for free. The second version of my website was created by a friend of a friend for $500. The third iteration has taken 2+ months. 

The process has forced me to dig deeply regarding my purpose and goals. Entrepreneurship is in my blood. I’m a 3rd generation business owner (and soon to be 2nd generation, self-made millionaire). My family went straight from the plantation to self-employment. This process has also taught me a lot of respect for my father as a businessman. My dad started a successful consulting business from scratch. With his own money. He had a mortgage, a wife and three kids, one of whom (yours truly!) was one year away from college. We never felt a single financial bump in the road. Not an easy thing to do!

So, why did I wait so long to start my own business?  I’d been fired more times than I could count on one hand (or as I prefer to say, I wasn’t quitting fast enough…). Why did I suffer through jobs I didn’t enjoy for so many years? Because I was afraid. Fear is the enemy of progress. In fact, fear is the greatest impediment to success. Every dream you’ve ever wanted in your life is on the other side of fear. This experience is continuing to teach me that. 

Starting a business has been a journey of self-discovery as much as a practical exercise in bootstrapping a tech recruiting firm. It’s taught me patience, empathy, and how not to worry.  It can be a challenge to service existing clients and still find time to do the work it takes to launch your own thing. Even with a team of seven (for whom I am infinitely grateful), there are days when I struggle.

I’m learning a lot along the way. How to budget. How to hustle…then hustle some more.  How to articulate my feelings even when I’m worried I may be punished for my honesty. I’m learning how to value my labor and how to articulate the value of my work. I’ve learned to accept my limitations.  I’ve learned when to ask for help. I’m learning how to be a good leader. Most importantly, I’m learning to stop hiding my truth/pretending to be someone I’m not and just be honest about what I want and who I am. I’m learning to trust my fate and believe in my destiny. 

It’s overwhelming at times, but I’m learning to live on the other side of fear and it’s been the most liberating and rewarding experience of my life.