Business Development Manager
What do you consider your greatest strength, and how do you think it benefits your business?
My greatest strength is being what I like to call a “well-trained extrovert” despite my natural tendencies as an introvert. I developed this skill as a result of growing up in a military family, which required us to move frequently, meet new people, and integrate into new communities and neighborhoods.
In business development, this duality has benefitted me greatly. Those in the industry will often tell you there is a good amount of flexibility in the role of a business developer; but conversely, not much of a safety net if performance metrics are not met. Some days it requires that we are outgoing, meeting with customers and interacting with industry partners to educate them about the capabilities we offer to streamline processes, increase efficiencies, and bring overall value to both them and the taxpayer. But, doing so in an effective and ethical manner requires discipline and focus, which, for me, requires solitude—studying opportunities, and researching budgets and agency cultures, before and throughout the pursuit of a sell. This is where being an introvert really comes in handy.
I think it’s a common misconception that introverts are shy; we can be outgoing, but feel most energized and creative when we have the opportunity for solitude. Growing up, I battled anxiety and depression. To overcome them, I learned how to be outgoing and extroverted.
Extroversion is more than a personality trait; it’s also a skill, and skills can be learned and developed.
Today, being an extrovert has become second nature to me. It requires confidence to interact with industry partners and succeed in business development. However, being a natural introvert helps me to focus, budget my energy, and be productive with time management. I truly value this ability to exercise both introversion and extroversion, and encourage others to develop skills and strategies outside their innate comfort zones. It just may yield significant rewards.
Who inspires you? What did they motivate you to achieve or accomplish?
Although it may sound cliché, my parents have inspired me greatly. They had me out of wedlock in their early twenties, then later married and have stayed together for nearly 30 years. Neither of them attended college, but they ensured that I did, and financed my ability to do so. I finished my undergraduate degree with absolutely no debt—truly a blessing.
As a middle class family, my parents taught themselves financial prowess. They lived frugally, worked hard, saved aggressively, and invested wisely, so that they could afford the modest “American dream.” They created an ideal reality for me that neither of them had growing up, but knew they wanted for their children.
Even today, my parents still motivate me to work hard, and I feel responsible to do something with the gifts they gave me. I had a phenomenal childhood, and now my goal is to create an even better future for the family I’ll have one day. I think that’s the key to macro-level community advancement—to create better opportunities for future generations.
What do you think is the greatest issue or dilemma facing the African American community today?
In my opinion, the historic root cause and continual disintegration of the African American family (specifically, the absence of fathers) is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s African American community. Single mothers are phenomenal women who continually accomplish extraordinary feats daily; however, these feats do not come without great sacrifice. It should not have to be this way, as the toll and responsibility of raising children is intended to be shared by both parents.
Family is the foundation of everything: it’s where we first learn about our place in the world, and it teaches us the importance of maintaining and exchanging culture with our global brethren. We learn the value of human interaction, responsibility, accountability, and life’s natural experiences, such as of grief, coping, and healing. When a family is uprooted and dismantled, its children are robbed of this life experience and pay a gruesome price in the form of unidentified and unclaimed self-esteem and respect, translating to an unspeakable list of generational damage and societal misfortune.
How do you give back to the African American community?
For the past four years, I’ve been an active volunteer with Mentoring Today, an organization that serves inner-city Washington, D.C. youth both before and after they are released from juvenile incarceration. More than 95 percent of its recipients are African American males between the ages of 15 and 21, and the program strives to support successful reintegration into their families and communities.
Founded by two remarkable female lawyers trained at American University, Mentoring Today provides legal representation and advocacy, among many other services, on behalf of those most in need. As a mentor with the organization, I work with youth on critical issues, such as education, employment, and housing as they enter adulthood.
Mentoring Today is a phenomenal organization, and I’m truly proud to be associated with it. I originally viewed this opportunity as a way to give back to the community, but the experience has also made a profound impact on me personally; it has both challenged and enriched my life greatly.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned in the course of your career?
First impressions matter a great deal, so it’s important to always bring your A-game.
Also, you never know just who you’re talking to, so treat the janitor the same way you’d treat the CEO.
What advice would you give to someone just beginning his or her career?
I would tell my fellow millennials that someone is always watching, so be diligent about your work and strive for excellence, even on things you may think are insignificant and minute. In time, those who are faithful with little things can be trusted with much greater.
What is your favorite quote, and why?
I love a good quote, and have scores of Post-It® Notes around my home and office to prove it. One that I live by is the old adage, “Give a (wo)man a fish and you feed him/her for a day; teach a (wo)man to fish, and you feed him/her for a lifetime.”
My father says that one a lot, and I’ve found that it applies to several of life’s circumstances. I’ve also used it to shape many of my personal principles.