Being a female in the work place can present daily challenges, but being a black female in the work place can present even more challenges, especially when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling. Our March Spotlight feature, Watchen Nyanue, has not only broken the glass ceiling, but she wants to show other black women professionals how to break it too. Watchen is Vice-President of Marketing Partnerships for the Chicago Sky Organization. Last week on Chiataglance.com we posted an event alert about a professional career summit Watchen founded and is presenting for the first time here in Chicago, March 30th. Watchen finds herself to be fortunate to have a bevy of mentors to turn to, but she realized some women didn’t have the same luxury. The professional career summit called “The Climb” is an immersive experience designed exclusively for Black Millennial, Xennial, and GenX professional women who are looking to share their experiences, learn best practices, quantify their impact and elevate their careers. The Climb will feature senior-level, female black executives from a variety of companies. To find out more Click HERE.
Interviewing Watchen I could tell her passion and drive is to make sure black females receive the resources they need to accelerate their careers. I also like that Watchen career path was a little non-traditional. Her background is in Marketing and Account Management. She attended college at DePauw University in Rural Indiana where she was one of only a hundred people of color. Already she had to navigate being a minority. While in undergrad she worked a bunch of internships and decided at the wise age of 20 she wanted to live in New York full time, but she knew if she wanted to work in entertainment that LA was the better decision. After undergrad, and without a job, she headed to LA and crashed on a friends couch. Within 2 weeks she landed a job working for an afterschool casting director. Her job was to find famous actors, writers, and directors to come and teach aspiring actors, writers, and directors for free. She was in LA for almost 2 years when she decided she got everything she needed from LA and it was time to move on.
The power of networking was so ever present in Watchen life when she decided it was time to venture to New York. The scholarship foundation Watchen went to undergrad through was headquartered in New York. She reached out to the foundation and let them know she was thinking of moving to New York and was curious if there were any entertainment related jobs. It just so happen one of the board members of the scholarship foundation was the President of Comedy Central. She met the President of Comedy Central and her future boss. The process took about two weeks in total and she was on her way to starting her new role. She worked on the brand side of Comedy Central for all their new, returning, and their specials. Once Watchen left Comedy Central she worked for the magazine publication Hearst when they started to transition to digital. After that she went to Yahoo a few years managing the number one and number two accounts for their digital platform.
While working at Yahoo she decided it was time to head back to Chicago in order to help her parents out before their move to Africa. She stayed with Yahoo for a little bit in Chicago and then left to do some consulting gigs. It was through one of her consulting jobs she met the team from the Chicago Sky. The marketing deal she was working on the Chicago Sky with as a consultant didn’t work out at first, but fast forward a year later she put together a deal that worked. In the process she met the President and the Owner of the Chicago Sky. They all kept in touch and the Chicago Sky called her down the road and asked if she would be interested in consulting with them for three months. Three months has turned into almost two years. Watchen didn’t think in her wildest dreams she would be with the Chicago Sky that long. First off normally people in these positions love and dream about sports. Standing at 5 feet tall Watchen said sports was the furthest thing from her mind and was never on her radar. She said it shows to always keep an open mind though because she loves what she does. The WNBA is still really young and so there still working to make an imprint on the league. Growing the business you can see the direct impact of the work that you’re doing on the organization. Watchen loves the challenges and turning people into WNBA fans. She said working at the Chicago Sky has been nothing short of amazing. She loves the team, the leadership team is pretty phenomenal, and she’s been able to have a lot of freedom to try different strategies. Working for the Chicago Sky has been great for her career growth, but it never would have been a job opportunity she would have actively pursued on her own.
Now that you know Watchen career history, you can see that she’s certainly qualified to solicit advice to other black females trying to either change career paths or move up within their own companies/ organizations. Check out Watchen and I one on one interview below for more career tips and make sure to check out “The Climb” professional career summit. See you there!
Tavi J One on One Interview with the Vice President of Marketing Partnerships of the Chicago Sky Organization, Watchen Nyanue
You’ve worked for quite a few major companies and seem to have flawlessly changed positions quite a few times. In your opinion when do you know it’s the right time to move on to the next opportunity?
I think it depends on where you are in your career. At the place where I am although I’m technically an executive I’m still really focused on learning. I’m focused on learning and being aware of what my skill gaps are and then finding the opportunities that allow me to grow in that way. It’s not always fun, it’s not always easy….a lot of times it’s challenging.
I manage a team. I think everybody thinks that they want to manage a team until you actually have to manage a team. You’re managing different attitudes and learning styles. It’s hard…it’s rewarding, but it’s really hard. I think for me when I feel like I’m getting a little bit too comfortable and everything is being done on auto pilot it’s time for me to leave. When you do things on auto pilot is when you tend to make the most mistakes. When I’m no longer learning and when I feel like there’s no next level of learning or challenges… I need to leave. I have zero interest in solving the same problem over and over. So once I’ve solved whatever challenge or whatever thing I was brought in to do than I don’t feel the need to hang on.
Last year you started the Podcast called “I Choose the Ladder.” The Podcast features black female corporate executives sharing their journeys as Black women in Corporate America. What made you start the podcast?
I started “I choose the Ladder” when I realized my reality wasn’t every other black women’s reality. I’ve had mentors who literally helped me through everything since I was the age of 18, so I thought that everybody of course has that. I started having conversations with people and realized wait some people don’t have anyone to talk to when stuff happens. I was beginning to realize this more frequently with my black female friends. They thought they were stuck in their careers and were not having people they could go to for sound advice. So it was like what can I do to either help or open the access to the women that I know. Also, I love creating content around career stuff. So this is a way to sort of join both things and it’s pretty awesome.
Let’s talk a little bit about the career summit “The Climb.” Reading the agenda online I can see this summit is going to be extremely helpful for anyone looking to either make career changes, take their career to the next level, or even developing their side hustle. What makes this career summit different from other career summits?
This is not a women’s empowerment summit, although there will be empowering. My goal is for people to have tangible things they can take back to work with them on Monday. I don’t want fluffy things like it’s good to negotiate and that’s it. I want to give people language and real things they can hold on to.
One thing you’ll notice is everyone you learn from at the summit will be a black woman. Everyone is welcome to the summit but you will have to be comfortable learning from a black women because that will be who’s doing the teaching and the sharing of knowledge. I think you can expect some women who are really really invested in the next generation of female leaders. These are women who have accomplished a ton, who have networks that would blow your mind, but who also work really hard to earn the positions that they have. And these women feel like it’s part of their job to pay it forward to the next generation. So you’ll have people like Nicole who is the President of a labor union but also owns Pier 31. Talk about a side hustle! She’s the President and then runs Pier 31 which is a staple in summer time Chi. You’ll have someone like Tatianna who’s worked at the Viacom group for the longest time and now she’s one of like the highest ranking black women at the Indiana Pacers organization.
At the summit you’ll definitely get real advice and tactics, but you’re also expected to do some work. People can give you all the information that they have, but it doesn’t work unless you apply it. Expect to be challenged and to tell the executives teaching what you think about your career and how you’re approaching it. Also expect to meet some amazing people! The Friday night before the summit were hosting a game night. It’s a co-ed game night that is being sponsored by Mini Cooper. It’s like a game night and kickback like you had when you were in undergrad. There’s going to be food, drinks, and games so people can get to know each other the night before and then on Saturday you can focus on the content and not whose in the room.
I can’t wait for the Summit to learn new career tips and moves! Obviously you’re a career professional we should know, but why are you a Chicagoan WE should know?
I don’t know if I’m a Chicagoan you should know. I think I’m a Chicagoan whose worth you should know. I think when you focus on people knowing you, you tend to take your eyes off the work and I’m someone that says let the work speak for itself. My preference would be that people know my work and know that I was the person behind the work because there’s a certain level of respect that comes with that. People who know me know I’m someone who cares very deeply about the people. I remember when I moved from New York to Chicago. My frustration was people felt like they needed to leave Chicago in order to find the level of success they wanted. I’m someone who’s very much of the mindset everything we need is right here. I feel if I’m someone people should know it’s because I’m hoping to change the narrative on what success can look like for more people here in Chicago.
Make sure to check out Watchen Podcast “I Choose the Ladder” at ichoosetheladder.com
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