Young Woman of the Month: Takina Pollock {February 2016}

Takina

Takina Pollock

Age 23

Lives in Bridgeport, CT

Q. Can you tell us a little about your life path? What are you doing in your career and community right now and what lead you there?

A. I would say my life path is unusual, but I feel like I have a somewhat typical post-undergrad millenial experience. I graduated from the University of Connecticut (UConn) in 2014 with my Bachelors in Allied Health Sciences. Originally I wanted to be an occupational therapist, but I had a variety of experiences while I was in undergrad that changed my mind.

My first favorite job was working as the Newsletter Editor for the UConn Women’s Center and that opened me up to a lot of opportunities. I learned how to hone my inner activist, and finding a community of like-minded, brilliant people really broadened my perspective on a lot of issues, and amplified my voice.

My experiences with activism during undergrad prepared me for my current favorite job! I am the Program Supervisor of the iPad Academy at Career Resources, Inc., where I work with 16-24 year old out-of-school youth on developing workplace skills like writing resumes and cover letters, interview etiquette, etc. We also work on their digital literacy, math and reading remediation, as well as prepare them for a customer service certification with the National Retail Foundation (it’s a mouthful, I know!). I am the primary instructor, and I like to infuse conversations about privilege, economic disparity, the realities of higher education, corporate culture, politics and a host of other topics my participants may have limited exposure to.

I was born and raised in Bridgeport and I know what kind of reputation we have as a city. Being able to be apart of a solution and empowering youth to take their future into their own hands motivates me to work harder every single day.

Q. What does young women’s leadership mean to you?

A. To me, young women’s leadership means confidence, collaboration and shattering expectations. I was fortunate enough to grow up in environments where my leadership abilities were championed. I grew up being called “bossy” which I never perceived as a bad thing, even if the intent was to silence me. I know so many young women who are incredible leaders and are paving the way for other young women, to recognize the power of their own voice, and to use it. I am a leader and I do my best to uplift others alongside me, because none of us succeed without help. I cultivate a space around me that makes others feel validated and heard. That space and network of people is especially important as women move forward in their careers and into leadership positions. I’ve been interrupted and disrespected, and sometimes it catches me off-guard, but I’ve learned how to handle it a number of different ways. That is such an important leadership skill. Being able to unpack problematic behavior and deliver tactful, direct, unapologetic feedback is necessary to survival as a woman in any context. I’ve found the best way to learn that is through example of others.

Being in a leadership position at all, is hard. Being a woman in a leadership position is harder. Being a young woman in a leadership position is even more challenging. But being a young, woman of color in a leadership position is nothing short of magic. Having to work against stereotypes and social conditioning that tell women we’re “too emotional” for leadership, young people are “too irresponsible” and people of color altogether are just plain old “unfit” makes sharpening our leadership skills even more crucial. Being a good leader means walking in knowingly imperfect and still being confident with what we’re bringing to the table and empowered to take up space.

Q. Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?

A. I believe in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes, so of course I’m a feminist! To me, feminism means a lot. It’s a movement, it’s a community, and for me, it’s a lifestyle. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the feminists before me. I need it, we need it.

Q. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other young women, ages 18-35, about how to build their leadership skills or the importance of becoming a leader?

A. Young women looking to build their leadership skills will benefit so much from the communities they put themselves in. I’ve always had the foundation for feminism growing up, but I didn’t have the language, or even understand what “feminism” was until college. We all can learn so much from the people around us and being open to new experiences. I tell my students all the time: “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and gaining new perspectives, and building a diverse community of thinkers and doers will put anyone on a fast-track to effective leadership. Being able to learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes is invaluable. We don’t have time to make all the mistakes in the world by ourselves. Young women need to network and build genuine connections with others.

Three friends of mine and myself created an email chain where we just talked about things about things that were going on in life and really encouraged each other and held each other accountable to our visions. After that, we all started having domino-effect breakthroughs. All four of us are in much better places now professionally and emotionally. Having friends around you that are always leveling up and improving is inspiring and a great way to learn and grow. My number one piece of advice is to build that network, put yourself out there and make connections. Having a community of practice is so important to our success.

Young Women Rising celebrates one young woman each month by sharing their story here on our blog. If you know of a young woman between the ages of 18-35 that we should consider including please email us at michelle.noehren@cga.ct.gov.

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