Name: Ashley Brown
Company: Under Armour
Current Title: Senior Manager, Strategic Execution - Global Product
Industry: Retail/ Sporting Goods
Education: B.A., Finance & Africana Studies, University of Notre Dame - Mendoza College of Business
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
Your network is critical to your success. Invest in strong relationships with your peers, leaders, and mentors. These relationships will help you navigate your career.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
When I first started my professional career, I had a tough relationship with one of my managers. I gave my company-assigned sponsor negative, but constructive, feedback about this relationship. My sponsor went back and shared the details with my manager and it only made our relationship worse. I learned that it’s really important to have direct and transparent conversations with your team especially when as it relates to developmental feedback. It is important that you be prepared for and ready to have crucial, but sometimes uncomfortable, conversations because it is highly likely you’ll be asked to do this throughout your career.
What issues have you dealt with being a woman/person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
An immediate issue I’ve faced was insensitive and unprofessional comments. It is intimidating to think about correcting someone in the workplace, especially someone in a position of power. That said, I’ve learned to be true to my values and what I know is right. I’ve gracefully and professionally pushed back on unacceptable comments and over time become more comfortable in doing so. In addition to challenges with finding my voice in the workplace, I’ve also struggled with having a seat at the table. Sometimes you can outperform your peers, but still may not be the first person that leaders think of for a new opportunity or stretch project. I’ve learned to be visible, to speak up about what opportunities I’m seeking, and to be impeccable about the quality of my work. As a person of color, have really have to grind to get respect you deserve while others may get the benefit of the doubt.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
When I identify an area of development for myself, I try to reach out to those who I think are masterful in this area. I set up time to ask them key questions and recommendations on how I can develop the skills they appear to have so effortlessly. I also continue to have open conversations with my management to ensure that I have access to trainings, conferences, etc. to develop these skills. It’s also helpful to think about setting real goals for yourself, both short- and long-term. Write down those goals and hold yourself accountable to measuring progress.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I have a group of mentors who are like my personal Board of Directors. I call on them for all major life and career decisions as well as any challenges that I may be facing. They are from a diverse set of backgrounds, levels, and cultures but the one commonality is that they give me honest feedback. I have found this group of mentors organically based on people that I admire for their experienced point of view and charisma. It can range from a business leader I’ve supported in the past, a college professor who was engaging, a teammate who I’ve been in the trenches with, or a thought leader that I’ve met at a conference. When I find a connection with someone like that, I make a strong effort to keep the relationship going.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Humble yourself and get ready for a transition! When you start your first job, you will most likely be in a brand new environment – new city, new colleagues, new industry, new processes, etc. It can be overwhelming. You will have moments of insecurity and self doubt. Be encouraged! Be confident! No one expects you to have all the answers. Instead, the expectation is that you are professional, hard-working, and hungry to learn. Immerse yourself in this experience and take advantage of every opportunity to grow.