Conference and Museum Visit Will Shape My Year

February 10, 2020 by Jennifer White

When I recently visited the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., during a conference trip with 18 other African American leaders from Darden, I had an epiphany: I would be more intentional about my career growth in 2020.

It happened as I took a few moments to reflect in the museum’s Contemplation Court, where a fountain rains from the ceiling into a pool. I felt a sense of peace and calm from the soothing sound after walking through the difficult history of my ancestors.

When I thought about where my people started and where I am today — a Seasons 52 brand manager for the last four of my five years at Darden — the trip to attend the Executive Leadership Conference Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium affected me not only professionally but personally.

I was enlightened and energized during candid talks at the conference, a two-day professional development seminar for 1,000 high-performing black managers and leaders that was packed with leadership lessons and networking opportunities. We discussed our career journeys and heard from executives and CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies.

There was a common thread, and it was this: Everyone, at some point in their career, had faced opposition. Like me, they had faced challenges in their professional development but had overcome them. Maybe they felt as if they couldn’t be themselves at work or were uncertain navigating in a new position, but they had found their stride.

This struggle was crystallized by a quote I encountered by civil-rights leader Dorothy Height at the museum: “Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.” What I learned, heard about and experienced at the conference came together and helped me resolve to be intentional about my professional development.

I’m grateful for my challenging work, and I’m grateful to Darden for choosing me to learn and grow along with other black leaders.