UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

Working your way up in a company, especially a tech company, as a black woman can be very daunting, especially if you don’t have many examples to point to in terms of people who have been on the same professional journey as you. For Rovina Valashiya, the journey had her struggling with finding her identity and staying true to herself. Rovina is a Principal Product Manager at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses, both within the company and independently. Today, she joins Thane Marcus Ringler to share her journey through entrepreneurship, the challenges she faced climbing the corporate ladder, and how she shifted from a strong individual performer to a team leader.

Listen to the podcast here:

Rovina Valashiya: Being The Only Is A Strength: A Woman’s Accelerated Journey Through Entrepreneurship And The Corporate Ladder

This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life, which we believe takes living with intention in the tension, a catchy phrase to say that life is filled with tensions we experience every day. We believe the best way to live in those tensions is by infusing intention into all that we do, a reason why behind what we’re doing. Thanks for being a part of this movement and this community, and being a fellow Up and Comer on the journey in the process of becoming. Hopefully, we can be lifelong learners, lifelong Up and Comers because that is the ultimate goal.

If you want to help our show out, there are a few ways I wanted to pinpoint and remind you that would be useful for us. The first is leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. We’ve got almost 100 and it’d be so great if you left us a five-star rating and review. You may even get it read on air. That’d be fun. The other way that’s easy that you can help us out is by sharing this episode, either on social media. You can tag us @UpAndComersShow or by texting it to a few friends, someone that came to mind when you’re reading it, shoot them a text, say, “Check this episode out.” It’s a great way to spread the word and further this community. Another awesome way is by supporting us financially if you wanted to contribute monthly by donating on Patreon. We do have a Patreon account and we also are actively looking for partnerships. Reach out to the UpAndComersShow@Gmail.com if you are a business or have an entity that would like to partner with us. We thank you in advance for helping us further this movement.

I’m excited about this interview as I usually am. It’s an interview with Rovina Valashiya. She is passionate about business strategy, entrepreneurship and leadership. She enjoys an exciting career leading a product management team at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses both within the company and independently. In 2018, she received Amazon’s Just Do It Award from CEO, Jeff Bezos, for innovating on behalf of customers to build and launch Amazon Textures & Hues, an online shop for textured hair care. Her Amazon career began in 2012 with positions in retail, supply chain, and product management while also serving as the president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network.

She independently operates a Christian streetwear brand, Fiber Sole and authored Pray for Potatoes, which guides readers on a pursuit of professional success through biblical principles. Rovina studied at Washington University in St. Louis and holds an MBA from Olin business school and an undergraduate Finance degree. Outside of work, she is an avid snowboarder, basketball player, fan of live music, public speaker and explorer of the great outdoors. Connect with her on social media, @RovinaCiarra. Rovina is a phenomenal woman. She has an amazing story and a lot of helpful perspectives. She has had to adapt to so many environments and has learned a lot along the way about herself and about leading others well. This conversation was enjoyable.

We’re both threes on the Enneagram as you’ll find out. There’s a lot of symmetry and things that we connected on so I know you’re going to enjoy this conversation. We covered a lot of things, what being a good leader entails, the importance of being curious, asking good questions. She has some good questions, discovering your identity operating as if God was your CEO, her experience of race in America, holding space for others and so much more. You’d want to read this whole interview. It was well worth your time. Check out her work at Fiber Sole and Pray for Potatoes. Both are awesome. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Rovina Valashiya.

Rovina Valashiya, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I’m excited to get a chance to chat with you.

What is the origin of the last name?

I got married and my husband is from South Africa. It is his South African last name. I’m glad that it’s fairly phonetic when looking at it. I’m sure my parents are as they have to practice quite a bit. I’m getting used to it, but the V in my first name with the V in the last name creates a nice flow. I feel fortunate with that letter.

It does have a nice ring to it. When did you first pronounce the last name Valashiya?

It’s years ago. My husband and I met in 2016 through some mutual friends. It was pretty early in dating. I wanted to give it a try. I was like, “So Valashiya?” He goes, “Yeah, that’s pretty close.” When he said it, it wasn’t close at all. He was being nice. I’m like, “I got it.”

How did you guys first meet?

A great leader is someone who ensures that their team knows how decision making happens and folks feel empowered. Click To Tweet

I was traveling to Cape Town with a good friend of mine here in Seattle. One of my friends was in Seattle and is also from South Africa. It’s my best friend here and her husband. When chatting with them about my upcoming trip to Cape Town, her husband is like, “You can’t go to South Africa and only go to Cape Town. That’s like going to the US and only going to Times Square. You won’t get a sense of things.” I was like, “What do you suggest?” I was traveling with one other friend. He suggested we check out Johannesburg and was like, “I’ll connect you with some of my friends from law school to stay with while you’re there.” My now-husband, Zola, was my host, through my friend back then, which is pretty funny because the entire time I thought Zola was a woman because of the name. We only ever talked via WhatsApp chat. His WhatsApp photo was Chinese symbols or Mandarin. He had been working on Mandarin, which I didn’t know. The whole couple of months leading up to it, I thought Zola was this woman that was going to be hosting me.

When did you find out that he was a man?

When I saw him.

What went through your mind at that moment?

I told him, “I thought you were an Asian woman.” We were staying with him and his roommate. When we walked in, the roommate was a guy. He let us in and there was a samurai sword over their television. I’m now convinced that Zola has Asian heritage. I’m going to learn about that. Zola was still at work so he was home a little bit later. When he arrived, I was like, “You’re not an Asian woman. You need to fix your online brand.” That was one of our first two sentences exchanged.

What is his background with the Chinese either Mandarin or the samurai sword? What’s the context for that with him?

He loves languages and loves learning. He speaks seven languages. Every morning during COVID, he has his headphones in and is practicing his Mandarin. I don’t even know exactly where the interest came from, but one of my friends, they have a toddler and she’s learning at the same time. He likes to hang out and talk to Baby CC. He feels like she won’t judge his accent. He’s a language guy.

This show interviews mainly about you, not your husband. We’re going to get back on track here. I’m curious to hear what your experience of getting married in the midst of COVID and the pandemic has been because I too got married in March 2020 at the beginning of the outbreak. It was quite a wild ride.

First, congratulations to you guys. The wedding we ended up having was incredible. Everything landed the way it should, but the process was stressful. As a bride or the person getting married, you start off with this vision of your wedding. It very quickly becomes the biggest party you may ever plan in your life. I didn’t realize how big of a party it was going to be until I started planning my COVID wedding, which was 25 people in person, the rest was Livestream. We went from having this big empty warehouse where we were going to have a 150-person wedding plus reception to getting married in the chapel in our church.

It’s a 30-minute live stream ceremony. We had private family photos. I had about five family members come in town from Chicago, only one of my parents, only one of my three siblings. It was an occasion where I told everyone, “We’re getting married on June 19th, 2020 as we’ve always planned and we will make it so that you can participate however you feel comfortable, no worry from us.” As our wedding day started to approach, some of the COVID regulations started to lax. It wasn’t until two weeks before my wedding that I was able to make a hair appointment. I was able to book makeup. I was going to do it all myself. It was COVID. It ended up being small, intimate, but great that my grandmother and people were able to live stream, especially Zola’s family who are pretty much all are abroad and weren’t able to travel to the US.

It does help us become good at adapting and being flexible in an ever-changing world. Diving into a little bit of your story, one of the things I learned in some background research is that one of your superpowers that several people brought up identically is that you are very good at adapting to any type of environment. When you hear that, where do you see that adaptability? How do you see that being formed throughout your childhood or your life thus far? Would you agree that’s one of your strengths?

I don’t know what language I would put around it, but I agree when I hear you say that. The parts of my childhood that contribute to that are I was the third of four girls. You may think all sisters must be similar. We couldn’t have been more different growing up. I tested into a gifted nerdy kid school on the other side of town. I was often living in these different worlds. I went to school where I was nerdy, but everyone was nerdy. You weren’t even aware of your nerdiness. I went home where my older sisters were neighborhood cool kids and transfer some of that back to school. I’ve always been in this juxtaposition of worlds. I’m naturally curious about the people in them. Other kids or other adults even can shy away when they recognize those differences. I want to jump into the conversation. My desire to ask questions and get to know people overcome some of the insecurity in new environments. I’m able to feel more relaxed or figure out how to get comfortable a little bit faster.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

When would you say the first time was it when you realized that you were part of a nerdy school and your sisters were the cool kids on the block? What was that earliest experience where you were like, “I need to figure this out?”

I can think of early experiences. One of the ones that stand out to me probably is going to Sunday school. That might sound super minor. As I mentioned, I went to school about 30 minutes away from my house. I didn’t know a lot of neighborhood kids and Sunday school. Our church in our neighborhood was the neighborhood kids. I didn’t go to school with them. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was not in the mix, but my older sisters were. One of my sisters, I pretended I was a grade older so that I could be in her same Sunday school class. She’s two years older than me, but I went for years pretending that we were one year apart so I could have her as my crutch moving through that space. I feel like I always had this one academic environment and then a very different social environment. It was interesting to me even though I felt I could out math or out quiz my sisters, I knew I needed them in other spaces. That’s one that stands out to me a lot because oftentimes other than that I was normally navigating things alone. For me, Sunday school was that one environment where I had someone that I could lean on to help me move through space.

When you look at the different environments you’ve had to adapt to, what do you see as some of the most ones that have taken you the longest to adapt to out of all the different places and spaces you’ve been?

Two stand out. The first one is the clearest to me and that was when I started college. I am the first person in my family to graduate college. I wasn’t the first to start though. For me, I attended Washington University in St. Louis. It’s a private university in the Midwest, but I came from a public high school in Chicago. It’s a very different school environment. I was used to being at the head of the class. There’s a clear way you study. There’s I knew the formula to do school well. It wasn’t until college where I’m a freshman. I’m away from home. I’m living in a dorm. I’m on a basketball team. College sports, when you’re a freshman, is a different level of earning your stripes happening.

In the classroom, test and learning is no longer as black and white. There wasn’t this clear answer to things. It was about reasoning, logic and building the story, telling the narrative. That first semester for me was hard. It was hard because I didn’t have my dad in my corner every day who was my ultimate height man in life. The other part was the formula I learned for school didn’t work anymore. I had to learn a new formula. Basketball was hard. The team was different. Everything was different. It was learning a new formula. That first semester was probably one of the hardest adjustments I’ve ever had. I’ve never in my life had acne other than that. I remember that Christmas break to be like that. I need to go to a dermatologist. I’m too stressed out. Something’s wrong with my skin. My whole body was reacting to all the changes.

Other than that, the second one, which is professionally. In my environment, I’m a product manager at Amazon, a principal product manager. I lead a PM team. As you work your way up in a company, especially a tech company as a black woman, I don’t have a lot of examples to point to in terms of people who have been on the same professional journey as me, who also looked me. There have been steps and people management is one of those steps where I initially felt like, “Can I not wear my Jordan ones anymore? Do I need to joke less? Do I need to start changing my personality in order to earn or receive immediate respect?” I’m grateful for mentors and candid conversations I’ve been able to have about that. I struggled with finding my identity as a team leader separate from being a strong individual contributor. It is very different. I was going through some mental gymnastics of how can I do that and still be true to myself.

It’s a helpful conversation because this is the natural progression that anybody who’s trying to work through a career will face in different degrees. Everyone’s scenario is different in that. Going from a strong individual performer to a team leader is a massive shift. What are the keys that you’ve found that have helped you transition into that?

One of the things is making sure you look at yourself as a leader and also as a human as two distinct buckets. Letting your team know both of those sides of you. We do a thing now in our team called cultural interest. When you meet someone, they tell you where they work, how long they’ve worked there and probably their title as their way to garner your respect. When we have new hires and are welcoming people on the team, we don’t mention those things. It’s like, “Let’s talk about what has shaped you culturally.” That is to whatever degree you feel comfortable. I have a cultural introduction that I give to my new hires and then we practice it. The broader team is very used to it. That’s one of those things. It’s a little bit more personal out of the gate because you need that human connection. For me, the harder thing was establishing the leader persona because I’m personable and jokester casual. Also making sure people on my team understand the expectations and giving feedback when people need either specific coaching or guidance and not letting my friendly attitude take away from the serious nature of performance.

What would you say in establishing the leader persona in your work and experience in that, what makes a good leader in your perspective?

The goals are clear. People on your team should know what your top priorities are and how each one of their responsibilities ladders up to those priorities. That’s one of the key things I do at the start of the year is around goal setting. I have my sets of goals that roll up to my leadership. I also take it a step farther and do one of those breakouts for each member of my team, “These are your primary goals, but these are some short deliverables that you should hit throughout the year. We can track to those and it feels people understand why they’re doing the work they’re doing and how they’ll be evaluated. When you have a leader that you feel you couldn’t make a decision without that person present, for me, that’s a problem. A good leader is someone who ensures that their team knows how decision making happens and people feel empowered because they are aware of priorities and they can take it and run.

In your time here now as a team leader, do you have any failures or times when you didn’t necessarily take the right path in leadership that was instrumental in learning these principles?

Yeah. I had a cool opportunity with work where I would say able to pitch a business idea to one of the leaders of the company and it was funded. He said, “Rovina, hire your team, build this thing and make it better than what we have right now. Ready, set, go.” I was super excited about that but also made some mistakes because it was a white space. I was going to get it dirty. A couple of things that came out of that, one, I hired friends or a couple, not the full team. That can create an interesting dynamic. The failure or the miss was not separating the friendship from the manager-employee.

Growth is constantly happening, and this evolution of your true self continues to change over time. Click To Tweet

It got pretty casual around you missed that deadline, but you texted me about it. I had to start saying, “This is Friend Rovina. This is Manager Rovina.” That sounds elementary, but that ended up being how I needed to make distinctions just to own or the nature of the conversation. I realized everything had been so casual for six months. How could I now think it would be any different? It’s the same way this person texted me they weren’t going to get something done. I casually text them to ask them things. It was like, “I’m not following the appropriate boundaries from that human leader standpoint.” I feel that was one where I’m starting over again and in stages where I’ve had a chance to move to a new team and hire people. I try to keep the friendship limit a much higher level in those early days.

That’s something that I experienced as well in the coaching environment. I’m working one-on-one with people. I’ve worked with friends before and that’s one of the things where you have to like, “It is clear stuff of this is coaching. This is friendship. It’s a completely different relationship. You have to be clear about it.” Leaders are very clear in expectations and responsibilities. You have to set them. That’s something I’ve experienced as well. When you were talking about with the team building and how you describe cultural introductions. What is your cultural introduction?

I’m Rovina Valashiya, born and raised in Chicago on the Southside. I would describe myself as a city slicker. I’m an inner-city kid. I don’t even grass against my skin. I love high rises and fun shopping. I grew up as the third of four girls. I was raised by my single father. I attended a private university in the Midwest, Washington University in St. Louis. I grew up in a Baptist church before then and continued with the church during my college years. My first job after school was in Minneapolis. I spent the first 24-ish years of my life in the Midwest, across those States before making a big leap moving to Seattle to the PNW. I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Seattle. I’ve had a chance to become an avid snowboarder, get involved in a local church here and have an opportunity to see myself thrive in a space where I was starting from scratch. I’ve always had teammates or classmates in every transition I’ve ever had before moving to Seattle on a random Wednesday in 2012. It’s been a fun ride since then.

It shows that you are practicing what you preach. I have many questions about that. First is you don’t have the feeling of grass against your skin. Tell me more.

I’m not super outdoorsy. It took me about 4 or 5 years in Seattle before I agreed to go on a hike. I love working out. HIIT training is my favorite. When people talk about hikes, I’m like, “You’re walking outside and convincing yourself that it’s a workout. I don’t even understand. That sounds something grandparents might be doing. Why are you doing this?” The grass of my skin thing. My college basketball team would play flag football intramurals in the offseason. I hated it because if you fall to the grass, you’re scraped. Grass makes my legs itch immediately. I told them that was a phrase I use with my teammates when I was a freshman to get out of intermural flag football. I said, “I would feel new grass on my skin.” I was roasted for four years about that statement. I only played at maybe 1 or 2 games and I would sit on the side, on top of a t-shirt and watch the games because I refuse to play.

Snowboarding is also one of my truest loves in life. How did you fall in love with snowboarding and give me a sales pitch for people who have never been?

The way I fell in love with snowboard in my first job, when I joined Amazon, I was our outdoor apparel buyer. I knew that I was going to the sports and outdoor team. I didn’t know which category I would be working on. I was looking at one of two positions, this one, which I ended up in, but the other one was the fan shop. That’s all the licensed material for MLB, NBA. I was more excited about that one upfront, but being on outdoor apparel, I was working with brands Columbia, Helly Hansen, Canada Goose, Outdoor Research, all those guys. You started learning about the gear and then every weekend in Seattle in the winter, people go up to the mountains. Every hour you drive outside, the city is bigger, better mountains.

I went every weekend with some coworkers or a collection of coworkers. I have an SUV because everyone from the Midwest has an SUV. That made me popular for road trips to the mountain. In one season, I rented for the first week. By week three, I bought all my own gear because renting was no longer reasonable. At the end of that season, I ended up snowboarding my first black, from green to black in one season. Although black, I was tricked. I didn’t know that those were the only options off the chair. We went up on a chair. There were only two ways down and they were both black so I was pretty nervous. I made it. My sales pitch for people who haven’t snowboarded, they’re not a cooler sound or feeling. I don’t even listen to music during snowboarding. I want to hear the snow. It’s so peaceful. Being up on a mountain is beautiful. Your cell phone doesn’t work, which is an appreciative experience for our time. It’s so beautiful up there.

Every time I’m up there, it brings life to my soul. There’s a pure childlike joy that you get.

It’s over by 3:00. It’s made for the early riser, which is me. It’s a well-designed sport.

Do you and your husband share the early riser?

He rises even earlier than me. He can run off of five hours of sleep. He stays up late and gets up at the same time as me. At about 10:00, I am lights out. I’m like, “I don’t understand why you want to start a TV show. It’s 10:30.”

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

Before we get into some other avenues, I want to come back to a couple of things we talked about earlier, the first would be your personal identity versus adapting. As you’ve mentioned, you had to figure out how to adapt and fit in with different environments, starting at a young age. In the midst of that journey, there’s also the figuring out of who we are as a personal identity and what you even described as going from a strong individual performer to a team leader. There are this dance and this tension between not losing myself, but also fitting the role that I need to play. How do you go about living in the midst of that tension? What are helpful questions to ask or perspectives to hold in embracing it?

The way for me that I’ve been able to figure out how to balance all those things is I want to make sure I’m a consistent person. This connects a lot to my faith as well. If my friends on the weekend see me with my church friends or vice versa, would there be any concerns, any consistencies in my character? That was something early-twenties Rovina would have had a much different response than I do now. I had to proactively do that. One of the ways you get there personally is by committing to yourself to be a consistent person. That has helped me the part of how it’s a little more unique professionally in terms of not losing yourself.

What’s interesting about that is everyone is constantly on this identity journey. I was jokingly talking with a friend saying, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I’m a grownup, but growth is constantly happening. This evolution of your true self, it continues to change over time as long as you are focusing on trying to highlight the right areas of your life, improvement in the right areas, and staying connected. For me, the faith runs so closely with all the other lines that move through for this reason because growth is constant. The only constant thing we can count on is change. That is within us as well as the world around us. You have to have this understanding of I will evolve and let me make sure this evolution is for the better each time.

The two constants are always growth and decay and both have ultimately changed. Hopefully, we’re in the growth as much as possible, but it’s a constant seesaw a lot of times. When you look at your identity journey, what do you see as the phase that you are in or moving into that journey? How would you describe that?

In my personal journey, the phase I’m in right now, in my personal life as we mentioned, getting married, I have to start figuring out like family. What does that look when you’re not an independent person in terms of my decision making? There’s now someone who shares a part in all my decisions moving forward and I would expect to share and take part in his decisions. Making that space to go from being independent, I’ve lived alone for ten years before getting married. A lot of that independence, you’re joining us one. You’re recreating or reestablishing what normal is and how your household will run in those things. For me, that is the biggest transition happening. That’s the biggest one. There’s always a professional one, but that’s the one that’s most prominent to me right now.

I relate a lot to that as well. Would you say that has been easier or harder than you expected?

It’s easier. I’ve learned some very interesting things about myself. I’m pretty social. I’m extroverted, which COVID has revealed that to me. I used to describe myself as an extroverted introvert or introverted extrovert mostly because I didn’t want to accept either label. I chose them both, but now I will accept an extrovert, although I do to be alone at times and I always could do that before. Now that it’s not and we’re always here, I have to express when I want to be alone. It’s like, “Is that going to be offensive? How do I say that?” I didn’t even realize it was a need I had until it was gone. I was like, “Something’s off balance.” The living together part has been pretty fun and easy, but I have started to notice things about myself and my own personality that have always been there, but I haven’t had to label it.

You haven’t had to be consciously aware of it. That’s the thing that I’ve realized. You’re living with a mirror, someone to reflect who you are back onto you. You see yourself more clearly and that can be encouraging and discouraging in many different ways. It is a dance and adjustment, which is so beautiful. Are you familiar with the Enneagram? If so, what number are you?

Yes, I am a strong three, achiever.

We share that. What is your husband?

He’s five. Speaking of this, when we learned this, we were still dating when we took Enneagram. We were like, “This is the most perfect language for us.” I moved fast pace. He likes all the information before he does something. There’s this perception of haste that he has about me. A perception of inaction that I have about him. While he’s thinking about it, that thinking could take what feels forever, where I’m like, “Let’s start giving something a try. If it doesn’t work, switch to B. Let’s get going.” Haste and inaction, that’s our spectrum for each other.

My wife’s a one, but it’s a very similar experience in that. I’m like, “I think we like this. Let’s move forward with it.” She’s like, “We don’t even make a decision right now.” I’m like, “It feels right. I feel bad waiting. I’m going to forget it. We make up all these excuses but I’m like, “Thane, slow down.”

The only constant thing we can count on is change, which is within us and the world around us. Click To Tweet

I appreciate the patience that he’s bringing into my lifestyle in many areas.

You’ve mentioned a couple of times, your faith in the role of plays. I love it even in what you describe in your work. It might be on your website you say, “I share in many formats, strategies and practical tools to improve preparation and productivity as business leaders. These are philosophies that can be adapted to any stage of your career and are rooted in biblical principles.” When you frame your work, your business and what you share being rooted in biblical principles and your faith, being a center to that, how would you describe or explain the reason and the impact of that?

The reason is clear. I’ve always been an accelerated person. I finished a dual degree in three years and went straight to my MBA. I was 23 years old telling people I was a master at business. I had only ever worked for three months one summer. I’ve always been the upsell kid and trying to make waves and make the climb. What I’ve learned early through that pitch process is no role or no company, nothing feels satisfying, no pay increase. You immediately want the next one. There’s this constant thirst on the climb. I was in a conversation with a friend years ago and the conversation that came up and what led me to have this frame of thought is if you operate with God as your CEO, how different of an employee are you knowing that you’re working under a leader who can’t fail? Therefore, your op your obligation is to not quit. That changed my response to when work was going well, when work wasn’t going well, it changed how I prepare for meetings. A lot of my approach, the way I let work impact me and the way I let goal-seeking impact me changed a lot from that vision of if God is my CEO, how different of an employee am I?

I love how you framed it too. You said that the way you let work impacts you. That’s a necessary first step that so often isn’t taken and that is taking ownership of saying, “I’m the one letting this impact me.” What do you think keeps people, including ourselves, from taking ownership, from saying like, “I’m letting my work impact me in these ways?”

We often feel when we’re in the middle of it that things are happening to us. That’s the easiest way to accept your state. This happened to me or they did that to me. This one was my win, whatever the case may be, there’s this natural tendency to feel as though the Earth is moving and we’re caught in the wave.

One of the things that I’ve also read is a little bit about how you view church and faith differently. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about your own faith journey and how you describe the different phases or seasons or even depths of that journey.

I grew up the south side of Chicago in a Baptist Church. The pastor of our church lived two doors down from my grandmother. A lot of what I saw growing up were people in church practicing church, but I didn’t feel a lot of relationship or understanding. My view of the church was a thing you did at least one Sunday a month and checked it off the list, but I didn’t necessarily see the spiritual impact in people’s lives. When I was in college, I started going to church with a roommate who was from St. Louis. She had a local church. It was a church in a movie theater. They would perform on a stage like a band.

It was a rock show. I’m like, “What is this?” I started to get interested in worship and found my connection with church through worship, praise and worship. I never wanted to miss it. If it’s the first part of service, I guarantee, I’ll never be late. If I am, I’ll stay for the next service and make sure I get to worship. I understood I had a heart for that. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle that I grew into my personal relationship with God. I’ll explain what was the very key window of life for me. I was living in Minneapolis. It was right before Seattle. I was about 23 or 24. My father is a Christian. We were debating something. I disagreed with him, but I didn’t know enough to back up why I disagreed. I needed the Bible to help me win the argument.

I told myself, “I’m going to read this myself because it’s going to arm me better in these arguments.” I started reading Proverbs because that seemed the easiest. My goal was to get enough Bible knowledge to have stronger arguments to defend my lifestyle to my father. This is the most honest story of it. That was the first time I was ever seeking to understand the Bible for myself. The outcomes, the things I walked away learning did not help me defend my lifestyle by the way.

It helped me understand that you can know God and you can get plugged into faith before you’re old. That’s what I always thought of before. During that little stint, that was when I was also moving to Seattle. I got plugged into the Christian faith. That’s where I go to church now. That was the first time I was around young adults who seemed normal. I had no problem talking about their faith life in addition to their work or whatever. For me, going to church has so many rules. There were things you didn’t say. There was knowledge you pretended not to have about the world vice versa. For me, it was the early twenties. I was trying to arm myself with biblical knowledge to defend doing what I want. The mid-twenties was when I said, “What could life look, if the Bible honestly says God wants us to live in abundant life, deal?” I’m claiming that I’m going to cash in so what’s my side of that deal. What does that mean I have to do it in exchange? It’s been a very twisted journey. No linear path. I stayed plugged into worship at my church bands. It’s all built upon each other over the years.

Every journey is twisted and turning. There’s no linear path. That’s the beauty of it. It does apply universally and that’s what’s so cool is that God can be that universal and personal at the same time. When did Pray for Potatoes enter into the picture? Give the context and then a description of what that is.

It was a Sunday after church. I was at lunch with a friend. This is one of the people that I suggested, but we were having brunch and talking about both very different. I’m business-oriented, et cetera. She’s creative also pastoral like Masters in theology. She can translate my words into where it’s rooted sometimes. It does good conversations, good friendship staff. What we were talking about was wanting to leave a legacy bigger than ourselves. What I was describing was, “My whole life I’ve wanted to be independent.” I studied finance in college not because I wanted to become an economist or anything like that. I was pursuing financial security. I was raised by a single dad.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

I saw both of my older sisters into the world and then have to come back home and hit a reset. When I leave the house, I want it to be gone. I wanted to not come back. I had never done anything because I was interested in it. I was trying to have a strong foundation. I was sitting with my friend, I’ve been financially independent for over five years now, is this it, am I going to keep doing it? This is what I was living for. This was my highest vision at the time. There has to be more than this. She starts asking good questions. She’s like, “How did you get there?”

This is when we got into the ‘God is your CEO’ standpoint realizing like, “If you’re working for yourself, you succeed. Then what?” When I started writing, I didn’t have a plan. I started writing are actual biblical principles that I practice. It turned out to be seven of them, which is fine. I had no plan. I needed to get started. That’s probably a tip I have for anyone is you don’t need to see the end, get started. Maybe that’s the three in me also. It was the example I shared when I was 23, trying to pitch myself as a master in business. That was the first time that being an overachiever started to look a negative quality to the hierarchy. They’re like, “How can we take you seriously?” I don’t know the age of your readers, but it’s like Doogie Howser trying to be a doctor. Nobody can take that person seriously. I remember reading like there’s a scripture that talks about being lukewarm are the worst. God would rather spit you out if you are lukewarm, so be on fire or ice cold. That was my thought process for work. It was like, “My job is to be on fire. I’m the boiling water. I need to make it show that my atmosphere you feel it. When you interact with me, something is going to feel different because I will be boiling water.

That’s my commitment. I won’t show up. I won’t sign up for that thing. I can’t mentor that person or whatever it is. If I don’t feel on fire, boiling water about it, I’ve had to use that as a barometer for yes. I’m involved or no, I’m not. The other thing I have to do, no, I’m boiling water. It’s Pray for Potatoes into that space. Pray that hearts are softened for me. It was the first time where I was praying for the interviewer instead of myself before the interview. I used to pray for, let me say the right thing, let me do the right thing. Give me all the grace, thank you, God. It was my Amazon interviews where the first time that I prayed for the interviewer. I’m like, “God, I hope they’re coming in with a good mood and positive energy.” I started to feel I’ve brought all I can bring. I’m going to worry about what other people are bringing. Let me put my energy into believing that they’re going to be in the best condition possible to receive me.

What surprised you about the process of writing a book and what did you learn about yourself from it?

What I learned is I probably should have had a formula or some outline a little more structure when I got started. It makes me even look at books differently in general. I was like, “This is a part of a person.” Every book is a part of the person who wrote it. Pray for Potatoes is 100 pages. I’m a podcast listener, blog reader. I don’t read dense content. It is a book for me. I feel it’s so personal. I have a newfound respect for any book. I’m like, “That author decided to put a vulnerable part of themselves out there,” whether it is fantasy. It almost doesn’t matter the genre. It’s that person who took the time to believe this narrative is so important. They want to document it.

It’s beautiful how it does make you a better reader and it does change your perspective on books. That’s one of the greatest advantages in my opinion. The other thing that you started. I don’t know if it was before or after, but it was a company named Fiber Sole. I’d love to hear you share the story of that origin.

There was one year that was grind season for me. That year was 2017. I took the year off social media and that’s when I was launching a new business at Amazon. The business that I had a chance to pitch that launched in February of 2018. I was also working on side projects. Pray for Potatoes was one and Fiber Sole was the other. It was so interesting because I was so busy. Why did you choose one window to do everything? That’s the way my energy was flowing. I loved it. I work in the tech space. I mentioned I like to wear sneakers, preferably almost exclusively Nike sneakers. I like to wear t-shirts. If it’s an important day, I wear a blazer with my t-shirt to work. That’s like how you might know I have a big meeting. I was thinking about, why don’t I make my own t-shirts? It was that simple. If I did, what would it be? What would be a brand that I would be excited to represent me? Fiber Sole, I liked the name. I was trying to think creatively. I’m not a marketer-ish, but maybe I could be. It’s from the fibers of your head to the sole of your feet or fibers of your heart, the soul of your being. I play on those two things to say, “What I’ve recognized in my life is as I’ve become more into church hourly talking about faith, etc.”

I ended up in conversations with people who have questions that I never would have expected and in places. I could be at someone’s birthday party and someone will corner me. I remember I had someone jokingly call me “Deacon Brumfield” at a party once when I walked in. That same person was coming to me about a serious personal issue within weeks. What I learned was making people aware that you’re a space as an individual. You’re someone that is open to having these conversations about what we don’t understand, what we do understand around faith, spirituality, and how to think about living a Christian life.

Once people know you’re open to that conversation, those conversations flow in all kinds of environments. I remember having a manager who I didn’t know he married a PK and he saw me in one of my shirts and saying grace and truth. We had this whole conversation about how he married a pastor’s kid. We had this different understanding. We talked about Easter. Anyway, once you create these spaces, you end up in all sorts of conversations. For me, Fiber Sole was a way to say, “I want to speak life into myself by having words that are purely scriptural.” Not my interpretation, not a twist of the word, but actual scripture. I want to have it so that other people in this space know like, “Let’s open up these conversations. I’m open to it with you.”

Holding space for others is such a challenging dance in a sense. It’s nuanced. How do you approach holding space for other people to process important things in life, whether it be faith or challenging things you’re going through? What does that dance for you or what have you found helpful in that dance?

Holding space for other people can feel draining. It’s probably the first honest element of it. For me to feel I’m not getting exhausted by it, I try to make sure I’m getting filled at the same time. A part of that is you do have a responsibility to help other people. Sometimes that’s not always fun. After I do it, I feel great. A part of my yeses is remembering what it feels like afterward. I don’t always want to say yes immediately. I’m like, “This is going to be great when we cross this threshold and let me not be so concerned about my calendar that I am rejecting opportunities to get to know people or spread something.”

I do think there’s a little bit of giving that you have to be willing to do because the reward is on the backend. The other part about maybe protecting the space, if you do determine the dynamic is negative or I’ve had friends where it’s like, “Something about this friendship regularly rubs me the wrong way. We need to talk about it.” If that means it’s the end of this friendship, I’m to the point where I’m okay with that. I’ve had those types of conversations as well. Open yourself up to people, but also guard and protect your own spirit while you’re trying to navigate those relationships.

Every book is a part of the person who wrote it. Click To Tweet

What you said shows the inherent tension in that those two opposites. It is such a dance. It’s similar to working out. There’s a lot of times where a HIIT workout is not fun at the moment. Most times it can be great and fun. Even this morning I was doing to work with some buddies and it was not fun. I was constantly saying, “I’m going to feel great after this. That’s the one reason why I’m still here.” It’s true in so many arenas including fitness. What you said too is beautiful in that we have to know ourselves well. We have to be self-aware enough to know when we have the energy and ability to hold space for others.

At the same time, we need to take space for ourselves to recoup some of that energy. I love my family and my wife so much. It came to a point in time where I needed some space. We were with each other for 3 or 4 days in a row and it wasn’t against anyone or anything. I was, “I needed to go be by myself for a couple of hours straight up.” Being able to recognize that is an important learned discipline in a lot of ways to help us hold space for others in those moments. One of the things you’ve also brought up that I’d love to hear more about was your childhood being raised by a single father. What role did your father play in your life? What impact did he leave on you? How did that experience shape you?

Probably everything you would want your kid to say about you. My Father, My Hero was a young author’s book I wrote when I was in eighth grade or sixth grade. I felt my dad did a couple of great things for me. One was teaching me how to dream. I could talk to him. I can give you a great example because it happened when I was on the phone with him. As a child, I could talk to him about any idea. He would feed me how to make it possible or be like, “Let’s go.” I wanted to paint it. He bought me an easel and acrylic paints. It wasn’t a question of why did I want to be a painter?

Did I want to? I had it. I went to a gifted school. I had to test it. It was probably 30, 40 minutes from my house, a very different neighborhood in terms of racial composition, etc. I was pretty nervous about that. I remember my father telling me to go be the Jackie Robinson of my classroom, which as a kid who loves sports, it felt awesome to me. Imagine, I’m six years old. What he explains to me is Jackie Robinson was so good that he opened the doors for others to feel like, “There’s talent out there or there are people that we need to take time getting to know, etc.” My dad always helped me understand that being the only was his strength.

I don’t think I understood how much that has carried me through other seasons. To be only, you have to reach this level of confidence where you say like, “Why not me and why not now?” Those were things that my dad was teaching me without saying. Older and reflecting it. You start to see your parents as human beings. I think of myself like, “At my age, my dad was raising three kids. I was already three and I look in my own life and I’m like, “Could I manage one child now?” You have this newfound appreciation for the fact that your parents were humans while raising you.

My dad gave me that vision and voice. He talks about this. He had daughters, all daughters, no sons. We didn’t talk about this until I was in college. He said one of the things he wanted to do was give his kids a voice. When we were younger, if we had an idea or an opinion, we could bring it up to him and have these conversations. He was okay engaging me in a dialogue. Even if I was presenting an argument that was terrible about why I shouldn’t have to do the dishes. He would sit there and reason with me. He told me one of the reasons he did that was, one because we were girls and he wanted us to never feel we needed to be silent because of that.

The other thing was, he said growing up for him being from the South, there’s a different level of respect between adults having conversation versus kids. He wanted to break that barrier down. He was proactively changing something that he grew up experiencing, which I thought was cool. I was like that was a very progressive style of parenting, which I didn’t know at the time. Reflecting on those things later, I’m like, “That was great.”

I love that ideal that your father of giving a voice and a vision that’s such a powerful thing for any parent to do for their children. It’s something that I would love to aspire to do if and when God blesses us with children. The other was being the only was a strength. I want to touch on this because right now we’ve seen a resurgence of focus on racial injustice and for good reason in our country. The question of how have you experienced race in America? What is your experience with race been in America?

I feel I’ve known I was black probably as much as I knew my gender. I don’t even know a time where I was not aware of. I can remember at age six. Somewhere between first and third grade, my elementary school in Chicago. This is the ‘90s for some foundation setting. My elementary school was in a suburb area called Mount Greenwood. We had a brand-new play playground built, but we also had a black principal that was new that year. It was a pretty big deal because this area is Chicago used to have KKK rallies. Our playground got tagged the night before the grand opening and it was essentially a hate crime. The wood chips from the bottom of the playground were moved onto the blacktop into the shape of a swastika.

There were all kinds of spray paint and stuff on the playground. For me, I’m impacted in a couple of ways. One, I knew the next day at school, everyone on the honor roll was going to get twenty extra minutes of recess on this new playground. My childhood like the kid in me is like, “Now, the playground is ruined.” The news and everyone’s at school and it’s very serious. I can remember my dad explaining to me what that symbol was on the wood chips. I had never seen that. I don’t think I even knew. It’s an X, not an X. I’m trying to explain this to my dad. We get into this conversation. Race in America has always been difficult for me and many others like me, but a part of it is blackness can often be treated like a currency where you can gain it or lose it.

I mentioned, I went to private school and now, I talked about skiing. All these things where it could feel I’m losing blackness by the way I talk. Sometimes that can feel like why is it that only our race is treated like a currency where you a white male, depending on your interest, you could gain blackness as a currency. That’s always been a very confusing thing for me to try to identify like, “How can I make sure I’m not losing my blackness?” That is a burden that you carry very early and probably forever. As I’ve grown up and gotten to meet and know more black people like me, I understand that this is not a monolithic community. The visual that gets pushed or the narrative that gets pushed shows you that there’s one way to be black.

When you deviate from those things, you are less of that. That’s the way race has impacted me in America. I’ve seen racism as early as elementary school. The other thing that stands out a lot to me on this is school and profession. It connects to the only narrative for me. The key thing that I’ve experienced is in order for me to be a black woman who has a Finance degree, there were three of us, but I had to learn how to adapt to other cultures. I remember learning to play Fantasy Football. These things may seem minor, but I don’t know the show Friends. I had to start watching this stuff so I could talk to my classmates.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

In my actual career, by the time I’m in a room with peers, I may be the first black woman that they get a chance to know. I met my first close white friend when I was six. As I’m meeting people who aren’t like me, I’m trying to calibrate where are they between six-year-old me and now year-old me and their experience with a black person. I’m amazed that I may have coworkers and this happened to me. In Seattle town where someone is like, “You’re the first black person I’ve ever been able to get that deep with about X, Y and Z.” I’m like, “You’re in your mid-30s. How am I the first?” Constantly being aware and somewhat empathetic to the fact that although it has been so necessary for me to interact with other races to get to where I am, that is not the same way and the other direction. That learning curve has to be okay.

That’s one of the things. I did a Unity Series on this and we’re going to have some more coming out on that as well. One of the guys, Barry Moore talked about the concept of black privilege in, as he described it, learning both cultures versus as a white man. I’ve only had to learn one in that sense. He described it as a privilege. It’s much a harder path in that because you do have to learn both. Whereas now I’m being ignorant for so long, now I’m trying to educate and learn so that I can be able to see both perspectives and both experiences that are drastically different. Would you agree with that phrase and that idea?

I agree with that idea. I’ve never heard the phrase as clearly articulated and sound like that. I’m going to look into that and see if I fully lock-in. It’s so interesting to me how different experiences are for people that could be from the same neighborhood, but speak very differently. It’s how you grew up one block away from this person, but it is the household. I do think growing up in that dual culture can be an advantage in the long run as long as you have to have some level of self-awareness in order to not beat yourself up too much in either environment.

There’s a great book that I’ve been working through called Tell Me Who You Are. It’s written by two younger female authors. They took a year between high school and college to go from Anchorage to Charleston, asking people what their experience of race in America has been, which turned into them, telling them who they are ultimately. It’s an amazing book. I’d recommend it to people reading many different types of peoples from different places and their experience and how they’ve experienced race in America. It’s such a multifaceted thing. It’s not this monolithic reality. That’s helpful and it’s been insightful and eye-opening to me reading that. As you look at America now and where we’re at, are you encouraged or discouraged by where we are in a country as a country in this vein?

I feel encouraged. There are a few things that make this feel exciting. One is we are putting language into experiences. Whether they are conscious or unconscious that now we can describe and have conversations about. I can think of at work, we were talking about microaggressions and what are they? It was like then people were thinking, “I have experiences. I didn’t know what to call it.” As we look at race in America, a part of progress is awareness. It’s knowledge sharing. It’s recognizing that race exists, but it doesn’t have to be something you try to ignore in order to be above it or in order to not be racist, you don’t see race.

There have been these coined phrases in the past that make it so racism is a specific problem held and managed by a specific group of people either you’re racist or not. We have this new term around being anti-racist and starting to talk about what does allyship look? How do you speak up? How do you also pass the mic? What are the true dynamics of how a society looks when racism is eradicated? I feel these conversations have been very eye-opening for me with coworkers, friends and people from all generations, to my friends, parents, my parents the moment we’re in right now in America is we’ve at least called out the state. We’re giving language, resources and recommended actions around how to address these things in a way that feels more honest. Even the bad parts, at least there’s some honesty around it that I feel in my life has been absent. It’s been pretty easy for people to get away with ignoring or looking away where that has finally reached a point of fully unacceptable. Those tough conversations are now happening. They don’t always feel good, but I’m excited that we’re all acknowledging reality. I feel that is step one.

It can’t be overstated how important that is as a step. What’s cool is what you brought up is a throughline that we’ve ever seen in this entire conversation is seeing each other as humans. Even what you started out with that you’re building your team is let’s see each other as a human being here. That applies so well to what you shared. Do you have any encouragement that you would give specifically to white brothers and sisters and specifically then to black brothers and sisters at this time?

For white brothers and sisters, take a little bit of time to self-educate. Maybe I’ll put this together. Black brothers and sisters should be ready to sit in the conversation and it may feel repetitive or frustrating or shocking that this next person is at a stage that you expect them to be farther along in. My ask would be to sit there and be willing to disarm when having the conversation. What I would ask a white person is to self-educate, but then enter the conversation like acknowledging, I don’t know everything about this, but I want to learn. I want to hear. I want to know. Both people need to feel comfortable entering that conversation space. It’s going to require a little more maybe prep work for the white brothers and sisters. It’ll require a fair amount of patience, love and grace from the black brother and sister who’s reading.

One of the background calls mentioned was they’d love to hear from you, even though they said you wouldn’t maybe call yourself a feminist, but hearing your topic, hearing your thoughts on the topic of feminism, and even your experience as a woman trying to work up the corporate ladder and how challenging that often is. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

First of all, that’s hilarious. You did talk to people who have known me for almost my whole life. I’ve had a hard time trying to describe myself as a feminist in the past. One of the reasons why I have difficulty with that is I do believe that the genders are uniquely designed to be different and complementary. There is an association with modern feminism. By modern I mean my generation’s conversations around feminism are like as, “He can do, she can do.” I don’t believe that to the fullest extent because biblically that’s not how we’re designed. A lot of my disagreement with feminism isn’t about equality. It’s about we are complementary genders as designed. Understanding that there is an order between a male and a female, it’s important.

That’s usually my gripe when talking about feminism with a lot of my friends. What they usually come back to and what I would say leads me to have a little bit of a softer understanding of it is thinking through the lens of professionally and in my own career. There has to be a push for a balance or an improved balance or that equality being even-handed, having proper representation, having a diverse set of leaders, and what does that look at all levels of an organization. Where I say feminism makes sense to me is around more around sharing the microphone and sharing the access. Much of the business world is who you know. You network your way into a lot of opportunities.

The good old boys club is a description because it has some merit there that has to be addressed professionally. For me, the more you look up in a company, the more I can understand why you need a strong enough group of women saying like, “This is not reflective of your customer base, the community, etc.” That’s where I can get behind feminism. That’s a term I’ve been in a lot of passionate debates about.

So much of the business world is who you know; you network your way into a lot of opportunities. Click To Tweet

Rovina, this has been so much fun. I have a few one-offs here before we wrap this up. Going back to where we started with you being naturally curious and the importance of asking good questions, what are some of your favorite questions to ask?

Cultural intros are fun for me. One of the things is I don’t want to ask you where you grew up. I try to ask what places on the map would you consider yourself a local? That’s my fun way of trying to get a sense of where have you lived, or maybe you studied abroad and some area well. Where would you consider yourself a local on the map? Another question that I usually try to ask people and this is more my mentors or people that I’m trying to seek guidance from. What scared you the most about me getting your job tomorrow? I’m trying to understand what are the big decisions they make that they wonder about somebody new or someone more junior not having the capacity for that type of decision making. That’s my way of getting that. Where are you the most if I had to step into your job tomorrow?

The other one that I found interesting is I talked to a lot of business leaders and I try to understand their frame of reference is what year in the future are you most focused on right now? What I’ve learned is depending on either the more entrepreneurial the person is or the more senior they are within a company, they are thinking many years in advance. I remember it was 2017. I asked someone this question, a VP of a company. He said 2024 because that’s the year of so and so. I was thinking, “How many years is that from now? How old will I be?” We still haven’t reached what he was thinking about in 2017. This guy is seven years ahead. We went into why. I like to think about what year are you planning for? That’s a question I like to ask.

What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all?

Should I consider my life like COVID?

You can interpret however you’d like.

I want to do less TV watching, which didn’t use to be a problem and less cleaning. I have to find a better way to stay organized because we’re in the same space so much. I want to stay clean, but I want to clean the list. I want to do more reading. I’m very heavy into listening to podcasts. I enjoyed catching up on several episodes of Up and Comers, but I want to get into reading more. I’ve tried to set out this rule of one book a month. It’s not going great for the year. I’ll keep trying. I also want to do more creative cooking. That’s been a fun part of being married and being in quarantine is we make all our meals at home. I’ve started to get a little experimental and I’m liking it.

I want to try new recipes, more recipe experimenting. I want to do more being outside in the nice weather. The lack of vacations is sinking in. More time on the water and then none. I would to fully cancel all dishes, washing, loading, and unloading. It’s a never-ending task during COVID. I don’t think I ever understood the use of dishes the way I do now. I don’t even know how I’m going to deal with it post-quarantine. This has been a sad saga of always doing dishes. Maybe something that’s more useful. I don’t know if it’s no more, but a lot less driving. I mentioned my husband is from South Africa. He doesn’t have his license here yet. I’m always the driver. It is taking a toll, which is funny because I’ve always driven me around. Now that he’s here, I feel he should be driving me around. I don’t know why, but I would like a better balance of being the driver.

If you could study one other person for an entire year, who would it be and why?

I would study Beyoncé because Beyoncé, one, is a businesswoman but not natural. She had to hone and grow. I’d like to see what caliber she performs at. The other part that I find interesting, and for me why I wanted it to be a woman with a family, is that vision of how you balance being a mom and being a professional is one that I want my own little secret tunnel vision into to get any pro tips. I would be a plant in Beyonce’s house for a year. There’s nothing but the knowledge to be gained.

What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

I would say The Power of Now. Maybe a lesson I want is called Shoe Dog. It’s the story of Nike written by Phil Knight who founded Nike. I found it pretty interesting because he journeys through decades with the company. I like to read business or nonfiction and quotes. He has this quote that’s like, “The losers never started and the quitters died along the way that leaves us.” Sometimes he’s brutally honest about the path to success is not quitting. What does that look like over the decades? It was cool to learn about the mind behind the brand.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

Pray for Potatoes: Pursue Professional Success Through God’s Love

The last question that we ask every guest that comes on the show is if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why in a daily text they get every morning from you?

I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t want it to be too long. I would say commit to being boiling water now. Pray for potatoes into your space. If any eggs come in, maybe they’ll crack.

Rovina, this has been a blast. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your life and experiences. Where’s the best place for people to find you or connect with you and reach out if they want to know more?

On social media, I’m primarily on Instagram. I hardly tweet, but I’m @RovinaCiarra. That’s the best way to find me. Other than that, LinkedIn is always a good way too if it’s more professional, but I will say I spend more time on Instagram than on LinkedIn. It’s up to you.

Rovina, thanks again for coming on. This has been a blast. I’m excited to see what the future holds as God keeps leading you and you keep growing.

Thank you so much. It’s been great. I appreciate it.

For all you reading, we hope you have an Up and Coming week because we are out.

Following up with one last thing to note, if you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening, to quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Rovina Valashiya

UAC 161 | EntrepreneurshipRovina (Broomfield) Valashiya is passionate about business strategy, entrepreneurship, and leadership. She enjoys an exciting career leading a product management team at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses, both within the company and independently. In 2018, she received Amazon’s Just Do It Award from CEO, Jeff Bezos, for innovating on behalf of customers to build and launch Amazon Textures & Hues – an online shop for textured hair care.

Her Amazon career began in 2012 with positions in retail, supply chain, and product management, while also serving as the president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (2016-2018). She independently operates a Christian streetwear brand, Fiber Sole, and authored Pray for Potatoes which guides readers on a pursuit of professional success through biblical principles.

Rovina studied at Washington University in St. Louis and holds an MBA from Olin Business School and an undergraduate Finance degree. Outside of work, she is an avid snowboarder and basketball player, fan of live music, public speaker and explorer of the great outdoors.

Connect with her on social media @rovinaciarra.

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