On Being a Corporate Creative

I’ve teamed up with State Farm® as part of their Color Full Lives campaign, an initiative that promotes positivity & empowerment and celebrates all women in the African American community through a multitude of experiential and digital engagements. You know how this works-views, opinions, and musings of the unscripted kind are all my own. 

Somewhere along the line, I threw away either/or and picked up this and that. Somewhere along the line, I quit trying to commit to just one, linear, easily identifiable road and instead started making sense of my identity as a corporate creative. To paraphrase a tweet I recently read, I started to realize my plurality. I began to understand that the path I’m sculpting is complete with twists and turns, but it does not necessarily include some sort of fork in the road that will require me to choose one route.

My heart doesn’t vibrate accordingly to one passion. Instead, I am an assortment of layers. Interests. Skills. Talents. I am equally invested in my career in corporate communications and my creative journey as a writer. So, these days, my mindshare is devoted to everything from considering heading back to school to get my master’s to outlining what’s in store for my second book. And while I’d like to think this path, its consequences, and its sacrifices are unique, they are not. Instead, more women–both those close to me and those I observe from afar–are balancing multiple businesses, deriving income from various sources, and leaving their mark in more than one way.

I listened to strong examples of women like this in the latest “special edition” Color Full Lives podcast episode. As you may recall from this blog post last year, the Color Full Lives podcast, sponsored by State Farm, combines the influential voices of American radio personality Angela Yee, self-proclaimed “Duchess of Tech” Tatiana King Jones, and lifestyle influencer Francheska Medina, known for her brand Hey Fran Hey. The ladies are back with a limited edition run of the show, and they kicked it off by giving us a glimpse into how they’re running businesses, taking risks, and making headway on their goals.

We reunite with the ladies just as Angela has recently opened a juice bar, Fran is planning an 11-city wellness tour, and Tatiana is beginning work on a science fiction novel. Outside of these key projects, they are all also nurturing their personal lives, developing self-care and wellness regimens, and growing other professional endeavors. I identify with each of their demanding balancing acts and gleaned several gems from their conversation.


On writing“You have to allow yourself the slot to write, but allow yourself the slot to think. There will be times when you set aside time to write and that whole time, nothing comes out. ” – Tatiana

While I once considered writer’s block to be a complete cop out, Tatiana’s words now ring more true than ever for me as I work on my second book. Curating a body of work from the ground up is equal parts thinking and writing. A book is ultimately just as much what the author thought and felt as what that person ended up pouring on to the page. I’ve learned how to be more graceful with myself so that the thoughts and feelings have time to take shape, trusting that the words will always follow.

On understanding your worth and the value of your work:  “You can’t work for free forever; it’s just not sustainable. But how can I do that and still be fair and still be a businesswoman?” – Fran

This was one of those quotes that stuck with me long after I listened to the podcast. Fran, like many other bloggers and online content creators, has offered tons of quality content for free for years. She’s now transitioning to offering services at a price. It can be a tough and uncomfortable passage to move from free content to paid products and services, but I have found most people, myself included, usually reach that tipping point. It’s a natural evolution if whatever you’re offering is filling some sort of void in the universe. So, I’ve learned it’s important to confront your value head-on and stand firm in what you know you’re worth. When you do that, your magic reaches the right people.

On remembering to show gratitude:  “With the people that work with me, I just like to make sure I’m very grateful…when people mess up, we’re so quick to get upset, but it’s really important when people do things well to let them know they did a great job.” -Angela

I’m a sucker for handwritten notes, and thank you notes are no exception. I just recently sent out a slew of them for everyone who participated in the Love Me Well project and also dropped a few on my colleagues’ desks after a big event we hosted last month. It’s easy to move through life at hyper speed and forget to thank people along the way. But, I’ve never seen a boulder pushed uphill without at least three or four pairs of hands behind it.

I’m unsure where my windy corporate creative path will take me. I can’t quite pin down what’s next or even what it will take to get there. But, I do know that there are timeless tenets like allowing myself time to think, acknowledging my value, and remembering to show gratitude that will always keep me lifted and move me through.

This post was sponsored by State Farm, as part of their Color Full Lives campaign. For more information, or to contact an agent, please click here.   

Love Me Well: Brittany and Kevin

Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.

Brittany and Kevin, who are set to the tie the knot next year, were the first couple we photographed for Love Me Well. They strolled into Central Park that day looking stylish and sophisticated. I have a special place in my heart for these two considering they met as freshmen at my alma mater, the University of Maryland. But, it’s clear now that after nearly a decade as a couple, they have grown up as they have grown together.

But, their love isn’t the only thing they’re passionate about. Brittany and Kevin are both ambitious, career-oriented people balancing their dreams with their commitment to one another. So, how do they do it? Learn more about how these two build their careers while still prioritizing their relationship.

Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams @jazzthenoise
Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams @jazzthenoise

What do you both do for a living?

Brittany: I am a Project Manager at a national nonprofit health organization that provides hospitals and health system with tools and training (online and in-person) for health professionals. I work in the Education Department and we create tools to help develop, sustain and expand palliative care programs in the United States. Palliative Care is specialized medical specialty for people living with serious illnesses (ex. cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, etc.)

Kevin: I work in commercial real estate for a private equity company. Our team buys/sells, as well as provides debt for commercial real estate assets throughout the U.S.


Living in a high-powered city like New York, how are you able to make time for one another while still fulfilling your career goals?

Brittany: Having date night has been crucial in making sure we don’t lose sight of making time for one another. When we first moved in together about two years ago, we took it for granted that we would see each other all the time but between work, hobbies, and hanging with friends, we realized that we weren’t carving out enough “us” time. So now we make sure that date night happens weekly – no exceptions.

Kevin: First, we respect each other’s personal career goals and the hard work and full out effort it takes to succeed in our respective fields. We also understand that in order to maintain our relationship, we have to ensure that we find the right balance between our personal lives and career aspirations. Even though we are grinding at work for most of the week we make it a high priority to take time out of the week to spend quality time. We aim to have a date night at least once a week. To keep it interesting, we attempt to mix it up between dinners, comedy shows, happy hours etc.  We also are in constant communication with one another throughout the day to just ask simple questions such as: how is your day going?

How do you serve as a support system to one another when it comes to achieving career success?

Brittany: When we see the other person getting stagnant, we aren’t afraid to let the other person know. We both want to be great and be successful in our careers so we call each other out when we don’t see the other one striving to be their very best. Keeping each other accountable is paramount to both our individual success as well as our success as a couple.

Kevin: We push each other to ensure we reach our goals. We also give each other space when we have to focus on a particular task. I think that is what is needed when it comes to careers. New York is a world in which you may have to put in long hours in a highly stressful environment. Having the ability to read your partner and provide what they need when they need it is crucial to help achieve career excellence. Having a partner who is willing to sit down with you, listen to you talk about your day, and provide a perspective on work issues helps tremendously.

What has been the biggest challenge in balancing your careers with your relationship?

Brittany: For me, it was compromising when it came to work-life balance. My job is pretty much 9 to 5 but sometimes he has to work from home on the weekends. So even if I have something planned for us that weekend I have to be adaptable and understand that he has to get his work done. It was a challenge at first, but now I am a lot more understanding about it.

Kevin: I think adjusting to the demanding hours was the biggest hurdle that we needed to overcome. It is difficult to be able to communicate with your partner after a 15-hour day however, as stated earlier, making it a priority to spend time during the week is essential to ensure a healthy relationship.

Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams (@jazzthenoise)
Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams (@jazzthenoise)


Do you ever envision a time in your partnership when one of your careers will become more of a priority over the other person’s? Do you envision a time when one of you will not work? If so, what will that look and feel like?

Brittany: When we have our first child I would like to take off for one year. It would be difficult at first because I am passionate about my work, but I think it would be a worthwhile sacrifice. I want to be there for all those “first” moments and in my opinion that first year is the most critical year in a child’s life. But it would only be for a year; I could never see myself as a full-time housewife. I’ve already invested a lot into my career and I want to accomplish all of my dreams, so it would have to be a short-term break.

Kevin: It’s’ the twenty first century and I believe that we live in a world where both individuals in the relationships have careers that are equally important. The only time where that will potentially be interrupted is the birth of our first child. It is one of those life-changing events that can and will result in a change in priorities. I believe that in the initial year of a child’s life is very crucial and will require one parent to remain home. We have discussed this topic at length. It will probably involve Britt staying home for a year to care for our child but also continuing her career path from home. That may be through continuing education or working on her career remotely.

What is one thing that’s special to you about black love?

Brittany: I think black love is unique and special. It’s more than just an emotional connection. To me, it’s about loyalty, resilience, and compromise between two people who have external forces against them – yet, they find solace in one another.

Kevin: Our love is special for because we truly care for each other, our respective careers, families, and friends. We are also each other’s greatest supporters.

Brittany is passionate public health advocate, who is dedicated to making a difference in health disparities research and health education. She enjoys reading African American literature, attending stand-up comedy shows, traveling internationally, and dining out at new restaurants. She’s originally from Baltimore but currently lives in Harlem. Follow her on Instagram and/or Twitter: @BrittanyMonaye

Kevin was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park. He believes that hard work, enthusiasm, and perseverance are keys to a successful career. Outside of work, he enjoys sports, traveling, and spending time with family.

Read more of Kevin and Brittany’s story in this xoNecole feature.

8 Things for Millennial Women to Know When Building Careers

With Zena Thomas of Her Savvy Career

zena quote

At the end of the Blog to Book session during May’s Blogger Week conference, a woman in the audience raised her hand to ask a question. She mentioned she had written a book, and the more she spoke, the more interested I became. I soon learned that the woman was Zena Zena, founder of Her Savvy Career and author of The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Getting the Job.

I bought Zena’ book right there on the spot, and we recently had a chance to get together on Skype to talk more about her career journey and what insight she would offer to young professional women building their careers. Zena, who started her own career at a Cingular Wireless call center after graduating from the University of Maryland, understands that there is no such thing as a linear path. Now a full-time human resources professional with Her Savvy Career as her side hustle, Zena wants to help women become successful in their careers while still finding ways to fulfill and express their passions. Here are 8 tips from Zena when it comes to millennial women building careers.

1. Maximize each job application.

“You only get one shot to make a first impression,” Zena said. According to her, the number one mistake millennial women make when searching and applying for jobs is not being strategic in their job search; this leads to choosing quantity over quality when it comes to their applications. Instead, Zena encourages women to consider putting together the best package possible each time they submit an application.

2. Lead from where you are.

Zena did not begin her career in HR. But, during a career move that took her to Enterprise, she proactively took on leadership roles. Zena translated her sales skills from Cingular Wireless into internal recruiting. Now she understands the value of choosing to be a leader, independent of your title or place on the corporate food chain.

3. Mistakes don’t matter as much as how you recover from them. 

“The way you handle mistakes is a true testament of your brand,” Zena said. She encourages women to recover from turmoil or setbacks at work by adjusting their mindset, learning from the individuals around them and deciding on a course of action going forward.

4. Successful career building is all about trial and error.

“Don’t be afraid to job hop or find the job that’s right for you,” Zena advised. Trial and error is about deciding what you like or don’t like, and then pivoting to adjust and create your path.

5. Successful job searching is all about preparation.

“Job searching is hard work,” Zena stated. So to better prepare for the task at hand, she encourages women to develop an organized job search, decide what types of companies they want to work for and determine their non-negotiables.

6. You may not be able to find a job that fulfills your passion, but you can create a path that does.

One thing I was eager to hear from Zena about was the concept of passion and how she juggles her full-time gig with Her Savvy Career. “You may need to create a scenario to fulfill and express your passion,” she said. She also said that it’s important to be realistic about what opportunities are available when it comes to your passion. Even though Zena said she has now been working in her passion for the past eight years, it was a windy road to get there.

7. Two separate social media accounts doesn’t mean much in the world of recruiting. 

While Zena says it’s OK to have two separate social media accounts, it ultimately does not make that much of a difference. In today’s hyper connected world, most recruiters can find anything once it’s online.

8. So when it comes to social media, be authentic, but don’t get too personal. 

When it comes to the million dollar question about professional women and their social media accounts, Zena said, “Don’t be afraid to [put it on your social media account] if you would be willing to have a conversation about it. Just remain cognizant of your career goals. Use it for networking and extend opportunities beyond the online platform.”

Zena Thomas is founder of Her Savvy Career and author of The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Getting the Job. Her Savvy Career strives to provide advice, information, commentary and counsel to women as they navigate through the work world. Zena is also a professional career coach who specializes in job transition and management development. To learn more about Zena and purchase her book, visit hersavvycareer.com.

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