What is your name, age, and location?
Selena Rezvani, 32 years old, Philadelphia, PA.
What is your profession?
I’m a self-employed management consultant focused on leadership development for women. I help companies to understand how they are – or aren’t – engaging their female workforce through women’s initiatives, workplace assessments, and succession planning programs. My personal goal is to see women recognized as the force that they truly are. For too long, we’ve been told about history in a one sided way: courageous men did this, brave men achieved that, great men invented so and so… Women have been overlooked in history and to an extent, we’re underestimated today. It’s my personal mission to change this.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
What was your first job?
As a teenager, my first job was working at a neighborhood bakery with four of my best girlfriends. Needless to say, not a lot of work got done.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
So much of my current work is about women finding their power. For the majority of my life, I didn’t feel powerful. That general sentiment made me particularly interested in women who had self agency, used it positively, and as a result, got respect. In writing my book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders, I interviewed 30 top women, ultimately found my own leadership voice, and was inspired to make a career out of helping other women to do the same.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
Teaching women to negotiate. One woman I worked with explained that she was fed up with her job, was no longer challenged, and felt undervalued and underappreciated. She cited that as a result of negotiation training, she sat her boss down to talk but expected few results. In the end, her boss asked her to write her dream job description, gave her a sizeable raise, and told her the firm would bend over backward to keep her. These kinds of stories represent the most fulfilling days of my work. Negotiating on your own behalf is about far more than getting a material good. It’s really about having a voice, piping up, and advocating for yourself.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
Given that my current line of work involves women, it helps that I can relate! In many situations, I’ve walked where my clients are now walking. In that sense, being a woman helps.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
When you’re young and female, there are times people will underestimate you. They may give their attention — and their eye contact — to the older person or the male in the room. There is an upside to being underestimated though: you can work hard to be the smartest person in the room and come extremely well prepared. This tends to catch doubters by surprise…
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
My mother. She was always insistent that I do something I love, rather than taking a path that was momentarily popular or that other people coveted. I so appreciate that. She really helped me use passion and meaning as my compass in my career. She also had a job that allowed her to feel personally rewarded every day. That example had an impact on me. I can remember patients sending her notes, gifts, and calling her at home to thank her for the care she provided them. In my own career, I aspire to that.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Don’t ever lie to yourself about who you are and what you want to do. I love the quote, “I’d rather be loathed for who I am than loved for something I’m not.” Decide who you are and have the guts to live as that person, in entirety.
Selena’s website: nextgenwomen.com
Selena’s column in The Washington Post
Buy Selena’s book “The Next Generation of Women Leaders”
– Interview by Elena Rossini