A few years ago as I contemplated my next steps from a career perspective, I knew that while I wanted to remain close to software development and project management, I also wanted the next part of my journey to include serving in a role that drives corporate philanthropy. So I wrote out my complete job description and prayed about it. SN: I write out everything, goals, dreams, etc. (“Write the vision.” I’ll likely share more on this and how it has helped throughout my life in a separate post soon.)

Today, I serve in that dual-role I prayed for that keeps me close to software development and project management while leading the corporate philanthropy charge for my company. In this capacity, I get to further pursue part of my purpose by creating an environment of service and outreach where employees can give back in meaningful ways that align to the core values of the company.

This month’s corporate outreach initiative was the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k Walk. As a team, we headed to the National Mall to join other teams covered in pink, wearing tutus, and fighting for a cure!

It was an awesome outpouring of support. I started off walking with one colleague—about 25 years my senior—but I couldn’t keep up with her speed walk, so I let her go on ahead and "be great"! I found my stride and ended up next to another colleague, whom I’ve known of for about a year as we’ve interacted at other outreach events but I had never really had a chance to speak with her at length.

As we walked the three miles, we started talking about our childhood and I was shocked to find that much of our experience was quite similar. I can’t say I had assumed anything about her upbringing because I never thought about it. I knew she was very nice, professional, and always extremely excited about opportunities to serve. How she grew up never crossed my mind. However, if anyone had asked me to think about it, what she shared isn’t what I would have guessed in a million years.

We both grew up in poor neighborhoods, were heavily influenced by our grandmothers, and have almost identical pivotal moments that forever changed the course of our lives. And she too, remembers the lady in the neighborhood that would freeze Kool-Aid in styrofoam cups and when we were hot we would knock on her back door hoping she hadn’t run out already! Like me, she grew up surrounded by love but not in Ayden, in the projects on Belvedere Ct; for her it was in Richmond, on the Southside, in a trailer park to be exact.

On Sunday, I was able to see her in a whole new light. We’ve held quite a few service initiatives and she always shows up, ready and eager to serve. She’s one of the people that sticks around until the end of the sandwich drives to help take the sandwiches to the shelter. I just thought she was nice and liked to help. I learned on Sunday that she’s not just nice. She’s a Christian woman with a heart to serve. She’s excited about the sandwich drives because she recalls relying on a helping hand for a meal. She’s ready and willing to donate to the backpack drives because she remembers the assistance her mom received each year for school supplies, clothing, etc. I now understand her “why” and I have a new found understanding and appreciation for her.

And if you’ve ever been to a breast cancer walk you know that the party continues afterwards, so as the line dance songs started to play, I grabbed my snack and joined her for the electric slide and cupid shuffle as she ‘walked it out’!

Mrs. "Walk it Out" signing the Wall of Hope.