Kesha Kent says she was a student the teacher disciplined for talking too much in class.
She now uses interpersonal skills to her advantage as a diversity and inclusion leader for Ascension, a faith-based healthcare company.
Kent said she was 12 when she fell in love with her future professions through an aunt, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who works in human resources.
During summers, Kent worked with her and fulfilled office duties, including researching payroll issues, administering direct deposits.
“Seeing her be her authentic self gave me the want and drive to work in [human resources],” Kent said.
The profession may have intrigued her as a young girl, but she did not begin a career there.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in management and leadership from Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, she chose a job in sales. A few years later, she discovered business recruiting, what she calls “sales to the 10th power.”
“They had the same goals set up like sales, almost identical when it comes to the key indicators,” Kent said.
“[It’s] looking at what you’re doing that drives people to you. How are you closing the deals? It was the same thing for people, but it was my love for the people coupled with recruiting that made me fall in love with it because I get to help people all over the world.”
Being a representative for people of color, particularly Black women, motivated her route to HR.
“I would see sometimes there were no women of color in recruiting. That’s what kept me there, and I was good at it,” Kent said.
“I can compete with my white male counterparts. My numbers were just as good as theirs. Sometimes people only [want to] work with people who look like them, and that’s a downfall in getting to know other cultures.”
Kent, a product of St. Louis Public Schools, didn’t see much diversity in her school or neighborhood. Everyone, except a few teachers, looked like her.
Her surroundings changed instantly when she, her mom, and stepdad relocated to Chicago during her 7th-grade year. The environment differed from St. Louis.
She experienced diversity on a grand scale when introduced to different cultures. The exposure benefits her when she works with people from various backgrounds.
“When I interview people, I’m not stiff because that makes people not want to work with you,” Kent said.
“If you love what you do, you should act like it. Imagine if you were inviting this person into your home, you would make them feel welcomed.”
A self-described extrovert, Kent said she understands everyone’s character isn’t like hers. While she’s a natural talker and very outgoing, some people are quiet and reserved. How does that affect them in a professional setting?
She said the main thing for introverts is to understand their strengths.
“You set goals on what it is you want to do, coupled with what you want and ask yourself what do you want,” Kent said.
“First, you have to understand your strengths and stay in that lane. Confidence allows you to connect with anybody when you’re true to yourself.”
Kent said Ascension “rolled out the red carpet with the training, development, and leadership opportunities.
“They have cultivated what I came to the table with, more than 15 years of experience. I see myself retiring there in the future.”
In addition to being a wife and mother of three, Kent is author of “Networking, It’s Your Superpower!.” She also co-authored the book “Stuck. Strained. Stressed.: Real Stories About Shifting Your Mindset to Overcome Challenges.” She has a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Judson University.
Both books are available on Amazon.
“I love people, and I believe that’s what makes it my superpower,” Kent said.
“I get to teach people how it can be their superpowers too, when they’re intentional. That’s the big thing; we have to be intentional about the people we meet. Every person you meet can be part of a new network.”