Taking bits and pieces
Lately, I’ve been thinking about past experiences that I’ve had and the lessons that I’ve learned. During my time as President of the Student Activities Board, I’ve noticed that in order to maintain the measure of success that the organization has had, I’ve had to dig deep into my experiences and embody the personalities, the characters, and the lessons that my supervisors and mentors have shown me.
My first thought goes back to my time at the Chicago Arts Orchestra, where I worked closely with the founder of the nonprofit organization. I remember coming in green as grass and being given my first assignment to develop a marketing strategy that expands the organizations social media presence and fan base to executive board. I had absolutely no idea what to do, but I was afraid to ask question, but then I met with my supervisor, Javier Mendoza. Javier came in with passion and energy, something like I’ve never seen before. He came in with a big smile and began spit balling different ideas that he wanted to do in order to expand the organization compared to things that he has done in the past. It was inspiring. Javier always told me to do something that excites me. Till this day, every project that I receive I try to find a perspective/purpose that excites me; a method that can both inspire me and inspire those around me.
After I worked at the CAO, I moved to the University of Illinois’ EMBA program where I worked with the Executive Director of the EMBA, Rich Fry, as well as many other prominent figures. My first day I came in timidly, barely said a word. I came in early, did my job, then left. One day I came into work and one of the executives of the program, Yvonne Harden, invited me to eat breakfast with the rest of the staff. I was sitting with important executives of THE U of I EMBA and Tax program, my hands were extremely sweaty from nerves and partial anxiety, but I quickly got over it. While we were eating breakfast, it was like we were all family enjoying a family meal. We talked about sports, family, venting about random things. I could not believe how relaxed and funny these people were. The lesson that I took from my time working the U of I EMBA team was the lesson of making everyone feel welcome in your organization and creating a community of family between your peers.
I’ll jump forward to my time with the Student Activities Board. I began as a sophomore that literally lived the definition of the word – a wise fool. Very quickly I came to realize that I did not know that much, but my advisor, Sladjana Grbic, and the rest of CSI staff were always there to help me solve problems. I always had a plethora of projects to complete for the organizations some of which I had no idea how I would do while having an internship, a job, taking 16 credits. Sladjana always emphasized that I prioritize — a word that I grew to hate. It seemed that every conversation we had, she mentioned the word prioritize even during random conversations where I talked about something simple as going to the movies. It was not till my second year with the organization that I fully understood the “prioritize.” The word helped me to manage my workload and switching between all of the hats that I somehow managed to keep.
My most recent lesson came with the global advertising agency — gyro LLC. I became their Public Relations and Social Media intern and managed four accounts, two of which were Fortune 500 companies. Each day my supervisor, Jeannine Adams, would hand me a different project, which I had no idea how to do, but because of my time at the CAO I knew how to ask questions efficiently. Each day I would ask her a different question or come up with a different idea/strategy that we could try to implement — some of which I now know were completely insane. The one thing that I learned from Jeannine is that as a boss or mentor, you must give those around you legs to walk. What I mean by that is by giving support to your peers and colleagues. Jeannine never shot my ideas or strategy down completely, instead she would say “I’m here for that” or “I’m with you” — things that I find myself saying to other people today. Jeannine would find ways to modify my ideas and further develop them and show me the process of expanding my thoughts.
Leadership, in part, is learning from past experiences, modifying them to fit the current situations and always keeping the learning process going. Throughout my experience, I’ve learned that the learning process does not stop when school is over or when you graduate or when you stop working. Through every job or project that I have, I try to find one key lesson from my time there. Learning builds experience and is the fundamental key to life.