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Building My Career Path at We Work for Change

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This guest blog features Sidney Richardson, a DeBruce Career Corps member and senior at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Sidney, along with DeBruce Career Corps member Brian Pelico-Ricardez, had the opportunity to participate in We Work for Change, an annual event hosted by United WE, where The DeBruce Foundation was the Young Professionals Sponsor.

During the event, they led a Q&A session with keynote speaker Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball and Founder & CEO of The Cru. This article shares Sidney’s takeaways and reflections from the experience: 

What was your first thought when you were invited to participate in We Work for Change? 

It was very exciting for me! I researched a bit about United WE, and I really liked their mission, their advocacy, and their evidence-based and effective means to get women into higher places of power. Then, when I learned the keynote speakers were Tiffany Dufu and Mellody Hobson, I was blown away. They were black women – both of them! And for me, being a young black woman, I had never really seen women like this in such positions of power. Like, maybe on TV or something, but to be able to speak with someone who could potentially be a mentor and who is really out there working for change, going to college, going into business and being able to make decisions from positions of leadership really inspired me. 

What was it like to meet Tiffany Dufu? 

I read her book ahead of time, and I was inspired by her journey. She had come from an underprivileged background and made her way up. She wrote about things like gender roles, communication, and delegation. It was really fun to talk about principles I can apply to my life now and in the future. And then our conversation got to continue while on stage! 

Tiffany Dufu, Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Sydney Richardson, and Brian Pelico-Ricardez

Who else did you get to meet?

I got to meet former Mayor Sly James and Governor Laura Kelly and we talked about my education and what I hope to do in the future. 

I chatted with Mindy Mazur about politics, business, and how her time in political campaigns equipped her to help with events like this. We talked about how you can pivot into different areas of work and be agile across your career by using skills in different areas.

When talking with State Representative Maggie Nurrenbern, I told her, because of an internship I had been able to do with my school district in their finance department, I was very interested in education, budgets, and funding. It had ignited a passion in me for equality, justice, and equal sources in funding. And guess what – she happens to be on the education and budgeting board for the state house of representatives and she invited me to visit for a day in January! 

Former Mayor Sly James, Sidney, and Brian
Governor Laura Kelly, Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, and Sidney

What are some lessons you took away from the day? 

As I chatted with leaders who attended and the team behind the scenes of the event, I learned a lot of people have pivoted careers. There was not a straight and narrow path for any of these people and they came from very different jobs. A lot of people were in tech jobs; and when some were in college, their jobs had not been created yet. And, of course, for our generation, that is how it will be; most of the jobs my classmates and I will do have not been created yet. It’s about understanding how to use the skills and potential abilities we already have – what we call Agilities -, applying them to other areas, and knowing ways to continue learning. 

What advice would you give to other students thinking about their career? 

Really go for opportunities: even the opportunities that you don’t feel like you’re quite perfect for or that might seem a little bit big – or even a little small – for you. When it comes down to it, it’s about reaching out to people, building relationships, and building your network. For me so far, that always opens doors. It’s not really about what you think will further your career. It’s really about making sure that people are at the center of what you’re doing and that it’s about the people and causes you’re trying to reach through your work. 

What one memory from the day keeps replaying in your mind? 

When interviewing Ms. Dufu, I asked her if she had any advice for generations to come, and I keep coming back to what she said: “Listen to your voice. Don’t just listen to what I have to say. You need to listen to yourself too.”

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