United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.
Image Courtesy of Felicia A. Ford
Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Felicia A. Ford.
Affiliation(s) (past and present):
Executive Director, Private Foundation; Strategic Data Fellow, Harvard University (2020-present);
Steering Committee Member, Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Minus 9 to 5 (2019- present);
Inside Business Top 40 Under 40 2021, Forbes Coaches Council Member (2021- present),
ForbesWomen Contributor (2020-present);
Founder, Gifted Group (2011-2017);
Founder, Felicia Ford & CO. 2017-present.
Missions Ministry, Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church
How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?
I coordinated success workshops, orientation and taught first-year students at a local college after coordinating a program for students who were in adopted or in foster care. I managed a grant as a part of that role. When I left the college, I was a full-time business owner before contracting to help expand a small business. Meanwhile, I shifted businesses. During that time, I volunteered as Vice President of the Board of Directors of a private foundation. A few years later, I was hired as the Executive Director. I’ve volunteered with nonprofits for over 20 years. I’ve worked with small businesses for the last 15 years.
How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?
I’ve been a Hampton Roads resident since 2001. I left for a few months and returned shortly after undergraduate school.
What advice would you give young women going into your field?
Establish clear career and financial goals that help you cultivate the life you want to live. Prioritize joy, self-care, time with family and friends, and vacation. Develop a networking strategy where there are mutually beneficial relationships. Know what you want in your work culture and in your compensation package and always negotiate (never accept the first offer). Remember who you are, remain coachable by those qualified to support your growth, and maintain hunger to keep growing.
What accomplishment is your greatest triumph?
I remember learning about the SDP Institute for Leadership in Analytics at Harvard University and thinking of the possibility of going to help me explore problem-solving techniques for my work as executive director. It was a five-day experience on campus. My last formal education experience was three or so years prior as an Industrial and Organizational Psychology Ph.D. resident. I did not know what to expect.
After a few steps, I applied and was accepted. Even now, I smile remembering selecting my hotel, arranging a car from the airport to the hotel, and nervously boarding my flight to Boston. Once I landed, I was met by a friendly Italian driver holding an iPad with my name on it. Wouldn’t you know, his daughter’s name was also Felicia. As I rode from Boston to Cambridge, all of the jitters went away. He told me all about the Charles River as we took the scenic route to my hotel, passing by MIT and so much of Boston and Cambridge’s “famous” places to see and visit.
Before applying for the program, I saw the otherprogram for Strategic Data Fellows, a two-year fellowship and I distinctly remember thinking, “that’s not for me.” However, the last night of our experience, I listened intently to the work of a Fellow and gave myself permission to consider applying for it. Once one of SDP’s staff asked me why I had not applied, I received that as confirmation. I nervously applied. I stress the importance of owning and acknowledging my nervousness because it’s important for you to know that I face fear often. You can courageously approach things and still experience great outcomes. I went through a rigorous process of application, writing, researching, defining, and interviewing before being accepted into the program. Ever since it has stretched and strengthened me in ways I never imagined. Rarely have I made daring decisions formyself. While I initially applied to this program for our region and for my work, I continue in it for myself. I have never had an educational experience that wasn’t riddled with balancing survival until now and it is glorious.
What has been your greatest challenge and what have you learned from it?
My greatest challenge has been leaving my family and living a life geographically absent of them. I have learned to dismantle self-reliance and to replace it with healthy interdependence. I learned trust in God. I learned to develop a mindset of cultivating a generational legacy. I learned survival through a tenacious spirit. I’ve learned financial literacy, establishing and maintaining boundaries; I’ve learned to love, trust and honor myself. All of that (and more) allows me to show up as the best version of myself, to be the best thought-leader, contributor, supporter, encourager and decision-maker.
Know a Woman of Note that should be featured? Please email us at Spotlighthrnews@gmail.com