KOURTNEY / TECHIE & PEOPLE PERSON / CHARLOTTE NC
No one overlooks Kourtney. And further, no one leaves a conversation with Kourtney without (over) sharing. Her calming, trustworthy and gentle nature is on par with the warmest of hugs. Her uniquity and steadfast sense of self are arresting and constant reminders that life is too short to not go where your heart leads and to not surround yourself with friends that reflect your truth. Soooo meet Kourtney, she is blooming and storytelling and doing pretty much all of the best things.
HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE UPCOMING YEAR?
I have been thinking a lot about this lately because it has been almost exactly a year since I transitioned to a new city, started a new job, made new friends and I finally feel settled and adjusted. What I want for myself in the next year is to continue to work hard on being fully comfortable with who I am.
I want to get to that point more often to be fully and deeply comfortable enough in myself to let things go. All of us can Bloom in this way. It’s important for us to let go of the mental blocks and insecurities that set us back. Am I cool enough? Am I comfortable enough? Can I go after my dreams? Can I show up at an event by myself? Can I go on an adventure? Yes! I can and will push myself outside of my comfort zone and do the things that excite me. Further, I can invite good people into that space. It’s good to be independent but it’s great also to have shared experiences and deep, meaningful friendships.
This year I want to strike a better balance between spontaneity and intentionality and get closer to true, healthy groundedness. I will Bloom in 2016 (and beyond!) by carving out dedicated time again for my passions. I can do this by making my new home a warm and welcoming place for connection and community and also by relentlessly challenging limiting or negative ideas of what I can or can’t do as a young, independent, socially conscious Black woman working in tech.
I will Bloom in 2016 (and beyond!) by making my new home a warm and welcoming place for connection and community and also by relentlessly challenging limiting or negative ideas of what I can or can’t do as a young, independent, socially conscious Black woman working in tech.
DESCRIBE AN OBSTACLE FROM YOUR PAST AND HOW YOU OVERCAME IT.
Early last year, the company I was working for restructured and I was unexpectedly laid off from my job. It was a surreal experience and I walked out of the building with thousands of other laid-off colleagues. So much was running through my head because I had recently signed a lease for a new apartment and I was very comfortable with where I was in life.
To put it simply, being laid off and finding a new job was hard and I still loathe the term “funemployment.” However, it forced me to get serious and approach my professional life with real intention and because of this new work ethic, it became the best thing that could have happened. I chose to use my free time to take a hard look at everything current in my life—my career, accomplishments, long-term goals, happiness, location, you name it. Introspection was the jam to my toast. I made two strict rules to one, only apply to jobs at companies that I was genuinely passionate about and two, to only apply to jobs that would challenge me in the ways I wanted. I went to a different coffee shop every day to work and keep myself feeling productive. Truly though, staying sane and finding exciting new roles wouldn’t have been possible without my friends and family. They listened, kept me up when I was spinning and reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people.
Towards the end of what was a 3-month process, I was tired and uncertain and anxious to know where I would be, but the end result was worth everything. The lessons I learned from that experience were powerful—I learned of the collective might of my amazing network of homies, the newfound and deeper appreciation of myself, the ability to let go of control and perfectionism and finally, the importance of fearing stagnation more than uncertainty. Being laid off turned out to be a fruitful disruption, and I continue to feel the benefit from working through that today.
HOW HAVE YOU, HOW WILL YOU, OR HOW DO YOU HELP WOMEN?
It’s funny. Sometimes the people I work with ask whether or not I’m wearing my “pops hat” to discern if they’re talking to me as a colleague in HR or as a friend. Honestly, hats don’t really work with my afro and I like being consistent and authentic. Whether in an official “people” sense or not, it’s gratifying being a trusted resource for women and men around me, both in professional and personal spaces. Sometimes that means talking through how to navigate personal conflicts, initiate a conversation about long-term growth, build a strong resume, identify opportunities that align with personal strengths and interests. It can mean reaffirming their sense of worth, affirming their experiences as women in a particular environment, thinking through an action plan action based on the specific org structure that they’re a part of or helping to celebrate their accomplishments.
Understanding yourself and what you’re capable of in a different way, no matter how radical, leads to growth, and I believe that many people can Bloom in this way. We can be unforgiving and unnecessarily hard on ourselves at times when we actually have much more to celebrate than critique. It’s important for us to let go of the mental blocks and insecurities that can set us back. I like to identify where the doubt is coming from when we ask ourselves questions like, “Am I deserving?”, “Am I qualified to be in this space?” You can work towards self-acceptance, you can demand what you have earned, you can receive what you deserve, you can go on a rewarding solo adventure and you can have a kick-ass time.
KEEP THIS GOING. WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
I always like talking about issues that are happening in our society and beyond. As a woman, in many spaces, you are an other. As a person of color, in many spaces, you are considered an other. As a black woman in tech, you are absolutely an other. By being my pure self, I can explain to people that there are archetypes, stereotypes and tropes. People approach me and are sometimes surprised by my interests, they want to learn what it means to be a Black woman in certain spaces where they haven’t stereotypically seen the Black woman go before.
My mom told me recently that I was kind of “alternative” because I am unafraid to go into spaces that I want to, even if the space is not the most diverse. It is exciting to have dialogues with people about what it means to be me, because it’s a great way to dispel stereotypes.
I try, in a small way, to push myself into spaces that may be out of my comfort zone. Often we don’t recognize what pushing ourselves into new spaces may mean to someone else. I value conversations that feel real because I believe that we should continue to share our unique experiences of what it means to be a woman. When it makes sense, I have taken on the mindset of speaking out in my own voice on behalf of others. When I see something that does not sit well with me, even if it does not pertain directly to me, because I have such a connection with my friends who have come to me or have spoken out, I find myself speaking up.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
A few months ago I journeyed solo to a tribute party dedicated to Prince’s music and legacy at a club in San Francisco. When I walked in, I was immediately struck by an older woman dancing alone. Her name was Ahri, and I will never forget her. The crowd was so blown away by her magnetic presence and how comfortable she was in her own skin. She was there for herself, grooving, fully embracing the music and uninhibited by what others would think. I had never seen a woman so completely comfortable in her body and in herself. She was lost in the celebration in that space and it was absolutely riveting. We struck up a conversation and sang and danced together for almost an hour. I left slightly sweaty and totally inspired by getting to witness her in full Bloom.
I want to be remembered for being a part of moments like the one I shared with Ahri—ones in which someone left positively affected in some way, big or small. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ll close by saying that there really is so much that we have to offer one another, and our unique brightness is just one thing. Never stop storytelling. Cheers, Bloom Journal :)