EAP Episode 4: Cybrina Cooper – Moving Up the Corporate Ladder
On this episode of the Early Accountability Podcast, we have Cybrina Cooper. Cybrina didn’t find herself working in human resources for a fortune 500 company by sheer luck alone. Although she started at the bottom with a degree in Animal Science, she’s been able to get to the top by following a set of rules that have worked well for her. It’s been almost 5 years and she doesn’t regret any bit of accepting her initial job offer. If you’re looking to climb up the corporate ladder, then you should definitely listen to this episode!
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT:
- Cybrina introduces herself.
- How she got into HR despite having an Animal science degree.
- Reasons she moved up the corporate ladder so fast.
- Benefits of surrounding yourself with the right people in your workplace.
- How long she’s been with the company and number of promotions she’s acquired.
- What the process of promotion looks like and how to get prepared for it.
- Tangible advice to anyone who may feel they have hit “the glass elevator”.
- Is it advisable to seek mentorship outside of your company?
- Word of encouragement to anyone climbing the corporate ladder.
- Cybrina’s daily mantra.
GET IN TOUCH WITH CYBRINA ON:
Cybrina Cooper on LinkedIn
Tune in to more episodes of the Early Accountability Podcast here!
I think it’s taking advantage of your opportunities and being a sponge absorbing everything so you can perform.
Just my mindset is, “I just want to be successful and I’ve got to buckle down and I can’t look at this as a joke or I’m here to pass the time.’’
Definitely I’ll say create work-life balance, build your network, and the other thing I live by is pay it forward.
Kimi: Hello. Kimi Walker here. On the current episode of The Early Accountability Podcast, I am happy to be here. Today, we’re going to be talking about moving up the corporate ladder. And I’m very lucky to have my guest here today, Cybrina Cooper.
Kimi: Hi, Cybrina.
Cybrina: Hi, Kimi.
Kimi: So why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience. Just tell us a little bit about you, where you’re from, what you do for a living.
Cybrina: For sure. Well, hello everyone. My name is Cybrina Cooper. I am currently a talent acquisition specialist for a fortune 500 company here based out of Seattle. I am originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, most known as the Hoosier State. I am a graduate from Purdue University.
Although I’m in HR, my degree is in Animal Science. So I guess that tells everybody if you want a career in HR take the Animal Science track because that’s how I got here. Just a little bit about me, enjoying the Seattle life. There’s a lot of food, fun places to go here, so definitely Pacific North West is home for me now.
Kimi: Like you said, your background is in Animal Science. How did you get into HR? How did you transition from that?
Cybrina: Well, that’s a good question. Kind of a funny story. When I moved to Washington from Indiana, I already had a job. I was out shopping and I was approached by someone. By the way I was interacting, they had enjoyed the experience of how I was interacting and they offered me a job and I was kind of caught off-guard. I was like, ‘’Sir, I’m not looking for a job, but I appreciate you speaking with me.’’ About 6 months later, I took a look at his business card again and I was like, ‘’you know what, I should give this a try.’’
So I went through the interview process, got hired on with the team, and still like, ‘’I don’t even know what the heck I’m doing.’’ But one of the things my company prides itself on is awkward mobility. I think they were able to invest in me. Taking in Animal Science major and teaching me about the industry and business and from there I was just able to climb the corporate ladder.
I don’t think I have a traditional story or a path where I’m like, ‘’Hey, if you do this, you can really get here.’’ I think it’s taking advantage of your opportunities and being a sponge absorbing everything so you can perform.
Kimi: Since the field was new to you when you got into it do you feel that that helped you in moving up so quickly? Just being so eager to learn, do you feel like it was just your drive? What kind of said to you, ‘’Okay, I think I want to keep stepping up or moving up the ranks.’’?
Cybrina: Step one is something challenging. Learning a new industry outside of what I went to school for, it was scary. I fell on my face and I’m like, ‘’Look, I’m a college graduate. What am I out here doing? I’m supposed to be successful. Why am I not seeing success?’’ and I think it took me to really step back and say, ‘’Cybrina, you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people. Find who’s being successful, ask them questions, just ask to shadow them.’’
And I found myself doing that. I am not a person who is afraid to raise my hand and be like, ‘’Look, I need some help. I don’t know what I’m doing.’’ And I think through that fostering environment I was able to learn a little bit quicker. I also think it has to do with age. I know a lot of people don’t like talking about that especially in HR. That’s an off limit topic for me. But I really think being older I wanted to be successful and really create a lifestyle for myself and not just financially but to be proud of myself and the success of, ‘’wow, I came into a new industry and I was able to climb.’’ And I think through that success in building your network that is not, ‘’Oh, I want to get promoted.’’ A promotion is fine to you. When you’re doing what you’re supposed to do everything falls into place.
Kimi: Okay. And by older you mean just not like right out of college?
Cybrina: Yeah, for sure. I started this opportunity a couple years out of college and I think my mindset was just different. I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to go out and party all the time or just come to work and have fun with all my friends, although I do that still. Just my mindset is, ‘’I just want to be successful and I’ve got to buckle down and I can’t look at this as a joke or I’m here to pass the time.’’ I wanted to be successful and that meant making some sacrifices now so that I can have fun at a later time and I guess it paid off.
Kimi: So how long have you been with your company and roughly how many promotions would you say you’ve had?
Cybrina: I just celebrated 4 years in August and I get excited because it will be 5 years this year and I get extra vacation time off. So I’m always trying to figure out like am I more excited about the vacation time or hitting 5 years old? So I just celebrated 4 years with the company and I’ve had 5 promotions. Working on number 6 and number 6 has definitely been the most challenging for me because I’ve been promoted about every 6 to 7 months since I’ve been with the company. And just this past years I’ve been sitting in my role and learning. I don’t think I’ve done anything different than my peers but again just having that focus that I am going to be successful is keeping me going and being my motivation.
Kimi: Within the – and I have just like a limited background knowledge in corporate. I’m very educated in health and wellness – so within those promotions is there usually like a general guideline? Like do you know like, ‘’This job usually people have it one to two years before they go up or apply for a promotion for the next level.’’ Or like you said, were you just solely approached about moving up? What does that process look like?
Cybrina: Well, there’s a couple of ways you can look at it. One of the things that I like to do is when I’m looking at that next opportunity– we promote 100% within. We have a lot of internal postings and one of the things that I’ll do is I’ll actually print out the job description. So when an internal posting goes up maybe I’m not ready for that opportunity but I’m about to print out the qualifications. Am I doing what I need to right now to even apply to this? Do I meet the minimal qualifications?
So that’s one of the things that helped to push myself is like, ‘’Oh, if I’m not doing that, I need to figure out how I can. Who’s going to teach me, who do I reach out to, how can I enhance that skillset?’’ And also reach out to people who are currently in that role. I know for my HR position, I reached out for everybody in the department. Because part of my interview process for this role is I had to do a presentation and that’s kind of scary for a role I’ve never held before. So reach out to people, shadow them, see if you can spend a half day with them, ask for feedback. But I think really what set me apart from my peers is doing things in my current role. I knew if I wanted to be in HR and be a recruiter I knew that I had to be making strides in my current role. So being active, asking if I could go to career fairs. Part of recruiting, although a lot of people think you’re the face of the company, you’re actually doing a lot of behind the scenes. I needed to make sure I was developing my people. Because that’s part of my job now is to envelop my manager so that they hire the right people. I made sure I was doing that within my field and my current role so that I could have the job that I wanted.
Kimi: Okay. my next question is let’s say someone has a mind they want to be at a certain role or they’re ready to apply for or look at the next position, and let’s say they’ve been doing this for a while. They’ve applied before and not being promoted and they feel kind of stuck in their role or feeling like they can’t make any forward moves, what would be some advice you would give to a person who feels like they may have hit the glass ceiling at their company?
Cybrina: That’s definitely a challenging feeling. I can definitely see how defeated they feel–
Kimi: Even if they’ve hit it, is there some advice you might give somebody to examine like have I actually hit the glass ceiling? Do I need to try harder? Do I need to look at a different role maybe? What kind of feedback would you give about that?
Cybrina: Definitely I would hope the person has a relationship with their manager. One of the things our company prides themselves on is creating a family atmosphere. And let me tell you, I have a standing appointment with my manager every Friday morning. I’m the type of person who you can give me a task and let me run with it. I don’t like to be micromanaged or anything like that.
But I think having a relationship and that standing appointment I have every Friday has helped me to have a relationship with my management team. But be able to go to your manager, have a real conversation. Don’t wait until your annual review or until you got turned down for an opportunity. Ask them like, ‘’Hey, give it to me real, what’s the hole in my game? How can I improve? What do you feel like is the next step?’’
Have that conversation. It shows them that you’re taking initiative. It allows real conversation and hopefully you’re the person who can take that feedback. Because let me tell you, I’ve had reviews or conversations with my boss like, ‘’I can’t believe they just told me that.’’ And you have to process it and be able to remove yourself from that situation and really have that sink in because these people are here, especially if they’re family to you, they’re here to help and see you grow.
I know my boss isn’t like waking up saying, ‘’I hope Cybrina doesn’t get promoted this year.’’ That would be the worst. They want to see you succeed so really take that in. So my first step would be with management, and I like how you said earlier looking at different roles. That’s what climbing the corporate ladder means. I don’t think I’m going to be in recruiting for the rest of my career. I’m going to stay with this company hopefully till I retire but being in the recruiting function, I don’t think I’m going to do that forever.
I think the skills that I gain in this sector of the business will help me bring it to another sector where I can bring enhancement. So I highly encourage everyone to just seek different roles and do that by some of the things I mentioned before. Shadowing, being able to reach out to those people whether it’s LinkedIn or in a networking event, really get your face out there.
Some best advice I got one time from one of the hiring managers in California, he said, ‘’Cybrina, it’s not who you know, that’s where a lot of people get it wrong, it’s about who knows you.’’ Often times, people are already watching you and they might be like, ‘’I can’t want to get Kimi on my team. Look at the things that she’s doing here and there?’’ so you’re thinking you’re hitting a glass ceiling when really something is already being prepared for you greater than you saw. So definitely get your name out there because it’s sometimes about who knows you instead.
Kimi: So a big part of that too is, and I struggle with this with what you said, sometimes letting your successes within the field be visible. So putting them out on LinkedIn or networking events. Would you also suggest to maybe seeking mentorship even if it’s outside your company? Like if you see somebody who is in a role that you might want and you just don’t have that dynamic with that person who’s in that job at your current company, would you suggest that or do you suggest trying to stay within the company if that’s where you’re trying to move up at?
Cybrina: I’m a firm believer of doing what’s best for you. We all want to be loyal to our company. We watched our parents do jobs for 20, 30, 40 years. I currently have somebody in our company who’s worked there 46 years and I’m like, ‘’Wow, 46 years?’ I think that’s the culture that we grew up in. when you get a job you better get in and you better stay but I don’t think that’s where millennials are today. To have a real conversation, most millennials, which I made the cut off, are usually seeking out jobs for like 2 to 2 ½ years. The reality is people are looking to gain skillset and move on and use that somewhere else.
I’m a huge fan of get what you need from a company and if you have to go somewhere else to build up and make that dream come true for you, then do that. You asked about having them go out and talk to other people to build your network, yes, get involved in the community. There are so many organizations that are looking for young people or are looking for great ideas. Like I said, going back to that it’s not who you know it’s who knows you. You never know going to a get together type of social event or even for the industry type of networking who you’re going to meet and how those people can impact your career.
My mantra is definitely Jeremiah 29:11. It’s plastered in my office so I feel bad for anyone who comes in and is not a believer, but you’ve got to believe in the plans that God has for you and definitely he’s going to give you future and hope. So if that means having to move somewhere else or anything like that, be still. Listen to what he’s telling you and move forward. So create your network and do what you’ve got to do.
Kimi: And you answered my question. I was going to ask you what your mantra is. So it sounds like your self-care is also a big priority for you and everything that you do.
What finally tip or words of advice would you give to anyone just to help them feel encouraged as they’re going through the journey of still climbing the corporate ladder?
Cybrina: I would definitely say, I think you just mentioned it a second ago, self-care. Remember this is all about you. Do what’s going to make you happy to progress your career forward and also personally. Work-life balance is what I live by. I live and die by my calendar. I even have a 4:45 look. I’m about to go change because I’m working out at 5:30. I’ve got to have time to travel. So creating that balance for you. Really don’t compromise yourself. Line up with the company that has goals and values the same as you so that when you go to work each day you feel good about the work that you’re doing. So definitely I’ll say create work-life balance, build your network, and the other thing I live by is pay it forward. I’m a kid from Indiana who moved out to the big city, so to say, here in Seattle, and the company took a chance on me. They hired me for a business role and I’m an Animal Science student. All I said is, ‘’You know what, give me a chance that’s all I need.’’
And so I say for anyone who’s looking for a career advancement or feel like they’re stuck or don’t know what the next step is, kind of extend your hand. You never know what it’s going to be like connecting with other people. And when you pay it forward – like I said, people took a risk on me, and said, ‘’Cybrina, what do you need?’’ – I make sure I do that every day in my role. Whether I’m developing careers of others in the industry, providing others with a platform, whether its career fairs or panel discussions and mentoring. Put yourself out there as the person that you want to be and definitely all the good things are going to come to you. Like I said, I’m grounded in the word and as you know, all things work together for the good and when you do what you’re supposed to and keeping your focus, you can’t do anything but win.
Kimi: Thank you so much. That was great. You gave us all kind of gems. I’m excited. You’ve got me feeling motivated. You’ve given our audience a lot of information about definitely people in corporate America or a lot of sectors. I actually feel that could go up into a lot of sectors not just corporate.
So definitely a lot of information on how you can move up and make sure that you’re advancing your career. Thank you so, so much for being a guest on The Early Accountability Podcast. We are so lucky to have you. If you want to get in contact with Cybrina, we will have information within the notes on how to get in contact with her, connect with her on LinkedIn. Again, thank you so much, Cybrina.
Cybrina: Thank you, Kimi. My pleasure.
Kimi: Thank you. Until next time.