“Welcome critique. This is the quickest way to learn and to grow in your profession.”
Verná Myers started out as a corporate lawyer, but now she runs a firm that showcases her strongest skills and satisfies her deep desire to fight for justice. How did she make the leap? Read on.
Q: How did your professional journey begin and what would you say was your defining professional moment?
A: In 1985 I graduated from Harvard Law School and began working as an associate in a Boston corporate law firm. I moved to another smaller, minority-owned law firm after my son was born and worked a total of six years practicing law. I left the practice of law when I decided that I wanted to spend more time with my son and pursue work that used my best skills and helped to further the ideas about which I was most passionate. I took on the leadership role, as Executive Director, of an organization of law firms that were committed to increasing racial diversity in Boston law firms. Then I became the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Massachusetts Attorney General, spearheading diversity initiatives and community outreach. The Attorney General made an unsuccessful bid for Governor.
One of the defining moments in my career was my decision to strike out on my own and create a consulting business on my own rather than working for someone else. I have never regretted that decision. I have loved every aspect of developing my diversity consulting business and the opportunities it has afforded me to help individuals and organizations become more fair, inclusive, and equitable.
Q: What are the characteristics that you believe define a great company?
A: A great company is one that takes steps to live out its stated core values—aligning its actions with its policies and welcoming a diverse group of employees, treating them with dignity, providing equal opportunity and access, and using diverse viewpoints and backgrounds to shape its direction and future.
Q: What are your top three tips for a woman who is ready to make her next career move?
A: 1) Leave the place you are now with integrity and with your relationships intact—demonstrate your professionalism and care for your colleagues and your work; 2) Know yourself: Do a self-inventory. What work, people, and environments make you excited and which make you miserable? Be honest about your strengths and challenges. 3) Know what you want to achieve with the move—is it increased salary, experience, prestige, another skill or competency, geography, life balance? How does it fit in with your overall long-term strategy?
Q: What is the top piece of professional advice that you’ve received from a mentor and why do you think that advice still applies to today’s business environment?
A: Welcome critique. This is the quickest way to learn and to grow in your profession. If you can stay open and look for ways to invite and apply feedback from others, they will want to enjoy working with you and you will excel.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keeps you refreshed and positive?
A: I pray every day and try to exercise most days; these two things help offset the anxiety that comes with living an overly-scheduled but exciting life bent on trying to make the world a better place. There is so much to do!
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a leader who led by example, who was willing to get his hands dirty, and who was courageous enough to stand up for what he believed despite the violent hatred he encountered. He also led in collaboration with many different types of people and he lead with love and mercy. This courage to love changed a nation.