Lady Bosses, millennial lady bosses

Career Conversations : Brianna McCullough

We love catching up on how black millennial women are doing in their perspective workplaces and learning about their career progression. We caught up with Brianna McCullough after reading her article on how to be “9-5er in an entrepreneurship culture”.  As millennials, we are so caught up with doing our “own” thing that we often shun people for not wanting to start their own business or being creative enough.In all honesty, there is nothing wrong with just aspiring to be in a leadership role at your organization. Brianna is one of those millennials who aspires to leadership within her organization and she is giving advice to young black women who have the same goals.

imageAn ambitious and confident 24 year old woman who pursues everything she desires, Brianna McCullough is a writer and Integration Architect at 3M in Minneapolis, MN.Since her journey started in corporate America, Brianna has presented on the stage of the Minneapolis Google Developers fest, spoke at Ernst and Young, and was presented with an award as a “Pioneer Women In Technology” in 2017.  With a wildly ambitious heart, Brianna seeks to grow the underrepresented community in technology through leadership, mentorship, and accountability.

How did you position yourself in college to be where you are now?

Positioning yourself in college for me was all about interning and always being curious and  willing to learn. I originally went to college to be a doctor and I hated every moment of it from the day I actually started to the day I changed my mind ( 2 years later). Looking back, I wasted so much time because I was so hung up one what people might think if I changed my major, I didn’t want to lose my prestige of wanting to be a “doctor” and I didn’t want to be labeled as a quitter.

During my junior year of college,  I took a risk and left to intern in Washington, DC for close to a year and that is when I actually stepped into my purpose. I took on a variety of internships just to really explore what it was I actually wanted to do with my life.The one internship that stuck the most was in healthcare technology working at the Lombardi Cancer Center in Georgetown. There I did research on cyberknife radiation and I’ve been working in the medical device industry ever since. It’s meaningful work and it connects me to my higher self.

Did you have a lot of female mentors growing up? Particularly women of color?

My first mentors were actually men which might be shocking but in the technology space it’s very common. My second mentor was a white woman and I didn’t get my first professional mentor that is a woman of color until last year.

The thing with working in a space where a lot of people don’t look like you is that you will find it very hard to find mentorship immediately. It’s not because the higher ups don’t want to help, but it’s more so that they get requests for mentorship all the time and being a mentor is WORK too (I didn’t understand this until I became one myself).

Don’t wait for someone who looks like you to summon you into mentorship, learn from those around you in the meantime. Mentorship is mainly about organic and genuine relationships with people whom you admire and that’s the main thing to take into consideration.

Were you always interested in the tech space  or did you just discover that desire on your  journey?

Technology was a passion I discovered on my journey, I would have never thought I would be thriving in a space like this. I went from studying human biology, to social science, to computer science (it’s safe to say I love all the sciences). I knew my career path would be in STEM but I didn’t really find my place until I became an intern.

“The thing with working in a space where a lot of people don’t look like you is that you will find it very hard to find mentorship immediately. It’s not because the higher ups don’t want to help, but it’s more so that they get requests for mentorship all the time and being a mentor is WORK too (I didn’t understand this until I became one myself)”

Not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur and that is okay. What advice do you have for recent grads who want to thrive in the corporate environment?

For my recent grads

  1. INTERN– I can’t say this enough. Internships are the single most important way to figure out what you do and do not like. Don’t get hung up on big name internships either, and remember you can always learn from those around you.
  2. Be Fearless– I’ve moved TWICE since I graduated from undergrad. My first job out of college was actually not wit 3M, it was with Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, MO. Don’t be afraid to move around and take the road less traveled. Playing it safe in life will only get you so far, you have to take some risks.
  3. Failure Is Inevitable– Failures are learning experiences, things can and WILL go wrong but how you grow from your failures is what is important.
  4. You Don’t Have To Be The Boss To Be A Boss-

“Focus on finding roles where you can learn, grow, and develop most. Make sure you work for someone you admire, and that your manager can be a mentor and champion for you in your career today but also for the years to come”

Do you have mentors at 3M?  Are they women of color? Advice for finding mentors in the corporate space?

I actually do have mentors at 3M. My manager has been very essential in my growth during my time here and I also have found many through 3M’s African American Network. The quickest way to find mentorship within your organization is to get involved and be friendly with the ones who work around you. The best thing is to find a mentor that you admire. Not your manager or even someone in your department, but someone you respect professionally. Bounce ideas off your mentor, work with him/her on issues that arise at work, and glean information to help your development as a professional.

Also, be specific and intentional about your goals. Me and my manager have monthly 1:1’s to discuss goals/ potential new projects and leadership opportunities. Don’t wait for someone to come to you and give you what you want, step up to the plate and go to them.

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