Never Underestimate the Power of a Broad Network – An Interview with Sharon Smith-Akinsanya
As her bio states, Sharon Smith-Akinsanya is truly a force of nature. She took chances, made pivots and kept moving forward no matter what was happening. And, most critically, she understands that it is the relationships you build along the way that assist you when you need them most. As she calls it, “the power of a ‘million dollar rolodex’.” But truly authentic relationships require work and a willingness to give as much as you get. And that willingness to serve is what gave her the vision to develop the People of Color Career Fair in response to a significant strategic need in her region. The POC Career Fair along with the work she does through her consulting firm, Rae Mackenzie Group, in the diversity-equity-inclusion space serves to close the employment gap among people of color in the region in a way that is authentic, repeatable and sustainable.
About the Guest:
Sharon Smith-Akinsanya | CEO, Rae Mackenzie Group, and Founder, People Of Color Career Fair and the author of the upcoming book, COLORFULL, Competitive Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent Of Color—available in online in November and in bookstores everywhere in February 2021.
Sharon Smith-Akinsanya is a force of nature whose life’s work is to foster connectivity between corporations and People of Color by helping corporate leaders positon their companies in a way to attract, recruit, develop, and retain Talent of Color. Her proven successes are why Fortune 500 companies refer to her as their “secret weapon.”
Sharon is an equity mentor, a diversity guru, and an anti-bias whisperer. She has an innate ability to address difficult topics without blame or shame. Her authenticity drives powerful, meaningful conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion that many leaders never thought possible. Always a compelling speaker and advisor, Sharon can convince the most intractable audience to be more open-minded, even in the face of their own discomfort.
From her early years as a media sales rep in markets that ignored Black consumers to creating media strategies for the legendary musician Prince, Sharon’s vast expertise includes decades of honing strategy, attaining high-level results, and producing events with flawless execution.
Today, Sharon is the CEO of Rae Mackenzie Group, Inc.–Minnesota’s top diversity, equity, and inclusion marketing firm–and founder of the People Of Color Career Fair. Her work with Fortune 500 companies like U.S. Bank, Best Buy, Midco, Andersen Windows & Doors, Target, and more, centers on teaching corporations how to prioritize cultural connectivity as part of their retention strategy. By doing so, not only do companies strengthen relationships with current employees, but they also open opportunities to Talent of Color.
Sharon believes in sparking big change from the inside-out and getting big results. Her innovative ideas create impactful opportunities for all involved. Through the People Of Color Career Fair, Sharon turned her desire to connect Professionals of Color with life-changing careers into a wildly successful semiannual hiring event attended by hundreds at a time, and supported by the top political and business leaders in the region.
Although Sharon’s firm focuses on initiatives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, she firmly believes that by solving problems in her own backyard, she and her clients can lead by example. She wants the companies she supports to become DEI rockstars and serve as examples to other corporations on how to take the journey.
Sharon’s book, COLORFULL, Competitive Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent Of Color—will be available in online in November and in bookstores everywhere in February 2021.
About the Host:
Laurel Rutledge’s human-centered approach, empathy, and understanding of individual needs make her a top-notch personal advisor and women’s leadership coach.
Her care and compassion have made her an indispensable guide for countless women navigating the next phases of their lives and careers. Add to that her intimate knowledge of the HR landscape, and it becomes clear why her HR clients have had such transformative experiences. Just as Rutledge has helped countless others get out of their rut and off of the ledge, so too can she help you.
After receiving her MBA, Laurel moved from accounting and consulting to human resources, driven by a desire to do good in a business environment. It quickly became apparent that the switch had been a good choice — she flourished professionally and became happier, satisfied with the difference she could make through her work.
After a 30-year career, she left the corporate world, but her passion for HR and helping others has only grown. Now, she works one-on-one with clients, leveraging her experience in leadership and personal development to help them get the most of out their lives and careers.
From her beginnings as a consultant at Deloitte to her time as VP of HR at Covestro, Laurel has seen more sides of the business world than most. She’s achieved technical mastery of HR, with a deep knowledge of the rules and regulations that must be followed.
She’s also a people person, perceptive and outgoing, with a sixth sense for helping others to see the difference between what they want and what they need. The culmination of this is in her personal philosophy: “lead with your heart, act with your head.”
Find out more at: https://laurelrutledge.com
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