28 Days of Black Excellence: Charles Pickett

28 Days of Black Excellence
28 Days of Black Excellence
28 Days of Black Excellence: Charles Pickett

“Everything is allowing you to get to that next step. But the moment you stop, that’s when you’re doing yourself a disservice. There’s going to be times where … life is going to get hard…what allowed me to get through that was the connections that I made.”

Charles Pickett


Charles Pickett graduated in 2017 from the College of Business Administration and is currently in the MBA program at UIC. After graduating from UIC, Pickett began at AEP Energy as a sales representative then went on to C.H. Robinson where he was a sales executive and portfolio manager. Currently, he is at Salesforce as an Enterprise Business Development Executive. In addition, Pickett is vice president, chief business development director of Earth’s Remedies, a community nonprofit located in and serving the west side of Chicago.

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Tariq El-Amin  00:01
Welcome to Black Excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin

Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King  00:09
[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.

Clips from 1995 movie “Panther”  00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here? 
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information

Aisha El-Amin  00:26
I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin

Tariq El-Amin  00:29
Welcome to Black Excellence.

Aisha El-Amin 0:35
Hello, hello, good people. Greetings UIC family and friends. Welcome to UIC’s “28 days of Black Excellence.” I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, UIC’s associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging. It is my great honor to celebrate the history of Black excellence at UIC with powerful, inspiring and informative conversations from UIC’s alumni, past faculty and staff. Each day we’ll have a new guest who will share their story. And I’m really, really excited today to welcome our guest, Charles Pickett. He graduated in 2017 from Business Administration, has been doing some phenomenal things, has left a legacy at UIC in just a short time and leaving a legacy in the city and in the nation. And so I’m just so honored to have him here today to kind of tell us what you have been up to since you’ve left UIC.

Charles Pickett 1:34
So I’ve been up to a lot of stuff. Pretty much I finished in December of 2017. That’s when I received my bachelor’s in business management. So I took about four and a half years to get done with that. Over the last four years, my career was in sales. So I had a few internships while I was in UIC, actually. And I received the full-time position from one of the internships when I transitioned over to full time. And pretty much with each job that I was at, I stayed there for about a year. My first job was at AEP Energy, all as a sales rep, learning how to sell, learning what a sales cycle is and how to walk a customer through that process. I wanted a bigger role, bigger opportunity and moved over to a I’m sorry, C.H. Robinson, where I was there for about almost two years. The first year I was a sales executive, which is a bigger sales role. I also handled account management. Within a year I received a promotion to portfolio manager so I was pretty much managed a book of business. It was a very large book of business during the time of COVID. So it was definitely a need. C.H. Robinson is a supply chain company. So we handle the transportation throughout the nation and particularly my book of business. After those two years of C.H. Robinson, I transitioned over to Salesforce. Currently, I’m in the enterprise business development space. And with that I currently work with the manufacturing portion of Salesforce business in regards to selling the software, giving the meetings, cold calling, the real active stuff, but we have an active team. And within the next two months, I’m anticipated to get a promotion where I will run my own book of business at Salesforce. So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to in my career.

Outside of that, I have done some things within the nonprofit space. My sister, Mercedes Pickett founded Earth’s Remedies in 2016. I joined Earth’s Remedies in 2020 of June, I’m the vice president and chief business development director. And with that I pretty much collaborate with my sister Mercedes in regards to what we want the west side to be. Earth’s Remedies is a nonprofit for the west side of Chicago and we uplift disinvested and disenfranchised communities, which include Austin, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Douglas Park, and Holman Square as well as any other area on the west side, that Black and Brown people need that help. And we believe that the Black and Brown community have six different pillars that we want to identify and highlight which is included with their financials, their career development, health and wellness, housing, schooling, and conflict de-escalation, which has now moved over to our new pillar called violence prevention. So with that, that’s pretty much what we’ve been, or I’ve been particularly have been a part of over these last four years. Those four years definitely go by quick.

Aisha El-Amin 4:52
Wow, I would venture to say you’ve been busy in four years. [Laughter].

Charles Pickett 4:57
Yes, I also went back to UIC for grad school. I’m a current MBA student. So halfway through that program.

Aisha El-Amin 5:05
Wow, doing big things. I love it. I love it. So tell me for Earth Remedies, do you all do volunteer…You know, can people get involved? Are there spaces that other folks can contact you if they want to volunteer their hands or their money or any of that?

Charles Pickett 5:23
Yes, yes, my sister Mercedes, she has the saying, where it’s pretty much if you don’t have the time or if you don’t need the help, there’s so many different ways that you can participate. So if you can’t donate money, if you can’t donate time, maybe you might need that help. So we like to have different options in regards to volunteering. Some volunteers can come to different events, some volunteers can donate to our GoFundMe. If you search Earth’s Remedies Chicago, everything pops up in regards to the news articles that have been written about us in the recent years. Also, we have different programming that we invite youth and also people within the city in regards to fitness in regards to connecting with the actual community. This past summer, actually, we had different events throughout the entire west side of Chicago. We also participate with other community leaders and other nonprofit leaders within the space. So if you reach out to us on Facebook, on Instagram. Our new website launches literally on the first of next year [earths-remedies.com]. So, contact us through our website, there’s a lot of different ways to get involved. So, we love all involvement. There’s always a way to help and we can help you identify that route.

Aisha El-Amin 6:43
I love it. I absolutely love that. And knowing that you are now back in the thick of it at UIC, you’ve come back. I know you have some fond memories when you look back on your undergrad years now that you know, doing the MBA and you’re doing you know, phenomenal things, being promoted at Salesforce and you’re doing Earth’s Remedies. What are some of those memories that you have? You know, the fond memories of being at UIC as an undergrad student?

Charles Pickett 7:08
Oh, definitely, definitely. I have a lot of fond memories at UIC and particularly connecting with the Black students and staff, AAAN [African American Academic Network] and BSU [Black Student Union] were the hub of those connections. Everyone that was Black and active on campus was a part of those groups. So the fondest memory that I had was, we had a Friendsgiving, it was very random. Everyone just went to Wendy’s and got food. And we just put tables together in the atrium space right next to the computer lab, in the atrium building. And we just put tables together. And like 20 of us just eating Wendy’s talking and laughing the week before Thanksgiving. So that’s probably my fondest memory, everyone bought food and ate. Being able to support your friends and like going through college and seeing your friends grow. The friends that I had in 2013 in college, they are my best friends to this day. So actually experiencing that growth and experiencing like the college develop, not just the College of Business of connections, the networking idea within business, but throughout the entire campus. And then another thing was the professors that I had. In the College of Business the professors were really supportive. I had a few of them actually write letters of recommendations for me, that I used to get my first job and some recommendations that I used to get into grad school. So they helped me get into my MBA program. So building those connections, not only with the students and the staff, but also the professors were things that I really, really appreciated. And those are things I wouldn’t take back because they allowed me to become the person I am today.

Aisha El-Amin 8:48
Oh, I love it. I love it. And I especially love Wendy’s friends Friendsgiving, like that. [Laughter].

Charles Pickett 8:55
Yeah, yeah, we were definitely on a college budget. So we all like, ‘Hey, let’s go to Wendy’s get a two-for-four’ I believe that’s what it was or a four-for-four…

Aisha El-Amin 9:06
Yea the four-for-four, that Wendy’s spot is gone now. So yeah…

Charles Pickett 9:10
It’s not there anymore. I think they put a burrito spot I’m not entirely sure it’s something healthy. It’s something healthy, definitely not greasy. [Laughter].

Aisha El-Amin 9:21
With any journey, there’s also challenges right? So what are some of those challenges that you faced, in hopes to give undergrad students, Black students, you know, some insights on both the challenges and how you faced them? Because obviously you were able to face them in ways that made you successful and led you to where you are today?

Charles Pickett 9:41
No, definitely, definitely. So those challenges were really based on me learning how to become a college student. Learning how to study, learning how to adapt, how to manage my time, and those things eventually improved throughout my college career. I considered it a career, it is a portion of your life. You’re not just in school to be in school for the sake of it. It’s an investment. So understanding the different teaching styles, and you have five different professors throughout your semesters, sometimes three or four, depending on if you’re part time. But for the most part, each professor is different. I had professors that was very outgoing and very supportive. I had professors that pretty much said, ‘If you want help, you have to seek it.’ And it was completely different. So a couple things that I had to adjust to was learning the professor. Just as well as you have to learn the course, if you learn the professor, you essentially are more able to pass the course and how you learn the professor, you attend the office hours. I tried to go to office hours every month so that the professor, at least once a month, so that the professor knew my face when it came to the end of that semester. Just taking notes in class, I know sometimes taking notes in class is boring and you don’t want to do it, and your hand hurts. But mentally, it does something to you, and it helps you remember it. It’s the equivalent of chewing a certain flavor gum and trying to study when you’re chewing that flavor of gum. Scientifically, it helps you remember what you studied. So if you take notes during class, you are going to retain at least some of that information, even though it seems as if you’re just writing stuff down. Another thing was speaking, at least once every class. Again, you want to build that connection with the professor on paying attention. And lastly, like just forming study groups.

That’s another thing, just building friends. During the first class, I would just turn to a student. A lot of times, classes are, like siloed, you don’t want to speak with anybody, you come in, sit down, you leave in 40, 50 minutes. But just speaking to the person right next to you. Just saying like, ‘Hey, man, I didn’t hear what this professor just said.’ And you laugh about it. Like that’s the connection that I used to do. And eventually you become friends and you’re going to take the same classes. Another thing was adapting to like the different challenges and understanding how to study and how to practice asking myself those hard questions like the five W’s that allow me to get to the root of the problem. And normally problems can get fixed by adapting habits to those situations. So, every semester, every class is a different way to learn not only about yourself, but learning how to engage with other people. And also my last point would be time management within my MBA program. The MBA program or your grad program is completely different than your first four years in college. So being able to time manage within Salesforce, within the nonprofit space in Earth’s Remedies. I also like to box on the side and I center my schedule around boxing, I train five times a week. So you want to have that personal life as well. So what I recommend people do is prioritize what’s in front of you. And when you prioritize what’s in front of you, you control what you can control. And that’s what is tangible. So I can control my calendar, I can control when I study and I can limit any distractions. And by doing that, that pretty much allows me to become my best self.

Aisha El-Amin 13:15
Wow, I love it. I love it. Now, if you had an opportunity to go back to your your first year self and give him a talk to you know, inspire him or you know, make sure he didn’t take that turn or watch out for this. What would the advice you would give your younger self be?

Charles Pickett 13:37
Um, [laughing] young Chuck, young Chuck. I would say this might sound cliche, but it’s very important to me, Rome wasn’t built in in one day, but it did fall in one. So what I mean by that is, it’s not going to take one day to build a skill. But if you continuously try to develop, study in college, go to study sessions, go see your professor, go to work, do what you have to do take these side programs and courses to help you, take summer classes if need be. Everything is allowing you to get to that next step. But the moment you stop, that’s when you’re doing yourself a disservice. There’s going to be times where it’s going to, life is going to get hard. And I definitely had some hard times throughout my four and a half years, my first four years at UIC. But what allowed me to get through that was the connections that I made. Everyone’s going through the exact same transitions when you first get into college. So you want to just focus on what’s in front of you, focus on that day, win the day. I go by a phrase since I started boxing. I go by a phrase you train to train for tomorrow. So that pretty much means prioritize your health, prioritize your mental health. Do what you can today, but again, prioritize your health, your mental health, and train for tomorrow. So if I’m boxing and I feel my shoulder getting a little weak, I’m going to stop and I’m going to heal, I’m going to rest, and I’m going to prepare to train for tomorrow. Don’t exhaust yourself, don’t use up your bar of energy. We’re literally like batteries, and we do need to be recharged. And a lot of times, going through a whole year of school is very, very tiring.

So those are [the] advice that I would give and another thing, control what’s tangible. Like I said before, things will exist to throw you off your course. And some things that I started to do. And again, some of the stuff that I’m advising I didn’t start doing until I was probably a sophomore or a junior, it took me my first year as a freshman to understand what I really like to do how I like to study, how I like to network. And that’s how I develop these skill sets. So you’re not gonna find these answers immediately. But things that helped me was putting everything on my schedule, even hanging out with friends or going to see a movie, everything went on my schedule. And what that does is it helps your mental process of prioritizing your needs and what’s important to you. So you start to ask yourself, Do I have time for this? If so, when should I do it? How am I going to do it, you start to ask those questions. And now I’m at the point where I joke with my friends. If it’s not on my calendar, I’m not going to do it. So if it’s a Bulls’ game, if it’s going out to eat with a co-worker, it’s all on my calendar. And whenever someone asks, ‘Hey, do you have time for this?’ I Check my calendar, and I add it when need be. That helps alleviate stress. And one of the biggest things that you can do for that is when you first get your syllabus, it’s going to take some time, but go through the entire syllabus and add every assignment from the homework assignment to group work, to project to exam days to your calendar, you’re going to alleviate so much stress and you’re going to fully understand like how to be a student the relief that you’re going to feel after you do that will have you prepared for that first week?

Aisha El-Amin 17:14
Wow, that is absolute great advice. I’m thinking I need to put some more things on my calendar right now. [Laughter]. But I appreciate you putting putting us on your calendar. I appreciate you sharing your story with us. And I know that our current students will benefit immensely from your journey, and the lessons that you’ve learned and shared with us. So thank you for being part of our Black History Month series, Charles.

Charles Pickett 17:43
Thank you. Appreciate it.

Tariq El-Amin 17:45
[Music] Thanks for joining us find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni, faculty and staff at blackresources.uic.edu. That’s blackresources.uic.edu.

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