Paying It Forward: Career Mastered Impact 50 and Leadership in Action Honorees

By: Zenell Brown

Challenge, Triumph, and Positive Impact.

The 2022 Career Mastered National Women’s History Leadership Diversity Summit & Awards event was held on March 22-23, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a top assignment for the week was to recognize women of diverse racial, ethnic, education, and career backgrounds who are respected in their various industries.

The Career Mastered “Diversity IMPACT 50” honorees and the “Leadership in Action” honorees each have an inspiring story of Challenge, Triumph, and Positive Impact. This author was fortunate to interview three of the honorees to learn more about them and shine the spotlight on their plans to pay it forward.

LAPRONDA SPANN is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Lain Consulting. She says as her entrepreneurial career is sun-setting, her focus is to recognize and lift “Rising Stars.” She recommends up-and-coming entrepreneurs for speaking opportunities, gives them a warm handoff to potential business connections, and is an encourager for those seeking to take calculated risks and launch their entrepreneurial careers. LaPronda is an adventurer who has bungee jumped, snorkeled, zip lined, and jumped out of a plane.

When this adventurous spirit was asked who encouraged her, she replied, “Without a doubt, my Mom.” Her mother is a former educator and has always been her number one fan. She takes a front row seat at every event and is the avid cheerleader for LaPronda’s success. LaPronda’s work and life exemplify the African proverb she holds dear: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

Laura M. PEREZ-WESTFALL is a Senior Director of Asset Protection, Operations Integration and Training. Laura epitomizes “the work your way to the top” success story. What started off as a seasonal cashier job in 1996 has turned into the culmination of a Senior Directorship of Asset Protection of a Fortune 30 Company. Laura’s success story has several chapters taking risks, defying stereotypes, and breaking glass ceilings. Laura’s mom, Carmen Perez, instilled in her a strong work ethic and eliminated “can’t” from her vocabulary.

 Old school, Ms. Carmen gave unconditional love sprinkled with tell-it-like-it-is truths to ensure Laura was prepared to live and dream beyond her humble beginnings in the Brooklyn, New York projects. Laura quickly internalized that living in the projects was just a circumstance, not a measure of her as a person or her ability to manifest big dreams.

John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Laura is a leader with a capital “L”. One of Laura’s early mentors, Joanne, helped her land her first leadership position. Since that promotion, Laura has not only

continued to ascend the corporate ladder, but reaches back to lift other women and people of color. As mentor and sponsor, she pays it forward ensuring that others have access to opportunities. She chairs Latina Leaders, an internal Business Resource Group (BRG).

Laura encourages women to speak up: “It is important for women to learn to use their voice. What they say matters, and often they are not the only one in the room having those thoughts and feelings.” Her leadership comes with her personal commitment to ensure that diversity and inclusion cascades throughout her company.

CANDICE MCPHATTER is the Head of University Relations at Fifth Third Bank. NC and has been in the Talent Acquisition arena for 10+ years. Since joining Fifth Third Bank in May 2020, Candice has cultivated the Bank’s brand at the targeted universities and colleges in NC, SC, GA, IN, and IL. Her superpower is that she builds key relationships and sources talent for early career opportunities. In her work, Candice champions for Early Career Professionals.

“I know I will be a better leader and a better person because of what I learned,” Candice shared about her Career Mastered experience. Candice is passionate about helping

students and will continue to help young professionals identify and realize their full potential. Her passion for developing emerging talent will fuel future initiatives and programs.

Candice credits her father for being her inspiration. He showed her the importance of applying herself to realize her goals and modeled having a successful career, a healthy family, and a strong sense of self. Candice will continue to lift others as she continues to climb her career ladder.

It was the assignment of Dr. Lisa Wicker and the Career Mastered team and sponsors to honor extraordinary achievement by women at the Summit; LaPronda, Laura, and Candice’s portfolios speak for themselves. As for this assignment, all that is left to be said is “A+. Well done!”

See you next year in Atlanta.

Zenell B. Brown is an attorney, published author and principal leadership consultant coach of Inspiring Minds, Inc.

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