Last year, I became a philanthropist at age 28 through joining the African-American Women’s Giving & Empowerment Circle.
My engagement in the circle came with three key benefits: I help drive capital to local female founders, I’m learning the dos and don’ts of philanthropy, and the circle members serve as an informal “board of advisors” of accomplished and connected mentors for me.
One of the questions at the summit presented an opportunity for me to reflect on how I am activating my potential and realizing my goals.
What role(s) do you play in your professional and personal life?
Working through this question is a great exercise to build legs under existing goals. The eight roles below can hone your leadership skills, and keep you on track to achieving your goals.
Becoming a philanthropist was a decision that I made as the strategist and architect of my life. The giving circle offered an affordable way for me to accomplish my goal of becoming a philanthropist sooner than I anticipated.
Much like the strategic plan for a business, the strategic plan for your life is not something that should be worked out once and then left to collect dust. Accomplishing one goal opened up space for another goal, and I kept my strategist hat on to plan a contiguous goal that aligned with my ideal destination — which is currently centered around entrepreneurship and venture capital.
Explorer [Opportunity Finder]
I’m actively strategizing where I am and where I need to go, but I play the role of explorer to test that the vision I have is accurate. Staying alert to opportunities allows for a more dynamic and agile strategic plan. I take in new information, and adjust my destination as I learn.
This last year, I utilized profellow.com to find and apply for a public policy fellowship in D.C. I was selected to participate and the five weekend trips that I made to D.C. opened me up to a new network and new thinking. One of the connections I made through this trip led to an interview with Google’s autonomous vehicle spinoff, Waymo.
The experience of interviewing with a Google company pushed my thinking outside of the conventional boundaries that I had somewhat unconsciously put up around myself. I have now altered my strategic plan to reflect bigger thinking.
While at a conference in Utah, Todd Johnson from Gallup, presented on Gallup’s new book, Born to Build. Todd mentioned the books overall purpose to shift the current introductory norm from “what do you do?” to “what are you building?”
I took that note to heart, and started seeing myself as a builder. In addition to future goals of becoming an entrepreneur and actually building a business, I am building relationships every day. Playing the role of builder allows me to transition from a passive role to an active role in achieving my goals, with a focus on execution.
Life as a strategist, explorer, and builder produces a wealth of experiential learning. The onus is on me to make sure that my skills, experience, or background appears relevant to my career journey.
I take on the role of translator to communicate my diverse experiences into a type of capital that I can leverage to get from Point A to Point B in my strategic plan.
I learned I need to do a better job of championing myself. The easiest way to do this is revamping an introduction or elevator pitch to highlight more of your accomplishments.
At the beginning of my professional life, I would plainly state my name and workplace when introducing myself to a group. How are people going to know about the many other activities I’m engaged in if I don’t tell them? Sharing more of my story (staccato sytle) in my intro will help others remember me and quickly identify mutual interests.
The role of celebrator allows me to focus on others. Over the past six months, I have nominated three women that I admire, either for awards or “30 under 30” type lists. My first nomination actually made the list, and I think that gave me more gratification than her!
My journey is about success, but my success cannot come unattached to the success of others. What am I building and who am I building? I want to record more assists than points, and I will get to the top with no blocks and no steals.
In addition to nominating my sisters and brothers, I’m giving more positive feedback, more compliments, and more thank yous.
I’m working on becoming a better asker. I’ve built a great network, and I need to get more comfortable asking my network for help. Mentorship is continuously lauded as a great way to advance a career, but finding the right mentor and developing that relationship is easier said than done.
Moving forward, I will be more willing to ask for advice, connections, and funding.
Another woman at my table, Linda G. Walton, founder of Achieving My Purpose, labeled herself as a risk taker, and it stuck with me. See, I meant what I said — no steals!
The final speaker of the night, Debbie Castaldo, VP of Corporate and Community Impact for the Arizona Diamondbacks, asked the group, “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?”
Small risk means small return. I want to achieve big things, and the sooner I get comfortable with risk, the easier it will be for me to quickly seize an opportunity after identifying it.
Now let’s put on our many hats and get to work with a new strategy, new confidence, and a renewed openness to infinite possibility.
Katelyn Harris Lange is a current workforce development practitioner supporting cross-sector synergy and innovation in the Greater Phoenix Area. She is a philanthropist involved in the African-American Women’s Giving and Empowerment Circle, Phoenix Sister Cities Board Member, and the current Diversity and Inclusion Director with Net Impact Phoenix Professionals.