From Starting a Book Club to Becoming an Entrepreneur
LinkedIn

You know that feeling when you’re reading a really good book? Like the author really gets you and has written down feelings you thought were only in your own head?

Glory Edim has bottled that feeling and turned it into an online community, monthly book club and (as of September of this year) a conference called Well-Read Black Girl.

Like many of us in New York City, Edim says that she felt isolated and alienated in her day-to-day life in Brooklyn and she wanted to feel more authentically connected to people in her community.

“I wanted somewhere to call home and feel safe and secure,” said Edim. Mainly, she wanted to connect with other black women. “Race is typically who we are seen as and I wanted a space that I could be my full self.”

Edim did what any great entrepreneur does: she turned her personal pain point into a community, where others like herself could connect with each other as well as the black women authors they read and love. She hosted her first book club in September 2015.

Through her monthly book clubs, she eventually realized that she wanted something bigger: a full-day’s conference to bring readers together with black women authors. The Well-Read Black Girl Festival (WRBG Festival) was launched and funded on Kickstarter in June 2017 and quickly hit its fundraising goal of $15,000. The final tally ended up more than double that initial goal, raking in almost $40,000 from 928 backers. The backers purchased tickets to the festival as well as Well-Read Black Girl tote bags and books to support the efforts.

It’s no surprise that Edim knows how to run an online fundraising campaign. She began working at Kickstarter in March 2016 as a public outreach specialist and is now a community specialist. She says that being able to help coach Kickstarter members through the process of launching their campaigns gave her insight into how to run her own hugely successful campaign.

“Since I work there, I recognize the power of the platform. Creators thrive here. Lives change,” explained Edim. “My life has changed. I feel more like an entrepreneur.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

8 Proven Video Interview Tips to Help You Succeed
LinkedIn
woman on virtual job interview looking confident

If you landed yourself a video interview, congratulations! You’re almost there. Now it’s time to prepare for success and brush up on video interview tips so you can get closer to landing the job.

More companies are conducting online interviews these days. That’s because it can be really efficient, for both the candidate and the company.

Although it’s easy to write off an online interview as the same as an in-person interview, there are subtle differences in which to prepare.

Tips for a Successful Video Interview

Preparation

Having a video interview does not mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Treat it as if you were interviewing in person. You should thoroughly research the company, its industry, its products, and its achievements so you’re prepared to discuss them during your interview. Additionally, the Internet has made it incredibly simple to familiarize yourself with your interviewer before you meet them virtually—HR professionals are generally very active on LinkedIn, and a quick Google search will shed some light on who you’re meeting. Also remember to prepare some questions to ask of the interviewer yourself when the time comes.

Punctuality

For an in-person interview, it’s courteous to show up approximately ten minutes early. This tip also applies to video interviews, except it’s for more than just showing that you’re a punctual person. You want to be early to your online interview because it may take you a while to log on. For example, if the company uses a video conferencing software you’ve never used, it might take some time to download the application. You’ll want to make sure you do all this beforehand so that you’re ready to go at your interview time. Being late for the interview, no matter what the reason, is not a good way to start a successful online interview.

Technology

It would be a letdown if you found out that your microphone or webcam didn’t work right before your interview. When preparing for your video interview, there are three main components to test:

  • Audio settings: Do your speakers and microphone work? Make sure you are coming across clear and loud with no static.
  • Camera settings: Is it too dark? Too light? Too distracting in the background? It’s best to sit in front of solid colored wall with plenty of light. This way, the interviewer will focus on you and not the decor behind you.
  • Internet connection: This is often overlooked, but it may be wise to ensure you’re plugged in with an Ethernet cable for a hard connection. Video conferencing may take up a lot of bandwidth and a spotty Wi-Fi connection may cause an overly lagged session.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the software being used for the interview. Zoom, HireVue, GoToMeeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts are some common platforms. Consider signing up for a free trial, watch tutorial videos, or do whatever you have to do to familiarize yourself with the tool.

Environment/Setting

Choose your location very carefully. Be wary of places like coffee shops or coworking spaces, because you’ll want to avoid the sounds of coffee grinders and other people in the background. You also don’t want to interview in a place where there’s a lot of visual distractions, either. Try to find an area with a plain wall to use as your backdrop, and make sure that your lighting isn’t creating a glare or shadow.

The ideal setting for a video interview is a secluded room in which you can shut out any distractions. Avoid being near windows against busy streets, and make sure children and pets are out of the house or being supervised to be sure you’ll have a distraction-free environment.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

When using technology for a video interview, there can be delays or the microphone may not pick up your voice well. To prevent this from happening, take your time when speaking and enunciate your words. This will make sure that your interviewer can hear and understand you

Listen Carefully

Keep your mind from drifting off and focus on listening when the interviewer speaks. Pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying. Sometimes when you’re on a video job interview, it’s easy to accidentally cut someone off due to audio delays or from not paying attention to nonverbal cues. To avoid this, listen carefully to the interviewer and wait a few seconds before speaking to avoid cutting in.

Attire

Attire is one of the most frequently overlooked video interview tips. Even though an online interview usually means the interviewer won’t see anything from the waist down, it doesn’t mean you should only dress up the upper half of your body.

You may need to stand up to grab something in the middle of the interview, which would reveal your mismatched bottoms. Avoid this risk and wear interview clothes from head to toe. View yourself through your webcam to make sure your outfit looks professional on camera as well.

Body Language

Your body language in a video interview can convey a lot of things about who you are as a person. You can present a positive image by ensuring you’re sitting up straight with good posture. Place both feet on the ground, and avoid doing things like slouching or holding your head up with your hand. And always try to keep your hands in your lap to avoid distracting gesturing or fiddling.

It’s also important to pay attention to where you’re looking. Looking at the interviewer’s face on your computer screen means you’re not actually looking into the camera and making eye contact. Instead, look into the camera as often as possible, especially when you’re speaking. This will give your interviewer the sense that you’re engaged and not distracted by what’s happening on your screen.

While it may seem like a lot to remember, these video interview tips can help you adjust to the intricacies of interacting with a remote team. By following these tips for video interviewing, you can help ensure that you’re fully prepared and able to make the best impression possible.

This article was provided by FlexJobs, a job searching and career service that connects job seekers to flexible and remote work opportunities.

She’s a U.S. Army Veteran and Minority Business Owner Who is Helping Clean up the Environment for You and Your Dog!
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Mary Lester Pet Butler owner in uniform in front of work vehicle

Admit it; no one likes cleaning the bathroom. Most of us would gladly pay someone else to do the dirty work – if you don’t already – because we all know bathrooms can get downright filthy if left untouched.

And, of course, we always want to keep things tidy for ourselves and our guests. Now, take that same premise and apply it to your yard if you have a dog.

You adore your furry friend, but you don’t necessarily want to clean up his business, even though you want to enjoy your beautiful yard. In fact, you would be willing to pay someone else to do your dirty work. If that’s the case, look no further than Pet Butler Tallahassee, which provides pet waste removal and other pet-related services to residential and commercial clients throughout Tallahassee, Crawfordsville, Woodville, Monticello and Lloyd.

“We’re all spending more time at home and I absolutely love helping my customers improve their outdoor living space,” said 53-year-old Mary Lester, a U.S. Army veteran and first-time franchise owner who launched her minority-owned small business in January. “Helping keep green spaces free of pet waste benefits us all.”

After a 32-year-year military career that included a stint in Afghanistan, Lester retired from the Missouri Army National Guard three years ago. The Tallahassee native, who also worked as a Public Affairs Specialist, returned to her hometown to turn her passion for pets into a business. However, Lester has learned that many pet owners in the Tallahassee area are unfamiliar with pet waste removal services. In using social media to advertise Pet Butler Tallahassee, Lester found that while many embraced the service, others needed to be educated on its benefits. “I quickly realized there’s a big misnomer about pet waste’s impact on our environment,” said Lester, who also had to cope with launching her business on the cusp of a shelter-in-place order. “A lawn mower and even Florida’s torrential downpours do not take pet waste away and there’s a greater community benefit to picking it up.”

Indeed, just like the dark corners of your bathroom, if you have a dog you never know what you might encounter with each unwary step through your backyard. So far, Pet Butler Tallahassee has removed more than 1,330 pounds (or more than two-thirds of a ton) of pet waste from residential and commercial properties. However, that’s a small fraction of the roughly 16 tons of dog poop (32,000 pounds) generated PER DAY by the estimated 43,500 dogs in Tallahassee according to TAPP (Think About Personal Pollution), a campaign by the City of Tallahassee’s Stormwater Management to help educate individuals on ways that small, personal changes in home and yard practices can keep local lakes and streams cleaner.

Dog waste has four to 10 times more bacteria than human waste because dogs can eat almost anything, and as a result, have a generous supply of intestinal bacteria. Pet Butler Tallahassee is on a mission to help raise awareness of the importance of proper collection and disposal of pet waste. “If we’re not scooping the poop and discarding of it properly, we are potentially contributing harmful contaminants to our local water,” said Lester. “Pet Butler has a civic mission that resonated with my desire to support my community through pet services and my interest in working with non-profit pet organizations and environmental organizations such as TAPP, with its clean-water initiatives.”

Pet Butler, Lester found a franchise brand with a modernized business model that offers large, protected territories that foster scalable growth and strong recurring revenue, which has helped make Pet Butler No 1 in the “No. 2” business for thousands of clients across North America. Roughly 85 million U.S. families, or 67 percent of households, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). In the U.S., pets include 90 million dogs and 94 million cats. In 2018, pet services accounted for $72.56 billion spent and was estimated to grow to $75.38 billion in 2019.

Lester and her team of pooper scoopers service homes weekly, twice weekly and every other week and also offer a one-time accumulated waste pick-up service. Customers can also have their lawns treated with a yard odor eliminator and disinfectant. Pet Butler Tallahassee is offering a special introductory price for new customers – $5.99 per week (or about the cost for two of your barista-made morning coffees) for the first two months. There is an additional $10 discount offer for first responders on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic. The service is particularly well-suited for common areas within apartment and condominium complexes.

For those who are longing for someone else to do their dog’s dirty work for them, Lester said Pet Butler Tallahassee has been met with enthusiasm when they learn of it.

“Literally, people stopped at traffic lights have put down their windows and asked me if this is “really a thing,’” said Lester, whose truck serves as a mobile billboard highlighting Pet Butler’s slogan, “We Scoop Poop!” “I’m here to pick up after their dogs and dispose of the waste in a safe and environmentally sound way. And we also clean out litter boxes, as well.”

For information visit https://www.petbutler.com/locations/tallahassee-area-pooper-scooper or call 850-396-0783.

About Pet Butler Pet Butler Franchise was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of +43 years old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with long term plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years. Pet Butler provides an opportunity for pet lovers to turn their passion for pets into a business. To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit www.petbutler.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. To inquire about a franchise call 844-777-8608 or go to petbutlerfranchise.com.
WBENCPitch Pivot
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WBENC PItch Pivot logo

As the nation’s largest certifier of women-owned businesses and a leading advocate for women business owners, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) has been at the forefront of supporting women entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis.

The non-profit organization recently presented its first virtual pitch competition of 2020 — WBENCPitch Pivot, presented in partnership with Allstate Insurance Company. This program was designed to highlight women entrepreneurs who have pivoted their businesses and stepped outside of the box to create or offer products, services, and solutions that fill supply chain gaps during the COVID-19 crisis

During the application period, WBENC asked their network of 16,000+ certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) to send their best 90-second video pitch demonstrating how they have transformed their business, started a new business line, partnered with a fellow WBE to create a new product or solution, or reinvented their business to stay afloat and fill a critical supply chain need.

The First Round of the competition officially began with a virtual showcase of pitch videos displaying more than 100 WBEs who have transformed their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of people across the WBENC network browsed the showcase and voted for the WBEs with the most innovative and powerful pivots.

The virtual showcase featured pitches representing four pivot categories:

  1. Collaborate & Innovate: Businesses who partnered with another WBE or reinvented their company to fill a critical supply chain need.
  2. Community Impact: Businesses who converted their current operations to support frontline workers or their local communities.
  3. Supporting the New Normal: Businesses who started a new product line or service to protect people, ensure safe spaces, and/or engage employees. 
  4. Survive & Thrive: Businesses who transformed their operations to stay afloat and adapt to a new environment.

The 13 WBEs who received the most votes advanced to the Final Round, where they presented a live three-minute pitch for a WBENC panel of judges. All finalists received various levels of grant funding to support their business, with three WBEs earning a grand prize of $10,000. 

Congratulations to all 13 WBENCPitch Pivot Finalists!

 

 

Together, these 13 finalists are truly representative of the hundreds of impressive WBEs who have successfully pivoted their operations as a result of the many challenges facing today’s business owners. These entrepreneurs are supporting the needs of corporations, other women-owned businesses, and their communities at large with innovative and critical solutions. From supporting health care and frontline workers by producing PPE, to delivering food to those in need, to creating solutions to support virtual work environments and working moms, the WBENCPitch Pivot finalists addressed the challenges of COVID-19 head-on. Their contributions demonstrate how nimble, innovative and successful the women entrepreneurs within the WBENC network truly are.

To discover more about the WBENCPitch program and learn more about the finalists, visit www.wbenc.org/wbencpitch

 

About WBENC

WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC partners with 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs) to provide its world-class standard of certification to women-owned businesses throughout the country. WBENC is also the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Throughout the year, WBENC provides business development opportunities for member corporations, government agencies and more than 16,000 certified women-owned businesses at events and other forums. Learn more about WBENC at www.wbenc.org

 

Using Your Voice as a Powerful Business Tool
LinkedIn
Angelica Nwandu headshot

By Angelica Nwandu

The power of voice is an often-underestimated tool within the business world. Countless entrepreneurs have harnessed the power of their voices to create strong online brands that people trust.

By putting your voice out there, you can establish yourself as a leader in the industry—translating into endless business opportunities. If you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur, the number one way to grow your brand is by sharing your expertise across all mediums. You’ll see the ROI in no time!

Here’s how you can use your voice as a powerful business tool through content and other means:

Find Your Niche

The first step in using your voice as a business tool is to establish your expertise. You need to establish yourself as an expert within your niche. That is the only way your audience will take your words as an authoritative resource.

Dive into your skillset and find the area that you believe is your strongest field. What can you offer that no one else in your industry can?

Once you’ve found the place where you can set yourself apart from the rest, target in on that. Create useful and educational content surrounding your expertise. Write about things no one else besides you can write about, and find the questions no one has answered yet. By doing this, you will start to gain traction and attract a significant audience.

Have a Strong Social Presence

Social media is important for networking and discovering potential customers. Post consistently to LinkedIn and connect with prospects. Your connections will then see your expertise and hopefully consider you as a thought leader.

Always engage with your followers. Respond to comments and encourage conversation on your social profiles. Make sure every one of your social profiles is complete with a profile picture, bio, and more so that you come off as authentic and professional.

In addition to all this, feel free to join social groups on Facebook and more that you believe could bring a larger audience to your brand. Share your own personal articles and additional educational resources that would be of value to these groups.

Be Authentic

One crucial part of transforming your voice into a business tool is authenticity. In order to utilize your voice as a tool for business, you first need to establish trust. And trust only comes with authenticity.

When posting content or networking with potential clients, be sure to be authentic. If people trust you and your content, they’ll be more likely to do business with you. Post content in your personal tone and voice. Be a useful and reliable educational resource for your target audience.

Also, pass on the self-promotional content. Post and share content that your audience can truly benefit from as opposed to self-promotional advertisements.

Post Consistently

If you want to be taken seriously in your industry, you must post consistently. Posting consistently will establish you and your brand as a trusted voice in your niche. Post educational, compelling, and unique content that will help you reach your audience. Create a posting schedule that keeps you on track to share educational content. Overall, hold yourself accountable to posting regularly.

Also, make sure your tone and quality are both consistent. You want your content to be top-notch every time you share content.

Harness the Power of Video

Video is one of the most essential mediums today. It can convey vital information more effectively while also offering more opportunities for creativity. It will communicate your voice better and stronger.

Instead of writing post after post, consider a quick one or two-minute video. Speak about topical subjects, best practices, and more. This can make you stand out in your industry and garner trust from your audience.

Seek out Speaking Opportunities

One of the best ways to use your voice as a business tool offline is to seek out speaking opportunities. If your city is hosting a conference or convention within your industry, see if there’s any way you can contribute. Volunteer for a panel and showcase your expertise. Attendees will take note of your insight, and you may be able to turn them into customers.

Overall, your voice can be a powerful business tool to attract a broad audience. Choose your words wisely and utilize your expertise to find your target market. Authenticity, trust, and consistency can go a long way, so be sure always to put your best foot forward.

Your voice is the most powerful business tool you have. Start using it today!

Angelica Nwandu is the founder of The Shade Room, a site that covers celebrity news and celebrates black culture. She was named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” in 2016 and has created a media company that inspired Refinery 29 to dub Nwandu “the Oprah of our generation.”

How Superstar Candidates Know if a Company is Right for Them
LinkedIn
woman using video chat for online job interview in office, closeup

It’s all about how you interview. But not in the way you might think.

By Jeff Haden

You need to hire the best possible employees. You need to hire superstars. But superstars have options.

For talented people, the job market is a seller’s market: Because they’re in demand they can to a large extent choose where they want to work. That’s at least partly why recent research involving nearly 100,000 interview reviews and offer decisions shows that last year, more than 17 percent of job offers were rejected by candidates, according to Glassdoor.

That’s right: Nearly 1 in 6 were offered a job they decided to turn down.

So how can you increase the odds that great candidates will accept your job offer? Make the job interview more difficult. The survey showed that the acceptance rate for people between 25 and 34 increased by 3 percentage points when the interview process was more “difficult.” And candidates in professional and technical fields are most likely to accept an offer if their interview is “difficult.”

Toughening Up the Interview Process

For the candidate, the interview is a good way to gauge the potential of a particular employer or job. “If the interview process is tough,” the thinking seems to go, “then that means getting a job here is tough—which means getting in the door should be great for my career,” according to Daniel Zhao, co-author of the survey.

Research clearly shows the interview has a huge effect on how candidates see you as a company. Skills and career development are a priority for younger workers, and interviews are an opportunity for them to see if the company they’re applying for will equip them with the experience they want. Of course, you might think your interview process is already tough. Think again. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “easy” and 5 being “very difficult,” only 10 percent of interviews were ranked as a 4, or “difficult.” And only 1 percent were considered “very difficult.” Which means the odds are, candidates feel your interviews are easier than you think. Which means making your interviews harder should pay off: Increasing the interview difficult by one level increases acceptance rates by nearly 3 percentage points.

Tests Work—As Long as They’re Skills Tests

Aside from asking more difficult interview questions, one way to increase the difficulty of the interview process is to have candidates complete some form of testing. Skills tests, though—not personality tests. Taking personality tests actually lowered acceptance rates by over 2 percentage points. Maybe that’s because superstars want to work for people who care more about results than personality: Taking applicable skills tests increased acceptance rates by over 2 percent.

Don’t Involve Brain Teasers

Many people feel having to answer a brain teaser question during a job interview feels like a bad move, and science backs up their intuition. How you answer a brain teaser says almost nothing about how you will perform on the job, but it says a lot—and none of it good—about the interviewer who enjoys asking the question. All brain teasers reveal is that the interviewer enjoys putting people on the spot and watching them squirm. Which is the last thing any interviewer should want to do—especially since great candidates will see that as reason enough to turn down a job offer.

Instead, do this. First, establish a consistent rubric for how you assess candidates. Then use behavioral interview questions to not only determine how candidates have performed in real-world situations but to also get a sense of what they consider to be “difficult.” The answer to, “Tell me about the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last six months,” instantly gives you a sense of what the candidate considers to be a “tough” decision. Then consider adding a skills test to the process. (Tests are available for just about every job and industry; just make sure you administer the tests consistently and that every short-list candidate takes the test. Where hiring processes are concerned, consistency—and fairness—is everything.)

And then ramp up the difficulty, because the research shows many candidates, especially the great ones, won’t think your process is as tough as you do. They’ll know, within minutes, if your process is easy, or difficult, or very difficult. The answer to that question plays a significant role in how likely they are to accept your job offer. Which means increasing the difficulty of your interviews will not only help you better evaluate candidates… it will also make it more likely that a superstar candidate will say, “Yes.” Win-win.

Jeff Haden is a speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, author of The Motivation Myth.

With An Eye For Design, New Biz Owner Brings #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise To Customers’ Homes
LinkedIn
Emilia Navedo standing in front of her work vehicle

Looking to grow as a professional, Emilia Navedo didn’t waste time taking baby steps to her goal.

Instead, she took one giant leap and is relishing the opportunity. With a wonderful background in design and experience in managing a business already in Mexico City, the 39-year-old Navedo recently opened Floor Coverings International Roseville, California. She visits customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. Floor Coverings International Roseville services Roseville, Granite Bay, Rocklin, Loomis, Auburn, Lincoln, Penryn and Newcastle, in California.

Her advice to others wishing to own their own business in a field they love, “Don’t be afraid,” said the Roseville resident. “Trust in yourself. If you dream it, you can do it. ”Navedo’s father was an architect and she credits him for her skills and love of design. She also has a passion for photography. But all of her experiences came full circle when she had the opportunity to study fashion and style in Italy. “Photography allowed me to obtain a certain perspective on details and taste that bled into my work with interior design,” said Navedo. “After I studied in Italy, that ultimately led me to build a children’s furniture franchise and start my career as an interior designer. I’m not really leaving my previous career, but rather expanding because I want to grow as a professional.”

In Floor Coverings International, Navedo – who is being joined by her father in her new venture – found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. “I chose Floor Coverings International because during my research I learned what a great company it is in so many aspects,” Navedo said. “They are like a big family. They give amazing support, know how to build leaders and provide the best quality products to our customers.”

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2020. For franchise information, please visit www.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.

Meet the first black women to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges
LinkedIn
three black women nuclear engineers seated at table on the grass outside office building

By Amanda Zrebiec

On most days, the corner conference room in Building 26 on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Laurel, Maryland, campus is indistinguishable from the many quiet work spaces that surround it. But on a gray afternoon in mid-February, the voices, laughter and energy bounding from its occupants differentiate it from the rest.

As Jamie Porter, Mareena Robinson Snowden, and Ciara Sivels gather around the small table inside, the feeling of stumbling onto a gathering of old friends is difficult to shake. Their bonds, though, are forged less through time than their shared experience of being “the first.”

Each one—Porter, APL’s radiation effects lead for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission; Snowden, a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department; and Sivels, a nuclear engineer in the Air and Missile Defense Sector—was the first black woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges: University of Tennessee, 2012; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018; and University of Michigan, 2018.

Now, Porter, Snowden and Sivels work in three different sectors at APL, dedicating their time and their brains to important challenges facing the nation. Here, they have created a community.

Path to the Ph.D.

“I used to hate physics,” Porter says with a laugh. “Lord, I don’t know how, but now I live in this world.”

Porter arrived in APL’s Space Exploration Sector in 2015. She focuses on radiation hardness assurance for all electric, electrical and electrochemical parts of missions, specifically NASA’s planned Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon. She also manages the sector’s Radiation Analysis and Test section.

Three years before she arrived at APL, Porter was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. It’s likely, Porter said, that she was just the second black woman in the country to do so, after J’Tia Hart, who received hers from the University of Illinois and subsequently appeared on Season 28 of the CBS show Survivor.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Porter said her goal was to get a master’s. Her professor and graduate advisor, Lawrence Townsend, told her a Ph.D. was what she needed. Porter credited Townsend for pushing her—from undergraduate classes through her doctorate, and even a postdoctoral fellowship. “He told me, ‘You need to do this for yourself, and you need to do this for other people,’” Porter said.

It wasn’t until Porter was nearing her graduation that Tennessee discovered she’d be their first. They didn’t publicize it at the time—a decision reached through a conversation with Porter, where the school admitted embarrassment that it took until 2012 to reach the milestone. They later acknowledged regret at not celebrating it more publicly.

“I actually got to be the speaker at the hooding ceremony the year after I graduated, and it resonated with a lot of people,” Porter said.

When Snowden became the first black woman to earn a nuclear engineering Ph.D. from MIT in 2018, on the contrary, it was well publicized, particularly after her own Instagram post from graduation day went viral. That doesn’t mean her path to that moment was smooth. In retrospect, it wasn’t even a path she necessarily chose.

“People ask me, ‘How did you pick nuclear engineering?’ and I’m like, ‘Nuclear engineering picked me.’ You get a ticket, you get on the train,” she said.

Snowden credited her father, Bill Robinson, with guiding her into studying physics as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, a historically black college in Tallahassee. It was a visit with a friend of a friend who worked at the school that started her trajectory.

The mantra of FAMU is they don’t expect you to be the best student on the way in, but you will be the best and most competitive student on the way out. That, Snowden said, was absolutely her experience.

It was acceptance into a summer research program at MIT after her freshman year that set Snowden on a firmer course. “It was the only application I sent out because I just knew I was going to be at FAMU doing research in the lab like normal,” she said. “But they messed around and accepted me. And we celebrated like I got into the Ph.D. program.”

A few years later, she did that, too.

Snowden, whose work at APL leverages her technical training in nuclear engineering on current and future national security challenges, applied to eight graduate schools. She got into one.

That’s where she met Sivels.

Sivels and Snowden first connected when the former was an undergraduate MIT student in nuclear engineering and the latter was working toward her Ph.D. That fact alone would knock a 16-year-old Sivels over with a feather.

Originally wanting to be a chef, Sivels’ chemistry teacher pushed her to explore her options—urging her to take his class (advanced placement chemistry) as a senior, recommending she look into chemical engineering schools, and turning her down time after time as she suggested potential colleges that might be a good fit.

“He kept saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, this isn’t good enough,’” Sivels recalled.

To boost her credentials for engineering school, Sivels enrolled in a local community college physics class that covered the history of the discipline. Fascinated by antimatter, she read about work at the California Institute of Technology. The Virginia native showed that school to her mom, who nixed the idea. But as she researched Caltech further, their rival, MIT, popped up.

“I didn’t know what MIT was, the prestige associated with it, anything,” said Sivels, whose work at APL focuses on how radiation interacts with and changes the properties of various types of materials. “It just came up in the sentence with Caltech, so I took it back to my teacher, Robert Harrell, and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the kind of school you need to be applying to.’”

Even after she was accepted, Sivels was certain she’d be attending Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a campus visit to MIT—coupled with the release of the movie 21—that helped convince her of the school’s esteemed reputation.

Her undergraduate studies were difficult. Sivels noted, among other setbacks, she failed a class and shed many a tear. She got through it, and knew she wanted to further her impact in the field. That’s when her advisors suggested moving on to Michigan for her graduate education.

And it wasn’t until she went searching for a mentor there—preferably another black woman who’d gone through the program—that Michigan noted she’d be the first.

 The Challenges of Being the First

In many ways, these women know they are the exception, not the rule. They were able to navigate turbulent waters and persevere through biases and other challenges.

It doesn’t mean, however, that just because they did it, black women trying to get nuclear engineering Ph.D.s are suddenly no longer the exception.

“I come from an HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and so much of that culture and legacy is about that question of responsibility,” Snowden said. “FAMU was intentional about teaching us the context—about what it meant to be black in America and in professional spaces. I went into my Ph.D. process with that context, so when I came up against a challenge, or a person coming at me sideways, I could leverage that context to help me interpret the situation.”

“Both of my parents went to HBCUs, so I had that training, too,” Sivels added. “My parents didn’t want to jade me, but they knew I was smart, and they knew it was coming…When I used to cry to them at MIT, my parents were like, ‘You’ll get over it. Welcome to the world—something is finally hard for you.’”

Porter, who grew up in Tennessee with a white mother and a black father, said, “There are moments when I am like gosh, I do feel the pressure, because I have to deal with comments or expectations that my counterpart does not. Sometimes I will send out an e-mail that says, ‘This is a learning moment, please do not do this [thing you may not think is offensive, but is offensive],’ and I’ll put it out there because I feel like…”

As Porter trails off, Sivels jumps in. “If you don’t, who will?”

“That’s exactly right,” Porter said. “But it’s hard. You have to pick and choose your battles. You have to think, ‘How is this going to affect me if I react right now?’”

“I read a paper once that talked about that,” Snowden said. “They called it the tax. It’s the tax you have to pay of being ‘one of only’ of an identity. That extra calculation you have to do in your mind of ‘How am I going to be perceived in this environment? How do I respond to this stimulus?’ That’s a tax your counterparts from majority populations don’t have to pay.”

And that, the women noted emphatically, doesn’t even include bouts of impostor syndrome that often lurk just around the corner even as they continue their ascents.

Eyes on the Future

To listen to Porter, Snowden and Sivels, you’d think their trailblazing happened with a shrug of the shoulders—they just put their heads down and did what they thought they were supposed to do. It wasn’t nearly so simple.

They also know the rewards of their perseverance come with a duty to future generations.

“I definitely feel a responsibility,” Porter said. “I am the lead radiation engineer for a billion-dollar flagship NASA mission, and when I do reviews, most often I am the only black person in the room. So, I try really hard to bring people with me.”

They make an effort to mentor those behind them. They work on committees and in outreach programs, like the IF/THEN Ambassador program, of which Sivels is a part.

And they tell their stories. They talk about their journeys so that their shared experiences as “the first” are ultimately just a way to pave the road for those behind them.

“I look at the diversity and inclusion conversation as two sides to one coin,” Snowden said. “You have the recruitment piece, and the second, less-talked-about part, is the retention piece. Once they’ve gotten into these programs, and they’ve gotten their Ph.D.s and they’re STEM professionals, how do we get them to and through mid-career, promoted up to senior levels, given power so they can hire, and all of those types of things that will make an impact?

“Now, I think the mission is to preserve the recruitment momentum but create a new body of momentum on the retention piece, but it’s the harder challenge to me.”

In a way, what Porter, Snowden and Sivels would like is for their accomplishments as “the firsts” to fade. For them to be the firsts of many—and for that to extend through to professional life.

“I love outreach,” Porter said. “It’s telling your story. It’s letting a little girl see what’s possible. [Snowden and Sivels] saw each other [at MIT], but they didn’t really see it was possible until it happened. I didn’t see anybody and it was just like, ‘Well, this is happening.’

“But it all goes back to that responsibility and the fact that now we have that responsibility to put ourselves out there—so other girls can see it’s possible.”

Photo Caption: From left, Jamie Porter, Ciara Sivels, and Mareena Robinson Snowden, who all now work at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, were each the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from their respective colleges in nuclear engineering.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL / Craig Weiman

This story is courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. This is an abridged version. The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, or to read the unabridged story, please visit www.jhuapl.edu.

How to Use Online Networking Now for Future Success
LinkedIn
Smiling Indian girl wearing headphones using laptop, networking online

By Alexis Reale

It’s been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. You need to make finding a job the focus of your daily routine, and follow a detailed job search plan to ensure that your time is being used wisely.

While applying for jobs is a large part of your job search, networking remains one of the top ways job seekers find positions, so it pays to build a variety of solid connections. During the pandemic, in-person networking is out of the question, so you need to change your networking tactics to focus on online networking. However, even during “normal” times, creating a strong online network can benefit your job search and career.

How Online Networking Helps Your Job Search

With online networking, you have a wider reach than you would at an in-person event. People from all over the world can meet up in a professional, like-minded group, giving you the opportunity to meet and network with people in your field that you might never meet otherwise.

Creating a Successful Online Networking Strategy

Start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the go-to site for career-related networking. Beyond creating an optimized LinkedIn profile, be sure you’re taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let LinkedIn automatically make the “easy” connections by sending invites to everyone in your address book. Then, take heed of its periodic suggestions of other members you might know based on your information or background.

Move Beyond LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is the place for all things career-related, don’t limit yourself to one social network. If your work involves a visual component, create a professional Pinterest or Instagram account to highlight that part of your work. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with thought leaders and other professionals in your field. To take your personal branding to the next level, consider building your own website. It’s a great place to collect testimonials about your work, and create an online portfolio of your accomplishments. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people to connect with you and to learn about your background.

Consider Your Existing Network

Before you reach out to possible new networking connections, reach out to your existing connections first. This is a great way to start building your online network.

Starting with current contacts can offer a greater sense of support and connection simply because of the existing relationship. It can also allow you to catch up with former colleagues and peers, and potentially schedule informational interviews. LinkedIn also has a feature that allows your existing connections to introduce you to their connections. This helps you build your network when one of your current connections is connected to someone you want to meet. You can then ask that existing connection to introduce you.

Try Chats and Groups

Eventually, though, you’ll want to expand your network from existing contacts to new contacts. While that can be intimidating, online networking makes it easier and less stressful for people to connect with new networking contacts.

Join social media groups and chats dedicated to your area of interest. Groups can be found on LinkedIn, and chats exist on Twitter. If you’re savvy with social media, you can also find discussions with like-minded individuals through Reddit. You’ll want to find the sub-Reddit that pertains to your profession.

Choose the Right Connections

Before you reach out to any professional, consider if you’re reaching out to the appropriate person. There is often a pecking order of who talks to whom. If you are a mid-level professional trying to reach out to CEO and executive-level professionals exclusively, you may be hurting your chances of forming any valuable connection.

Connect with professionals on a similar career level to you, or who work on a team where they could be your manager (i.e., a senior tax accountant reaching out to a senior tax manager). This way, you will foster relationships with the people that truly matter—the ones who can influence hiring decisions and likely relate most effectively to your experience. In addition to online networking, joining a professional association in your area is a great way to network in your industry.

Slow Down

“Hi, this is Bob, and I would like a job,” is not the best way to introduce yourself to someone. Networking takes time and requires a relationship to develop. As you continue to build your relationship, you can dive into more details about your professional relationship and potential jobs, but jumping in with both feet and asking outright for a job will only hurt your chances of success.

Keep your “cold call” introductions quick, simple, and professional. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t expound on your great accomplishments in this first message. This first message is just an introduction, a hook to get their attention. Once you have their attention and their response is positive, you can take the next step and delve into more detailed networking questions.

Taking these small steps displays your interest in the company, but it also shows your respect for the person you are contacting.

Online Networking Now for Success Later

Networking is one of the most complex aspects of being involved in the professional world. There are endless methods, tools, and platforms associated with networking, and it can be difficult to decide where and how to start.

One constant about networking, however, is that it is about the practice of building relationships over time. Don’t wait until you are out of work to start networking. It’s something you should develop throughout your career. Take the time to successfully network online using the tips above, and the results will be worth the wait.

Source: flexjobs.com

Successful Pet Butler ‘Entre-manures’ Showcase Franchisor’s Strong Potential for Growth
LinkedIn
Rebecca Stewart stands outside in front of her Pet Butler work vehicle

(ATLANTA, Georgia)-Rebecca Stewart was home one night watching “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch,” a former CNBC show that highlighted American business success stories. This particular episode featured Pet Butler, which provided “poo-fessional” pet-waste cleanup and removal services to residential and commercial customers. “Why didn’t I think of that?” thought Stewart, who came from a family of entrepreneurs and was in need of a change from her job in Corporate America.

            That was more than a decade ago and in 2008, Stewart did, indeed, become Pet Butler’s first franchisee in Georgia. In 2017, Spring-Green Enterprises (SGE) acquired the brand and it has been reinvesting in its marketing, technology and operational support systems, culminating in a modernized model designed to deliver a profitable, recurring-revenue business that caters to pets and their people.

Pet Butler is positioned for nationwide growth, especially in the Atlanta market, where Stewart serves clients in DeKalb and Fulton counties and Vinings in Cobb County. She has been one of Pet Butler’s top-performing franchisees ever since she left behind her 22-year career as a systems programmer analyst in 2006 before opening her Pet Butler franchise two years later. Working hard to build a new business was never an issue, given the history of entrepreneurism in the Stewart family and the skills and values learned growing up in a small town. “We work hard for ourselves and that’s earned us loyalty and respect in our community,” Stewart said. “I left IT because I wanted to be my own boss and create my own hours. In IT I was meticulous and that translated well to pet-waste removal. We are very attentive to the clients we serve and pride ourselves on our customer service.”

Pet Butler offers large, protected territories that foster scalable growth, which has helped make the brand No. 1 in the “No. 2” business for thousands of clients across North America. Roughly 85 million U.S. families, or 67 percent of households, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). In the U.S., pets include 90 million dogs and 94 million cats. In 2018, pet services accounted for $72.56 billion spent and was estimated to grow to $75.38 billion in 2019.

Stewart’s team provides pet-waste cleanup services to private residences, parks and multi-family properties of all kinds. Pet Butler also offers cat litter box swaps/cleanouts, onsite empty-clean-refill or sift out-top off cleanouts, as well as installation and service of commercial pet-waste stations. Pet Butler follows preventive safety measures during the novel coronavirus pandemic that include wearing personal protective equipment, sanitizing vehicles between jobs and practicing social distancing. “Pet owners have become very aware of the services we provide and appreciate the convenience that Pet Butler provides,” Stewart said. “We are seen as more of a necessity than a luxury.”

About Pet Butler

Pet Butler Franchise was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of +43 years old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with long term plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years. Pet Butler provides an opportunity for pet lovers to turn their passion for pets into a business. To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit www.petbutler.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. To inquire about a franchise call 844-777-8608 or go to www.petbutlerfranchise.com

Job Interviews are Going Virtual, Here’s What You Need to Know
LinkedIn
Young latin woman on a virtual job interview

As businesses prepare to open their doors again, the hiring process has begun. Nearly forty million Americans lost their jobs from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that many of those people will be searching for work and participating in job interviews.

But, as we are still adhering to some social distancing rules, many of these interviews are likely to occur via video call.

Interviewing virtually is an unfamiliar territory, but having a successful, meaningful virtual interview is definitely possible.

Here are the best tips for having the most successful interview on a virtual platform.

  • Presentation
  • As you would for an in-person interview, you want to look presentable. While this means wearing an interview-appropriate outfit, you want to make sure that your background and camera angle are also presentable. Make sure your background is clean, containing as little distractions as possible, and that your computer’s camera is catching the best angle of yourself. This will allow the interviewer to see the best version of yourself while bringing their full attention to what you are saying and not to what else is happening in your environment.

  • Make Eye Contact
  • As you would in a physical job interview, you want to make eye contact with the interviewer. It can be difficult not to look at your own reflection in the video call and worry about how you look to the other party, but remember to look into the computer’s camera to show the interviewer that you are paying attention to what they are saying and are really listening.

  • Remember the Lag
  • Unfortunately, video calls are known to lag and glitch. Neither party is at fault, but be aware of these inconveniences. Talking over the interviewer, accidentally interrupting, audio cutouts, and temporary freezes are bound to happen, so speak slowly and talk only when necessary to avoid these possible interview mishaps.

  • Use Your Resources
  • Virtual interviews allow for better access to virtual resources. Keeping interview notes on your screen and using screen share to give examples of your work will help you to remember your best selling points and show your interviewer what you are capable of.

Verizon

Verizon

PWM BLM

 
*Please be sure to check event websites for latest updates on postponements or cancellations due to COVID-19 precautions.

Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020
  2. 2020 NAWBO National Women’s Business Conference
    September 21, 2020 - September 23, 2020

Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020
  2. 2020 NAWBO National Women’s Business Conference
    September 21, 2020 - September 23, 2020