By Angela Shaw, Photo courtesy of JuiceLand
Author Bell Hooks said, “What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.” Showing who I am by what I do has not always been easy, fun or popular, but I am determined to know who I am through my actions.
My entire life in Austin has been burdened with being Black and living in a society that does not always give value to me as a human being worthy of opportunity and justice. I have carried this heavy load for as long as I can remember: When I watched TV and did not see any people who looked like me, when my parents talked about their tribulations, not too far removed from Jim Crow laws, and when I joined the workforce, rarely seeing any representation of myself in leadership. I have been determined to refrain from allowing that burden to hold me back.
My early life was relatively normal.
I had the privilege of growing up with two loving parents and my siblings in a house with a backyard. We were poor but had all the necessities. I was grounded early on. Growing up religious I was taught the power of prayer and the mercy that we are shown every day as imperfect human beings. My upbringing and beliefs are the basis of the values that I hold dear to this day. I am extremely blessed that my parents are still together, holding me safely in their arms. I cherish the time we’ve had together.
It is because of my parents that I gained the resilience and tenacity to keep going despite what may be happening to or around me. It is in how hard they worked to give their children stability. Showing us what having faith meant and loving us to no end. I always knew that I could be somebody. But it was not until I was an adult that I defined it. It meant never giving up on doing what I set my mind to, helping others, building generational wealth for my family and fighting for equality in an inequitable world.
A True Career
Reaching all the goals I set for myself required a career path, not just a job. I started working in human resources and discovered it was a field I could excel in. It also led me to other ways in which I could “be somebody.”
I set off on the journey of always being on the list of people mentioned when anyone in Austin would talk about the HR greats. Whether they loved or hated me, I would be mentioned.
At the time I set off on this path, I was working in the state government. I was not making much money, but I was gaining important experience. Next, I wanted credibility. I went after my first HR certification and obtained my Professional in Human Resources certificate in 2001. I was working two jobs and gaining more experience. It was then I started to encounter obstacles toward my growth in HR. Everyone said it was because I did not have a degree, which was the only feedback I began to hear. So, I started working on my degree at the age of 30. It took me seven years, but I graduated from Capella University in 2012.
Committed to Austin
From then until now, I have been on a trajectory I could not have even predicted for myself. Despite different obstacles, I know hard work pays off. I have had the opportunity to grow my career to the highest levels doing everything I set out to do as a senior certified, award-winning HR leader currently serving as chief people officer at JuiceLand. (Which, like myself, is another Austin original.) In my role, I get to work with our entire organization on what it means for us to show that equity and inclusion is a team sport in which we all play a position. No one gets to just sit on the bench and yell at the coaches. In addition to my continued work in HR, I serve on local boards and share my experiences as a Black woman speaking publicly around Austin and engaging as an adjunct instructor teaching HR.
What I initially considered to be a burden has now become what I lead with. I have really committed myself to Austin, the city I live in. Reveled in hope alongside others who also want to have a positive effect on the city known not only for being the capital of Texas, but also the live music capital of the world and home of the weird. I have seen movement. I have seen change. And I am excited about how I can continue to be a part of Austin’s desire to be a city of opportunity for everyone. The time is now.