2020 has been a difficult test for Americans of every age. To address this uncertain landscape, Yahoo, MAKERS, BUILT BY GIRLS, and HuffPost joined forces for a live-streamed town hall event to help you build confidence during this unpredictable time.
- 2020 has been a year of upheaval, a year of uncertainty, a year of crises, a year of change. It can all feel like too much. We know you have questions, and we do too. How do I find the time and space to be me when the world needs me too? How do I find a job or stay above water financially? How do I grow and dream when the world is full of uncertainty? We hear you, and we're with you. In today's town hall, we've got people with us who've been through challenges and are stronger because of it. You're watching "Resilience 2020."
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Resilience 2020," a special collaboration brought to you by many different brands across Verizon Media, from MAKERS to Built By Girls, Cachet, "Huff Post," and Yahoo. I'm Ja'Nay Hawkins from MAKERS, and in the next hour, you'll hear from a variety of different voices with advice and insight to help us all get through this.
We're talking about activism, careers, starting your own thing, and managing money. And we're here to help each other and to help you. And honestly, I have to start today by saying that I didn't know how I was going to lead this session today, because I, too, need resilience and hope. Between the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to no justice for Breonna Taylor, I am in need of this conversation today, just like many of you, and struggling, angry, having a tough time. So I am looking forward to this conversation.
This is about you. So we want you to be active. We want to communicate and lift each other up even if it's virtually. We're going to make this happen. So now let's get into our first panel, "Activism in a Time of Uncertainty." And before we do that, I want to share-- we are on a blue jeans platform, which we're powering our webinar today. So on the right side of your screen, you'll see there is a section for you to ask questions. We'll be doing a couple of polls throughout this event, and we want you to be active. We're going to start it off with the poll.
It's a lot going on, and I have to ask, what do you think is the most pressing issue we're facing today? Is it social injustice and unrest? I mean, between going through a pandemic and a pandemic within a pandemic, we've seen a lot happen in our country since the death or murder of George Floyd. I mean, it's a lot going on, even as of yesterday. So tell me, is that what you think it is?
Whether it's income inequality-- I cannot believe in 2020 we're still having a conversation about income inequality and pay equity. Everyone, no matter their background, should be paid equally. Climate change-- we have a brilliant young mind on our panel today who's going to talk about it, because this is something that is extremely pressing and is active and something we're living through right now.
And political divisions-- let me know if you think this is a pressing issue as well. It's an election year. There's a lot going on-- as of today, 40 days to election day. So tell me, what do you think is the most pressing issue we're facing today? What do you all think? The poll is live. Again, go to the right side of your screen. I want to see what are you thinking before we get this conversation started. Our panelists are a part of this conversation as well. Please let us know what you think.
And also on the bottom right side of your screen or the bottom, you'll see there are viewing options. We're on, again, the blue jeans platform. On the right hand side, you'll see the questions in the poll. And at the bottom, you can change the viewing options. So what are you all thinking? All right, it says that 51% of you say social injustice. I agree. That's what we're experiencing. It's extremely heavy. We're going to talk a bit about what you all are going through and try to get through this together.
All right, let's go right to the panel. I'm so excited to be talking to all of you. We have first Alexandria Villasenor who is a climate change activist and founder of Earth Uprising, a group dedicated to holding world leaders accountable on this very important battle during these uncertain times. And we have Michelle Kim, a queer advocate and major champion for diversity and inclusion in the tech space through her work as the founder and CEO of Awaken.
And we have Mitzy Gutierrez who is a DACA advocate and activist and a huge supporter of get out the vote for Latinos. And we have Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group and counselor for the One Young World Global Leadership Forum. I'm so excited to be having this conversation with all of you. Let's get started. Thank you. Hi, everybody. It's so wonderful to see all of your faces.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: We're going to kick it to Alexandria first. You are in the show "Earth Focus," right-- the longest running environmental show on US television. That is so exciting. Can you tell us and the audience about the episode you're featured in and how you turned your climate anxiety into a strike in front of the UN? But first before we do that, we're going to take just a quick sneak peek at the show.
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: In November of 2018, one of the biggest wildfires in California's history broke out.
I am originally from Davis, California. And during my trip back home to California, I was really caught in the smoke of the Paradise fire.
And so I started to really research about wildfires, because I wanted to know what was going on, because California is on fire all year round now. There is no wildfire season, it's just California.
From that research, I started to see the link between climate change and California's wildfires, and that made me want to do something.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Wow. We are-- I mean, that was amazing. We're living this right now. California is on fire. So tell us about the show and your part in the episode that you're featured in.
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: Yeah. So like I explained in the video, the reason I got involved in climate activism was because I saw the effects of climate change on my hometown in California. So after the Campfire in Paradise, California, I knew I had to do something and take some sort of action. So I started to research and educate myself on what was happening, because California, what we're seeing is not normal.
Our wildfire season in California and now the entire West Coast has drastically spiked with the amount of acres that have been burned and the fires that we are seeing. And so there in California, I think that one thing that was very upsetting was that there isn't a lot of public information about how to keep yourself safe from the smoke. So a lot of people were going outside and getting involved-- were going outside and not wearing the right mask that kept the smoke particles from you inhaling them. And a lot of people didn't know how to seal up their houses properly to make sure the smoke didn't come in.
And so you're seeing all of this-- it's not just a climate crisis, it's a health crisis. Climate change intersects with everything, and so that made me very upset seeing how a lot of people don't even understand why this is happening or how to keep themselves safe. So I knew I had to take some sort of action. And so I think that the thing that I've been focusing on is direct action but also legal challenges.
In the documentary, "Earth Focus," it follows around a complaint that I am part of. And actually, as of three days ago, it was the one-year anniversary of that. So what the complaint is, myself, Greta Thunberg, and 14 other children from all around the world filed this complaint to the Committee on the Rights of the Child stating that five countries-- Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, and France-- were violating our rights by their inaction on the climate crisis.
And so you know, the complaint is a way for young people to see how their rights are being violated, but also to hold our politicians and our governments accountable. And so it is important that we start taking action from every area, and I hope that more people get inspired to turn their climate anxiety into action.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Wow. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing that. And I cannot wait to watch more of the show. Your story, passion, and undeniable power are so inspiring. If you could share one piece of advice, what would you tell your contemporaries who are watching right now who are on their own journey, right, to find their passion and how to leave a mark on the world?
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: I think that the one message and advice I would share is that being an activist, there are no guidelines. There are no limits to what you can do. One thing that I first got involved when I was 13, and I didn't really know anyone who was an organizer, and I really learned as I went along. And so I found mentors and people around me to give me advice. But there is no limit to what you can or cannot do.
There are so many ways that people can get involved in activism. And so for young people who want to get involved, the main message that I share with them is that, first, find your climate story. How are you being impacted by the climate crisis? Because we are seeing the effects of climate change all around the world. But people are experiencing it in different ways. So how are you being impacted?
And after that, go and find out what you want to do about that. Some people see what's happening in their community, and they're just so angry that they want to take some sort of action. So find a direct action organization. Or if you want to get involved in the solutions, you can find an organization that really resonates with your message, because as young people, we need to have this community to help us keep going. And so that is what I recommend for people to do is find your climate story then take some sort of action.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Awesome. Thank you. Great advice. Great advice. And, Michelle, I could not wait to ask this question. Through your company, Awaken, you and your team provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training and workshops for hundreds of companies, right? So how have leaders really responded to the work, the real work, and gone beyond performative allyship in a fight for social and racial injustice?
MICHELLE KIM: Yeah. Thank you for that question. I also appreciate you opening the conversation with the acknowledgment of what's going on at large. And I think that, you know, gap between people's good intentions and real change is still so wide, right? And we try really hard to work with companies that are actually committed to creating systemic change, personal change, interpersonal change.
And I think that what we're seeing right now is companies pumping out PR statements about what's going on in the world. And with the murder of George Floyd, we saw a slew of companies joining in that conversation through statements. But what I'm more interested in seeing is, what are the senior executives actually willing to do in terms of doing their own personal work of trying to figure out their stance on all of these issues? And we're seeing that today on the wake of, you know, additional data points that we were not surprised by but still disappointed and hurt by.
So many people are walking into work or turning on their Zoom with their smiles on, but we need to create space for people to really mourn and grieve. And I'm interested in seeing leaders beyond training, beyond just policy changes actually embracing what it means to be anti-racist, what it means to be equitable, what it means to be socially conscious, and caring for another human's lived experience and traumas that are continuing to unfold in front of our eyes.
So there's a lot that's going on. I think we are at a point where it is no longer acceptable for us to be doing surface level work. And what I want to implore all leaders and organizations to think about to go beyond performative allyship is to actually be real about the questions that need to be asked and the topics that we should be addressing, right? No longer is an unconscious bias training enough for companies to roll out. We've got to be talking about words and the terms that we're not comfortable talking about like white supremacy. Are we ready to actually go there? And if not, why not? So those are the questions that I'm asking. And I'm seeing some progress. And I have cautious optimism and hope.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: I'm sure.
MICHELLE KIM: There's a lot of work to be done.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Yes. And I'm going to jump in, because Verizon has committed so much to these causes this summer and during this pandemic. And I want, Ronan, if you're able to jump in and share a little bit about what Verizon has done-- and I'm very proud to work for an organization that not only commits to Black Lives Matter, but to, you know, diverse voices in the company.
RONAN DUNNE: Hey, Ja'Nay, Thank you. And, Michelle, thank you for setting up the challenge. I think you're entirely right that the lip service is unacceptable in an environment like today. Actually, in many respects, the most powerful thing that Verizon has done, which you might find an odd thing, is that we've taken private conversations inside our business and we took them out and put them in public. So we have a program called Up to Speed, which runs every single day. And we took it outside the company firewall and exposed it to not just our employees, but to activists, to investors, to shareholders, to community leaders, competitors, to customers, to everyone else.
Why? Because we believe that the nature of the conversation that we need to have in our society today is so important that it cannot just simply be had behind closed doors. Within that, we also focused on ensuring that we gave voices to those who needed to be heard. So we both called on but supported what our black and brown leaders are, LGBTQ leaders, and other leaders in the community to afford them the platform to challenge the norms, to challenge the accepted behaviors, challenge the silence that exists in our communities and in our society and to have courageous and uncomfortable conversations. And none of that solves anything, but it creates context.
And it's hugely important that we establish real context so that white privilege is properly understood and acknowledged rather than simply people choosing to exclude themselves from the conversation because they believe it's got nothing to do with them. So I think by doing that, we have evidence our commitment as an organization of 130,000 people to have those courageous conversations forged by our ERGs, our Employee Resource Groups, inside the organization.
Further, we have been vocal DACA supporters all along. We are partners with the United Nations and Global Citizenship. We are explicitly supporting a range of social justice causes-- and I mean, explicitly supporting, not writing the vanity check and handing it over. I mean, sitting down, participating with leaders in those groups and communities, and understanding what is it that we as a corporate citizen need to do, not just to evidence the fact that we worry and are concerned about these issues, but that we're part of the solution as well as having perhaps been guilty of being part of the problem in the past. It's a journey. We haven't solved it overnight. But we're absolutely transparently and visibly committed to be seen and walk the walk.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Absolutely. Thank you, Ronan. That was amazing. Back to you, Michelle. As we speak about resilience today, how have you personally handled challenges and changes of being a small business owner? And not only that, a queer, Asian immigrant woman? How have you handled that?
MICHELLE KIM: Yeah. I think-- you know, you and I briefly touched on this when we were prepping for this event. The word, resilience, I think, is an important word for us to unpack a little bit. Because for me, resilience is something that is almost right now glorified, right? That we are wrong, overcoming people of color or black community or queer people undocumented people, native people, disabled people-- resilience is somehow expected of marginalized people over and over again.
And I think we need to ask the question of why are we continually having to be resilient in the face of struggles that are converging? And for me as a small business owner, as a queer person, as a woman, as a immigrant to this country, I think there is a lot of moments that I've had to overcome that I wish I didn't have to. I wish that I don't have to be resilient all the time.
And I think what the pandemic and the multiple tragedies and traumas and systemic inequities are revealing right now and all of these things converging is just how unequally spread the demand for resilience is among marginalized people. And I think that we need to really pay attention to how much we're asking of marginalized communities over and over, right?
The number one question I get from well-intentioned executive leaders these days is, all right, tell me what to do. And I want to hear leaders ask the questions to themselves, why don't I know what to do right now? Because this has been ongoing, right? Diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations has always been important. Police brutality has always been happening. And people who are just waking up are once again putting the burden of education and emotional labor onto already marginalized people who are being asked to be resilient in this moment yet again, right?
So you know, I am dealing with my own need to heal while also fighting and creating space for me to do that through weekly therapy sessions. I am a huge advocate for talking about mental health more upfront. And I am hugely privileged to be able to afford and access therapy. And so that's one way that I'm showing up for myself and also making room for my team to, you know, also be able to prioritize their mental health during a time like this.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Right. Right. Thank you for sharing that. Really quick before I forget another few nonprofits that you wanted to just highlight very quickly supporting protesters and activists. I just wanted that to go on the screen very quickly so people can see it and then spend some more time talking to the rest of us.
MICHELLE KIM: Thank you. Yeah, and I chose these nonprofits based on the fact that these are majority BIPOC-- black indigenous people of color-- led organizations that are doing incredible grassroots activism work and supporting particularly burdened communities that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, police brutality, and you know, climate change, the native land-- all of the issues that are bubbling up to the surface. These are the organizations that I've heard incredible things about that I've supported through the years.
So I'd love for folks to check them out and put your money where your heart is is what I usually say. Money is important in making change, so let's make sure that we are channeling and funneling resources to organizations that are on the ground doing incredible work.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Awesome. Thank you so much. And it's up on the screen for you all to see. Thank you. Thank you. We're going to go to Mitzy. Hi, Mitzy. Hearing a bit about your story and why you're so passionate about activism, I mean, it's inspiring as well. Your activism has been fueled from your story and your journey right to this country and your family, which I needed to hear. It's definitely been a moment this week that I appreciate. So can you share why your journey led you to more service to this community?
MITZY GUTIERREZ: I feel as, like, being undocumented and not being from this country, when I first came here, I didn't really know anything, you know? And I'm here thanks to my parents. They brought me here. I'm very grateful for them. They've always told me to work hard for what I want. And yeah--
JA'NAY HAWKINS: No, it's OK. It's OK. That's great. I get it. I get it. We have a question from the audience if you're open to taking it. We are in a virtual world right now. How do we make online activism as effective as possible? What do you think that means?
MITZY GUTIERREZ: One more time, sorry.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: No, that's OK. It's OK. We are in a virtual world right now and how do we make online activism as effective as possible? I mean, considering your work with Get Out the Vote Latinos project, tell people how you did it and how they can be activists online.
MITZY GUTIERREZ: So obviously, we can't go door to door knocking down these things with this whole pandemic. And I feel social media is really big right now-- like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, everything. So just creating pages like us, like me and my co-workers created, a Facebook page called [INAUDIBLE] Latinas. And we share as much information as we can, and we want to reach out to others who really don't have any information about anything about that's going on right now. And we want to get the word out and get through this whole pandemic through social media.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Ronan, I know you and I have a one on one conversation, but I just have to ask this question very quickly. Being the counselor of the One Young World project, it's obviously a passion project for you. And I know it means a lot. Can you share what One Young World's focus is and why you decided to get involved?
RONAN DUNNE: Thank you, Ja'Nay. In some respects, today's conversation is a perfect example. One Young World was founded by two very good friends of mine, David Jones and Kate Robertson, who were involved in the media industry and advertising of media. And they recognized that the story, the conversation, the presentation of the world that was in media didn't reflect the reality of the world that actually people were growing up in and living in.
And so they came up with this idea, which was to create, essentially, a forum for young leaders-- not future leaders, young people who are already through their activism, through their passions and their commitments already leaders-- their local environments, community, some of them on a national scale, and bringing them together and through the power of convening, give them a platform to amplify their voices.
So on an annual basis, the [INAUDIBLE] World Summit gathers people from 197 countries around the world-- that's more countries than are represented at the United Nations. So it's the largest global gathering of people outside of the Olympics. And what it is is it's an opportunity to platform the talent, the values, the beliefs, the inclusion that is the framework for us to address the issues and challenges we have in our society. And it's not to try and tell young people what they should do in response to things that are impacting them. It's to give them their own voice and to support them and amplify those voices as they address the challenges that they see, whether it be LGBTQ rights, whether it be social justice activism, whether it be domestic violence, whether it be the environment.
Every single thing that we talk about today and you can imagine is all included in this. And then those communities build together through networking, and so they have active communities in each of their countries. And what it's doing is the people who are the future of our communities and society are having the opportunity to have their voices amplified and accelerated in a way that's real and tangible and not patronizing-- not old people telling young people how wonderful they are.
And it's the most humbling thing that I'm involved in and have been for many, many years. You go away you realize just how little that I am doing relative to talented 18, 19, 20-year-olds, 16-year-olds in different parts of the world who are taking on the biggest challenges in our society and making a real impact. And maybe just say one thing which hopefully is something that resonates with all of the people on our panel today is the truth is, young people know what the answer to the problems are. What they have to do is they have to be given the opportunity to match their talent to the challenges that are out there, because talent is equally distributed in our world, but opportunity isn't.
So the key for us is not to try and resolve for, but to support the people who are best able to define a truly genuine, inclusive, sustainable society and give them the space, support, encouragement that they need and make it happen faster than ever before. And I don't say this to sound patronizing, but at my age, I want to make sure that two generations of people work together. In the past, people believed that they had to do well first to do good after. People of our young generation recognize that doing well and doing good are just two sides of the same coin. So if we can partner two generations at the one time, just think of the power and impact you could have in making a true sustainable difference.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And that is amazing. And speaking of young people, I mean, I'm so inspired by your work in that. And, Alexandria, we have a question, speaking of young leaders. What techniques would you use to keep yourself and people who look up to you or follow you to stay motivated and engaged? Alexandria, if you can jump back in and answer that question.
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: Definitely. I think that that is a great question. I think that the first thing that I-- the techniques that I tell people to do is when you're getting involved in activism, sometimes it can feel just so overwhelming. The first thing that I recommend to people and the techniques to just staying motivated out there is to ground yourself in what you're doing and find out why you're doing it.
So every once in a while if I've been organizing a lot or if there have been a lot of Zoom calls that I've had to do, I always get back to nature, and I ground myself, because that's how you see what you're really doing this for once you're surrounded by nature and you get to reconnect with the earth. So you see what you're fighting for. And then the other thing that I recommend is amplifying others and center those most impacted by the climate crisis.
I think that right now as a movement, we are growing a lot. And one thing we are really focusing on right now is centering indigenous communities and communities that are most vulnerable. So actually on the 25th-- tomorrow-- there is going to be a international Fridays for Future Climate Strike. But here in New York City, led by [INAUDIBLE] youth, there is going to be a march against environmental racism.
And so we are encouraged as a movement to grow and become more inclusive and intersectional. So we are centering environmental justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, and we're also learning wisdom from indigenous communities who have been protecting our climate for thousands of years. And we're continuing to push for climate action at all levels of society.
And so once we ground ourselves and we get back involved, going to protests and actions and being with other young people when we have a clear mush them together, that's a way that we stay motivated, because we have the support system of other youth who are in this for the same reason that you are.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Right. Right. Right. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And someone asked the name of your show. Everybody's pinging and asking that question. Can you remind everybody?
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: Yes, so the documentary is "Earth Focus," and it's on KCET. And you'll be able to watch the documentary and learn from not only myself, but petitioners from Africa, Alaska, and the Marshall Islands.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Awesome. Thank you. Thank you. So this question is for each panelist-- just a 30-second or less answer to what you believe this is. By definition, we've been talking about resilience, and that's the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. So that's a sort of toughness, right? So as we close out this panel and I think of what that word means, it's really hard to say that we've all just recovered quickly. So what I do know is that something uniquely profound happens when people actively choose to overcome adversity and take it one step at a time and one day at a time.
So if you could share one note of advice for everyone watching right now who needs a bit of hope and encouragement, including myself, what would it be? And this is for all of the panelists.
RONAN DUNNE: Let me maybe start another-- a sense of hope. Everything that we see around us which we fear and which makes us angry is a reflection of the fact that we as a society are addressing our innermost fears. Take courage of the fact that what you see around you is a reflection of we're starting to address a better future.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Thank you, Ronan.
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR: I just wanted to quickly add that when the pandemic began, in the climate movement, what we did was reflect and understood what worked in our movement and what wasn't. And the one thing that we ended up learning was that the pandemic did teach us something very valuable, and that was that society can move quickly when faced with a common threat. So entire nations shut down and protected their cities from the coronavirus. So when we look at the pandemic, we can look as an example for how we need to respond to climate change quickly.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Right. Amazing. Michelle and Mitzy.
MICHELLE KIM: Yeah. When I was 21 or something, I had a fortune cookie that had a fortune that said, don't give in to cynicism. And to this day, that's something that I hold onto. I think it's so easy for us to give up hope. And I think that is by design what oppressive systems want us to think-- that change is not possible, this is-- you know, there is a point-- it's pointless for us to continue fighting.
And for everyone out there who is struggling to find hope, I implore folks to really turn to your community. And for me, that's the greatest source of strength and resilience and hope is seeing communities come together to fight alongside each other, but also help each other heal. So two things that I want people to think about is how to not lose hope, right? Don't give in to cynicism, and turn to your community so that you can heal together.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Awesome. And Mitzy.
MITZY GUTIERREZ: I say that we will get back up. And if you want change, be the change. Be out there, be the anchor of the community, and be for all of us. And as Latinos and blacks and Asians-- everything-- we are-- we are resilient community. And let's get up, never forget, and become the change that we want.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Thank you. Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to thank all of you-- Alexandria, Michelle, Mitzy, and Ronan-- for your amazing insights and speaking about resilience with everyone today and sharing your stories. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
MICHELLE KIM: Ja'Nay, do you have any advice for people about the last question?
JA'NAY HAWKINS: You know what? I'm still in the thick of it and trying to find resilience and hope, so I would say, take it moment by moment. Moment by moment.
MICHELLE KIM: Thank you.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Absolutely. Thank you all. And Ronan is staying on with me. Ronan, you there?
RONAN DUNNE: I sure am.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Thank you. Thank you for this one on one conversation. I am-- I'm honored. As we touched on a little bit during the panel, we're going to talk about leadership and what important traits you believe leaders need during this time, considering your extensive experience and all that you've been through. What are those-- I think there are, what, six lessons? What are they?
RONAN DUNNE: Yeah, so they're kind of my six lessons in leadership. And you can tell by the old gray hair that I've learned a few things over the years from the mistakes that I've made. And what I tried to do was just distill them down. Actually, you've seen great evidence of examples of that with our panel today. So my first lesson is this idea-- it's not what you do, it's what you make happen.
And sometimes, we think about, you know, when we start our careers or we start our activism or start our activities, that the more I do, the more difference it will make. But your output is kind of infinite. There's only so many hours in the day-- you're studying-- what you can do outside. But your impact and influence can be infinite.
So thinking about, it the same way Alexandria talked about the fact that people in the climate community actually stood back and thought about what worked, what was the impact, and our response to that is how to influence the agenda so that the work you do is amplified in the changes of behaviors and attitudes of the people around you. So that's really important, I think. And that's not something that you have to wait until you're boss. That can start on the day you start whatever that activity-- whether it's a work or activism as the case may be.
The other thing is for you to be an effective leader is to build an effective team. And while that may sound obvious, sometimes as we focus in, we're very focused on what is it that I can do. But the thing I've learned, and I learned it the hard way, was I used to work harder and harder. I used to take work off people in my team's desk so that we'd look like we were ahead of things in the morning. And then I realized it just wasn't working.
What I needed to do was invest in developing the people around me. Because the beauty of teams-- any of you who love sport or any sort of organized activity is that people come in every shape and size, color, and creed. It's the diversity of what you have in your team that creates richer, better outcomes. To build a great team is inherently inclusive anyway, but it also means that you'll make a bigger difference.
And you know what? If you're going to show up-- you want to show up because you want to make a difference. The power of We is always greater than the power of Me. That's the second thing to think about.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Ronan, before you go to the third one, I want to tell everybody, we've started another poll. And while--
RONAN DUNNE: All right.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Yeah, folks are going to have an opportunity to say what they think is the most important quality in a leader-- whether that's integrity, courage, compassion, or good communicator, all of which I think you'll say are good qualities, right?
RONAN DUNNE: Absolutely.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: So, folks, if you can just let us know what your thoughts are and what you think is the most important quality in a leader while Ronan is sharing these lessons.
RONAN DUNNE: OK, so the third thing that I was going to touch on is this idea of exercising judgment. When you're starting your career, when you're starting your development, when you're starting your activism, whatever it may be, you always want to make an impact. And so you want to jump in, you want to show you can make distinctions, you can be decisive. But sometimes, you know what, the more hurry, the less speed.
So this idea of being ready to think before you act can be really, really important. And the truth is, sometimes saying no or saying, I can't decide, is the most powerful decision you can make. So always remember that. No is as good an answer as, yes.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Yes. That's so funny that you say that, because that leads me to my final question. Across various industries, we've all heard it, Michelle spoke to it earlier-- there is a higher priority to drive results and execute, now more than ever, right? Whether it's longer working hours, differing familial responsibilities in the households, to greater anxiety and depression-- and what we know to be true, Ronan, is that humans are not machines, right? So we have to consider our mental and emotional well-being.
So what is one thing that leaders can do to encourage their teens, rally their teens to be helpful for their role in the success of the company? And so in essence, I'm just asking, what can leaders do to-- you know, worry about the people, think about people, rather than just the process and the bottom line?
RONAN DUNNE: Completely. And I think it builds on a couple of things. And if I may, I'll steal lesson five, which is about authenticity. Because if you're genuinely authentic, you're also willing to be vulnerable. And the truth is you have to humanize the reality of work leadership, because if people don't feel comfortable, don't believe that there's a psychological safe space in the work environment, then they can never give up their best selves.
So that idea of authentic, vulnerable leadership I think creates an environment in which people are willing to give up themselves. And the more they can, then the more the honesty of reality they find themselves in. The pressure-- one in five of us is suffering mental health challenges, but how often do we talk about that or acknowledge it?
The truth is, the most vulnerable in our society are the most impacted by social justice issues, by environmental issues, by all of these. So this idea that if leadership can be authentic and vulnerable, it affords a space for all of us to be honest about the challenges we find, and then to contextualize those into the opportunities that there may be for personal growth and personal well-being. I don't believe that there should be my work persona, my home persona or out of work. If work isn't a place where you thrive, well, then there's something wrong. And it's up to leaders to create the conditions where everybody can be the success they deserve to be inside their work environment.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Yes. Thank you. That was brilliant. And I hope that all leaders at are listening right now are taking heed to what Ronan just said. Thank you, Ronan. It seems like the poll-- everyone said integrity. 47% of the audience said that. So thank you so much for joining us in this one on one conversation. I really appreciate it. And we will speak soon, I'm sure. Thank you.
RONAN DUNNE: Ja'Nay, thank you for hosting us today. And to everybody who's joined us, be brave, be bold, be confident, and be well.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Thank you. You too. Thank you so much.
RONAN DUNNE: Thank you.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: All right, everybody. Up next, we are speaking with a very special panel of financial influencers about their thoughts and insights on how people are managing their finances and careers right now. But first, let's take a listen from diverse voices here at Verizon Media about how they define resilience and what that term means to them personally. Take a look.
- To me, resiliency is when you just keep fighting for what you believe in.
- I define resilience--
- Not by what somebody goes through, but how they get through it and how they face any obstacle, big or small.
- Dealing with challenging situations with perspective and adaptability-- thinking in a creative way and embracing good new events as opportunities.
- Being tough and getting up when you get knocked down.
- Coping. In spite of any setbacks or barriers, or any limitations, you pick yourself back up and keep that train moving towards that goal.
- Resilience is--
- Playing the hell out of the cards that you were dealt with life and not allowing anyone to dictate what that life should look like.
- Strength of character. You know how to control yourself even when you're most triggered.
- Throughout your life, you're going to be tested so many times. And a form of resilience really weathering a storm it's just having self-love.
- Conquering challenges with unbreakable confidence.
- The grit and determination that you find and draw on in the face of adversity.
- No matter the odds stacked against you or who is and who is not on your side, you know how to stand firm in what you believe in and to just keep fighting for it.
- Be water when life gets hard.
- Seeing everything you've overcome in your life so far and knowing you can do it again.
JA'NAY HAWKINS: Welcome back, everyone. And thank you for being here. Just a friendly reminder-- we're taking poll questions on the side of your screen-- right hand side of your screen-- and live questions as well. So definitely participate and be a part of the conversation. We now turn our attention to another major stress point in the world today and how the current challenging economy is impacting our financial and professional well-being, which in turn may have adverse effects on our personal and mental well-being as well.
So I'm excited to be joined by Casey Bond, who is a lifestyle reporter covering a wide array of money, home, and life topics for our sister brand, "Huff Post." Casey will be moderating this special panel featuring three amazing guests who are ready to talk to all of you today about what they're experiencing. So thank you all for being here. It's an honor to have this conversation. Casey, over to you.
CASEY BOND: [? Excited ?] to continue this conversation, even though we're talking about some heavy stuff here. So let's start off with introducing our panelists. We have Erika Rasure. She's an Assistant Professor of Business and Financial Services at Maryville University and she's also a financial therapist. We also have Tiffany Alice, the Budgetnista, as she's also known. And she's a financial educator who's dedicated to making life changing financial education accessible to women worldwide.
And finally, we have Allison Arevalo who is a chef, author, entrepreneur, and small business owner who is based in Brooklyn, New York. And she is the founder of Pasta Louise, a family focused restaurant located in Park Slope that she actually opened at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, if you can believe it. So thanks again to all of our panelists for joining us.
So I'd like to start with a question for Erika. And that is, this is such an overwhelming time. I think money is already something that's a source of a lot of stress and anxiety for people. And we add this pandemic on top of it, and you know, potentially a host of other issues that are going on right now. So what resources are available to people who are just feeling overwhelmed right now with their financial situation? Where do you recommend they start?
ERIKA RASURE: I think the biggest resource people don't recognize that they have is themselves and taking a solid, strong look at where they are and where they want to go with their lives. Michelle, you know, in the prior panel mentioned grief, right? And so grief is really-- where we're at right now is kind of the space between that loss of who we were and trying to figure out where we're going, who we're becoming.
And again, the greatest resource we have is ourselves. And in the words of, you know, RBG, she's got this fantastic quote, and it's so often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be good fortune. And what we have right now is an opportunity to start self-reflecting, acknowledging that grief, and start finding opportunities to examine what our core values are, look at the things that we were doing really, really great pre-pandemic, examine them for our strengths, or weaknesses, and then start doing some research as to, all right, well, how do I move forward?
You know, it might be, you know, looking for different job opportunities or ways to supplement your income or, you know, looking for ways to invest your money differently. You know, again, this is an election year. We've got a tremendous amount of social unrest and injustice that's going on in this world. And all of those things combined really influence the way we approach our own personal finances and the way we approach our identity in this world.
I mean, COVID has completely changed the way we connect with others, but it's also had a huge disruption on the way we connect with our money, with our identity, and with our place in this world. And so being able to take a look at what's going on inside is the place to start. You, yourself, are your absolute greatest resource at this point.
CASEY BOND: I love that advice. I think that's great. Before we move on to the next question, I just want to let everyone know that our poll is live. So you can check it out in the right hand column. Where we want to know what is your biggest financial challenge right now? You know, we have a $1.5 trillion student loan crisis right now. I'm sure that's a big one for a lot of people. Budgeting, prioritizing those bills, especially if your income has changed recently, finding a job when lots of people are losing theirs, and learning to save. So let us know which of these you consider to be your biggest financial challenge right now.
And so speaking of budgeting, I'd like to turn to Tiffany and ask her, with so many competing financial priorities right now and perhaps issues with employment, paying for child care that you never had to, perhaps, how should people prioritize their expenses when they may not have enough money to cover all of them?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Well, first, can you guys see me and hear me? Because I feel like I can't see and hear myself. But you guys can see me?
CASEY BOND: Loud and clear.
TIFFANY ALICHE: So, well, first, it's OK to acknowledge that there's not enough. You know, I think that so many people feel guilty or feel bad. But I'm like, it's a pandemic. It's out of your hands. It's OK. And even if you've made mistakes before, it's OK. So if you really don't have enough to cover the essential expenses, then there's the initial budget that I like to call your health and safety budget.
And so your health and safety budget is when you make a list of your expenses, everything you spend money on every month, and highlight the things that you need to maintain your health and safety. So you know, it's your cell phone bill-- I get it, you need to pay it, but if you need an inhaler, get the inhaler. You know, like, do I need to pay rent? Yes, likely so, unless you can move in with someone because I need a safe place to stay. So really highlighting those things that you must maintain to maintain your health and safety, everything else can wait.
Now, I'm not going to say, don't pay, without calling, but you would call any service provider or anyone that you owed money to to say, at this moment in time, because of pandemic, because of loss of job, because of loss of income, I can't afford this. Is there something you could do to help? So that's first and foremost. And then second, if there is enough money to at least take care of your health and safety and something left over, then you can move on to what I call your noodle budget. So that's your if you had to eat ramen noodles budget. Take it back to college, right?
And so your noodle budget is this-- it's just your bare bones essentials. So that means no entertainment, no nails, no hair-- and it's temporary, just like your health and safety. But it means that you have enough to cover your bare bones essentials without the bells and whistles. So it's OK to look at your budget and say, sometimes, folks are not going to get paid right now. But I will eventually get to them and I'm going to let them know. Or I am going to temporarily pivot to a less fun life, because, you know, nobody wants to not get fun things done. But it's temporary until I'm able to pay for the things like I used to.
And the problem that most people run into is that they don't pivot fast enough. They are what I call the lady in the fur coat. And so when the last recession hit, I remember I was at a gas station, and it was really bad, the last recession. And there was this woman who's driving this huge SUV-- I was getting gas in northern New Jersey, which is pretty affluent-- and she had this fur coat on. And she had-- in New Jersey, you don't pump your own gas, and so she was giving the gas attendant-- it was, like, maybe $20 she was putting in her big, huge SUV-- one credit card denied, second credit card denied, third credit card denied.
And I didn't know her business, obviously, but I thought to myself, you know what? During this recession, so many people lost a tremendous amount of their money, she might not have pivoted soon enough, so here she is in her fur coat and her huge, beautiful SUV, but because a pivot didn't happen, because she didn't drop down to the health and safety budget or noodle budget, she ate up her reserves faster. So that's what I would suggest to folks, and that's how you prioritize right now in times like this.
CASEY BOND: That's great. Yeah. I really appreciate you acknowledging that it's OK to put yourself first. I think there's sometimes a lot of shame associated with the personal finance industry in that if we're not paying all of our bills, we're doing something wrong, we're not good enough. But these are crazy times, guys. It's OK if you need to put yourself first and Wells Fargo CEO gets paid later.
TIFFANY ALICHE: [INAUDIBLE]
CASEY BOND: So we touched a little bit on anxiety and how people are potentially dealing with that emotion right now. And someone who I imagine must have felt a bit of anxiety at the beginning of this pandemic was Allison, who started her business at the height of it. I would love it if you could tell us a little bit more about how you pivoted your business so you were able to survive.
ALLISON AREVALO: Sure. So my restaurant was actually supposed to open in April. And that, obviously, didn't happen. We were almost done with construction, but everything stopped. And then I really had to rethink, like, OK, whenever it is that I can open my restaurant, what does the community need right now? And how is my business model going to change?
And realizing that people needed takeout, people wanted to eat at home, and people wanted-- still wanted an amazing experience. But they're probably not going to be eating out as much. So I really had to start doing more retail at my business. So Pasta Louise is a fresh pasta restaurant. We make all of our pasta in-house. We do homemade sauces, salads, homemade ice cream. So we started doing these pasta kits. So you come in and you get a pound of fresh pasta, you get our homemade bread, you get sauce, you get a bottle of wine, and you take it home and dinner could be ready in five minutes.
So we do a lot of retail, we do a lot of kits, and that was never my intention. I mean, I always thought that I would have this beautiful sit-down restaurant, lots of people with their families coming in and eating together. And you know, when it looked like that was not going to happen, I really had to think about changing my business model quickly.
CASEY BOND: Yeah, that's-- I can imagine that's scary, but I commend you for being so quick thinking and figuring out a really cool, actual product that I wish-- I wish some pasta places around me were doing that. I think it sounds great.
ALLISON AREVALO: So Park Slope is a really family friendly neighborhood also, so we really wanted to find and figure out a way that these could be family meals. So you know, each kit feeds a family of four. We also do lots of ice cream. And we figured that, you know, people do still want to come out for treats. And even if they're not sitting down having a big party with, you know, all of their friends, we still have, you know, people coming in for ice cream, and it's this, like, really nice, sweet thing that people could go out and still do despite all the craziness going on around them.
CASEY BOND: That sounds really great. Maybe for some of our younger viewers who are just trying to get their foot in the door right now-- a career, you know, looking for internships, jobs. Erika, I'm wondering if you have any advice for these people.
ERIKA RASURE: Yeah. I think that-- I think, you know, obviously, we've seen such a shift in the way we are going about doing business and the way we engage in each of our environments-- in the workplace or otherwise. I mean, our personal relationships, our money relationships-- all of it has changed. One of the things I think is the most important thing to focus on right now is trying to encourage everybody to understand that this is the time to focus on your brand.
So who is the brand of you-- and really coming to some conclusions about, again, you know, what your core values are, what it is you're looking for in employment, how you are going to navigate that-- really self reflecting on some of those really important soft skills that differentiate you from the average job applicant. We live in a time where jobs, internships are maybe a little hard to come by,
But my advice is to focus on your brand, what that looks like as you start applying for positions, whether it's full-time employment, part-time employment, or internships. And I think one of the things that is easily one of the most huge silver linings to this pandemic is the pandemic has really changed the way we work. So I am definitely one of those people who believes that, hey, COVID is a really painful new reality, and that's not really up for debate. But the positive of this is it has changed the way corporations and businesses look at their employees and their role of employees in the workforce-- whether you're an intern or a full-time or part-time employee.
And so when we consider all of those things together, I think this is a really amazing opportunity for students and, you know, people who are looking for their first job or even looking to transition into a different position, whether they've been furloughed or some variety of that, to know that this is a chance to take their skills, take their knowledge, and expand their horizons-- meaning, you know, this a virtual explosion of things.
There are so many corporations and organizations-- I like to call them the dinosaurs of the industry, truly-- you know, we've got so many companies that are just so stuck in their ways that weren't necessarily so open to this idea of virtual work-- the same companies that tout, oh, we're so so in favor of work-life balance. But at the same time, we don't trust you enough to work from home.
COVID has completely changed that. And for anybody who is on that job market, look for opportunities outside of your geographical area. You know, look at virtual events. Everybody is out there saying, you know, it's so hard. But when we really get to the crux of it, there are opportunities everywhere. I mean, you look at Glassdoor or LinkedIn-- so many purveyors of amazing career advice are offering these amazing virtual events-- and not only giving you the career advice, but they also give you amazing resources for job boards-- where to look.
This is the biggest thing-- you know, we have a tendency as humans to just kind of, like, hear all this noise. And so let's clean out the noise and, again, focus on you and focus on every opportunity that aligns with your core values and what it is you're looking for. And don't be shy to apply for opportunities that, again, might be outside of your geographical area.
It might not be exactly what you're looking for, but because of the shift in the way we do work, the way businesses do business, there is a lot more opportunity for negotiation, engagement, the concept of authenticity, being able to present yourself in a way that, you know, helps you remember your strengths and your values and allows you a lot more flexibility than, I think, is communicated out there. I think there's more opportunities out there, but you just have to get a little bit more creative with it-- networking with the people who know.
CASEY BOND: Right. Right. I think that's really great advice. I love, despite it being for not such a great reason, the fact that remote work is becoming a more acceptable thing, I think that's opening up opportunities for people, which is awesome. I want to pause and let everyone know that our poll did close. I'll let you guys know the results.
We asked you what your biggest financial challenge is, and it was split between student loan debt and budgeting at 34%. I can't say I'm too surprised about that. I think those are two major issues going on right now. Finding a job and learning to save was split down the middle. So thank you to everybody who participated in that poll. And I'm going to turn it over to Tiffany.
Speaking of, you know, maybe silver linings that came out of this situation, what can people do to examine their financial situation now and use that to improve it for the future?
TIFFANY ALICHE: So, yes, there are some silver linings in that in the 2008-2000-- during the 2009 recession, that's when I started the Budgetnista. I lost everything. I was actually a preschool teacher for 10 years. I loved my job and the kids. Then my job lost its funding, and so as a result, my school closed three days before the new school year. And so it took me by surprise.
I had some savings, but not enough to carry me through. So it was really a struggle. But in that struggle, I said, I'm going to tap into the bank of Tiffany, right? Everyone has skill sets that are marketable. That's how you get a job. But is there a way to market your skill sets for the benefit of you? And so I remember thinking, I'm not good at anything but teaching. You know, and that was more than enough, because I've since now grown the Budgetnista to an eight-figure a year business, and I'm still pre-school teacher Tiffany. I'm just teaching financial education.
You know, and so if there is a silver lining, it's that, one-- this is not the fun part-- but recessions happen every 10 to 15 years in this country. Meaning that I don't know about a pandemic coming back in 10 to 15 years, but I can assure you a recession is coming again. And so one of the things I told myself, like all the mistakes I'd lost my house during the last recession, and so I prepared myself for now. Because once I understood that the economy moves in a cycle, I said, OK, what can I do so that when it comes back around, I am more prepared?
And so the silver lining is this is showing you the holes in your boat. You know, you're like, you build this boat, you work so hard, the boat is your life, then you put the boat on the water, and then you're like, oh, there's a little hole, there's a little hole, there's a little hole. Now you know to pull the boat out of the water and plug the holes.
Did you not have enough savings? Save some more. Is your budget not really a budget, kind of in your head? Make a better budget. Is your-- for example, you can really get-- if you wanted to buy a home right now, interest rates are super low. But if your credit score is crappy, then you're like, oh man, if I would've known-- now you know to get a stronger credit score. So if there is a silver lining, it's that it's going to be a clear indication of where the holes are in your boat and you can plug them.
And more millionaires and wealth is made during times like this than any other time. Invest in yourself. You are the superhero you're waiting for. You are the go-to. You are the plug. Like, Allison, right, your awesome business-- like, what an amazing time, you know, to start a business you know during times like this, because you pivoted. You were like, OK, people still need to eat.
You know, they might not be going out to eat, but people were still eating. I know I was Uber Eatsing out the wazoo. You know, so if I had you near me, maybe I would have ordered that instead. So this is a really great time to pivot and to invest in yourself and to pull out these kind of latent skill sets and monetize them and see what you can do. The sky's truly the limit.
You know, it's crazy because I think to myself like, oh, you have this business that is highly successful, but the only other job I had before this that qualified me for the business I have now is preschool teacher. I'm a good teacher, and I've taken that skill and I've amplified it over and over and over and over again. What is the skill that you have? How can you do that during these times now?
CASEY BOND: Completely. That's such an inspiring story. It gives us all a little bit of hope. We only have a couple of minutes left, but I want to turn to Allison just one more time briefly. Obviously, your budget has to be a little different because you have a personal budget and a business budget. So tell us a little bit how you budget for business.
ALLISON AREVALO: Oh, well, budgeting a business is definitely a struggle in normal times, and then COVID times is something just completely different. I mean, when I was opening, I had no idea how many people I was going to have to hire. I didn't know if anyone was going to come eat. I didn't know-- I mean, I really-- everything was a question mark. So opening a restaurant, you need to have reserves, you need to have an operating account that, like, so you can pay your vendors and get through payroll. So you always have to make sure that you know what's coming ahead.
So pivoting my business and doing the pasta kits and doing the retail was really a way for me to ensure that, you know, even if people weren't comfortable eating out anymore, I still had this level of business coming in. So what we actually ended up doing is, you know, my business model changes almost weekly. We change our hours very often. We change how many tables we have outside. We're already looking at know more kitchen space because we're expanding and making sure that we can do deliveries for the winter.
And so doing things, I think, quickly really helps-- I mean, not getting stuck in a mindset of like, OK, well this is how my budget needs to be. I need to have this percentage in savings. I need to have this percentage, when It's just things changed so quickly and being able to move with it and say, OK, you know what? Like, people aren't dining out right now, I'm not going to have, you know, this number of sales that I wanted, but, you know, I'm going to-- I have this big pasta machine, and I know people really want to eat comfort food right now. So I'm going to just make pasta by the pound and make sure that people are buying it retail and making sure my social media is awesome so people know how to find it and know where to buy it and people can identify with the brands.
So I think just being-- just being fluid and just being able to recognize when things need to change and not being set in a structure that maybe would work 10 years ago or maybe works when, you know, financial times are great, but, you know, just being able to change quickly. I think that's really the key, at least in my business-- you know, not feeling like you're stuck-- like, all right, great there's no indoor dining. I guess I have to close my restaurant. It's, you know, really thinking about what the community needs and how you can quickly serve it-- serve them.
CASEY BOND: Great advice. And on that, that's all the time we have left for today. I wish we could talk about this all day, but unfortunately, we just can't. So grateful for everyone for taking the time to join us and talk about these important issues and speak so candidly about all the issues we're facing today. Again, I'm Casey from "Huff Post." And on behalf of Ja'Nay Hawkins from MAKERS, thank you for joining us.
TIFFANY ALICHE: Thank you for having us.