BABE #115: CHELA WHITE-RAMSEY, Sr. Employee Development Specialist @ Indeed
Chela is a hustlin' babe, Indeed. (See what we did there?) Seriously though, she is an OG part of our community, and someone we were lucky enough to connect with incredibly early on in the BWH journey. It was actually one year ago down to the week that she submitted her first article to us, and we've loved following her adventures as a badass woman in tech ever since. With an extensive background in psychology and human resources, she has committed her career to helping others hone in on and refine the career paths of their own; all things we can get behind here at BWH. Thanks for letting us pick your brain, Chela!
Hometown: Morgan City, LA
Current city: Austin, TX
Alma mater: Louisiana State University
Degree: BS, Psychology; MA, Industrial/Organizational Psychology; PhD, Human Resource Development
Very first job: McDonald’s Front Window Cashier (age 16)
Hustle: Sr. Employee Development Specialist @ Indeed // Chief Career Strategist @ ChelaWorks, LLC.
Babe you admire and why?
I’ve always struggled with this—not because there aren’t people I look up to, but primarily because those people aren’t widely known. The babe I admire most is my mom, who is the ultimate self-starter, hustler, and boss-babe. She instilled a fierce independence in me that has carried me through many of my professional and personal challenges. (Thanks, Mama!)
How do you spend your free time?
I love reading, SoulCycle, music and musicals, and doing fun and quirky Austin-specific things with my husband.
Favorite app, website or blog?
My favorite app is Spotify because I’ve carefully curated dozens of playlists for every mood.
Go-to adult beverage?
Vodka-soda or red wine.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
I’m from South Louisiana and my mama makes the best gumbo of all time. It’d definitely be that.
It’s gross. Have you heard of Baby Foot?
Queso or guac?
Queso all day, baby.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
I was in a straight-to-TV movie/miniseries when I was a kid. It’s called “The Fire Next Time.” Interestingly, the movie is about the apocalypse, and although it was filmed in 1993, it’s set in the year 2017.
Tell us about your hustle:
I have two hustles: a “main” hustle and a “side” hustle. The main: I’m a senior specialist on the Employee Development team at Indeed, the world's #1 job searching website. I work closely with managers in engineering and product management to understand what their continuous learning needs are, and then create content that aligns with those findings. Additionally, I serve as a product owner for a working group dedicated to helping employees understand what their career options are inside the company. Why? Because even if you’re working at our company, we want you to grow. And we want your next job to be at Indeed. On the side, I run ChelaWorks, LLC. It’s a company I started dedicated to helping people find jobs. I write resumes and cover letters, create LinkedIn profiles, perform interview coaching and conduct job searching for clients who need a little help finding meaningful employment. I’ve been doing this for about two years, and I’m a one-woman show. It’s an incredibly rewarding hustle I plan to keep doing for a long time.
What does your typical workday look like?
I’m very fortunate, because no two days are the same. I spend my days in exploratory meetings or with my working group to develop a dope ass program based on what we’ve learned about what employees want and need in the company. Most recently, I worked with a team of five to go through a five-day design print, build and test a program, and measure the results of that test. The program we built was a regional open house where employees can flow through information stations and demos to help them map out their career path inside the company.
What draws you to the tech industry? Did you always aspire to work in it, or did you end up in the field organically?
I happened upon the tech industry very organically. My first role during my PhD program was in the chemical engineering industry, and I took very well to the data-driven nature of that kind of company. When I relocated to Austin, I found that the majority of companies were, in fact, software engineering companies, so it made sense for me to try to do what I know how to do in that “tech” space. I channeled not only my day-to-day work, but also my academic research, into the tech industry. While I was working full-time in tech, I also conducted a research study about women in the tech industry and their perceptions of work-life balance. I would never ask you to read the research, but in case you’re interested...
How have your past internships, education, and work experiences prepared you for the role you’re in now?
Getting a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology helped to peak my interest into “people at work” in general. I’ve always considered myself to be the working woman’s advocate, so to speak. Being able to look at how people work from an academic perspective was instrumental in helping me get to where I am now. Indeed is a company dedicated to helping people get jobs. The mission so closely aligns to something I’m incredibly interested in, which is career development for everyday people.
What inspired ChelaWorks? What makes you passionate about career development and how does that tie into your day job with Indeed?
ChelaWorks was inspired by my inability to get a job after college. I learned fairly quickly that a bachelor’s degree wasn’t a one-way ticket to gainful employment, and I struggled with things like resume writing, interviewing and general best-practice for how to find the right fit. Once I landed a job and started to build my own career, I didn’t hesitate to help friends and family with their job searches. I did it so much that I made a small business out of it: “$5 Resumes by Chela.” Of course, looking back on it, I understand that $5 was a ridiculously low amount to charge for resume-writing, but I was determined to provide a service for people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. The business took off, and today, I provide career development services through my website.
How would you say your writing/communication skills benefit you in your role at Indeed?
I don’t write nearly as much as I’d like to, but it is something that’s important to me and something I’ll continue to prioritize in my professional and personal life. I remember when I wasn’t sharing my writing with a broader audience. I would write for myself, but I didn’t share any of my work because I didn’t see the value. It took me a long time to realize that the gifts we’re given are meant to be shared. My ability to write stories and articles that impact people—that’s a gift, and it isn’t mine to throw away. While I haven’t been writing for larger publications, I have been able to write for the Indeed company blog. It has been essential in helping our (relatively new) team get more exposure throughout the 5,000-person company.
How would you say your gender or ethnicity has affected your professional experience?
I’ve certainly had to deal with the microaggressions that accompany being a black woman in a primarily white, male-dominated space. I have come to believe that, more often than not, they are not sure what to do with me - so unless I speak up or take the initiative, I’ll likely just be ignored. Being demographically different from the majority of the people I work with has made me feel much less restricted in my approach to people and situations. I care a little less about what people think of me, and as such, I’m more likely to speak up when I want to, volunteer for something I’m interested in, or take initiative on my terms.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
At Indeed, about 27 percent of our tech sector is female. I don’t know how much I see that changing, to be honest. The current trend is that the majority of women in our organization work in “non-tech” roles (i.e. finance, marketing, sales, etc.), and I foresee those numbers continuing to expand.
What do you think needs to happen in the industry, and in the world, for more women of color to pursue careers in tech?
I think we’re now beginning to see the possibilities for women of color in tech. Personally, if you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be working in the tech industry now, I would have laughed. It just never seemed attainable to me. Now, I want to create exposure for younger girls of color, which is why I like to volunteer with girls in programs like the Girls Empowerment Network (GEN) in Austin. I firmly believe you can’t be what you can’t see. Giving young girls exposure to this industry and helping to peak their interests in STEM-related work at a young age is a step in the right direction.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
This is a really good question, and it’s tough for me to answer. I don’t know that I have anyone who is well-known who I look up to in this industry. I tend to find people in the organizations I work with whose work style I aspire to. At my last organization, it was a senior-level manager who had a very participatory leadership style, so I modeled my leadership style after hers.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Remember your worth and be able to explicitly articulate your contribution. Impact is essential, so it’s important to be able to make meaningful impacts and communicate how you’ve done so in previous professional settings. Finally, the ability to make inferences based on data will get you far. It’s something easier said than done, but data-driven behavior is valued in my organization (and the tech industry in general.)
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Consider applying to jobs you want before you’re 100 percent qualified. I’ve been guilty of waiting to apply to positions unless I’m able to check the box next to every single requirement, and I wonder what would’ve happened had I taken the chance. Of course, you need to be able to demonstrate your competence and potential impact, but I say, take the risk.
In partnership with:
Grammarly is the world’s leading automated proofreader that checks for more than 400 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It enhances vocabulary usage, suggests citations, and has ultimately saved our lives. The BWH community are HUGE fans of Grammarly and can't quite imagine our lives without it at this point. Check it out, and thank us later.