Name: Imani Davis
Hometown: Piscataway, NJ
Current Title: Category Sales Manager - Women’s by Nike, Asia Pacific Latin America
Industry: Consumer goods / Retail
Prior Professional Experience: Pre-MBA: 5 years in corporate philanthropy; Current: 3 years at Nike
Education: MBA: Michigan Ross School of Business; MA & BA in Communication: Rutgers University
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
“Be the leader you’d love to work for” and “be the employee you’d love to hire” -- these two statements help me to consistently reflect on how I’m showing up to ensure it’s the best representation of myself and my abilities.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience
During business school, I was convinced that consulting was the best path for me. However, in spite of all the mock cases, interview prep and networking I did, I did not receive offers from any of the firms where I was convinced I wanted to work. To add insult to injury, I was a board member of the Consulting Club, making this a hugely public failure, at least in my mind.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to spend my summer at a consulting firm, I went into overdrive, leveraging all of the resources available at Michigan to find the best internship possible and ultimately ended up at Nike, which has been a phenomenal fit for me. This failure taught me two things: first, to more critically evaluate why I’m pursuing certain roles, companies, etc. to ensure I’m always being true to myself in these pursuits (and not following the crowd); and second, I learned to rethink failure. We can be so hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve a certain goal, completely second guessing ourselves and wondering if we are good enough, instead of simply taking the situation as an opportunity to learn from what didn’t work out and reassessing how to proceed. One “no” does not undo all of the “yes” you’ve heard up until this point in your journey; one setback does not make you a failure. Acknowledge the situation, learn what you can, and continue to move forward. You are here for a reason!
What issues have you dealt with being a woman/person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
The biggest issue I’ve always faced is around making sure I’m being authentic and true to myself. As a Black woman, sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m “other” because I am the “only” -- the only woman, the only person of color, the youngest person, etc. Instead of seeing these attributes as negatives, I’ve learned to see them as positives -- all of my experiences, personal and professional, give me a unique perspective that is a benefit to my teams and whatever problem we are trying to solve. I’ve learned that dialing down who I am to fit in is actually a detriment to my teammates, and myself, instead of a benefit, and any organization that does not appreciate me in totality is not a place I need to work.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I’ve tried to create a “Board of Directors” of about five people of varying levels of seniority and backgrounds who I can go to when seeking advice, both personal and professional. I’ve met my “board” through various professional projects or other trusted colleagues, and they are all leaders who I aspire to be like, very well respected throughout the organization, and have shown an unbiased interest in my career and success. It takes time to cultivate these kinds of relationships, but I’ve generally found that it’s pretty clear from the first meeting if a potential mentor is a good fit for me and vice versa; go with your gut.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Pay very close attention to what you like to do: What gives you energy? How do you like to spend your time? What classes do you most enjoy? What are you passionate about? Figuring what you like to do will help you better assess what kinds of roles and companies will be a good fit for you so that you can do your best work.
Why did you decide to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree? OR Why did you decide to go back to graduate school and what are you hoping it will enable you to do next?
I decided to pursue my MBA to pivot from corporate philanthropy to more general management opportunities -- I enjoyed what I was doing, but didn’t want to be pigeonholed as someone who could only do one type of work. I also wanted to explore leadership -- the soft and hard skills required to lead major corporations and the pathways available to this level of leadership. Business school -- through classes, internships, and travel -- helped me achieve both of these goals, while also introducing me to wonderful people to whom I will be connected to for the rest of my life.