Kim Kelley: Hello everyone, welcome to the pepelwerk podcast, we actually have not had a podcast in quite a while, and I’ll just say that that’s because we were on stealth mode. We have a lot of really great things coming to our users, and our members, and our audience here in a couple of months, but rest assured that our content will actually get back on track to help us all change the working world. And that leads me into today’s interview, actually, with Amina Boukary, and I’m going to introduce her just as my marketing boss, but we’ll get to figure out how she became a marketing boss, and what that even means for the rest of you who think you want to be a marketing boss, and how she evolved into this job from graduating college, and her impressions of the working world today. So welcome, Amina.

Amina Boukary: Thank you, I’m excited to be on the show.

Kim Kelley: Well, you should be, since you created all of our intros and made sure our creative content was pretty badass. So I’m glad that you are here.

Amina Boukary: Thank you [crosstalk 00:01:38], it’s only natural that I’m here now.

Kim Kelley: Exactly. Well, I want our audience to know that just our working world, the way that pepelwerk works is that we’re trying to encourage the rest of the world to find freedom and choice, and really to realize your own potential. So I think that’s a good way for us to start our conversation. Tell us, the users, tell me, what your first job was out of college.

Amina Boukary: Alright. So my first job out of college, I actually had the opportunity the summer before my senior year to take an internship in sales and marketing. So I pretty much got a crash course in, not only getting to build marketing plans and work with small businesses in my college town to figure out how they could connect with the college community through advertising, but it was also an opportunity to fuse selling advertising with creating these advertising and marketing plans. So, I performed very well in the internship and I was ranked in the top 40 out of 700 interns across the country, so that pretty much opened the door to being able to land a job very early, even before all of the spring interviews starting happening. So I was connected with the internships career partners, that actually landed a job November of my senior year.

Amina Boukary: So I felt like I was pretty set, I still wasn’t 100% sure that the job that I was going to do straight out of college was going to be my end all be all, but it was an opportunity for me to at least land a position in sales and figure out what I was going to do next. So I actually started this position a little bit before I officially graduated from school, and I was selling custom suits, actually, to executives. It was basically a role as a personal clothier, which was really cool. I got to build a network in the city I was in. I was in Indianapolis at the time, and it was a very cool way to start the summer of finishing up my degree, but also getting real hands-on sales experience. But ultimately that led me to realize that that niche, in particular, was not what I exactly wanted to do.

Amina Boukary: So as I got this experience and was just learning the different elements of the working world, and what I loved, and what didn’t quite work for me, I actually was reached out to by the company that I interned for that summer to interview for a regional manager position in North Carolina, and then ultimately I got that role and moved out to North Carolina probably a few weeks after interviewing for that position. So that is the long-winded answer to how I got to the job that I really consider as my first position.
Kim Kelley: So, I’m just curious to know, when you started each one of these working opportunities, how much handholding did you get? How much instruction did you get that this is the way the job needs to be done?

Amina Boukary: It was a mix. So I feel like the interview process was a little bit clunky from the beginning for the first position that I started, but of course when you are trying to onboard college graduates I know that they’re a little bit nervous, and they want to everything that they can to hold onto you. So there’s a little handholding in the beginning, but then once you get into the position you get thrown to the wolves, and I could say that either way could be good, just depending on who you are. But yeah, the interview process itself, one of them took quite a while and the other one I think felt a little bit more natural.

Kim Kelley: So, I’m asking because Mercer released an attitude toward work survey that they finished in 2018, and it really just doesn’t show millennials in a very nice light. It says that you require a lot of attention, that you require a lot of praise, and that you require a lot of maintenance. How do you feel about that being how your generation is generalized in the work market?

Amina Boukary: So, I think that millennials were put into this negative box from the get-go, because we were definitely raised with a different communication style than many of the other generations before, we were raised differently than the generations prior. Just as the generation who has judged us so critically was to the preceding generation. So I think one thing that a millennial generation, my generation has demanded is being treated like a human being, rather than accepting the status quo and accepting being treated as a robot, and really looking internally to say, “What is my purpose in the work that I’m doing? Why am I showing up here every day? Do I need to show up here every day, or is there a way that I can fuse my life and lifestyle with the work that I do so that I can be a productive member?” And that, to me, doesn’t look the same as the person who’s sitting next to me, or the person who came in here 10 years ago and has a different life dynamic.

Amina Boukary: So I think that previous generations were frustrated with us because we wanted to be happy at work. It seems like a foreign concept, but I don’t think that our generation was going to just sit back and say, “You know, I don’t need to be happy here. I’m just here to contribute to the work and collect a paycheck, and if I’m crying inside, that’s fine.” I think that’s how a lot people approached work before, and I don’t think that there were as many options that allowed them to feel the freedom to speak up for themselves because there were many people next in line, and not as many opportunities to create your own path if the corporate world wasn’t working for you, but now that’s not the case.

Amina Boukary: So I think that a lot of the critics were not taking into account the current times, and also how their generation raised us to stand up for ourselves and want more. So, that’s what I have to say about the millennial critics.

Kim Kelley: Well, I think the good point that you really brought home, and that most people that are looking at an entire perspective is, yeah, the boomers, they had to tough it out. They weren’t part of the digital era, they were information constrained, and now we are fully in the digital era and there is information, resources, access, and choice all around us, and millennials, you’re the first generation to almost really consciously live in a full digital timeframe. Gen Zers, right? Gen Zers, that’s what’s after you.

Amina Boukary: Yeah.

Kim Kelley: They know nothing else, and so, unfortunately, we’re babies being thrown bones and now that’s all that they know as well. So we reap what we sow, I guess.

Amina Boukary: No, exactly, and it’s going to look different for the generations to come, and so on and so forth, but I was not necessarily raised in, I mean we, of course, didn’t have iPads and iPhones and weren’t connected by social media from the beginning, but we were raised on computers, we were expected to know how to type before entering, a lot of people before entering middle school, but before entering high school. I’m not looking down at my keyboard to know what I’m putting into the computer, it’s all of these things are very natural. I know how to do my research, and then when social media gets brought into the equation, then we start to slowly live in this digital world now.

Amina Boukary: But by the time I’m entering my career, a lot of these things are coming into place, and it’s definitely blown up over the last five years into a world that it was not before, but the concept of knowing that we have options, and knowing now that we have access to blog posts and picking other people’s brains, and podcasts, and seeing how other people’s careers have transpired before us, we see so much value and have access to the knowledge and how to create a life that we enjoy, and that doesn’t include working in a space that is not for us, at least not long term, because we still need to learn and grow and all of those things.

Kim Kelley: Well, I think that’s a good segue into how did you make the decision to work for pepelwerk?

Amina Boukary: Yes. So, as my career transpired, so I had the opportunity to work in a leadership role in sales and marketing, and then I found myself in the consulting world for a while, and in my experience working in consulting smaller businesses, and then larger businesses in the HR space, and just seeing employer’s relations to employees, and also being an employee who sees what I like and don’t like, and consciously evaluate the direction of my career and how my life relates to that as well, I saw that there was an opportunity and I became very passionate about being aligned with the work that you’re doing, and really having that opportunity from the get-go of your job search. I remember spending countless hours looking for opportunities and a way that I could get into an industry that I knew I had experience, and passion, and knowledge in, and skills. But it was really hard to be able to find or even break through the application process there.

Amina Boukary: As I was working, I also was able to build an online life where I really dove into all the ins and outs of marketing, and social media, and being very passionate about that, and really teaching myself, giving myself a part two marketing education out in the digital era, and it was really exciting and knew that I loved marketing, but I didn’t know how to take my skills in it, and to take my passion in it, and be able to translate that into a role where I wouldn’t have to start completely over again. An opportunity to step in and be able to present that to an employer that would hear me out and be able to look at the work that I’ve done, and see where the connection is.

Amina Boukary: So, it was awesome that, not only pepelwerk was the place that had a role where I can really dive into marketing at its fullest, but also that you created a platform that allows people to showcase their skills and interests, and not so focused on the resume. I remember trying to clean up my resume as soon as I found out about the opportunity, and I’m like, “Okay, got to take all of these things and try to figure out how I’m going to fuse my marketing experience …” that wasn’t even necessarily in my corporate life, and you’re like, “Don’t even worry about the resume. I just want you to fill out your profile, and here’s what you need to do on our platform, and that’s it.”

Amina Boukary: That was amazing. And with the application, quote unquote application process, but really the whole thing from the time that I found out about the opportunity to the time that I was signing the acceptance was, I think less than two weeks. Was it a week?
Kim Kelley: I think it may have been the Saturday or Sunday that I sent it to you, so pretty quick, yeah.

Amina Boukary: It was quick, because there weren’t questions because the system … I mean there were questions, but the system was set up to only match me to, really for you to pursue me if I was a match, and I’m so grateful that I was, and it has been an exciting journey since then. So I’m just really excited for everybody to be able to discover the platform and be able to find roles that maybe their little piece of paper doesn’t show that they’re going to be great at, but they have the skills, and the potential to really go after that role and excel. So, yeah, exciting things in the future.

Kim Kelley: Yeah, sweet. We have a lot of exciting things. And I’ve got one more question for you, but what I love about our conversation is that if you’re an employer, listener, or you’re a talent, this is a really good balanced perspective. And my last question relates to any employer that’s listening, because in the employer world you have small and midsize businesses that they need to make really quick, cost-effective, sensical decisions, and they adopt change really quick compared to their larger counterparts. And in larger corporations, they have to deal with reality, not just internal systems and different decision makings, but disruption and old traditional processes. So my question to you is, what would you encourage employers to think about? Not about pepelwerk, whether to use pepelwerk, but how to consider using newer processes to relate better to the next generation of work?

Amina Boukary: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and I think that it’s really twofold. It’s thinking about who you are as an organization, and the level of innovation that you’re committed to in your process when it comes to, maybe the services that you’re offering, or some of the software that you use to stay cutting edge and be able to offer as many benefits and really stand out to your clients. So that’s something that you’re always thinking about and continuing to grow in because you want to stay ahead of the curve in your industry. So I think that it’s really important to think about your processes when it comes to your people that way, because I think a lot of people say, well really in recruiting, if it’s not super broken, do we need to fix it? But I think that it’s just really focusing on staying innovative in everything that you’re doing, and as the times change there’s going to be better ways to approach certain things, and I think talent acquisition is a big part of that. Making sure that you’re sourcing your people in ways that are reflecting of the times too.

Amina Boukary: And that brings me to the next point of knowing where the people you’re interviewing and the people who are already a part of your organization know where they’re going. Make sure that you are aware of their changing skills, their changing interests. I know when I started my career, I wasn’t blessed to know exactly very, very clearly where I wanted to go from the time I was six years old, like a lot of people. But there are a lot of people out here who are starting their careers, they know that they work hard, they have a great work ethic, they work well with other people, but maybe they’re starting their career in a space that they are finding that there’s a different element of the job that they would prefer to go towards, and making sure that you’re having those conversations, or understanding the people that you’re interviewing. Do you know exactly the path that you want to go, or are you looking to expand your skills here? Then staying open-minded towards X, Y, Z.

Amina Boukary: So it’s really making sure that your interview process and the communication that you have with the people in your organization and coming into your organization, that you are on the same page and not pigeon-holing them, and that your processes are also keeping up with that change, because I think that a lot of the old processes were really like, “Let’s have this piece of paper define the person that’s committing to spending a good portion of their life here.” And I think that we need to take that more seriously. I think that the talent market is taking that a lot more seriously, and employers need to honor that.

Kim Kelley: Well, that’s really astute points, and I’m glad that you actually got to be a representation of your generation because you’re an excellent representation of your generation. I think you can pretty much shatter some really bad judgments and really poor misconceptions about how to, not just connect with your generation, but to work with your generation. I am so grateful that you are part of pepelwerk, you make us work, ha-ha, and I cannot wait to see more of what you’re going to do as just an amazing human being, wherever that’s going to take you, and hopefully that means that pepelwerk’s part of the journey for a long time. But just as you said, that all employers should do, anybody offering work to another person, is to let them flourish and be the best people that they can be and that they want to be. So any final notes, Amina, before we sign off?

Amina Boukary: No, I would just encourage everyone really to take a stand for the direction of their career, and their life. Just the happiness as a whole of what you do on a day to day basis. I know that it sounds like a luxury when we say it, but I truly believe that we can create our best work lives by just acknowledging who we are as people, and really being as relentless as possible to go after what aligns with what you hope to contribute. So don’t be afraid, if you feel like you don’t have the credentials that will land you in the spot that you want, try anyway, keep teaching yourself and continuing your own education, there’s so many free resources to do that. But ultimately, I really think that we can create the work lives we want by giving ourselves the courage to go after what we want. So, that is it.

Kim Kelley: Okay, I think that’s a great note to end on. So thank you, everyone. Thank you, Amina for being a part of the podcast, our podcast that came out of nowhere after two months of being silent. It’s a great way to kick off the spring season, and what’s coming for pepelwerk. So thank you, everyone, for listening, and just remember; we give you the tools, it’s up to you how you use them.