It's difficult to find big enough words to describe the dynamic, focused, and energizing nature of Tracy Akinade.
Long-time OutGrowth supporter, Tracy began as a participant and has moved on to become a student mentor, a facilitator and a speaker for OutGrowth's student events. She lights up every room she enters, and her pathway and her outlook invigorate us to build our best lives.
If you haven't already had the chance, check out Tracy's November En Root feature, Bloom Where You're Planted: Beauty in the Transition Phase. Prepare to be inspired by Tracy's life and journey, and her words to those of us who may be contemplating our next steps.
Now, for our rapid-fire Q+A--
Tell us about your personal and professional path to date.
No genuine path could ever be straight!
If you're leading with your heart and pure faith, it will take you places you didn't expect. I am currently a dual-degree master’s candidate at The Johns Hopkins University in the areas of PR and Crisis Communication, and an MBA in leading organizations.
But before that, I worked for five years as a team manager for Kohl’s Department Stores Corporate Call Center. I managed teams of associates that helped customers shop online and manage their Kohl’s Charge Card accounts before I stopped and realized, “this is not what I went to school for.”
By this point, I was tired. E X A U S T E D. And also, truly unhappy. Although my role as a young leader in management showed me I could develop and lead others, I desperately needed to get back to my love for communications work. I needed to get back in alignment with what I knew was waiting on me. But no one would hire me. Even with many transferable skill sets, no one in the PR world would take a chance on me.
I see now it was a guided push to literally force me into a new season of transition. So I quit, moved back home to Houston, and worked as a non-profit account manager while I pursued getting into graduate school. I also moved in with my older brother and his family and helped raise my niece and nephew while I slowly regained a sense of myself. In about a year and 4 months I was on my way to DC to start school in the fall. I literally sold all my belongings, kept what mattered and could fit in my car, and road-tripped to the start of something new and carved out just for me.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Tell us about your approach to pathway carving, and what this concept of access has meant for you.
You know that constant tug at your heart you avoid until you realize it won’t leave? Yeah.
I was at a Farm to Business event for OutGrowth and Carey Business School and felt God tell me to “put myself out there.” I connected with a team member at the farm, told her what I was in school for, and kept in contact. That gave me access to a new opportunity to serve. I think pathway carving involves pure honesty and openness. Being honest with yourself, what you are sensing, and being open to what you realize in the process.
Tell us about a pinnacle point or moment in your personal or professional pathway.
I ended up working at that farm a couple months later to build and present a presentation on personal branding. It was for men who were previously incarcerated and wanted to better themselves. I’ve always been clear on my gifts and talents in communicating, but to create an experience and build a curriculum for others to leave with actionable items showed me I could do this. A simple connection at an OutGrowth Farm to Business event turned into much more.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
It showed me I could really give my best self in tangible value form to impact someone. Deep down, I’ve always wanted to find my own way in business and work in direct contact with people. Those one-on-one personalized experiences travel very far and run much deeper. My outlook is so positive now and I’m determined to see where this could go.
What would you say are the top three most important steps that students and young professionals can take today to carve our a meaningful path?
1. Get clear of your gifts and talents. What do people seek you out for? Understanding the way you are designed, and your unique skills, and intricacies help carve out your path to knowing how to show up in life.
2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Learn to check in with yourself even when it’s painful and you’re not sure how to feel. You tend to find direction and recourse much quicker when you deal with your emotions.
3. Assemble a strong support and faith system. You can’t do life alone. Quality over quantity. Decide your faith path to follow and own it. Know who is truly rooting for you and that will always remind you who you are.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“Don’t take advice from people who have not been where you’re trying to go.”
What are some words of wisdom that you would offer students exploring the possibility of an immersive experience as a component of building their own way forward?
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Immerse yourself in new environments and try new experiences to find out what you’re made of.”
What is your favorite quote? “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2019-2020?
I want to start writing more and developing my talents as a communicator and leader at Hopkins.
Tracy Akinade is a writer, organizer, and communicator rooted in amplifying the global voice of women. She's passionate about all things culture and diversity, adding color to any space she fills. She's currently a dual-degree master’s candidate at The Johns Hopkins University pursuing a degree in PR and Crisis Communication, and an MBA in leading organizations. In prior roles, she led teams in retail and non-profit work for the community. Family means the most to her, so you can always catch her hanging with her siblings and loving on her niece and nephews.