How to Use Your Voice to Find Career Success: Advice from Adobe’s Markeia Brox-Chester
There is only one Markeia Brox-Chester at Adobe.
So when Markeia was added to the invite for a meeting with thought leaders in her organization, the imposter syndrome that briefly made her wonder, "was this on purpose?" was quickly silenced.
"If someone adds me to an invite, it's not a mistake," says Markeia, reflecting on her initial reaction and the confidence that came after it. "I had to come to terms with that and to say okay, I have something to offer that they want to hear."
Markeia is a Business Operations Program Manager at Adobe, where she works with different departments to drive process improvements across the company. "My ultimate job description would be to look across the organization from a cross-functional perspective and look at the strategy, how we're measuring our success, and ultimately how we're driving towards our business goals," says Markeia.
Even though she's now very comfortable speaking up in big meetings, that wasn't always the case. "I'm an African American young woman, the youngest on my team," says Markeia. "There's always that feeling of 'How did I get here?' and I have to remember that I was invited to the table to have a seat, so I took one and I ensured that I kept it."
We talked with Markeia about how she's kept that seat by learning to use her voice, as well as how she encourages other people—especially those from minority backgrounds—to do the same.
Be unafraid to seek growth
Looking at Markeia's title and suite of responsibilities, you might not assume she's only four years out of undergrad. The 2016 University of San Diego grad first joined Adobe as an HR generalist, a role that saw her digging deep into different parts of employee relations at the digital media leader. "From that role, I determined that I like to drive projects and kind of see things more end to end," says Markeia.
She began to network within Adobe to see what other opportunities existed. She found a business ops role that interested her and applied, and credits her project management skills as what led to her offer. As she grew into the program manager role within that team, she says she honed her executive presence, strategic thinking, and time management skills.
Markeia has never shied away from an opportunity to learn something or to grow, even when those opportunities initially seem overwhelming or scary. "I'm very confident, but when you step into that new role, you're going to have that first day feeling of 'should I be here?'" she says. But she's learned to ride out that initial feeling: "Just be confident in your own ability to get yourself to the same place that you got yourself in previous positions," she advises.
For people seeking opportunities to advance in their own organizations, Markeia encourages them to just ask for what they need. "I personally have always had the philosophy of 'You don't know what you don't know unless you ask,'" she says, "And I have gotten pretty far with that. The reality is that if you don't ask, it's an automatic 'no.' If you do ask, it's a 50/50 chance of a 'yes.' I like the odds of going from a 100% no to a 50% yes."
She also recommends that people reach out directly to coworkers with job titles that sound interesting and ask about their own career paths, as well as have frank conversations with their managers about ways in which they're looking to grow and roles they'd want to grow into.
Invest in your community both within work and beyond
Markeia is from Oakland, California, and despite its proximity to all of the big tech companies in the Bay Area, she says working for those companies seems farther out of reach for the community, even though they are just across the water.
"When I look at myself as someone who came out of Oakland, my first thought is, 'I'm not special. I'm not any different. So what opportunities was I provided that are not being provided back to [others]? What was I taught or what knowledge did I get that really helped me get to this place that [other people from Oakland] might not be hearing about in their households or in their schools?'" asks Markeia. "And as someone who has made it into the tech world, what responsibility do I have to share that back?"
That's a rhetorical question, one that Markeia's already answered for herself: she has a big responsibility.
"I've always been very passionate about the community around me. I'm a product of my community. I will always want to see how I can give back to the community," she says.
Markeia pursues that responsibility both at work and beyond. Through Adobe, she takes advantage of volunteer opportunities to do community service with different Bay Area organizations, and she serves as the Black Employee Network (BEN) Site Lead for Adobe's San Francisco office.
"A lot of the various events BEN drives are meant to appeal to a community that may not have necessarily thought they had a place in tech," says Markeia. "Whether that's youth or individuals from nontraditional backgrounds, we're ultimately opening the doors of Adobe and bringing them into a conversation of possibility."
Markeia notes that she's especially passionate about encouraging young people to pursue a career in tech, and works to do so at Adobe by partnering with organizations in the Bay Area to present to students, bring them on site, participate in panel discussions, and serve as an example of what is possible. "It's about providing opportunities for these very talented individuals who may not have a connection somewhere to get their foot in the door of tech," says Markeia.
Within Adobe, Markeia says that BEN (Black Employee Network) works to create a community for Black employees. "It's about having a safe space to come and chat, to have friendships, to turn friends at work into family at work, and to have opportunities to share ideas, questions, and advice," she says. "We're moving with a common goal of revolutionizing the idea of Blacks in tech."
Outside of Adobe, Markeia recently joined the advisory board of a charter school, and is excited about the opportunity to positively impact that organization, too.
While she highly encourages others to get involved in initiatives that speak to their passions, Markeia has some advice on how to do that without burning out.
"I have some difficulty with not over-committing myself. I think we've all been there when you're passionate about something. You have a tendency to want to give your all," she says. "But you need to prioritize yourself as well—your well-being and mental health. Everybody needs to have moments to recharge and reconnect."
To help do that, she starts off small when she takes on new roles or gets involved with new organizations. "Instead of jumping into a leadership position because that might be the shiny, fun object, start by dipping your foot into the organization first and ensuring that it's a good fit," she advises.
Be hungry to learn
We talked to Markeia during the pandemic, where even though she's stuck inside and working from home, she's still actively pursuing her career growth goals. She's signed up for a data analytics bootcamp course and is loving the challenge.
"I thought, what's a better time than now, when we can't do anything, to sign up for something that's going to help me grow or move into a different position?" she asks.
(Our answer to that rhetorical question: there probably is no better time, Markeia, though we've definitely been using that time to watch extra Netflix instead of brushing up on our analytics chops. You've got the better idea, though!)
Markeia's course is reimbursed by Adobe's learning fund for employees, and Adobe's focus on learning is just one of the many reasons that Markeia enjoys her role there. "Adobe is doing so many things to equip employees to find their voice, see where their voice fits in the organization, and decide where they want their voice to be heard," she says. "They're giving employees resources to grow into whatever that is and get them there."
If you're interested in joining Markeia at Adobe, check out their open roles here!
Ah, the dreaded PIP.
Performance improvement plans (PIPs) can feel scary. They have a (not entirely unearned) reputation for being the first step on the road to an eventual firing. And sometimes managers do implement PIPs solely to appease HR by ensuring that they made every last effort to make a given employee successful before terminating that employee.
We recently chatted with Megan Hansen, VP of People at Smartsheet, who oversee the employee lifecycle from Talent Acquisition to Alumni support.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the company's culture and values, and learn how you can make your application stand out!
To learn more about Smartsheet and their open roles, click here.
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
The world has changed in the past few weeks.
We're watching corporations and organizations across the world come out in support of Black lives in droves. Many of those organizations are doing so for the first time in their history.
Preparing for the Unexpected: How Maria Fava Found Her Confidence as a Bicultural, Bilingual Woman at T. Rowe Price
Born in Mexico City and raised in Guadalajara, Maria Fava never would have predicted that she'd have a career in financial services. And certainly not in Maryland.
Over two decades ago, when Maria moved to the U.S. to study psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington, she'd planned on moving back to Mexico to study law after graduation. Instead, she fell in love with an unassuming Italian-American her senior year. She married him and moved to Maryland, his home state.
When the pandemic began in spring and her friends (and fellow Carnegie Mellon master's students) started to find out that their offers for summer internships were canceled, Mai Sha held her breath.