It’s no secret that the Black man is one of the great wonders of the world. Even with proven physical, intellectual and creative ability, challenges are inevitable for the Black man, especially in corporate America. With Black, Millennial men, challenges and successes come at different rates with unique opportunities attached. How does one do it?  The Mogul Millennial has interviewed two incredible men forging their own paths and successes in corporate America and doing so unapologetically. They get honest, raw and real about their experiences, fears, successes and ultimate vision for their futures.

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Name: Gary Bushrod

Title: Learning & Development Leader

Company: Capital One

Location: New York, New York

Job Duties: I build learning and development strategies and lead the creation of innovative learning solutions for the Commercial Bank across a variety of learning delivery modalities including classroom, eLearning, virtual instructor-led, mobile, video and other emerging digital learning modalities.

Two accomplishments you’ve made in the corporate arena: (1) I served as the global lead for the Risk Analyst program at JPMorgan Chase & Co. This program, held simultaneously in New York, Bangalore and London aimed to acclimate junior employees in the Risk organization by providing overviews of the various Risk initiatives at the firm, connecting them with Risk executives, and cultivating a strong peer network. (2) I participated as an Industry Professional panelist for the Division of Learning Technologies at George Mason University in 2017, and the NYU School of Professional Services in 2016.

Two challenges you’ve faced or are facing in corporate America: 

(1) Transitioning from the teachings that “this (and only this) is what’s considered professional in Corporate America” to thriving by actually bringing my whole self to work. I believe the “old school” way of trying to look extremely buttoned up at all times was not only stifling my professional growth but putting a strain on how I felt even outside of the office environment.

(2) Being able to balance having a full-time job with being a wanderlust that loves to travel. 

Fears, hesitance or weariness as you climb the ladder: A question that I always ask myself is “How is what I do professionally fulfilling what I am passionate about?” When I ask myself that question and realize that it’s not happening, I then take a step back and recalibrate my approach. Fortunately, I have been able to work with organizations that allow me to marry my day-to-day responsibilities with meaningful work like diversity and inclusion initiatives and creating a culture of belonging in the corporate arena. A downside to working for big firms is that at times it can be extremely difficult to be recognized for your work and thus making it hard to advance in your career. I’ve found that sometimes promotion criteria and consideration isn’t the fairest, and that can really take a toll on morale.

What is something unique to the Black experience in corporate America? 

Historically, there seemed to have been a feeling that being “professional” meant hiding your blackness. “Don’t feel annoyed that MLK Day is not recognized by the firm as a holiday. Don’t show that you’re upset with the racial strife and tragedies going on in the country that directly impact your community. Don’t show your excitement for films like Black Panther.” Haha! These are just small examples of things that have gone through the minds of my peers and myself over the years. I do think a shift is happening, however, and it’s being led and championed by…you guessed it…millennials! They are not subscribing to the pre-defined idea of what is “professional.” Black millennials are insistent on being themselves and companies are actually adjusting. I think this is great, especially from the perspective of a Black man.

What is your overall corporate goal? I’d like to become a mogul in the area of Learning & Development and Executive Coaching. Ideally, I’d love to work with large organizations to assure they are developing their talent in the most effective way possible while helping them master core values that will help their organization and its employees thrive.

Advice you’d give to mentees wanting to follow in your footsteps: Be your own brand! Do not get lost trying to simply master the competencies for your current role. You are a brand in and outside of the office, and if you keep this at the forefront of your mind when working, it should be quite easy to operate with excellence. 

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Name: Erik Henneghan
Title: Project Manager

Company: Dufresne Spencer Group

Location: Memphis, TN

Job Duties: Being a project manager is more than just spreadsheets and emails. In my role, I am literally the one helping to hold everything and everyone together – from coordinating people and managing personalities to making sure things stay within budget. I help lead the charge on executing specific construction redesign projects from beginning to end. Most of my duties entail planning, budgeting, vendor management, and being client savvy with a keen focus on quality, efficiency and accuracy.

Two accomplishments you’ve made in the corporate arena: I’ve had the privilege of having some up close and personal, hands-on experiences in my career that have really helped me to hone in on my strengths and succeed. Two accomplishments I am proud of are: 1. Working on the MLK50 project in Memphis – This was a yearlong plan in the making that coordinated many events, organizations and people to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. While I may not have been around during his life, being a part of his ongoing legacy in such a meaningful way was a great accomplishment. On the more technical side of things, I am proud of developing an onboarding process for more than 100 employees for a distribution company during an acquisition. This was an accomplishment where I finally saw the fruits of my labor become a reality.

Two challenges you’ve faced or are facing in corporate America: As a minority in the corporate world, I think the toughest challenges for me have been finding the right place for me to grow and prosper as a professional without losing myself in the process. One of the things I realized early on in my professional career is that corporate cultures vary, and some just are not the right “fit” for me personally. I have worked in many different settings – ones where I have been the youngest, the only Black male (or male period), and even some where I have had different perspectives, values and views. Every place is not for everybody and while it can sometimes be necessary to “play the game”, I have had to be even more intentional about the places (and people) I am willing to work for and not just accept or be complacent because of the pay or job.

Also, as someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, it has sometimes been hard working for somebody else’s vision and profits. This is what motivated me to develop my own marketing management and solutions firm, Presidential South Management. With it, I have been able to take some of the experience I am gaining in the corporate world and focus it into my personal passions as well. I fully appreciate the skills and experience that working in corporate America is affording me, but I also appreciate having a “do what you have to do so you can to do what you want to do” mentality.

Fears, hesitance or weariness as you climb the ladder: Corporate America is traditionally such a structured environment, and as such it is easy to succumb to the “kool-aid” and the hierarchy. It can be exhausting excelling and always having to prove yourself yet some less than stellar colleague gets the promotion. Sometimes I find myself hesitant or even second guessing my own strengths which in turn leads to fears of not succeeding because I did not take the chance or the risks to get there. I think we all get tired here and there, which is why I think it is important to find mentors and have a support system around you to help encourage, push, or even carry you up a few rungs when you are too hesitant, scared or exhausted to do so on your own. 

What is something unique to the Black experience in corporate America? Simply put, we grind harder. I think this is because we are built to do so, but also because we have to. We have to show up early; we have to still put on our loafers when everyone else is wearing jeans and t-shirts; we have to go above and beyond. As Black people in corporate America, all eyes are on us always. It is unique, perhaps in a very racially under-toned way, but I think our ability to rise above that is what makes us grind even more to prove the stereotypes wrong and find success.

What is your overall corporate goal? Ultimately, I hope to gain as much experience as possible so that I can lead a corporation one day. The keyword being lead because not only do I want to have the knowledge and vision of a company executive, but I also want to be a strong example and role model for other aspiring professionals that are coming up through the ranks. 

Advice you’d give to mentees wanting to follow in your footsteps: Educate and expose yourself to different experiences early and often. Be patient because nothing comes overnight, so you have to grind and work hard for it. Make sure you establish a balance between work and family. And at the core of all you do, make sure you are and remain a person of integrity, fairness, and professionalism.

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