Future-Proofing Your Career

Future Proofing

Future-Proofing Your Career 2020 Left to Right: Toni Penn, Tierra Mayo, and Allison Olivia Johnson.

Dear RVA Ladies,

We are certainly going to miss connecting with each of you this year for our annual Richmond MBA/Virginia Council of CEOs Future-Proofing Your Career (FPYC) event. It’s been a highlight gathering for us over the past three years. Dear RVA Ladies,

We were so fortunate last year to feature Courtney Moates Paulk as our keynote speaker before COVID-19 changed the course of our work routines...for much longer than we expected! Hopefully this year we’ll see improvements in our healthcare in regards to COVID-19 and healing in our nation overall. We all need this, and if we are successful, we will be able to come back even stronger next year! Information about our 2022 event will be forthcoming next fall. Stay tuned!

We don’t have a keynote this year, but we do want to share an inspirational story with you that is a beautiful reflection of the 2021 International Women’s Day theme. This year's campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge.  

A challenged world is an alert world.
Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions 
- all day, every day.
We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. 
We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements.
Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. 
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.

Our FPYC roundtable facilitator, Michele Rhudy, lived this challenge with her dear friend, Dr. Hollee Freeman. We share their story below for your inspiration and reading pleasure.

#ChooseToChallenge and warm regards, Debbie

Debbie Fisher
Associate Director
Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business 
Robins School of Business

Future Proofing

Dr. Hollee Freeman and Michele Rhudy, CEO and President of Rhudy & Co. Strategic Communications, met for a chat at Nutty Buttery in Richmond, Va.

What Happened When a Black Woman Took Over My Social Media and What Dr. Hollee Freeman Taught Me

History may tell tales of 2020 as the year humanity broke. Yet, that would not be the full story. As painful as some of it has been – in fact, acutely painful for many – it has also been a year of healing. Some ideals and norms were long overdue to break.

Like most decent people living inside the system of white privilege, recent years have shown me the truth of racism, and it has broken my heart. I thought I knew at least a few things about systemic racism yet had to face the fact that I actually knew nothing at all. This awareness was shameful and painful and raw. I wanted to hide from it. And then, as God tends to do for me, He sent me a teacher, this time in Dr. Hollee Freeman.

Hollee, a fellow Richmonder, and I were randomly paired for a social media experiment called Mic Share RVA, imagined by Amanda Moore of Humans for Good. For this experiment, Black women posted on their white teammates’ social media accounts for a week to build awareness of their choosing to the white teammates’ audience. The ask of the Black teammate was disproportionately draining and hard, but my partner rose high to the occasion.

Future Proofing

Left to right: Michele Rhudy with her daughter, Hannah, and Dr. Hollee Freeman with her daughter, Danielle, at the Elegba Folklore Society in Richmond, Va.

About Dr. Freeman

Hollee is an entrepreneur, educator, gardener, author, photographer, beekeeper, and generally amazing human being. She and I had a deeply endearing time getting to know one another through honest talks, some of which we shared with the digital world and some we did not. When the week concluded, we were both tired, yet hopeful for change to occur in the Richmond community we both treasure.

What I Learned

Hollee is a naturally gifted teacher. And now, having taken a couple of months to intentionally reflect on that experience, here is what I learned from her:

  1. My Black friends came to my world. As naïve as that sounds, I never realized it. My amazing Black friends are my friends because they came into predominantly white communities. I realized I had made zero effort to make friends in predominantly Black communities, and as shameful as that is, the true shame is what I have missed as a result.
  2. We need to be very intentional about our spaces, to invite new people into our worlds. Hollee and I took two field trips to places in Richmond I’d never been. One was the Nutty Buttery Café (a delightful Black-owned bakery), and the other was a section of downtown filled with Black-owned businesses. These field trips were warm, accepting, and excitingly new. And yet, they were so very simple. Just as we travel for new experiences and perspectives, we can also find them in our hometowns.
  3. Being an ally doesn’t mean we have to be ashamed. There’s a lot of pain and anger in the race and equity conversations of late and it’s justified. But I don’t believe white people (or any majority group) deserve to feel ashamed simply for the experiences or perspectives they lack. I own my white privilege but am not ashamed of who I am, or the journey I’m on.
  4. Self-care is a form of resistance. It’s not only okay, but it’s also necessary. Self-care prepares us to show up in the world better, stronger and braver. It gives us the chops to participate in a 2020 world. I have made 2020 a year of self-care and discovered that I’m a better version of myself because of it.
  5. Showing up with a kind and loving acceptance is also a form of resistance. An open heart is healing. The world needs fighters and healers. There’s room for the angry protesters and those who believe in consensus building. Hollee affirmed my own experience that loving acceptance drives just as much change as anger and fighting.
  6. Representation matters. Hollee taught me to look at every magazine rack I encounter and see how many Black women grace the covers. Spoiler alert: not nearly enough. So now, Hollee and I send each other photos of public magazine racks we have rearranged to showcase Black women. It’s a tiny act but give it a try. It feels mischievously powerful.
  7. Of all the things my new friend Hollee taught me, the most important is this: You have to have a relationship to have a meaningful, authentic, and honest conversation. Holding space for others and walking into that space when given the chance is where bridge building, community, and love happen.

In this year that humanity broke, are you trying to be part of gluing it back together? It’s hard, uncomfortable work, but the rewards are bigger than you can possibly imagine. Even when you’re just getting started.

Learn more about Dr. Hollee Freeman here, or check out her So Good, Soul Good writing classes at The Innerwork Center. And by all means, buy her new children’s book Muddy Ballerinas. 

Also, for perspective on capitalization of ‘Black’ vs. ‘white,’ here’s some food for thought.

Michele Rhudy is the CEO and president of Rhudy & Co., a strategic communications firm, she started in 2003. Lately, she’s looking for pockets of joy, happiness, and personal growth during the pandemic.