I’ve been asked to speak at a conference this summer. It will probably be my last national presentation as a leader at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost nineteen years. As a diversity leader, I can make a presentation and share insights, stories, and experiences with attendees around career development or business strategies. That is bland and dry as over toasted Wonder Bread. The sound of the teacher from “Peanuts” would be echoing in my own ears as I spoke on that topic. Blah, blah, blah, diversity, blah, blah, blah, business impact, blah, blah, blah, leadership, blah, blah, blah. Instead, I want to tell a story. I want to share some thoughts on standout moments and lessons learned from my leadership journey as a small business owner, karate instructor and brand-new Shodan.
The conference is by far my favorite event of the year. It is an event designed to bring together multicultural women from corporations all over the globe. It takes place in NYC and it provides an outlet for high-achieving and high potential multicultural women to be confident, courageous and take the next steps in paving the way for a stronger, more inclusive, and more trusting environment. The theme for this year’s conference, Race to Trust, reflects an intention to create a conference that inspires higher cross-cultural understanding and explores concerns among women that trust in the workplace is on the decline due to the current cultural and social trends. My favorite part of this conference is meeting powerful and inspirational women of color from different industries and I have made several friends at the event over the years.
If I think about this opportunity as my last, I have to consider what my legacy will be. My biggest accomplishment at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost 19 years are employee resource groups. We started with 2 in 2001, just as pilots, while I worked with HR, Legal, and senior leaders to craft a policy that made all levels of the organization comfortable. Now there are over 60 chapters across North America, with new groups being created in offices in Canada, Baja, and Puerto Rico. I was dubbed the “Godmother of Business Partnering Groups.” Where’s my fairy dust and magic wand???
However, I think that a presentation about 2016 would be more interesting to me. We discovered that our dojo was operating without a business license or insurance for years, as we were told that we were losing the lease to our old studio. I elected to become the small business owner created the S-Corp, purchased all the insurance and licenses, found a location, and continue my quest to become an instructor. During the Summer of 2016, we taught karate in my backyard, on the stiff grass. It wasn’t until late July 2016 that we moved into the new studio.
Now I am processing all of the emotions that I experienced last year to get the business launched. All of this happened while I faced the end of my tenure with the Japanese automotive company where I continued to work full time, my daughter started her senior year of high school, and my boyfriend finalized his divorce. Stress on top of stress on top of change on top of stress. 2016 weighed heavily on my shoulders… more to come