Accenture’s Tracey Patterson, Client Delivery Executive, Michelle Gadsden-Williams, Inclusion and Diversity Lead for North America and Tamara Fields, Senior Client Account Executive
History shows that the climb up the proverbial career ladder can be more challenging for women than for men—particularly for women of color. Accenture Inclusion and Diversity Lead for North America Michelle Gadsden-Williams and Senior Client Account Executive Tamara Fields both know what it’s like to be trailblazers in their careers.
They share their advice and inspiration for navigating a path to career success during an Accenture-sponsored luncheon at the 2018 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. On a panel moderated by Tracey Patterson, Accenture Client Delivery Executive, Michelle and Tamara explain why it’s so important to have strong, authentic leadership as you navigate the peaks and valleys of your career.
Passion, purpose and destiny
Beginning her career in marketing, Michelle didn’t set out to be a trailblazer, but she knew she couldn’t succeed by being complacent. Today, her purpose and passions are intertwined, and she focuses on leaving a place better than it was than when she started—by doing work that makes a difference.
Tamara joined Accenture early in her career, and her initial goal was to advance through the ranks. “My purpose and my passion became proving that I was somebody, that I deserved to be there,” she said. Before long, she realized she wanted to see more faces like her own, and her passion and purpose aligned and grew into a desire to see more women in technology. “Now, I see it as my passion and my responsibility,” she said.
Facing tough challenges—and pioneering solutions
When pursuing your passions, you may encounter tough challenges. You may also face times when you are the “first”—maybe the first woman or first African-American at the table.
For Michelle, it’s important to take risks, and to advocate for others who are not in the room. To help face challenges, she said it’s important to “find a mentor and sponsor, and have courageous conversations.” She and Tamara both agree that you should remember that you are bigger than your job; your job doesn’t define who you are as a person.
The pressure to succeed is real
Gender and race inequality can add extra pressure and additional obstacles along the path to career success. Both women agree that taking care of yourself and your family is vital.
Michelle revealed that one of the biggest obstacles in her career has been managing herself and taking care of her health, especially dealing with a lupus diagnosis. Likewise, Tamara placed an emphasis on maintaining boundaries between home and personal lives—and on remembering that besides a career, you need the “everything else.”
“Share your reality with your co-workers. And remember: family first. Period. No further conversation needed,” Tamara said.
Control your own destiny
Both women are dedicated to helping other women—and men—of color climb easier and faster, working with leadership teams and advocating for minority employees. And they apply their own experiences and share their advice for creating an equitable path to success
Michelle said, “Be extremely intentional, bold and articulate when it comes to your career. Ladies, remember: You are your sister’s keeper. And enjoy your career: the ups, the downs, the ebbs and flows.” She chronicles her career roadmap and offers practical advice in her recently published book CLIMB.
“Be extremely intentional, bold and articulate when it comes to your career.”
Tamara added, “We’re in an interesting time, and things are shifting. You need to be you. You will always be your most powerful when you are being yourself.” She shares more about how your contributions matter in the “Why I Work” article.
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