Jackie Ferguson is a certified diversity executive and the co-founder and Head of Content and Programming for The Diversity Movement, an organization that promotes DEI through content, technology, and data. Jackie is a member of the National Diversity Council, a contributor to Forbes, Almanac, and other publications.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in Dutchess County, New York. I had the privilege of being from a multiracial, multigenerational, multiregional family, which allowed me the opportunity to understand different views and perspectives, all based on different experiences, in real-time. The inherent diversity of my family has informed my thinking so much, in terms of how to approach difficult conversations with people, each of whom is at a different point on this diversity journey, and how to bridge gaps between individuals.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I wish I had realized earlier that goal achievement and true impact comes through working on the right things and developing a level of expertise in something you’re passionate about. I’ve often referred to myself as a “Jackie of all Trades” because of the many roles and many industries I have worked in. Although I do feel these experiences help me to have a broader understanding of business in general, I wish I had pursued my professional passions earlier.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Often, people mandate diversity training as part of their compliance education, rather than committing to organizational transformation through long-term, sustainable diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Also, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for creating inclusive cultures. Every organization is different, so it’s important to spend time understanding the existing cultures and where to leverage wins quickly in order to create lasting change. Finally, you have to ensure that you are providing engaging learning experiences for your employees. That monotone voice on a training video or too many uninteresting slides to click through is not the way to manage organizational change. Those just leave people tired and jaded.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I once held a job where I had poor management and even poorer onboarding. I was not set up for success, partially because my manager wasn’t actually good at his job. I stayed too long in the role, feeling defeated and unhappy, but told myself I was fortunate to have a job. After that experience, I realized the importance of having a leader who is committed to growing their team, setting stretch goals, and providing opportunities to excel. That’s the best advice I can give to young professionals; interview your manager as purposefully as they are interviewing you.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

I deliver on my promises. I do my best to ensure thoughtful and thorough work, to meet my deadlines, and to remember my whys. Why do I do this work? Why do I press forward on the tough days? Why is my work contributing to the greater good? I think my execution helps me maintain the respect of my team. And, that respect needs to be earned every day through my performance, not my title.

What is your morning routine?

My daily alarm is set for 7 am but, depending on what I feel I accomplished the day before, a 7 am wake-up is a luxury. I set a second alarm for 5:30 or 6:00 so that I can get some real work done before the emails and calls start coming in. Those hours allow me to accomplish a lot, uninterrupted. After working for 1.5-2 hours, I take a shower, grab some coffee, write down my priorities, and get ready for my (virtual) workday. I also get up early on Saturday mornings so I can get some extra hours of work in before family commitments, house chores, and errands take over the day.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

It’s important to expand your expertise and perspectives by being a lifelong learner. I read, I go to webinars, and I am constantly looking for opportunities to grow, so I can be faster, smarter, better. Also, realizing that I don’t have all the answers encourages me to be in a consistent pursuit of knowledge from other sources.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Wake up early, and get the hard things out of the way before you have the opportunity to be distracted. Always know the priorities that matter to the organization or to your manager. Don’t let things that are “urgent” derail the things you know are actually important. Oftentimes, we get busy doing the wrong things. Always know the one or two things that move the needle, and make sure you do those first.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

I’d say there are three. Winning by Jack Welch, gives perspectives on growing businesses and hiring the right team, which is imperative to a strong and sustainable business.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, assists with the practice of thinking strategically about your decisions, practicing patience, and playing the long game; and

Inclusion by Jennifer Brown, is a great foundational book for those entering the
diversity, equity, and inclusion space. It talks about how to implement inclusion strategies at every level of the organization.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

My grandmother told me when I was young, “No matter who you are, I can learn something from you, and you can learn something from me.” I think of and reference this thought often in my work in diversity. I think it’s important to remember that sentiment as you leverage diversity to strengthen innovation and creativity within your organization. The best ideas don’t always come from the highest titled or most tenured person in the room.