The Climb: A Must Attend Event in Chicago

There are certain words and phrases that move me the moment I hear them and “The Climb” is no different.

Bolder Sisters, you already know how inspired I am by words that indicate fearlessness, motivation and drive. When I heard an event was taking place in Chicago focused on the upward climb of women in their careers and business, I knew I had to learn more. What better way to learn more about The Climb than by speaking to its founder, Watchen Nyanue.

Watchen is definitely a Bolder Sister to watch. She is Vice President of Marketing Partnerships for the Chicago Sky organization. Watchen is a go getter who’s not afraid to live or Climb and she encourages others to do the same. I was so moved by our conversation and I know you will be as well.

Here’s some of my interview with Watchen:

Bolder Sister: Watchen, thank you. You are the kind of bolder sister I’m always looking to interview and introduce to my readers. Please tell me about your career and how you got started.

Watchen:​ My career is a story on the importance of relationships. I went to undergrad at DePauw, on a scholarship. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer and I was like, “Nah, I’m not doing that.” I felt like Communications gave me the most flexibility in my career options. I did a ton of internships while I was an undergrad. I did seven or eight internships in New York, LA, and Chicago. And once I graduated, I decided that although I didn’t want to live in LA long term, it will be best for me to network, get to know some people in entertainment, and then leverage those contacts later. I loaded up my car with no job and no place to stay and I was like, “they make it work on TV, I can make it work in real life.” Within two weeks I found a job working for a casting director, and my job was to find really successful directors, producers and writers, and convince them to teach classes for free to aspiring producers, directors and writers. I did that for almost two years.

I didn’t love LA and the headquarters for the scholarship foundation that I went to school through is in New York. I reached out and said, “I’m interested in entertainment. Is there anybody within our network you could connect me with?” As the Lord would have it, the President of Comedy Central was on the National Board and a meeting was set up. I met with her and literally between the meeting and the move back to New York, I had a job within two weeks at Comedy Central, in their marketing department, and learned a ton. My boss at Comedy Central is someone I still talk to every single week. He’s phenomenal. Like a champion of anything that I do.  

My background has always been in marketing. I did Comedy Central , Hearst, and Yahoo for four years, all in New York. And then my parents decided to transition from Chicago back to Liberia. And since I don’t have any immediate plans to move back to Liberia, I said I was moving back to Chicago for a year. It’s been almost six. And currently I work in sports. I’m five feet. I’ve never played basketball, but again, relationships. I met people when I was consulting, maybe three years before they actually needed me. I formed relationships with the President and the owner of the team and the owner became my mentor over time. Then a need arose I had the skill set so they asked me to help out through a season for three months, and it’s been almost two years.

The Bolder Sister: Wow. That’s what I’m most curious about. It is where a lot of people struggle, taking that chance, taking that risk. What was it that made you just go for it? I know a lot of us get in our own way and we let fear talk us out of doing a lot of things. What is it that you have that just lets you go to LA and see how things work out?

Watchen: I was raised in a war in Liberia and it became really clear to me that life can be really short, at any moment it can end. At an early age I subconsciously decided I was not gonna be miserable. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If there’s something that I wanna learn or something I wanna try and I may very well fail, right? And that gives me anxiety sometimes, but the alternative to me is not really an option. To be sitting somewhere miserable for like ten, five years. For me it’s always about trying to learn, about new experiences, it’s always about me finding some kind of fulfillment in the work that I’m doing.

I don’t want to be living somebody else’s dream, and so if I’m sitting in a seat, just because I can, that’s stopping somebody else from the opportunity that could be their opportunity to lifetime.

The Bolder Sister: I like that. Please tell me about The Climb, where did the idea come from?

Watchen: They say your perception is your reality. In my mind, everybody has access to the networks that I did. Everybody had mentors who they could call and be like, “Hey, I need this, or hey, can you open your rolodex to me?” And they’d be like, “Yes.” And then the more I talked about it, people were like, “Yeah, no.” That’s not everybody’s reality. The Ladder is like the overarching platform, and I thought it was gonna be private for me and my friends. I knew a bunch of amazing women, black women who were executives, and I knew a bunch of women in my age group who plan to be in corporate America. But a lot of them felt like they might need to exit it because they weren’t sure that corporate was the space for them, and they didn’t necessarily have the guidance.
I was like let me get some conversations started. I can’t bring all of y’all to my mentors, but I can bring my mentors to y’all in a way.

Two of my college girlfriends, were literally like, “Yeah, this basketball thing is cool and all, but can you get back to what you love and you got 30 days to figure out how you’re gonna make it happen. I already had a network of women I could reach out to and they immediately said yes and opened their networks to me. It turned into a podcast where I speak to one female executive about her experience climbing the corporate ladder.  

What we learned from the podcast there’s a gap for us and we’re not necessarily getting that anywhere else. I don’t think, especially in corporate for black women, it’s the technical skills that keeps us from getting the promotions or the jobs, I think it’s the soft skills.

My goal is to give the tools, like tangible things you can do. How do we get digestible, actionable things women can start applying on Monday when they go back to work. So that’s my hope for The Climb. It’s being able to provide women who look like me, who want to be in corporate America, ways that they maintain their mental health and actually climb and create the careers they want.

Do you know how to negotiate? Do you know how to advocate for yourself?  Are you mentally in a place where you can do your best work? Those things matter. And so how do we find women who have found some kind of a balance, who have an expertise in those areas, who have shared experiences, who know what we go through in those spaces, to help us think through how we can navigate it in a way that’s healthy for us. And that’s a message that’s been communicated to all the speakers. Like, yes, share your stories. Yes, inspire them, but they need to walk away with at least two things they can apply on Monday morning.

The Bolder Sister: Makes sense, I love that. Have you had those times where you had fear in your career?

Watchen: Yeah. I’m petrified of The Climb because I’m like, “What if nobody shows up?”  It keeps me up at night. There are 30 executives who are associated with this weekend. If this is terrible and nobody shows up, that is a big deal. But I’m still going to do it. You know what I mean. I have fears. I think there’s a misconception that people who do things aren’t scared? No, I’m scared all the time. I’m always scared. But what’s the alternative? Like what’s my other choice?

The Bolder Sister: How did you move past fear?”

Watchen:​ Here’s the thing, you don’t have to, but then what … if you don’t move past it, accept where you are. You need to find a way to be comfortable in the place that you are. Everybody’s not going to push past. Sometimes it’s just too much and you’re like, “You know what? It ain’t even worth it.” But if that’s it you have to understand that is a decision you are making and you can’t continue to beat yourself up about it. And when you’re ready to make a different choice, make a different choice. But find a way to find peace about it that you are just not willing to push back this fear right now.

But I will say this, nine times out of 10, no 10 times out of 10, the reward on the other side of fear is totally worth it.

The Bolder Sister:​ I would totally agree. What’s the biggest piece of advice you’ve received that you carry with you that you would share with our readers?

Watchen:​ You have everything you need right now to do what you need to do right now.

I bet you in your resource kit, in your network or whatever, you have the thing that you need.

The second thing is, you can’t cheat the grind. You have to put in the work. And this matters for sustained success. Because the character traits you developed in the process of getting to wherever is what helps you sustain. What’s worse than getting to some sort of destination late, is getting there when you’re not prepared.

The Bolder Sister:​ Now, why should women attend The Climb?

Watchen:​ There is something so amazing about community, and for me, my goal is to create a community of like minded black women who can help each other as we all work towards one goal. Our goals may not look the same. It’s like we all have career aspirations we want to achieve. The women we’re going to be learning from are phenomenal. It’s a way to help you fill some of the gaps that may be standing in between you and where you want to be. It’s gonna be a good time. Friday night it’s social, we’re having black game night, so we get to know each other as people first. Saturday, we focus on the content. This is about building community and actually giving people the tools they need to move their career forward. It’s a room you want to be in.

The Bolder Sister:​ Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Bolder Sisters, this is a not to miss event. Please click here to register TODAY and through March 20th receive a FREE TICKET for a sister-friend. To learn more, click here:


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