February 2008

I, Adrienne Graham, am an Empowered Black Woman.

Last week I wrote about the Women of Power Summit and stated how proud I felt to be in the presence of so many wonderful and powerful Black Women. Since then, I’ve gotten many email from women all over asking about ways they can learn from what I shared and how they can also become empowered. I also have taken some time to reflect on Empower Me and come up with new ways to help empower even more women.

I am always proud to reach back and give back to my sisters. But the first thing I share is that it is not a cake walk by any means. I’m in a great place. I love my life and I try to spread my positivity and knowledge to all my sisters. But it has been a long and trying road. As I look back over my “career”, I have encountered such tremendous obstacles. I have had high moments and low moments. When I was experiencing the low moments, I felt like I was running up a down escalator. It’s very hard to tell someone “it’ll get better” when they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Been there. But what separates the winners is the ability to K.I.M. (keep it moving) when times are at their bleakest. I’ll admit, there were so many times I wanted to quit. Just lay in my bed with the shades closed with my tv remote. And I confess, there were a few times I DID stay in my bed. But I made the conscious decision to shake it off and press on.

We are such powerful women even when we don’t see it ourselves. There is a line in my Founder’s Note on the Empower Me website that is along the lines of “we were working along side our men in the fields. We were working long before the women’s movement because we HAD to.” And it’s true. We are often called upon to hold together our families, hold down a job (or three), complete our education, and still be the strong fabulous women we are meant to be. I don’t believe in the word “can’t”. I believe we all have a purpose in this life and the means to achieve that purpose provided we never give up.

Education + Action = TRUE Empowerment….That is the power of an Empowered Black Woman. So for those of you who haven’t quite made it yet, keep it moving. Never give up. Dig down deep inside and find that strength your ancestors had. Tap into that and you can move mountains. For those of you who have made it, there is no shame in reaching back to help another sister. If you’re not empowered, GET EMPOWERED.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
Empower Me!
“The Empowered Black Woman”


As many know, I am a Recruiter by trade. I am bound ethically to keep it diverse and select the best talent possible for the positions I recruit for. But my first stop, being who I am, is to look for strong, Black, intelligent women to begin my search for the perfect candidate. Being the voice and face of Empower Me obligates me to look at us first.

I am not often surprised or shocked by anything when it comes to my sisters. I generally find those shining stars that are talented and can kick ass in an interview. But every now and then I run across some things that either hurt my heart or just pisses me off. Yesterday I had one of those “piss me off” moments.

I called a young lady to do a phone interview to gauge if she was appropriately qualified for a position I’m working on. Well, there were some phone issues (no sure if it was on her end or mines) but when I dialed, it didn’t ring. I tried twice to no avail. So I moved on and decided to call her home number. Well as I was about to dial, I received an incoming call from said woman asking “did you just call me and hang up on me twice?”. I was surprised by the call because 1) I don’t play phone games, and 2) the number was not a number I dialed. So I answered “well I don’t know, who is this?” She replied “YOU called ME. Look, don’t call my number again!” and she hung up just as I was trying to ask her what the number was so I can clarify if I did ot not.

I was pissed. I did not call her back to try and explain. It would have been pointless as she already had an attitude. So I gathered myself (the old me would have called and cussed her out) and said you know what, I’ll try her again tomorrow. Now ordinarily, I would keep it moving and let it be her loss that she would not be considered for a job SHE obviously applied for. But the humanitarian in me can’t. I can’t do that to another sister. However, I will bring to her attention that her actions almost cost her an opportunity.

We (Black Women) get such a bad rap for a lot of things. I for one, am trying to dispel many of those rumors. But some of you make it extremely hard for me! I am not saying change who you are. NEVER change who you are as that is your core. But there are ways to refine yourself. Attitude goes a long way in this world. Anyone who wants to get ahead in life and have a drama free existence should be aware of how they are portraying themselves to the outside world. I am a strong and confident Black Woman, but I don’t need to be loud or attitudish to get that point across. There is a time and place for everything. If some of us can reach back and mentor and give back from when these women are young, the world would be a lot better and the image of Black Women would be stronger.

I propose this: Each one teach one reach one. Each and everyone of us (myself included) needs to reach back to another sister and serve as a mentor. Why? Because you are not only helping, but you are also learning a lot about yourself in the process. Anyone who says they know all they need to know or who is unwilling to continue striving for more, is deluding themselves. So let this be your project of the month. Find a sister you feel could use some mentoring. Reach out to her. Give your time to help her out. Let me know how it goes.

Oh, as for my candidate, she was to be interviewed for a SERVICE position. Wow.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
Empower Me!
“The Empowered Black Woman”

Friday, I was sad because I knew I had to leave early to head out to L.A.  So I only stayed part of the day.  We started breakfast with the keynote from Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Browning.  The message was Living Your Purpose.  She delivered a wonderful speech and we all felt it was an invigorating way to start the day.  The first workshop of the day was Is It Time For A New You.  This workshop focused on mastering reinvention and never letting yourself become content with existing where you are (complacency).  The panelists for this include some great women.  Michelle Greene, Director Global IT at Sony Ericsson came all the way from Sweden!  A 19 hour plane trip just to be there to share with us.  She shared some wonderful tips about expanding out internationally and the most important question was asked towards the end.  Where does or how does a sister get her hair done in Sweden!?  She laughed and told us that she worked it out. LOL   Another panelist, Gail Morales is actually featured in the February 2008 issue of Black Enterprise (page 62).  She is right here in Atlanta! We’ll be meeting for lunch in the coming weeks. 🙂   Rosalind Hudnell, Director of Corporate Diversity at Intel shared how she turned down her current position 3 times before accepting.  She shared her experiences in working on different projects and never letting one project or title or success define her.  She is constantly seeking to produce the hits and is always open to helping mentor and bring up those behind her.  The overall theme of this workshop was to continually work on yourself and stretch outside of perceived limitations. Always take on more, show what you are capable of, and put yourself out there to get recognized.

The next session I went to I really enjoyed.  The panelist all knew each other so there was that “sister girl” vibe that made it that much more intimate.  Gwendolyn “that’s how I roll” Sykes  (you had to be there! LOL) CFO of Yale University, Donna James President & Managing Director of Larden & Associates (formerly President at Nationwide Insurance) and Jerri DeVard formerly a Coporate Marketing Executive at Verizon were the panelists.  The topic was Exit Strategy- Making the Great Escape.  The women all shared their experience with their corporate careers and what lead them to ultimately leave their high level positions.  Gwendolyn was until a few months ago the CFO at NASA. Donna made the decision to leave Nationwide after experiencing a stroke.  That was her wake up call to slow it down and start planning to move on to other things in her career.  She shared with us that the day the Black Enterprise issue featuring the top 75 Black Executives in Corporate hit the stands, she was in a hospital bed.  She is truly inspiring.  Jerri told us about how she decided to just take a year off and do NOTHING.  She has chosen to leave the corporate world and just do her.  She’s another phenomenal woman I will be keeping in touch with.

After, we had lunch which was supposed to be outdoors but it was windy.  So they took us indoors and we had lunch while an incredible Jazz band played for us.  Very nice and classy.

The final session (for me because I had to leave) was a great dialog about money and finances.The panel consisted of the wonderful Glinda Bridgeforth (Girl Get Your Money Straight author), Lori Anne Douglass (Partner at Moses & Singer LLP), Tanya Dean (Agent at State Farm) and Kristy Williams (Sr. VP Single Family Mortgage Business with Fannie Mae).  These women were on point.  They spoke of women and how we handle or don’t handle in some cases, our finances. We received tips on mortgages and managing through the subprime mess, practical advice on estate planning and the importance of doing it whether you have $75 or $75 million.  They spoke about the importance of the different types of insurance.  And most importantly about NOT LENDING OUT MONEY and enabling loved ones.  This session was so awesome an audience member asked if the session could be extended out beyond the allotted 45 minutes.  And it was!  Women were sharing their stories and opening up to the panel and it was so awesome.  They gave us the raw, no BS unadulterated truth about managing money.  Lori Anne was a trip!  She was serious but injected humor into her stories to make her point.  I will be contacting her about estate planning!  I loved her honesty.  Another message was you may have to pay a little (or a lot) now, but the peace of mind of being protected is priceless!

At that point I had to leave to head out to L.A. 😦  I did not want to go.  I missed out on the fashion show and the concert with Jill Scott that evening.  I missed the dinner they had planned for us.   And I missed the Saturday activities which were the farewell brunch and a chance to continue networking.  But you know what?  I had a ball.  I met so many wonderful women that I will be keeping in touch with.  Some of us have vowed to plan on meeting up at next year’s event, which is going to be in Orlando, FL next February.  We’re going to try to cross paths before then.  But if you can, I would highly recommend you attend next year.  I heard it gets better each year.  If this is the case, I cannot wait until next year.  If I had to sum up with three words, I would say this event represented networking, success and class.  To be in the presence of so many powerful and successful sisters made me want to step up my game.  I am great at what I do and have accomplished some phenomenal things.  But being in the presence of these women made me ready to move to the next level of my success.  And with my new found connections and hopefully friends, I know I can exceed my wildest dreams.  I hope through my recap of the events, you all are inspired to reach higher as well.

For information about this year’s conference, visit Black Enterprise Magazine online at http://www.blackenterprise.com/wps

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Thursday morning, I got up not knowing what to expect.  I went by myself so I was open to introducing myself to as many people as I could.  You don’t fly 3000 miles to NOT meet people! 🙂  The day started with a keynote speech from Sheila Johnson (co-founder of BET and current CEO of Salamander Hospitality AND President & Managing Partner of the Washington Mystics women’s basketball team).  She was phenomenal.  She exuded confidence, power and most of all class.  She spoke about tapping the power within yourself to achieve all of your dreams and success.  And let me tell you, she will be at the 3rd Annual Millionaire “Herstory” Brunch next month in Palm Harbor.  I am definitely going to try to attend that.

We went from the opening keynote to a special treat in my opinion.  Starr Jones Reynolds sat down to have a candid interview with Anucha Brown Sanders.  Those of you who follow sports or are in the NYC area should be familiar with her fight against Madison Square Garden, The NY Knicks and Issaiah Thomas.  I admit, I had not followed this story.  But listening to her tell her account of what happened made me both sad and proud.  She did not speak with ill intent against MSG, the Knicks or Issaiah, but she put it all out there.  I felt proud that she stood up and said “No”.  She fought the good fight so that other women who might be experiencing the same thing, would have a strong positive role model to help them through it.  She was the epitome of class and I am glad to have made her acquaintance.  She is now the Sr. Associate Athletic Director for Marketing at the University of Buffalo.  All I can say is “You Go Girl”.  I wish you could have all been there to experience this.

From there, we attended a series of workshops.  I only wish I could have cloned myself to be able to attend all of them.  Unfortunately, I had to pick one from each time slot.  The first one was Raising your Profile.  The panelist were Janet Rolle (EVP & Chief Marketing Officer at BET), Monica Pool Ross (CDO, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Sony Electronics) and Window Snyder (Chief Security Officer at Mozilla Corp- the makers of Firefox).  The women on the panel were much like the women on all the panels.  They were candid, open, confident and truly wanted to share their experiences and pass along the wisdom to other sisters.  They gave tips about raising your profile and putting yourself out there to be known and recognized for your accomplishments.  The same things I consistently share with others.  They took the time to answer questions and were all very open about sharing their contact information.  And further, it wasn’t “give me a card and I’ll call you” type of deal. They genuinely meant it.  They each said to call or email them if ever there was a need for advice, mentorship, etc.   I am currently reading Minority Rules (a future Book Club selection) and Monica is actually in the book.  She and I are going to be catching up in the coming weeks to discuss the book.

The next workshop was about being more than a one hit wonder.  The panel for this workshop gave the same great vibes, however, there was something about them that was a little more inviting.  They took the time to embrace the women in hugs as they came up to greet them after the session.  They shared personal stories about their successes and failures.  One panelist, Andrea Fant-Hobbs (VP of Brand Management at Verizon) said straight out that she would love to mentor and network.  But that you’d have to be willing to go above and beyond and put the time in even if that meant a call at 6AM!  Well, I went up to her and told her expect a call from me at 6AM! LOL  And I meant that.  She was so wonderful to speak with.  They all were.    One of the other panelists (Karen Wells, VP US Strategy and Menu and McDonald’s) had to catch a flight but hung around as long as she could to answer each and every question.  And when she ran out of time, she gladly gave her contact info and told people to reach out to her.  She and I spoke and I am not only connecting with her to network, but also introducing her to my brother, who is a manager at McDonald’s, to get some advice on moving into owning his own restaurant.  She said she would be glad to network. June Haynes, VP of Retail for Valentino was the third panelist.  She and I chatted about some of the issues in diversity recruiting in the retail world.  She was not only fiercely dressed, but had a wealth of information about  continuously striving for success.  She is  one of very few Black women in a high level position with a major fashion designer.  She has been there, done that and has seen it all.  The one thing that stuck with me most in speaking with her was her saying that she hires based on pure talent regardless of ethnicity or gender.  It is clear that she has a strong eye for talent.  She is definitely someone I wan to remain in contact with, and will!  I missed the luncheon and afternoon workshops because I had some business to take care of.  But later that evening I came back for dinner with two wonderful ladies I met earlier in the day.  After we were treated to a Brian McKnight concert that was off the hook! I was a little sad I couldn’t spend Valentines Day with my sweetie (although I did speak with him).  But that concert was a great way to spend the evening.  Especially when he did his tribute to Luther Vandross.  That show was so hot that LITERALLY the fire alarms went off! LOL  But Brian continued on through it until the staff managed to fix it.  Earl Graves was very upset (you could see it in his face) but we didn’t care.  We all had fun despite the fire alarm.  The mood was so festive and everyone was having a great time.  Brian had his two teenage sons join him on stage and they are very talented.  It truly does run in the family! And that ended the first full day.

Oh my goodness. I’m going to break this down into three posts because there is so much to tell you!

I have returned from the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in California, and let me tell you. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had no idea what to expect going (this was my first time) and didn’t go with any preconceived notions. I went with an open mind and I was impressed, humbled, overjoyed and honored to be in the presence of such wonderful and powerful women. Black Enterprise outdid themselves. I made so many wonderful connections and some new friends. I admit, I was cringing at the price when I was debating on whether or not to attend. But I can honestly say it was worth every penny. I will be going next year without a doubt.

I arrived late because of airport/luggage issues, so I was unable to attend the shopping excursion. From what I was told, it was great. Macy’s sponsored it and the women who went received a lovely gift bag and some fabulous discounts. When I arrived on Wednesday, I registered and was given a gift bag (which is an understatement). It was a laptop case filled with some wonderful items given by several of the sponsoring companies. I also received a few other items. Let’s just say returning home was a pain with all of the stuff I got! LOL Because I was late, I missed the networking session that was hosted by Debra Langford (Executive Director, Strategic Sourcing Talent Management at Time Warner). I heard this event was fabulous and that they were able to do some serious networking. I heard Debra turned it out (in a good way). I am so sorry I missed out on that! But I did have the opportunity to meet with Debra later that evening. We chatted and exchanged business cards. I will definitely be keeping in touch with her, as she was very approachable and down to earth. I went to check in to my hotel and came back for the Welcome Cocktail Reception. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t moved so I only stayed about 30 minutes and went back to the hotel. That evening was the Women of Power Legacy Awards Dinner. I missed out on that because I was too tired. I heard it was great. Award recipients included Ruby Dee, Dorothy Height, Nikki Giovanni and Ann Fudge. I hate that I missed it but I was really tired. My body was still on east coast time. Next year I am going to be sure to come in a day early so I don’t miss anything. I could kick myself for flying in the day of. But lesson learned. I missed out on a few things such as the Golf and Tennis clinics, the Executive Coaching Sessions, and the Entrepreneur Masters Class. But that’s ok. The events I did attend, I had a phenomenal time.

Black Enterprise Women Of Power Summit

Ladies!!  Next week the3rd annual Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit will be held in LaQuinta, CA.  I for one am very excited and can’t wait.  I am registered and looking forward to spend a few days with some of the business world’s most powerful Black Women.  I will be sure to take notes and bring back some helpful information for all.  If you have not heard of it, visit Black Enterprise online.

Let’s hear it for all of the Empowered Black Women!

February 21, 2008- Get Recruited!- $39-

Recruiters are getting more and more tech savvy and are turning to not
only traditional search, but also social media and the internet. Learn
how to position yourself to get recruited, instead of searching for a
job. What better way to learn than from a Recruiter herself! $39 for
non-network members, free for network members.


Book Club

2/23/08- Book Club Meeting 12 noon (EST). Book of the month: Our
Separate Ways- Black & White Women & the Struggle for Professional
Identity by Ella J. Edmondson-Bell & Stella Nkomo



2/28/08- Project Me! 7PM – 9PM (EST)

Are you doing what you love? Are you doing
what you always dreamed you would? Take a moment and
honestly answer these questions. If you are content
with your current career and chosen path, then this
workshop isn’t for you. If you are happy existing in
a “job to pay the bills”, this isn’t for you

Establishing yourself as an individual is
challenging enough, but taking the steps to do what truly
makes you happy can be extremely overwhelming. Taking
control of your professional life is a major shift in
your career direction that can create important gains
in your life. If forces you to step out of the norm and
examine who you are and what you truly desire. Transitioning,
as some call it, is not an easy thing to accept. Are you
tough enough? How badly do you want it? Take this workshop
and find out!

Topics covered:

* Understanding Who You Are
* Making Your Own Opportunities
* Embracing Change & Shifting
* Branding & Positioning Yourself
for Success
* Developing The Self Business Plan
* Networking & Self Marketing
* Building Your Career Portfolio
* Peer Reviews & Perceptions
* Learning to Get Out of Your Own

Who Should Attend:

Women at professional crossroads; Women wanting
to take their career to higher levels; Women in
career transition; Women considering a career change;
Women looking to better position and market themselves
for success.