Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone: How Two Black Wisconsin Women Became Business Women and Graduates
Being a Black Woman is not easy but these two women do it with ease, well that’s what it seems. It’s actually their consistent hard work that has led them to college graduation and receiving job offers before even walking across the stage.
Adrienne Harper and Natasha Malone are two Black women from Wisconsin graduating with business degrees and a bright future.
Coming from Wisconsin, they beat the odds and stayed at the top of their classes throughout high school. It was no surprise they succeeded while in college too.
Harper and Malone left the comfort of what they knew and went striving for more at HBCUs. See how they navigated their way into becoming successful Black women:
Today, May 11, 2019, Harper graduates from Dillard University with a bachelor's degree in accounting.
When first entering school, she was undecided but always knew she wanted to be apart of their business school. Harper quickly discovered that “accounting is considered the language of business,” which meant once she learned accounting, she could be multifaceted in all sides of business.
Harper spent one semester at Dillard before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She wasn’t used to the life of Dillard just yet. The campus was small and the school didn’t feeling challenging enough.
The students were more focused on their social environment more than school itself, at times, she said. Harper left because UWM could provide an education only environment she thought she wanted.
Harper was wrong.
“UWM, it felt like a task or job to be in class,” and the classes were too big. There weren’t many opportunities to connect and build relationships with her professors nor classmates.
Harper spent three semesters at UWM before transferring back to Dillard. She realized that the strong social community Dillard has was something she needed to succeed.
“Everybody around you is a key component,” Harper said about the amazing networking opportunities HBCUs provide to their students. “You have a bunch of people who can share exactly what they did to get to where they are.”
While at Dillard, Harper built a personal relationship with the president of Dillard and interned with four businesses around the country.
Harper first interned for AAXA Advisors for two months as their administrative intern, which allowed her to see what life was like as a financial advisor. She then interned for Ameriprise Financial headquarters in Minneapolis as their corporate finance intern.
At Ameriprise, Harper analyzed promissory notes on how advisors get paid. It was “super key” to her development.
In the fall of 2017, she attended National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) in Atlanta where she was hired as an intern for both Koch Industries and Ernst & Young (EY).
From Jan. to June she worked at Koch in ATL as their intern tax analyst. She completed a series of partnership tax returns, a few corporate tax returns and three foreign tax returns. And she was one of the three interns, out of eight, who were offered a job post graduation.
Immediately after, Harper interned for EY from June to Aug., which was also in ATL. It should be noted that EY is one of the four top accountant firms—referred to as the “Big 4.” She was their IT risk advisory intern.
Harper spent six weeks out of her internship traveling doing business, which was all paid for. She event spent a week at Disney World. Her traveling taught her that “every region around the country conducts business differently.
You need to get a range to see what’s going on in the world.”
Harper said leaving the city allowed her to see that she can hustle and maneuver in the ways she wanted to make money.
Now that she’s reached the end of her college career, Harper is proud of the work she’s put in, but is ready to keep putting in even more.
Harper has three offers from Ameriprise, Koch and EY…wonder which one she’ll choose.
The entrepreneurial spirit arrived early in Malone. At the age of 15, Malone started selling her own hats, which turned out to be so successful that she started selling shirts creating the “Red Wolf Collection.” Anybody from 14-18, and even older wanted something made by Malone.
Malone was also known to throw house parties that everyone wanted to be invited to. Her popularity grew and it all started with an idea to become her own business. That mindset inspired her to attend college to become a double major in business.
“It helped me get my feet wet,” Malone said about having her own business so young. She got a taste of the entrepreneurial route and wanted to keep going down that path.
“That person really pushed me to be the person I am today,” Malone said about her younger self. “You really were running shit when you were 15.”
On May 18, 2019, Malone will graduate from Texas Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in business management and accounting.
Malone’s from Milwaukee but grew up in Glendale, which is prominently white. Going to an HBCU would give her a new experience, an experience with people surrounded by her—Black and educated.
“I knew I wanted to get away from home and getting away from my norm,” she said.
She spent her first two years learning how to adapt to her new environment. Malone joined student organizations and got involved with her campus community. She was trying “to get a family away from home,” since she couldn’t visit her own as often.
Malone also realized that “there’s more to life than just Milwaukee.” In the city, she said, everyone’s too consumed with what everyone else is doing, which is blocking them from seeing the bigger picture.
“If you stay comfortable your entire life you’re never living,” she said.
Leaving gave her an opportunity of a lifetime.
Microsoft came to TSU to recruit students and Malone was ready to impress. Prior to their visit, she had already applied for a position with the company. Before her meeting with Microsoft, she researched their stock market, learned more about their CEO—she came well prepared to impress.
The following week after her initial meeting, Microsoft flew her out for an interview during her finals week. The following Tuesday she got the job, 11 months prior to her graduation date.
When offered the job as their financial analyst, there was only one answer: yes!
“You don’t turn down the number one software company,” Malone said about accepting the job with Microsoft.
After graduation, she’ll be heading to work for Microsoft at their headquarters in Washington. She’ll be working on their financial statements, budgeting, looking over their finances for product releases and more.
Malone plans on giving money to students that participate in the YMCA Teen Achiever Program, the Running Rebels Community Organization program and students from her Alumna Mater TSU.
“Wait until 2020, there’s going to be scholarships all in my name around the city,” she said about giving back to those who’ve helped her.
Malone said she had to leave the city in order to give back to it.
“Don’t stay stagnant” and travel, said Malone.
Harper and Malone are two Black women we can all be proud of. Anything’s possible as long as you get uncomfortable, take risk and keep striving.