FWD Feature | Michelle Y. Bess FWD | For Women and Diversity | Collective

Michelle Y. Bess, Premier Connector

FWD Collective is excited to announce that Michelle Y. Bess has joined the speaker roster for our Chicago Summit on September 13th 2018!

We had the pleasure of connecting with Michelle to ask a few questions!

What does diversity, equity, and professional inclusion mean to you? 
Being a DEI professional means that I am able to incorporate my personal value of equity into my day to day work. I get to do a job that combines my passion, what I'm good at, what the world, and a company need all into one.

My purpose in life is to connect people of color to opportunities and through my work, I'm able to do that and support a company in creating more equitable systems and processes allowing for a more diverse and inclusive workplace, project manage initiatives that ensure that people of all backgrounds know about, can work, and feel included at Sprout Social, and coach managers and employees to build a place we are proud of and enjoy coming to work at everyday.

How have you experienced and/or dealt with adversity in your professional and personal life?
I had the hardest time adjusting to my job prior to coming to OneGoal. The learning curve was steep since I'd never known the role I was hired to do. The culture was brand new to me, things were incredibly structured in a way that was unfamiliar to me. And I was one of only a few people of color working there and I didn't feel like I'd found my "people." I had such a hard time that I was getting feedback regularly on how I could improve, I was STRUGGLING. After about 9 months, I thought I should quit.

Instead I talked with my boss about how I was struggling, found some people on staff who I could connect with on my challenges and personally, and shortly after that we hired a few other more senior leaders of color, the organization began to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, we hired someone else to take on part of my role and I moved into the recruitment side that leveraged my strengths and began building a pipeline of Black and Latinx leaders.

The improvement was not overnight, it certainly required persistence, but I was thrilled that we were able to find a way to leverage my skill set in a way that met an organizational need, which was great for all of us.

What would be one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
It's okay not to have a passion and it's okay not to know what that passion is right now. Be excellent at what you are doing, try things out and see if you're good at them and if you like them. Keep doing that until you find the "thing" for you.

Name three things that you do everyday to help lead you to success.
1) I take in new information through a podcast, reading an article, or read a book I check my calendar.
2) I live by my calendar, if something is not in there, it likely will not get done.
3) I check-in or talk with people, either my family, girlfriends, colleagues. My success and who I am is due to the people in my life and my relationships. I keep them alive by keeping in touch and caring genuinely about what's happening for them.

Who inspires your professional ambition? Why?
My family. My parents and my siblings. Everything I am and that I do is because of what my parents taught and instilled in me, I try to be an example for my siblings, and to make the #BessTribe proud.

What is your favorite book? Or the one you'd recommend most?
My favorite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. And I recommend everyone read All About Love by bell hooks

What are the top 3 things you'd like us to know about your business or company?
1) We care deeply about our people, our families, and our customers. 
2) Half of our founders are men of color and over 30% of our executive team is women. 
3) We believe the strength of social is its ability to foster deep, meaningful relationships between people and the communities, organizations and brands that matter to them.

Anything else you'd like to highlight or think we should know?
We have over 30 open roles at Sprout Social I lead a DEI Professionals Meet-Up here in Chicago. If you are a practitioner or someone who cares about equity find me and I'll add you to our Slack Community


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