“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #40: NIKKI GRAHAM,<BR>Operations + Project Manager @ RELEVANT Media Group

Operations + Project Manager @ RELEVANT Media Group

PC:  Abby Cox

Nikki is an angel. We connected through a mutual friend who happens to be her co-worker (hi Rachel) and I can already tell we'd be great friends if we lived closer. She's the busiest Babe with so many responsibilities (see: motherhood, school, full-time work, entrepreneurship, church, fitness, etc etc etc) and she does it all with ease and grace. She's also in the works of starting her own Wedding Coordinating company: nicole graham events + design - so look out for that! Thank you for being here, Nikki. You're a freaking delight. 

The Basics:

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Current location: Winter Park, FL
Alma mater: N/A
Degree: B.A. Communications at Rollins College (Currently)
Hustle: Operations + Project Manager @ RELEVANT Media Group

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why? 
My Pastor, Becca Turner. She’s not only the co-pastor at a rapidly growing church plant (Celebration Orlando) but she has a special needs daughter who requires her attention 24/7. They have nurses to help during the evenings, but she has never spent more than a day away from her daughter. It's admirable. She deserves a medal, a spa week, and all the wine!

How do you spend your free time? 
ESFJ in the flesh – so when I'm not scaling playground equipment with my 7-year-old, Cameron, I'm hanging with all my favorite people. Working full-time and going to school doesn’t really offer a lot for a ton of free time, but when I’ve got it, I recharge by being around my people!

What would you eat for your very last meal? 
Ippudo Pork Hirata Buns + Spicy Ramen

All-time favorite movie, TV show or song? 
New Girl. Is it Tuesday yet?

Favorite social media account to follow? 
Texts from your Ex – If you don’t follow them, you’re missing out (Ps. It is NOT censored)

What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Boundaries and self-care. For my Enneagram lovers, I am a 2: "The Helper", leaving room to forget about myself and take care of others most of the time. I wish I better understood where to draw the line – for everyone’s sake. (Should probably invest in all of Brene Brown’s books.)

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle: 
By day, I am the operations + project manager at Relevant Media Group. We are most known for our bimonthly publication, RELEVANT Magazine. On nights and weekends, I am finishing up my degree at Rollins College, and I'm in the process of starting my own event planning business: nicole graham events + design. I am also mom to the world’s best 7-year old, Cameron. 

What does your typical workday look like?
I usually arrive to the office between 8:15am-8:45am and take a few minutes to mentally prepare for the day. My mornings are filled with mini-meetings to review priorities or action items with departments.  Throughout the day, I'm constantly checking in to see what has been accomplished, whether we need approvals or edits, etc. I also handle all HR and help with finance processing, so sometimes I need to take one hat off and put on another. It is ideal for me to head to the gym at lunch, so I typically do that 4-5 times per week (honestly, it’s the only 40 mins I have to do it) and then I’m back in the office checking in with my teams to make sure all is well. I head out by 5:40pm to pick up Cam from school, and my evenings are filled with dinner, school, homework (Cam's or mine!), cleaning, event coordinating to-do’s, sleep and repeat!

Do you have a background in your current field of work?
I don't, actually! I am a naturally organized person who can have 30 different things happening at once and be calm and flexible about it all – so I think that was probably a huge selling point. I run into obstacles every day, and have to creatively figure out a way to overcome them. When you have a child at a young age – especially a boy - there are very few things that can make your blood pressure elevate. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 
Working with a bunch of people who I genuinely love being around every day.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work? How'd you overcome it? 
Definitely my inability to ask for help. A lot of the time, I think I can conquer the world without the help of anyone else, and that is simply not true. It's mostly in regards to my parenting. I have split custody of Cam, and don’t get me wrong, I fail… a lot. However, I am very fortunate to be blessed with world’s greatest ‘baby daddy’ (and his kick ass fiancé) who are supportive of all my endeavors and will happily be flexible with our schedules, picking up some of my slack while I continue my education, work weekends, stay late for a magazine deadline, etc. It truly is a game changer. 

What have your favorite projects been?
My favorite project with RELEVANT actually took place before I was officially employed. Cameron (our CEO) hired me to help with the event coordination of their 10th Anniversary Live Podcast event. It was chaotic and fun – we had people traveling from all over the world to come watch it. We also don’t take ourselves too seriously, so a lot of the time we are goofing off in the office. I work with a lot of my favorite friends – what could be better?

Do you have any other community involvement?
I serve with my church, Celebration Orlando, participating in service projects during the year to assist local organizations. Additionally, every year on my son's birthday, we try to spend time doing a local good deed. For his 3rd birthday, we did 3 random acts of kindness around the city. This year, we went to a home for atypical children and sang Christmas Carols. My role as a mom is to teach Cam how to leave his mark on the world. Be kind, be giving, love everyone. 

Are you working on any side projects/launches?
I always have to have multiple things going on. A big one for me in 2017 is the launch of my own event business. I decided in 2016 that I was going to launch one, and started taking on some wedding event coordinating jobs for portfolio pieces. Up next is branding and a website! *whew*

What draws you to event planning + design? Have you always planned to go that route in your career?
I love planning a good party. Whether it’s for a birthday or a wedding – it never gets old. Watching people make memories is one of my favorite things to do. I have gravitated more towards weddings because not only is there a party, but it’s the most important day in someone’s life. I get the chance to really make a difference and relieve the stress of wedding chaos. The more events I coordinate, the more I keep saying, “is it seriously possible for this to be a full-time job?!” 

PC:  Abby Cox

What are your goals for this endeavor?
To hopefully grow it into a full-time gig. Not only would that provide more flexibility with my child, but it would allow me to travel more and spend all the time in the world doing what I love. (Any babes with any advice on how to go from the corporate world to full-time self-employment without having a complete panic attack - EMAIL ME!)

Has being a younger mom influenced your hustle?
Totally. My hustle was necessary in the beginning – I was a young mom trying to figure out how to support myself and another human. However, my hustle has transformed into more of a lifestyle. I learned how to keep multiple plates spinning successfully and now I can easily work full-time, mom full-time, and have plenty of extra time to experiment with all my other passions (like event planning, school, philanthropy, etc.)


What advice would you give to someone considering foregoing college to jump into their career?
With a lot of hard work and determination, you can make anything happen. There are some careers that are strictly “experience” based and college isn’t a necessary part of the plan – but finishing college does say a lot about your desire to complete something. 

How would you say that your gender and/or ethnicity effects your work? 
Being a female in the workplace can be shockingly difficult sometimes. We all are aware of the pay gap that exists, however my biggest issue is with respect. I have a job that demands a lot of respect all the time. Respecting deadlines, respecting process, respecting leadership. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and straight up demand things, and sometimes that is a-ok. 

Do you have a "dream job?" 
Victoria’s Secret Model. Kidding. I like ice cream way too much. If I could figure out a way to travel for a living – that would be a dream. I always joke that I will become a flight attendant once Cam goes to college and the more I think about it, the more serious the idea becomes. 

What motivates you every day?
Here’s the deal: at the end of the day, I want Cameron to be able to look back on my life and be super proud. I chased my dreams, had fun, stuck to my values, and was surrounded by the best people a gal could know in the process. It’s as easy as that!

What does success look like to you? 
I feel successful when I'm fulfilled, and everyone who has encountered me has felt like they were loved well and treated fairly. I am not on this earth to climb an invisible corporate ladder and reach some sort of “goal” - that will never make me happy. I want to love people well, and know that whatever I’ve chosen to do has made an impact on this world.

How do you find a work-life balance? 
Great question. When you find it, will you let me know? Kidding! It’s about being intentional with your time. I have intentional work hours and then I have hours that I devote to my people, myself, my sanity, etc. If you can figure out how to be intentional with your time, it's easy to find a balance. 

PC:&nbsp; Abby Cox

How about stress management? 
Via 2 buck chuck... lol, but really. I make travel a HUGE priority. I feel inadequate if I haven’t been able to travel. There’s just something about exploring a place you aren’t familiar with, and maybe even getting lost. It’s the only “unstructured” time I have. My life is filled with schedules, so anytime that I can just go and not have a plan or agenda is good for my soul.



Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Find your people and follow your dreams. Those two are so cliché, and I get that. However, it is so imperative to find the core group of people who breathe life into your spirit. The ones who celebrate the wins and mourn the losses. The ones who will call you out if you’re making a questionable decision or provide wisdom when you just need a nudge in the right direction. The ones you can sing in the car with. The ones you can cry with. The ones you can travel the world with and not want to punch in the face (super important). People are irreplaceable. Find the few you can’t live without, and never let them go.

Connect with Nikki!

Nikki :: Email // Instagram

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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