We are all whole human beings with complex identities and none of us can be defined solely by the work that we do. Our identities and our roles intersect continuously.
I am a feminist and social justice advocate. I like to create and build things. My tool kit is sales and marketing. I am an Asian American immigrant, mother of three. Wife to an incredible man who not only can handle being the father of three teen daughters, he is thriving and proud to do so. I believe in the inherent value and dignity of work. And all of these values, all of my identities have intersected throughout my life.
In January I started an exciting new role despite the glaring fact that I did not have all of the requisite qualifications. Maybe you’ve seen this statistic, “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” In my case this has been true as well. It wasn’t a lack of confidence that kept me from going for opportunities that seemed out of reach; rather, I assumed I would not be hired if I did not meet all of the criteria and I genuinely feared that if given the opportunity I might still fail at the job.
But this new role, senior director of partnership development at a Women of Color (WOC)-led social justice organization was simply too appealing to pass up, despite my hesitations.
As a woman who has successfully navigated a long and storied career while raising three wonderful humans, I relied on my methodical and careful approach to building my career – growing my skills and experiences largely by proving myself with each step up the proverbial ladder. Given my stay within the lines, rule abiding tendencies, it was truly unprecedented for me to apply for, let alone take on a role with a scope of duties beyond the areas in which I had fully ‘proven’ myself. But this is exactly what I did and I learned so many valuable insights from this experience that I want to share.
The role I took on was a big one – running sales and marketing for a start-up nonprofit organization. While I had a deep track record of success in marketing primarily serving in a public relations function, and I had demonstrated success in many aspects of selling, I had not been charged with the wholesale creation of a sales and marketing strategy and infrastructure building at an organisation-wide level.
As additional context, working in the nonprofit space, and specifically for a social justice organization is a world apart from traditional corporate sales and marketing work – resource scarcity is a thing but the bigger impact is the org mission itself. When you read about social justice fatigue and the need to rest – this is real. It’s a complex equation but for me and I saw among my colleagues that in the service of large, ambitious mission driven goals – dismantling racism – in this case, it’s very hard at the individual level to set healthy boundaries between work and self. And despite org-wide efforts to dismantle traditional cultural values and norms around power structures and endeavoring to work in ways that value each of us as whole human beings – this is hard, maybe impossible to do. I have yet to see or to experience it in a successful way.
During this same timeframe, I was going through a situation as a parent that had no precedence for our family. One of my daughters was diagnosed with a tumor in her kidney, underwent surgery to remove it, and now lives under the shadow and uncertainty of quarterly scans. To say that I have a renewed life perspective is an understatement. On a personal front, after a decade of running for fun and the occasional half marathon, I successfully completed my first marathon in four hours and 32 minutes. While it seems like everyone has done a marathon – once you mention that you are training for one – it is in fact, something less than 1% of all people accomplish in their lifetimes. All of this is to give a more complete and accurate accounting of my particular story. We are all whole human beings with complex identities and none of us can be defined solely by one aspect of who we are and what we do. Again, our identities and our roles intersect continuously.
While we have mutually decided to part ways, I am proud of all I accomplished in a relatively short time frame. Notwithstanding the onboarding process of meeting and learning about your colleagues, the org structure and processes, systems and the like, following are a few key highlights of my accomplishments:
- Development of Sales Marketing 12-Month Jumpstart Strategic Plan.
- Created theme, Unapologetically Anti-Racist for annual event.
- Creation of first ever, org-wide national partnership announcement
- Conducted first ever competitor analysis of the primary competitors in their market space for anti-racism / diversity equity inclusion services.
- Drafted and delivered sales proposals for multiple business to business (B2B) engagements with initial results garnering over 50K in closed deals.
- Development of a sales pipeline of opportunities to re-engage current clients to maintain their commitment to anti-racism work at the organization-level.
- Conducted numerous internal marketing sessions resulting in clarity of telling the org story, including brand identity development, and mission clarity via written and visual storytelling vehicles.
- Conducted numerous internal sales sessions resulting in clarity of identifying ideal target market and target customer resulting in realistic and targeted sales engagement activities.
Writing this blog post, naming these wins is in service of telling my story: be unapologetically who you are. No matter the actions of others that we cannot control – we control our actions, our responses, and we get to own our narrative.
While I was driven by a mix of passionate idealism and an almost overwhelming sense that I was an imposter tasked with building and creating a sales marketing system – I still did it. I created a scalable and sustainable sales marketing roadmap that lives beyond me or any individual contributor – I created something that did not exist until I built it. Doing this against the backdrop of a resource starved ambitious start-up was one of the most satisfying and hardest things I have done.
The confidence that I gained from this experience is without measure. I remain unapologetically, myself.