Professional success comes from commitment to personal ideals and courage to initiate changes that transcend racial barriers, according to the speakers at the “Power Players in a Boy’s World” panel at the third annual BRAVE Summit in Lohrfink Auditorium on Saturday.

The panel was moderated by Monokia Nance, a brand manager and business solutions specialist, and featured a conversation between Ericka Pittman, the chief marketing officer of AQUAhydrate, and Shelby Hall, manager of corporate strategy at Under Armour.

Pittman said that the hardships she encountered in her youth, specifically a lack of black role models, inspired her to serve as a mentor for black youth today.

“There weren’t a lot of people that looked like me or thought like me, and I wish I had a lot more mentorship and guidance in those formative years,” Pittman said. “So, when I started to achieve some semblance of success even early on in my career, I always went back to young people to talk to them and help to guide them.”

JESSICA LIN FOR THE HOYA The panel was moderated by Monokia Nance, a brand manager and business solutions specialist, and featured a conversation between Ericka Pittman, the chief marketing officer of AQUAhydrate, and Shelby Hall, manager of corporate strategy at Under Armour.

Hall said that to remain true to herself and her vision, she does not let race factor into her workplace performance or mentality; instead, she focuses on performing to the best of her ability.

“I don’t constantly think about how I should act differently as a woman of color,” Hall said. “I just do what I know to the best of my ability.”

Both Pittman and Hall emphasized the importance of embracing discomfort on the path to achieving professional growth. Stepping out of comfort zones in professional settings can lead to achievement, according to Pittman.

“It’s really about putting yourself out there, having conversations, being very vocal and vulnerable about your dreams, and then those things will come together eventually,” Pittman said.

Hall echoed Pittman’s sentiment and said that success comes from not being complacent in professional situations and from pushing the status quo.

“If you’re not learning and growing by feeling uncomfortable, you’ll just stay at the status quo,” Hall said. “When you go out on a limb and take a risk, you learn so much that just continues to build on your empire.”

Networking is an effective way to achieve professional growth, and the most effective way to network is to develop an authentic connection with others by putting their needs ahead of your own, Pittman said.

“I don’t make a point of getting to know people for what they can do for me,” Pittman said. “If you’re out there networking, you should lead with being a resource for the people you’re trying to network with.”

Hall also said that putting other people’s needs before her own, specifically through community service work, has led to more fulfillment in her professional life.

“I think that I’m just taking pieces of Under Armour that I can project into the community,” Hall said. “For me, it’s about exposing the fact that a lot of people of color don’t exercise and are at risk for so many diseases.”

Holding executive positions requires adjusting between command and cooperation on a team, both Pittman and Hall agreed. To achieve this balance, both panelists said that effective leadership includes a willingness to learn from the other people on their team.

“One of the things I’ve been able to do in my career is be quiet and listen to the people around me,” Pittman said. “I think that’s helped me a lot to advance in this organization.”

Hall agreed with Pitmann and said that remaining conscious of when she is contributing valuable content to a meeting rather than talking solely to demonstrate her control has allowed her to be a successful leader.

“I speak when I feel like I’m adding true value, whereas I think a lot of people speak at meetings just to hear themselves speak,” Hall said. “So, I really try to find a balance between when I feel like I need to learn and when I feel like I’m adding value.”

Pittman also advised young college graduates to be open-minded about their job hunt and appreciate the value of entry-level work.

“You have to find a job that may not necessarily be your purpose today because it can be a stepping stone towards your ultimate purpose,” Pittman said. “When you think about your purpose and your passions, those things are important, but they can’t be the bullseye of where you’re trying to go tomorrow.”

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