Alumni’s View: My HS Gave Me a Career Coach — and Taught Me How to Embrace Ambition Without Fearing Failure

By Kelby Hicks

Navigating the course of your career as a young professional of color often means enduring a path fraught with hurdles and pitfalls. A career coach can be a game-changer. I’m thankful I have a career coach to help guide me.

The spotlight shone on economic and educational equity has become increasingly bright in recent years, and the iron is hot for those ambitious leaders looking to level up or strike out into a new career field. It seems companies now, more than ever, are looking to groom leaders from Black and other marginalized communities like me. It’s an exciting time for opportunities, but it can be scary for young professionals of color who don’t know how to position themselves to take advantage.

One significant benefit of having a coach is working with someone who understands my professional strengths and weaknesses. My executive coach, Toni Purvis, who I met during the KIPP Alumni Leadership Accelerator program, tailored her technique to unlock my potential and maximize my leadership capacity. My approach to success has always been relatively siloed yet diligent in pursuing goals. My method of achievement has changed with a career coach.

Toni, founder of Paradigm One Consulting and the School of Disruptive Etiquette, was instrumental in increasing my chances to “win.” She gave me recipes for reaching my desired outcomes in both my personal and professional endeavors. Having led consulting initiatives at Goldman Sachs and Booz Allen Hamilton and compiled an accomplished resume of consulting expertise, Toni turned to entrepreneurship out of a desire to prepare diverse young professionals for a “paradigm shift.”

My confidence, knowledge, and skill set all increased under her coaching. The flexibility of her approach allows for keen insight, strategic intervention and collaborative investment into clients’ success. We meet in person and over the phone to discuss alternative means of accomplishing my ambitions. I learned to redefine ideas of achievement and dissect the signals around me for greater clarity. For those who’ve never been there before, avoiding pitfalls en route to success and climbing the ladder in general can be daunting because oftentimes “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Read the full op-ed here.