Dare to be different: Women Who Are Living Out Their Professional Passions

Byline: By Nicole Hudson

Whereas many women seek to fit in, others have mastered the art of standing out. Career Mastered highlights three women who have taken different paths to fulfill their dreams, expressing their passion in perhaps unconventional ways, and the key lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Jacqie McWilliams

Jacqie McWilliams is the first African-American female Commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association (CIAA) She leads all strategic planning for the conference, working closely with the thirteen member institutions, and the board of directors and staff to support the advancement of student-athletes. She also manages fourteen CIAA championships.

While the job description above might seem daunting according to McWilliams, a bigger challenge is “being seen and respected beyond my gender and race,”, particularly in the industry.

Her own early involvement in sports helped her develop a competitive nature, which still serves her well today in business.

“Critical thinking has helped me tremendously to play the game in management high-level business situations. [That means] not leading solely on passion and emotions, but also on tactics and realistic goals that meet outcomes.”

With an educational background in psychology, and through her work as a motivational speaker, McWilliams is more aware than most that “group dynamics, personality traits, and past and present experience shape who we are, how we lead, and how we lead, and how we relate.” Her message for other women is simple: “Your position is necessary, and your power belongs to you on the platform that you have been blessed with to excuse your passion. Be present with your best authentic self to deliver—not what you heard—but what you know through your own experiences to bless someone else.”

Diane Hamilton

Diane Hamilton is a behavioral expert with a groundbreaking body of work in the area of curiosity. She is also a nationally syndicated radio host, speaker, moderator, consultant, and author.

According to Hamilton “I have been fortunate to have experienced a lot of different industries. I [also] learned diverse skills during a lot of reading and research. I am very curious by nature.”

Her formal education and ongoing teaching roles have also helped prepare her for tackling any number of experiences. “Through my role as the [I can read that] Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business, and teaching at other universities. I have taught more than 1,000 business courses. As they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it.”

She believes: “Curiosity is a spark that helps a lot of the issues that organizations face today, including engagement, innovation, and productivity. We need to work on developing curiosity, which would lead to improved emotional intelligence. When we are curious about other people we become more empathetic.”

Through her work, particularly in creating the Curiosity Code Index assessment, Hamilton has a message for today’s leaders.

“Most organizations hire people for their hard skills or knowledge, but fire them for their soft skills or behaviors. The leader who does not value the importance of soft skills will not be as successful in today’s hyper-competitive market.”

Candice Bond McKeever

Candace Bond McKeever is president & CEO of Strategic Solutions Group, Inc. (SSG), a small. DBE-certified, minority woman-owned organization that specializes in Community Outreach and Education, Strategic Communications, Marketing, Advertising, and Public Affairs.

With a long impressive list of professional credits to her name, McKeever actually credits her parents for her seemingly endless drive. “Growing up, my parents stressed the importance of education as the means to lifelong advancement and success. My mother was an educator and President of the St Louis Board of Education. She was also the first in her family to graduate from college and get her Master’s degree. My father was a general surgeon and came from a multi-generational line of college and professional school graduates. They were also tremendously involved in the fight for civil rights and equity, as well as access to African Americans and communities of color. This was the dual lens through which I saw life as a commitment to advancing myself through education and hard work, and also is dedicated to the betterment of my community.”

Her career choice as a strategic consultant seems tailor-made to help her advance both of these causes. “Many times, people have great ideas, but they are not sure how to implement them and build a path for long-term sustainable success. My business has thrived primarily through referrals. I have a reputation for the development of viable business strategies, innovative marketing and partnerships, and timely and sustainable implementation.”

As well, McKeever enjoys showing her clients that, in pursuit of their vision, “It’s possible to ‘do well’ while simultaneously ‘doing good.’ Ultimately, service and love guide my work and my life. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.’ You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have, to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need o heart tun of grace, a soul generated by love.”

As I completed these interviews, a common thread emerged from three very distinct stories: Business success isn’t only about you. When you include others in your success, you give greater meaning to your accomplishments. That’s a lesson all of us can benefit from.

How do you relate to these women who dared to be different? Are you following an “unorthodox” passion? If so, tell us about it We’d love to hear from you!

Nicole Hudson Career Mastered Magazine Contributor

Nicole Hudson is the Founder of Hudson Collective, an integrated digital strategy and communications firm creating social impact by activating their communities through branding, storytelling, and expanding their engagement with a robust online presence. Hudson’s strategies are driven to deliver compelling messages and a suite of business tactics that engage, inform and influence audiences to action that creates lasting impact.