This blog was written by Loretta Richardson, Marketing Communications Manager, as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series. Loretta details the power of accessible information as it relates to the life changing historical context of Juneteenth and her personal journey into Tech.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation or Jubilee Day, commemorates the emancipation of American black slaves – Yay! However, what gives many people pause is the fact that slaves in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery, were not informed of their freedom until June 19th 1865, 2-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation!!! I know, you are shaking your head along with me. Enslavers purposefully withheld information from their slaves until after harvest season. Not our proudest piece of American history. But while this information frustrates some and many may overlook, it fuels me. This is proof that access to information can unleash freedom and empower lives.
I came to the tech world from a non-traditional background. I was an artist who simply loved to story tell. Storytelling, through performance and writing, gave me the power to encourage empathy through character building, shift perspectives through knowledge sharing and shape culture by fostering awareness. It is this love for storytelling that led me to being a Marketing Communications Manager at Microsoft. I believe in the power of effective, honest communication. Sure, over time, my storytelling shifted from teleplays to data visualization and marketing profiles, but the overarching theme is that equipping individuals with knowledge helps them make impactful decisions for themselves, their families and communities.
Throughout my life, I received two key pieces of advice that altered the trajectory of my life:
1) “You should apply to A Better Chance.”
This was the advice my 8th grade middle school teacher, Ms. Elliott, whispered to me as she slipped an application to A Better Chance on my desk. A Better Chance is a non-profit dedicated to helping young, talented scholars attend high-ranked secondary schools. I was one of three students given the opportunity to apply. Of the three, only two of us applied and I was the only student placed at top tier secondary school in California.
2) “You should apply to the Consortium.”
My family friend, mentor and now MBA sister, Nicole Nicholas referred me to the Consortium, an organization that connects some of the country’s brightest students to leading MBA programs and Fortune 500 companies. Upon applying, I accepted admission to Georgetown University where I received my MBA and certificate in Consumer Analytics and Insights and you guessed it…where I also recruited for Microsoft!
These two pieces of information opened my world. I am forever grateful to Ms. Elliott and Nicole Nicholas for sharing their “good news,” and increasing my access to educational opportunities. Yes, I admit, I’m no different from my middle school peers or other MBA candidates. The only difference is that I was gifted this precious information. When you pause to think about all of the opportunities missed by others, talent lost, potential unrealized due to inaccessible information, it’s disheartening. It even spans beyond education equality and into financial literacy, preventative healthcare, affirmative litigation – the list goes on. But this is precisely why I LOVE marketing and why I choose to spend my marketing career at Microsoft.
Microsoft and I share the same goal, “to empower every person and every organization […] to achieve more.” At Microsoft, we marketers believe it is our responsibility to practice inclusive marketing and ensure that our products, services and related information are accessible to all. Every workday, I get to creatively think about how we can foster knowledge sharing and increase understanding to ultimately empower our sellers, marketers, and exceed our customer’s expectations. But it spans beyond my professional life. I make it a priority to reinvest in the communities that supported my growth. This is why I mentor Consortium fellows, volunteer with Microsoft’s HR department to support DEI initiatives as well as co-chair the Microsoft BAM BSIX Graduate Committee. I enjoy sharing any “good news” that will empower individuals to take advantage of every opportunity available to them.
Hence why I challenge you to share your “good news” and help promote knowledge sharing, to ensure no one in our communities fall behind. Here are four of my go-to tips:
Create a list of individuals you would like to keep in contact with and set-up a cadence (e.g. 3-months, 6-months) to stay in touch. This should be a mixture of 3 groups:
a. Inner Circle (e.g. friends, relatives, peers)
b. Professional Circle (e.g. sponsors, mentors, former and present colleagues/classmates)
c. Mentees & Reverse Mentors (just as others poured into you, you should pour into others)
Dedicate time and resources to the causes, programs and people who shared “good news” with you. If you happen to be a pioneer and discovered “good news” that has yet to be shared, communicate it out and begin building a pipeline that will allow others to follow in your footsteps.
3) Read Critically
Before you share any information, let’s make sure the news is “good.” In other words - accurate, honest and verifiable. No more #fakenews, please! So unless your “good news” is stemming from personal experience, be mindful of the content you are sharing. I always ask myself these 3 questions when reviewing content:
a. Who wrote it?
b. Why did they write it?
c. Who’s missing from the story?
4. Share Your Good News
It takes courage, but sing it loud and proud! What were your keys to success? Also, be sure to recognize those who inspired that “good news.”
One of my favorite things about story telling is listening to the stories of others. You come to learn that while there is no "easy" road to achieving...well anything, we are all blessed and masters in our own right. One could be a master of resilience and joy just as much as they can master coding or golf! Every person on the planet has a unique story and valuable experience that could impact the lives of others. YOUR story is overflowing with “good news” that can help bridge the gap for someone and grant them access to information that can empower them to live out their full potential and change their lives. In the spirit of Juneteenth, I ask you, “What’s your good news?”
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible.’”