Name: Charles Kuykendoll
Current Title: PHD Recruiter, Facebook
Industry: Tech Prior
Professional Experience: Barclays Capital (4 yrs) Operations, International Market Recruiters (2 yrs) Agency Recruiting, JP Morgan (Associate Recruiter) (1 yr)
Education: DePauw University (2009)
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
Being open to change and having flexibility are the most important professional lessons I’ve learned. During my career in Finance, as well as Tech, strategies and priorities change, so the way you’ve become accustomed to operating has to change. I’ve been through mergers and acquisitions and broad shifts in global strategy on a macro level. And on a micro level I’ve had project priorities shift, system modifications, and leadership changes. The people who accepted, adapted, and applied themselves to the new environment, were often viewed as change agents or go to people in times of ambiguity. There’s a lot of growth opportunity for those who can pivot quickly and don’t view change as a negative.
What has been your biggest professional setback to date and what have you learned from that experience?
My biggest setback was pursuing a career change and being let go shortly after starting in my new role. I truly worked hard to be successful, but it simply wasn’t the right fit. That experience humbled me. It taught me how to accept and apply feedback, as well as how to identify gaps in my own approach to my work to ensure that it never happened again. That setback opened the door for a career change that I never would have admitted I wanted and in hindsight, was the best thing that ever happened to me.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
I believe there is a misconception amongst people of color that you have to be two people. Your work self and your home self. I, for many years presented the “representative of Charles Kuykendoll” and not the real person out fear of being judged, looked at as unprofessional by my counterparts, and quite frankly, I was overly jovial to ensure I never got the “angry black man” stigma. It didn’t feel right being unable to be my authentic self or ever show that I was having a bad day. I worked tirelessly to position myself to be able to work for a company that valued diversity and encouraged me to who I am. But, prior to that when the corporate environment didn’t lend itself to that approach, I conformed to cultural norms of my work place and let my work speak for me and nothing else. The impact of fitting in to corporate culture and delivering assisted me in advancing my career quicker than my peers. In review sessions, it was always tangible impact that led discussions for me. Other colleagues who did not conform as well, even if their work output was strong, often found maturity, professionalism, and “culture fit” were conversation points instead of their work. I worked hard to avoid this.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
While there are no specific professional resourced I use, I believe it’s important to surround yourself with an upward mobile friend group. My friends and I are constantly pushing each other to be greater and have set the expectation for each other very high. We help each other to continue to strive for more. Being the most well off person in your circle means you’re in the wrong circle. I lean on my friends for everything from resume reviews to advice on dealing with work-related scenarios. More simply, I also use their successes to continue to fuel my own ambitions.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I have many mentors. There’s so much you do not know and asking the right question to the right person can help your career in so many different ways. I select mentors based on my profession, their position, and shared experiences/comfort level I have with them to ensure we can both be as transparent as needed. Transparency is important in order to have an honest conversation with your mentor to receive constructive feedback. There are certain pitfalls, best practices, and contacts that can be leveraged from your mentor IF you are willing to discuss pain points, concerns, and the issues you face in an intentional way. Complain to your friends, mentors should be leveraged to help you strategically address concerns with the goal of being solution oriented.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
My advice for someone gearing up to start their first job post college is to simply work as hard as you can! Every role is a growth opportunity even if it’s not exactly what you see yourself doing long term. Develop an impeccable professional reputation and strong work output because those two things can take you further than anything else.