Career Clusters Stories + Advice

Black Professionals in Startups & Entrepreneurship: Elyse Bush ’16

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As part of Boston College’s celebration of Black History month, Elyse Bush ’16 shares her journey and provides insight into her day-to-day life and keys to success within the workplace, particularly within the startup and entrepreneurship business.

Elyse Bush ’16

Elyse majored in Political Science and Philosophy at Boston College and is currently a Founder at Justus, as well as a Marketing and Programs Manager at BU Spark!

Q: Main Duties & Responsibilities: Please provide a high-level overview of major responsibilities of your work in your industry/company. 

As the Programs Manager for Boston University Spark! I am responsible for ideating and executing programs that inspire inclusion and diversity in technology. While I am doing different tasks on any given day management has become a vital method for the success of our programs. Being able to brainstorm, create, execute, and measure has been a huge growth opportunity for me. In line with my interest in technology, I am the Founder of a business that provides a platform for underrepresented groups in the workplace to review their current or former employer. Since Justus (www.joinjustus.com) is in its early stages I wear many hats from sales, business development, to operations! 

Q: Credentials: What kind of education, certification/license or core skill requirements are required (or encouraged) to be employed or advance in your line of work?

Although not always required, I’ve found that a bachelor’s degree has become an expected piece of applicants’ resumes; experiential learning is a MAJOR way to not only acquire a job of interest to you, but is also an excellent way to achieve upward mobility in your career. While “hard skills” like the ability to program, project manage, and analyze are exceedingly important, “soft skills” or what I consider to be extremely underrated essential skills are even more useful in my view. The ability to connect with one’s colleagues, network effectively, and have a desire to continue your learning is equally as important as skills that you can get from any quantitative course you might take. 

Q: Keys for Success: What strengths or characteristics relating to being a person of color, particularly Black, do you see as valuable in or transferable to the workplace?

As a black woman in the workplace I am able to apply cultural competencies in order to understand diverse values and backgrounds. As a professional, networking is not only a valuable skill to have it’s also an expected core competency. As an underrepresented person in the workplace you’re forced to become familiar with advocating for yourself and in order to do so networking is a valuable skill to have. 

Q: Workplace Atmosphere: Please provide brief insight into what the day-to-day life is like working in your specific organization or the field in general. What is the most/least energizing aspect of your work?

At Justus, since we’re in such an early state the vast majority of my time is spent networking, doing outreach, and marketing. While I consider all aspects of my work at Justus to be energizing (because it’s my baby) the most energizing aspect of my work is definitely the exploratory work that we’re doing with sentiment and emotional analysis and the marketing aspect of the role. It brings me tons of excitement and energy when one person decides to write a review on our platform and even one review can make me energized long after it has occured. The most trying aspect of my job is the outreach. At times, despite the amount of people I talk to at networking events, and the amount of people we email sometimes it’s discouraging to not receive the amount of responses that we initially hoped. However, ultimately getting responses (although they come slowly at times) is the most energizing aspect of my role. 

Q: Hiring Timelines: When is recruitment and hiring most concentrated in your industry (e.g., early fall, spring, ongoing/year round)?

In my experience in my roles I haven’t found that there’s one hiring season in particular, however that might be specific to my experience! Based on my experience, I have found that there is ongoing hiring and recruiting presence. 

Q: Starting Strong: What are 1-2 top action items someone entering their first internship or entry-level job should seek to find out or accomplish right away? Are there any particular questions you’d recommend they ask their would-be supervisor/manager during their interview to determine the right “fit”, or ask before their first day so they’re best prepared?

My two tips for action items would be 1) Network with Colleagues and 2) Find a Mentor. While you’re in your internship or first entry-level job I think it’s fairly natural to want to prove yourself, and that desire is admirable because it demonstrates passion. However, I have found that before you start innovating and changing the way things are it’s equally important to build relationships with your colleagues in order to get an understanding on why certain processes exist and what has been done so far at the company in order to achieve goals. It’s a humbling process because you start re-evaluating what your goals might be for your role and it’s also enlightening because most times you’re surrounded by other people (possible mentors) who have made mistakes along the way and might be willing to help you avoid making the same ones. BEFORE you even accept an internship or a job it is extremely important to chat with the employees or interns who currently work at the company. As a Founder, I think it’s extremely important to be the best salesperson at your company, but I think in order for employees to truly understand the culture and day-to-day you have to chat with future colleagues who have an insider perspective and might be willing to share more than your boss will. 

Q: Advice for Aspiring Professionals: What additional advice would you offer to Black student candidates (or students of color more generally) in particular regarding their internship or job search process, to have a positive experience in the workplace? 

My greatest piece of advice for Black student candidates is to find employee resource groups (i.e. black professional groups etc… ) that your company might have in order to build relationships with others who can relate more easily to your experience. Some of my most authentic supporters have been other Black professionals who have helped to mentor me along my professional journey. Have a very keen eye to the diversity that your prospective company may or may not have, sometimes it makes all the difference in the world. 

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