Around The Way Girl: Kristin Windom

IMG_6519“I just saw myself wearing Gucci suits everyday and walking down the street like ‘You are that bitch.'”  Although she does not see herself there yet, Kristin Windom has accomplished more than the average 24-year-old. Hustler does not come close to describing this Chicago girl from the south side. With a BA in Integrative Marketing and Communications from Illinois State University, Kristin has worked her way up in the corporate world as a Marketing Technical Recruiter and has proved herself as a top saleswoman in her company. She has also managed a side hustle in starting her own successful shape wear business, Body By Hollywood. Even with a steady corporate job, Kristin’s story proves that life can take you in any direction at any moment (see update at the end).

Explain to us what the company Tech Systems is.

Tech Systems is the largest IT (Information and Technology) staffing and services company in the U.S.

What does a day for “Corporate Kristin” look like?

So Corporate Kristin gets up at like 5:45-6:00 a.m., leave out around 7:00 a.m., I’m at work by 7:30 a.m. and my day starts. I work in sales, so I work a commission based job. So I get to work, whatever deadlines or whatever I didn’t do yesterday that I need to catch up on I do before 8:30 a.m. Every day there is an 8:30 a.m. meeting. And then I work… my job is a lot. I am a recruiter for permanent and contract positions. I am given a requirement, which is a detailed job description, rate, location, blah, blah, blah, that we receive from one of the clients that we service throughout the Chicagoland. Then I have to go and find somebody to fill the job. So within that I have a network of 140 people that I have to keep up with… [laughs]…I don’t even know how to really describe my job [laughs].

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So you are basically a head hunter like Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits?

Yeah but we don’t say that cause that sounds bad.

Ok, so when you recruit you have to take them out and things like that?

Yea you have to take them out. You have to build trust quickly… I mean it’s like selling any product. The only difference between what I’m doing is I sell people to people. Which I think is harder because it’s selling a candidate to a manager for them to hire; so it’s not like a tangible item, it’s a skill-set. But the thing with people is, you know, products don’t change. If I’m selling this candle, this candle will be this much in weight, it will be silver, etc. It won’t change, but people change. The industry that I’m in, there is less than 2% unemployment so it’s very competitive. So as I’m trying to employ them, so are a million other people, so I have to build trust very quickly and add value so they can trust me, and want to work with me, and take my job… does that make sense?

So they’re my exchange. I’m trying to work with them and they’ll be like, Oh I want this, oh I want that now, oh I don’t wanna do that anymore. You know people are finicky. So I have to have my business hat on from a sales perspective because the lower I pay them, the more I make. So I have to do a lot of negotiations and you know people always want more money. We usually can’t pay them as much because we are so large and have a volume discount, so it’s like Wal-Mart, we are like the Wal-Mart. So I have to pay them as least as possible while they’re getting calls from other recruiters. So it’s a lot. I also have people that are on my payroll. When I put somebody to work and they’re working, they’re on my payroll and that’s where my commission comes from. And I have to keep up with those people and make sure that they’re happy cause they’re still getting calls too. So Kristin’s day is a lot!

Some say going corporate is like selling out. Why go corporate and not independent?

I don’t think going corporate is selling out. I think that going corporate is creating opportunities for people that look like me. I work in an environment where there are not a lot of African American women and in my office I was the only one until Scherell (close friend) came onto my team. So if I can go in a corporate setting and I can exceed, which I did, because in my first year I did very well. I surpassed all the goals that they set for me as well as the average goals, and because of that you create opportunities for others.  I think that a lot of little black girls are now learning to be businesswomen and sales is hard. It’s very male driven. You have to not only fight with competitors outside of your company, you also have to fight internally. I think going corporate is an example showing young women, I don’t know if you’ve read this book before called Lean In, but that you can lean in. You don’t have to be the nice girl and still be cultural in your environment and tailor that. Like I can’t be cussin’ saying bitch bitch bitch, cause you know me…[laughs] I had to tailor that. I still was able to be direct in who I am and still be professional, cause I always get praise for opening my mouth in negotiations, and to not sugar coat, and to be very business savvy.

So I think what I do is creating an example for little girls because I didn’t have that. I had to go to school. My mother didn’t go to school, none of our family went to college, none of them worked in corporate America. So I went to school and attached myself to business fraternities and people that were doing stuff that I wanted to do. I had to go up to them and say, can you teach me? How do I get an internship? Then I got an internship. How do I get a job? Then I got a job. And then I came into corporate America. I attached myself to somebody else, a white lady. She super strong, just like a black woman. She reminds me of my mother except she’s white. She’s that independent, type A, intimidating woman, who was also the highest paid commission person in the office. So I reached out to her because she was someone I wanted to be like. She saw something in me and in her 10 plus years I was the first mentee she’s ever had.  Within no time I was able to climb the ladder. So I don’t see corporate as selling out, I see it as creating opportunities because now there are two black women in the office and another black male. I think for us to progress as a society, there needs to be black people in corporate America.

I think me being black is the reason why I am doing so well and I wish more black people got into sales because we have that hunger. You know, that feeling of not knowing when the next check is gonna come, or when the bill is gonna come, or getting the lights shut off, so we’re greedy when it comes to money. We work hard. So that in a sales environment? I think we would do a whole lot better than these little rich white kids. When you’re thirsty, you make more money.

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Kristin with her mother and sisters

How did you land this job?

Honestly it was not anything I went after. I was applying to that business frat because I wanted to do what businesspeople did. I did not have a job or anyone to help me, so I was like let me join this. I ordered me a suit, over nighted it from JC Penny. I made the fraternity and it was the top frat at ISU. We threw an internship fair and I met this lady who was the intern recruiter for Tech Systems. I was always into retail, you know married to Target and I never thought I would be in a corporate setting like at a desk every day downtown. Like my momma did hair, my dad owned his own construction company, and I was store management at Target on my feet running around. But she liked me and kept up with me. After a year I decided I didn’t want to do Target and went through the interview process. I made it through all three rounds. I’m really into numbers and my lucky numbers are 1/11 and 6/11, and the building’s address was 111 N. Canal. With 6/11 I play with variations like 161,116… and the parking lot number was 161. So I was like I don’t know what they do all the way, it sounds like a hard job, I’m not sure, but my grandmother had passed a few months before so I told myself, I should be here.

What is the most challenging part as a woman working in a corporate setting?

I think the most challenging part as woman, which is something I learned recently through TED Talks, is that it is very difficult being liked for being successful as a woman because as a woman, to be successful you have to be a little bit more direct than a man. But because you are a woman, it comes across as being emotional or not logical or mean. I hate when people tell me that I’m mean. And it’s not just people in corporate America, it’s everybody. Everybody ain’t use to a very direct woman. I feel like, as a woman, you have to demand what you want, and part of your demand is your hard work and proving why you deserve it. Then the other part is opening your fucking mouth, and saying what you want. You also have to realize that just because you opened your mouth doesn’t always mean you’re going to what you want. I demand a lot of things. I work in sales. My time really is my money. So as a woman, the hardest thing is being what they call “politely aggressive,” where you have to be aggressive for them to take you serious, but polite enough for them to like you.

Would you like to advance in the company?

Absolutely! I love my company! Some of the stuff you face in corporate America you will face anywhere, but I feel like at my company I can express that. We have a women’s group in the two offices downtown where we all get together and discuss all the issues we’re having at the company and they give us $500 and we all eat lunch. I’m implementing something in my office right now because I saw a need, and I’m pretty much telling my director that I don’t think his management team is that effective and I’m coming up with a plan to drive development. To tell your director that at some companies would be seen as, oh you’re telling me how to run the office? But instead of doing that he’s taking my perspective and we’re locking arms together and driving a new development culture from the ground up.

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Kristin and her mother

So you mentioned this job pays for your dinners and lunch, how do you not get fat?

Oh I do get fat. I’ve gained weight since I’ve been there. I eat a lot. I can’t fit shit I used to wear.

What are the top five restaurants you’ve been to so far?

[sighs] Man I’ve been to so many. Ok I’ll just talk lunch. I like Black Bird on Randolph, it’s really good. Siena Tavern, De Cero–I love Mexician food. I’m starting to really like Indian food and Jaipur is really good. And for my fifth, it would be Embeya.

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Siena Tavern

Do you do typical corporate people stuff like happy hour?

Oh we do a whole lotta happy hour. This is sales. Everybody is an alcoholic. My happy hour be at The Godfrey and we spend like $3,000. My company has a lot of extra money, that’s why we eat so well. Like we are not supposed to spend over $50 for two people for lunch, but we do. I mean we’re downtown where everything is 20 plus dollars per plate and you have to add tip.

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Is this what you imagined yourself doing at his age?

I didn’t. I don’t know what I expected myself doing at this age. I just saw myself wearing Gucci suits everyday and walking down the street like “you are that bitch.” [laughs] But at this age I did not expect to be so in tune with myself and I think this job had a lot to do with it. You work with people so a lot of things you don’t see about yourself is made real to you because you interact with so many different personalities. Your perception is at an all time high. There’s always somebody making some kind of perception of you. You just learn your strengths and weaknesses and my strengths and weaknesses at work just so happen to be the same in my everyday life. It’s all people based.

You have your own car, your own place, a good job. Do you feel established? You don’t have the Gucci suits yet but you still are walking downtown like you are, “that bitch.”

I don’t feel like I’m established. I feel like I’m growing into a savvy businesswoman. I don’t think I’m here yet, but for the average 24-year-old am I probably a little more advanced? Yeah. I think I’m a high-budding potential businesswoman. That’s how I would describe myself.

Along with your 9-5 you also have a side hustle? Can you tell us about it?

Yes, right now I sell shape wear. I have a full shape wear line of women’s shape wear: corsets, long, short…and also men’s. I do that on my off time. Every Saturday and Sunday I go to the flea market, we have a booth there. I also do things after work. We have a salon that’s half salon half shape wear store.

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Does it get overwhelming? Do you have time for a social life?

It does get overwhelming but I make time. I just think sometimes as women we can be critical. Even me, I can be over critical of myself like, I should be in a relationship, I should be starting a family, I should be doing this and that. It’s like yeah, I want to have fun. I want to go party on a Friday night, but no, Kristin has to get up in the morning. I don’t have an off day. I work Sunday to Sunday. I don’t consider shape wear “work” work because I get to dress down and be me, but it’s still work. So yeah, it can be overwhelming, especially doing business with your mother [laughs]. I just feel like me focusing on a man and partying has not lead me anywhere beneficial. When I jumped into shape wear I said, “this is gonna be my man.” With that I was able to buy my own car that I wanted and now I don’t have to touch much of what I make from my other job. I think I’m at a point where I’ve partied enough and dated enough that I want beneficial things, like a condo or good credit.

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What advice would you give girls who want to enter the corporate world?

First, I think it’s important to attach yourself to someone you admire and want to replicate. Especially for little black girls, because not every mom sent them to Lincoln Park [High School], you know, sent them to school up north. You need to learn how to talk business conversations, learn how to elevate your vocabulary. Attach yourself to that person and talk how they talk, and walk how they walk. Then you can learn how to incorporate that with yourself in the business setting.

Also as a woman, I think it’s important that you learn how to interact with men. When you’re in a corporate setting it’s mostly all male.

Where would you like to see your future career?

I don’t want to be in a commission based role. I would like to see myself in a diversity role. We have a huge diversity group in our company where we talk about diversity inclusion, bringing more diversity into the company. I want to be a large part of bringing in diverse talent to our company. I’m very passionate about minorities, especially African Americans, and I want to be an example. If I could be an example and use my credibility and my success to open doors for more Kristins (African Americans), more… I don’t know… Marios (Latinos) … and more Jennys (Asians)… [laughs]… or whatever… and create opportunities for minorities in a corporate setting, then I would be happy.

I would also love to open up a youth center one day. And at one point I would like to quit my job and sell shape wear full time because I love working with women! I am very pro-women. I’m quickly becoming an all woman brand. The only people that I pay to work for me are all women.

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What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

DON’T DATE NOBODY! Don’t focus on men, just go to work and work hard. It’s not that serious. No one that I’ve dated were beneficial.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

The food… because I’m greedy and hungry [laughs].

[UPDATE] Since speaking with Kristin life had taken her through a whirlwind of obstacles health-wise, spiritually, emotionally as well as mentally. She looked deep within and built the strength and courage to quit the job she once loved and  pursue her passion with Body By Hollywood. This is what she had to say:

“I was working and was very much respected and also doing what I love but there was a void. I wanted to control more of my life than I should and it was becoming very apparent. Along my spiritual journey I realized what really made me happy and it was touching people, which is something that I could do in my corporate job but I was not able to touch the demographic that I wanted. I have always had an interest in the minority woman. I always felt obligated to be an example because an example is something I didn’t have. Also, an advocate. I truly saw Body By Hollywood as my ministry and my way to reach that demographic. I had always been told that I had a gift to connect with people and a way to truly articulate myself and feelings so I decided to take my gifts and take a leap of faith and resign. I don’t think I have ever cried or have been as stressed as I was making this decision. It is much more difficult and inconsistent but it is fulfilling and I am learning that if you are fulfilled you can become successful. I do however truly appreciate my experience in corporate America. It allowed me to understand business and provided me discipline. I wanted something, but God wanted something else.

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Follow Kristin on Instagram @msbodybyhollywood and get right for the summer by shopping with her at bodybyhollywood.com!

XO,

Rebecca

{Know an Around The Way Girl we need to to get in touch with? Let us know in the comment section below!}

3 thoughts on “Around The Way Girl: Kristin Windom

  1. Regarding the update… are you sure she wasn’t fired for putting her company’s alcoholism or outing budgets on blast? Seems quite inappropriate for someone in a corporate setting.

    Like

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