Dr. Akilah Cadet

Images by Vanessa Acosta (@fromabolivian)

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

I was given the gift of severe depression.  I had a 9-5 job that was initially great and I was supervised by a woman of color. We were work/life besties commonly getting mistaking from one another as our names and skin tone were similar.  One day she accepted a HUGE position and took me with her to build a new office and team. After six months of doing a leadership and staff role, writing and awarded grant funding, she said “just kidding…I’m never going to pay you for your promotion and go back to your old job.”  I was betrayed! I thought women, especially women of color were supposed to support and protect one another. There’s more to the story (visit my blog or come hear me talk) but I was demoralized to the point that I was diagnosed with severe depression. I worked with a therapist for a while, but ultimately decided to Eat, Pray, Love it in Thailand for a couple weeks.  When I came back, I knew that I had to find a way to live and work in my passion and purpose. Not live as in that’s what you should do to be fulfilled in life, but truly live my life; I chose life.

I put my time and energy into building out Change Cadet, my organizational development consulting firm, which was a side hustle at the time.  I took time to reflect on my professional career and realized “isms” kept popping up. There were times where I felt too young, was discriminated against due to my education, gender, and ethnicity.  I thought to myself “this must happen to other women and people of color and I need to change that!” So, I rebranded Change Cadet to still include organizational development, but exclusively in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  My company provides strategic planning, ideation, and executive coaching for women, people of color and underserved communities. Our clients range from nonprofits, retail, to tech.

Every single day I get to work in my passion and purpose.  I love my boss aka me and I feel valued and appreciated by myself first and my clients second.  I am able to have an impact in the world, while motivating, inspiring, and changing the workplace full of opportunities for success for women and people of color! I say I have been given the gift of severe depression because everyday I have to choose to be happy meaning my professional and personal time must be reciprocal and a positive use of my time and energy.  And as weird as that sounds, I would not have it any other way.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. I know…I know. I am not the only woman who admires Beyoncé, but it is not for the music (which I love for the record), the fashion (I mean…), or fame.  It is because she is a MF boss and I love that! She is a multifaceted leader who knows what she wants. She is not afraid about what people will say about her or to say NO. She tells her truth when ready and profits millions of dollars along the way.  Beyoncé is her true authentic self and unapologetically Black. She never forgets where she came from acknowledging Houston, her family, and including Destiny’s Child in her biggest solo performances. She screams confidence (with her voice and various stages of curves) and empowers women at the same damn time. She is for me all the goals.  Beyoncé is one of the reasons I am not afraid to be myself fully, tell my story, talk about severe depression, and not be afraid to use my light and energy to uplift and inspire others. She is why I am confident with my shine. I would also like to add that we are both Virgos and a year and two days apart so it is a friendly competition between us. I know Beyoncé is winning, but I have just begun (#goals)! So yeah, here is my love letter to Beyoncé…feel free to send it to her.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

In today’s climate it so many people, leaders, organizations, groups, and powerful men are trying to break us; question our power as women.  There have been numerous times throughout history where women have come together to fight for equality and rights. But now there has been a shift where this important history has transformed into a burgeoning takeover. This is the time to celebrate ourselves and #whyItribe does just that!  It gives woman a space to acknowledge what they are doing for themselves and other women. It is a way to find community, fellowship, and to not feel alone. As women, especially women of color, we continually need to see role models and stories of inspiration to encourage positive change and sustain our confidence and power.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

I tell myself everyday that I am amazing.  In fact, my daily routine is get up, be amazing, go to bed.  I know it is simple and to some ego filled. But as someone who has bouts with depression there were times when I could not get out of bed. I questioned my value as I expected it from work, guys I was dating, friends, and family.  And there were many nights where I could not go to sleep as my mind was racing with negative thoughts or unnecessary overanalyzing of every move of the day (sometimes the week before). So, everyday I tell myself I am amazing, great, the shit, slay, and you got this!  Every time I say one of my greatest hits, I am reminded that I love myself, that I am living in my passion and purpose, and I am my true authentic self. It makes me feel honored to be able to be at a place in my life where I truly love myself first allowing me to help others do the same.  I feel unstoppable and excited about what will be next so why not cheer myself on along the way!

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

Women do a great job of supporting one another, but social media, society, and unfortunately some women not so much.  Social media has turned into unrealistic expectations resulting in women compromising their values or trying to live or portray and unrealistic life.  What this does is pulls away from self-love, passion, purpose, and being your true authentic self. If you cannot be yourself on social media, then there is a high chance you are unhappy and/or not fulling purpose or passion.  Society tells us when we need to be a certain weight, get married, have kids, and the level of acceptable independence as women. Since its not 1945, women are working, building business, bosses, traveling, taking birth control, loving who we want, and living our best lives.  Sometimes this means marriage is never or at 37, and kids are late 30s/40s, or happily not at all. “Society be yourself, no not like that” is a real thing for women. We are praised and celebrated to a certain extent for our independence, yet we also have to fulfill 1950s unrealistic values (mainly because men have written the rules) that limit the very independence we can have (and fought for).  This struggle can be hard for some women which is why you see some women give up on a dream job, family, or partner. Last, women on women crime. Like I shared earlier, being screwed over by a woman of color in the workplace was detrimental for me. We have all been in a situation where an important woman in our lives changed their tune usually due to jealously, success, or happiness. With so much hate in the world we need to celebrate that sometimes women have on the same outfit, are pregnant, built a business, are in a realationship, were featured in something; not haters or trolls.  We need to celebrate all women as by doing that we are celebrating ourselves.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

I was a former, no thank you, redirect the compliment, change the subject kind of women.  I could not take a compliment AT ALL. But as I started to love myself more and knew that I was pretty amazing, I realized that compliments were affirming my passion, purpose, goal, talents, or strengths that I knew I had.  Compliments are reminders that you are on the right path! So YES, I am inspirational; glad I was able to motivate you! Yes, I love my curls and curves too. And yes, I love that I am my true authentic self and comfortable in my own skin! I was able to build that muscle and realized that I deserved compliments and now I say thank you with a smile!  As women we do an excellent job of blocking our light and shine. We feel we are not worthy as society tells us that all the time. This is why THE TRIBE is important as it is a place to practice, reinforce, and celebrate women!

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

Our actions and words need to match.  I love #metoo, #timesup, and the Women’s March, because those movements and organizations are actions and words fitting like a perfect glove.  Women essentially need more movements to continually show that it is okay to say no, fight for what is right, and be treated with nothing but respect at home, in the workplace, and the world.  Women need to hold men and those in power accountable for negative actions that hold us down and set us back. To restore power, we need to hold negative forces accountable for their actions, run for office, and VOTE! Women need to continue to fight for our world, country, fellow women, families, children, and feminist men. But more importantly, we need to support each other and stand up for one another in the workplace where there is an abundance of discrimination and unfair treatment.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

The dictionary describes tribe as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.” Women are a culture. Women are community. Women are a tribe. With the leadership of Samata, a strong, successful, powerful, and stylish woman of color, paired with the solidarity, talent, and passion of THE TRIBE the movement is unstoppable.  I am happy to know that we have a place where we can be free, celebrate ourselves, support each other, feel empowered, and fuel our takeover.

Occupation: Founder and Executive Coach

Website: www.changecadet.com

Instagram: changecadet