Former Foster Youth to Senior Leader of Global Non-profit

A little over a year ago, I was offered the role as the Director of Partnerships for Darkness to Light, a global nonprofit that empowers adults to prevent child sexual abuse. In my book, this position was the equivalent of playing the lottery for years, suddenly hitting and winning the big pay-off. Life for me, has been full or traumatic experiences, starting at a very early age. I was removed from my biological family abruptly and placed in foster care. The unintentional consequence of bouncing from family to family, created attachment issues for me. My childhood was tough and I wasn't able to catch a break until I was nineteen-years-old. (#triggerwarning) At nineteen, I left the home that stored hundreds of experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of my adoptive father who was a prominent pastor and respected community leader.

Years of trauma left an indelible impression on me. It couldn't taken me down a destructive path but instead, these experiences sparked a fire in me that now fuels my purpose. While life has made a turn for the better, it was an uphill battle. As a mission-driven person, I live my life in pursuit of my purpose. Being able to work in the nonprofit sector is rewarding. Not only do I get to impact lives, I get to be an example to hope for others. Now don’t get me wrong, there were many years that my profession did not directly align with my purpose. Nevertheless, every job led me closer to my dream job.

  • Being a cashier at a local discount store, helped me develop interpersonal skills. It also taught me time management, patience and how to work under pressure.

  • Working in the fast food industry taught me team-work, multitasking in a fast-faced environment and face-to-face customer service.

  • The 12+ years I spent, as an administrative professional taught me how to be resourceful, independent, self-motivating, organized and detail-oriented. I learned how to serve others with great humility.

No, these occupations didn’t always pay well and they weren’t always exciting. They did, however, provide the resources I needed to fund my actual passion. No matter what job I had, I never lost sight of my purpose. In August 2016, I launched my own nonprofit to help raise awareness and provide training for child sexual abuse prevention. I worked my full-time job while building my nonprofit. Three years later, I was invited to interview for a position that I never considered, felt completely under qualified for and didn’t think I was deserving of.

I applied, interviewed and here I am.

Darkness to Light’s leadership is committed to ending child sexual abuse and embracing personal responsibility to protect children. With the goal of exemplifying our mission and values, leadership is dedicated to creating an environment where courageous decisions can be made and innovations in child protection can thrive. Over the past year I’ve learned about my ability to lead as a director and the importance of being connected to an organization that aligns with my purpose. Here are a few things that I've learned about myself and how I fit in:

Inclusion & Diversity Matter: An organization that does not embrace inclusion and diversity won’t last long. As a woman of color, I want to do more than just diversify the room. I want to diversify the conversation. Inclusion is more than an invitation to the table. It is an invitation to the conversation that promotes change. I’m a part of an organization that recognizes the importance of inclusion and diversity.

Learning & Development Matter: Leadership is a lifelong learning process and it's my responsible to learn what I don't know. A great leader looks for ways to improve and develop. By asking questions, actively listening and researching, I've learned more in the last six months than I have in the past three years. It's important to have something of value to contribute to the conversation that promotes change.

Knowing Who You Are Matters: In order to lead effectively, I had to learn what kind of leader I am. According to my Predictive Index Personality Test, I am a promoter; A Promoter is a casual, uninhibited, and persuasive extravert with a tendency for informality. I am an outgoing, extraverted, very friendly individual, a talkative, enthusiastic, and persuasive person. A good mixer, poised and spirited in social situations. Informal and uninhibited in behavior and expression, I have an active interest in people, understands them well and am capable of using that understanding to gain the friendship and cooperation of others. I'm capable of expressing myself with persuasion, conviction, and authority even when knowledge of what they’re talking about is cursory or uncertain.

In regard to both the details of my work and the specific policies, standards, or rules governing it, my interest and concern are casual. If my position permits, details of the work will be delegated very freely. Cheerful and upbeat; makes friends, or meets the public, in a relaxed, casual manner, always “selling” in a general sense. I can communicate my own ideas or ideas that are originated by others with enthusiasm. I'm a patient, persistent person who is not easily discouraged by rejection, and has above average tolerance for repetitive activities involving communication and contact.

My Influence Style:

  • As an influencer, I am intuitively focused on the audience; connecting with others more on a personal level than on the specific details of the implementation or technical aspect of the idea or concept.

  • I'm steady and resolute in influencing others towards goals.

  • Unhurried and patient in answering questions; I am likely to use subtle persuasion and moderate pressure to move the process forward without making others feel rushed.

  • Very flexible; adjusts style based on who I'm with, and finds "outside the box" solutions through persistence, open thinking, and verbal communication.

  • Prepared in advance only as much as necessary; I rely on their ability to think on the spot and dynamically persuade others rather than making a plan to follow.

  • Better at influencing others about intangibles such as ideas or concepts.

Relationships Matter: I am a relationship-oriented person. I believe that healthy partnerships are a combination of consistency, dependability, genuine interest/concern and time. You get out of it what you put in. As a Director of Partnership, my role is about developing new, sustaining, large and enduring partnerships. That doesn't happen overnight. Just like any other relationship, it takes time to develop.

Your Team Matters: Being able to work independently doesn't mean that you have to do everything on your own. Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit. Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose. I utilize the resources I have within my team.

The greatest thing that I've learned about myself, is that I deserve to win. I am a woman of color, survivor of childhood trauma & sexual abuse, foster kid and single mother. The probability of beating the odds were low but not impossible. The hurts, hang-ups and heartbreaks from my past don't define how my future plays out. There were several statistics that I could've become, but didn't and I won't. I have been fortunate to use my painful past experiences to help shape my future into something beautiful for myself, my family and for others. I'm changing the narrative. I am proud of myself and grateful to be a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Darkness to Light. To go from a foster kid who struggled to build relationships to being a Director of Partnerships of a global nonprofit is something to be celebrated. #ImHome