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A series of POWERFUL PODCASTS by WOMEN, about WOMEN. Women’s strength has shaped the world in which we live in all possible aspects, the likes of government, education, health, science, business, spirituality, arts, culture and MORE. NPR-WGVU Public Media’s POWERFUL WOMEN: LET’S TALK podcast is a series of interviews with diverse women who are trailblazers who have helped shape our community and transform who we are and how we live. Hear them tell their stories in their own words.This podcast will be released in the summer of 2020 which corresponds to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote in the United States. This release will also parallel PBS national programming celebrating this historic event.POWERFUL WOMEN: LET’S TALK is hosted and produced by NPR-WGVU Public Media’s own team of powerful women, Shelley Irwin and Jennifer Moss.

Powerful Women Let's Talk - 043: Angela Nelson

Angela Nelson
Angela Nelson

Angela Nelson is the Vice President of Multicultural Business Development at Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR), a Destination Marketing Organization.  Angela leads the organization's multicultural initiatives related to community relations, diversity and inclusion and workforce development.  Angela says her passion is the West Michigan community.  She's been honored as one of West Michigan's 50 Most Influential Women for her leadership role and she serves on numerous boards and committees.  Angela Nelson is this week's Powerful Woman.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


Intro: produced by women about women Powerful women. Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.


Jennifer Moss: Hello, everyone. It is time for another edition of powerful women. Let's talk, we are of course. Want to thank you so much for joining us today. Today's powerful woman is Angela Nelson Angela is the vice president of multicultural business development and experience Grand Rapids. Of course, that is the destination marketing organization here Angela leads experience. Grand Rapids. Multicultural initiatives related to community relations, diversity and inclusion and workforce development. She also supports the sales and marketing teams to promote West. Michigan as a welcoming multicultural destination. I should also mention Angela is a GVSU grad and she has a Masters from MSU’s Eli, broad College of business. So let us welcome Angela Nelson. Angela, thanks so much for joining us today.

Angela Nelson: Thank you, Jennifer, for having me. Definitely humbled to be here.

Jennifer Moss: Well, we are honored to have you here.  We have a lot to talk about. First, I have to mention a couple of your accomplishments. And this is kind of the set the table for all that you are doing. You have been honored as one of West Michigan's 50 most influential women for your leadership role and experience GR and community service. You're on numerous boards and committees, including but not limited to the Gilda’s laugh fest Cabinet Grand Rapids children's Museum board of directors and you're the past president of our dear sorority Delta Sigma Theta sorority incorporated, where you not only have led but you were involved in such projects as proactive in election protection Coalition and of course, all of that adds up to you being a very busy woman and that was just the short list. So again, we thank you for joining us. We are going to start with the position at experience Grand Rapids. So, VP of multicultural business development. That is a critical position. I would think especially considering today's climate. Part of your role is to make sure people understand the Grand Rapids is a welcoming place for all, right?

Angela Nelson: Yeah. The position was newly created when I came on board. So, I've been in that role now for four years, it's gone by fairly quickly and last year was certainly a blur given all that has taking place, but it has been a rewarding and a very eye-opening role. I think just within the community and within this industry I had not been in hospitality and tourism prior to the role. And so, I had a lot to learn about the industry and how tourism was a driver of economic development for the community. And then from there really diving into those respective areas that you talked about being able to support our sales and marketing team with attracting new convention business do not even know anyone realizes that is the thing, right where we actively go out and sell Grand Rapids as a destination to groups. A lot of people are associated with associations and with, you know, let us say few, you know, broadcasting, right. There is a broadcasters Association. I am sure there's a conference that you attend annually or even maybe monthly, you know, different groups have different time times where they come together. But to introduce Grand Rapids as a location for them. The host that meeting is a thing so. We are actively going after new groups and specifically supporting them with helping to attract multicultural groups. You mention our sorority, right. We have annual conferences, regional conferences. And so those are the types of organizations where we want to introduce them to Grand Rapids as a destination and then also, I support our sales or I am sorry, marketing team. So, all the marketing of Grand Rapids as a tourist location, you know, for travel leisure travelers, whether that is online. Our billboards. You know, we are like actively telling them that Grand Rapids is a place where you can come and enjoy our community. We have amazing assets here from the Gerald R Ford museum to the Meyer gardens. And so those are things that people are attracted to and there has been kind of talk in the media lately about some new assets coming to the community. You know, potentially the aquarium. Those are drivers of  tourism. So this exciting, but I can go on because, you know, not only do I support sales and marketing but also have the leadership responsibility to support our diversity and inclusion efforts

Jennifer Moss: that is what I was going to ask you next, that is really a big piece. What you do as well.

Angela Nelson: It is a big piece and it’s kind of the thread as the needle that threads all these different areas together. So, it is a priority for our organization. In fact, we just expanded our diversity advisory committee to include non-board members, community individuals, community stakeholders because we definitely need that diverse voice at the table. We need to be more inclusive in our marketing and our sales efforts in. We are we are making progress Towards that; you know, I don't know that there's one institution. That does it perfectly we are all striving to be better institutionally to consider, you know, the community in which we live in and be reflective of the community that we live in so It's a very unique role and I'm enjoying it definitely. It has been it’s been a great it's been a great ride and I'm learning a lot from not just our community partners but from our industry partners. So just being able to connect with other industry. Peers has been very rewarding and very helpful in this role because sometimes you could feel alone.

Jennifer Moss: I would imagine.

Angela Nelson: And yeah, even in leadership and in. And, you know, Shannon Cohen who is a powerful woman in her own right.

Jennifer Moss: She's been on the show.

Angela Nelson: Great. Yes, she definitely has a platform that it speaks to women in leadership in that space of loneliness that times where, you know, we think we've made it and you’re like I'm up here by myself. What is going on?

Jennifer Moss: wait where is my help? What is happening?

Angela Nelson: You know where the other people that looked like me, you know. So, I'm enjoying it for sure.

Jennifer Moss: Well, we are glad that you are. And so, you know, powerful women do not get to be powerful without having to deal with life's issues and things that you talk about along the way feeling that loneliness at the top there. As we talk about powerful women, have there been any barriers that you've encountered as you travel along your career path.

Angela Nelson: Absolutely.

Jennifer Moss: I know that is a loaded question cause most People would say yeah, of course.

Angela Nelson:  Absolutely. And where do I begin You know, I think as I continue to mature as an adult in my profession, I reflect on that often like what could I have done differently to get here sooner because I definitely have those fleeting thoughts of like I I'm still I'm too old now to pursue this. I am.

Jennifer Moss: they say you are never too old.

Angela Nelson: I know they say that. But it does

Jennifer Moss: You have to believe it first off.

Angela Nelson: I believe that, I believe them actually.  In the prime of my career. A woman never tells her age, but I'm 40 and I believe I'm in the prime of my career there still tons of opportunities before me. But some of the barriers that I have faced. One is self-doubt and I just kind of alluded to that at times not giving myself enough credit for my ability and using that confidence to propel me forward in a way that, you know, superseded anybody's thoughts about my ability to do X, y Z and primarily in the corporate space. You know, so I have had an interesting career path. My degree is in computer information systems are actually it’s in management information systems. And I received my minor in computer information systems. But I went on to explore a career path in technology, which in itself is a career that already has its barriers for women and people of color. And it's, it's a path that you have to- you have to stay up to date

Jennifer Moss: It is ever changing.

Angela Nelson: it is ever changing. And so one of the barriers for me at that time was not pursuing my Masters in I.T and really kind of taking that next step immediately to stay relevant in that in the industry. So I feel like I limited myself and the roles that I was able to take. And so, in the start of my career at a local bank here and was in their I T department. But even then, I think some of my barriers with again, just staying relevant or staying current with technology and being able to compete in that space from that career from that job.  went on to another local large company and stay there for 10 years and I I change careers. I did a switch I like never thought I'd be in community relations did not really know what it was at the time I was kind of dead set on being in technology until I realized that I wasn't the it girl anymore and I used to tease. Call myself the I.T. girl That is my corny joke for today.

Jennifer Moss: I have to jump in on that because you're talking about something that was kind of like my next question and it kind of comes together. So, when you, you know, we all have a different journey and roads on our roads to success and accomplishment be it our work life family, friend life. I was going to ask you what it takes because that you're talking about the barriers there in just a and initially said yourself doubt in my question is what was it taking. What has it taken you to find your own voice now going from I T the it girl up until now and community relations? And so, some of your barriers have been about even yourself. What has it taken for you or are you comfortable yet in your own skin and finding your voice or are you still in the process of that?

Angela Nelson: So, to best answer that question, I think I discovered that I had to do what was best for me in that second job. So, when I moved from the bank to this other company. It was in that role that I started to find my voice and I think it was. And naturally because I saw others around me. And so I saw White counterparts had less skills or we're entering at entry level superseding me and I knew it wasn't for my lack of working hard or dedication and, you know, getting outstanding performance reviews. And when opportunities came along, they just did not prevail in the same way that they did for my white counterparts and I started to raise a brow and I started to challenged and I won't go into that specific scenario. But I started to challenging and question more so than I did entering in that career because I was 26 when a on a transition that company. So again, young in my career And I just realized, you know what, I have to stand up for myself. I was “volun-told” into positions. I didn't really want. And I I decided that, you know, the next job is going to be what I want to do. How I want to do it and I'm gonna move on. I want to move.

Jennifer Moss: good for you. And that is fine. That is are to finding your own voice absolutely So, so being in your position and you, of course, engage with the community a lot you work with numerous people, different positions. So as it turns out now, what leadership traits. Because you've learned a lot over time. Do you like to see perhaps and those with you on this journey, those you work with or those perhaps that you're mentoring?

Angela Nelson: Yeah. I find that the best for me, I lead. I am a servant leader. So, I enjoy following just as much as I enjoy being out front and being an example. So, I live by the same do as I say, not as I do, you know, because I definitely feel that. First of all, my reputation precedes me. And so, I'm very careful that I'm always a modeling how I want to be treated. And so that is how I treat others. So, I find that my leadership style is definitely a servant leader. I am not a micromanager. I lead with humility. I lead with integrity. And so all those things combined I believe has allowed me to developed a reputation that I have because I do follow through in say what I'm going to do and do what I'm going to say so trust that whenever I have a mentee that they have agreed or approached me about mentorship because there was this quality that they saw in me that they wanted to model. And likewise, when I look for mentor that quality or those values align So…

Jennifer Moss: they must

Angela Nelson: they have to. And I have male mentors I have female mentors. I have white mentors. I have black mentors again, just that diversity of thought is important to me as well. I do not want to be like everyone that thinks like me and that looks like me. I value different walks of life.

Jennifer Moss: That helps within your position as well-- .

Angela Nelson: Absolutely I've been told I have an old soul, so from a very young age, I always sought out the wisdom of my elder always have a dear respect for my elders. And, you know, I think about Delta And our delta dears. Betty Burton girls comes to mind as one of my mentors and she tells me like it is, you know, she loves me for the good, the bad and the ugly at times. But I appreciate that because it's not always, you know, doting on Angela, she will correct me and we all need correction and at times.

And that is what you look for. Absolutely constructive correction, right. You never want Anybody to just beat up on you without being able to correct you in love or with respect. You know, so I try to model that, especially with my mentees as well.

Jennifer Moss: As you continue on your path in life and you continue to learn and gain that wisdom. What would you say to your younger self that 21-22 year-old Angela your own words of wisdom. If you look back at you.  And said hey.

Angela Nelson: so I am going to cross Spectrum's here. First of all, I would say leave that knuckle head alone, 2. I would say go after everything you want when you want it and how you want it. And just believe in yourself, right.

Jennifer Moss: that is that key believe in yourself

Angela Nelson: believe in yourself and to let go. I'm hard on myself to just let go sometimes I am a overthinker I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Super analytical. But just let go sometimes let go. Let love and that's for family and romantic relationships and I don't regret anything except for selling my first home I do regret that that is like the biggest regret I have. I will say that. But other than that, I think everything that I was supposed to do.  was for a purpose and has led me here. Of course, I could. I could always think of what I should have could have done.

Jennifer Moss: we all can

Angela Nelson: I could have went to a different University, could have been living in a different state.  But I have to say that I appreciate the community that I have been able to establish and build here. I don't know if I would have been able to do the same in another city large or small. There has definitely been some ups and downs but through it all God has seen me through every single situation. And I'm sometimes in awe.

Jennifer Moss: I was going to say in awe, in amazement.

Angela Nelson: that I have come out Unscathed. And as prosperous as I am, I had this conversation with my mom and you know, just her looking at all of her children and where we are, you know, to grow up in the same household. You wonder sometimes. How does that one sibling. How does that one sibling go astray. But I can say that I have made my parents proud enough made myself proud.

Jennifer Moss: Last thing.  Easy breezy question. My next one. I love it. I have it as a must-ask for me. I love to laugh. So I ask everyone what makes you laugh What gives you that joy like that that renting like okay, this is so funny

Angela Nelson: oh goodness You know, things that are brainless. I watch a lot of tik-tok videos. And I am just. I am silly at heart I love corniness like so I make corny joke. So when I'm in the presence of my friends. You can expect me to just let my hair down, be silly and be a little bit corny. And so you have to love it or like it or leave it.

Jennifer Moss: Those are your options.

Angela Nelson: Those are your options And I just like things that make me laugh because and these days I have learned that if you cannot laugh at yourself, you are taking yourself ways to seriously. And I just appreciate laughter. Yeah. I thumb through tik tok and watch videos. I have to watch myself because that can definitely go on. For too long.

Jennifer Moss: Sometimes you started at 6. And you look up, it is 10. You're like, wait a minute.

Angela Nelson: Goodness. Yeah. Not that long. But you know what I do not like is when.  The phone tells me how many hours I've spent.

Jennifer Moss: on your screen time

Angela Nelson: on my screen time yes

Jennifer Moss: so final question So much happening in the world that we live in today. People are often looking for word of encourage many favorite sayings are models that you use to encourage yourself and others does not have to be like a firm, quote, just maybe even a thought process.

Angela Nelson: So one of my favorite verses Jeremiah 29 11. I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans to prosper you in. So, I just keep that in the back of my head when I do experience times of self-doubt that God has a plan for me. I have a purpose. I know my purpose. But sometimes, you know, even in knowing your purpose. There are interrupters. And so covid has been a huge interruption for me and having confident that these plans that God has for me. Some that he has not revealed are still for me. And so I do reflect on that and also another not really a quote but just the thought that. You know, your name is everything, right. You know, reputation wise. And so just be mindful of how you carry yourself what you say, how you say it. You know, to whom you say to you never know who you are in the presence of I've heard of stories of people are in a uber car are able to make some amazing connections to help their business flourished. You know, I I just think being kind goes a long way. Being respectful goes a long way and you can agree to disagree with people, you know, especially in this time where we're so we're so over saturated with negative messages in the media in life find your quiet space and just meditate pray, whatever that looks like for you have some alone time. I've had a lot of it.

Jennifer Moss: Think everyone has at this point. Right for this. Last year

Angela Nelson: I've had a lot of it And I've had a lot of time to think about the things that I want to do and still be but I just think being kind being gracious. Being respectful goes a long way and again, you never know who is in your midst and how things will shape up for you. So, I know there are people out there. Just angry at the world. You know, they do something in a split second without thought or cause. Any do not know how that just impact their life. You know. So, I say take a moment- How many times have you written an e-mail that you're getting ready to send back to someone And you had to…

Jennifer Moss:24-hour rule!!

Angela Nelson: 24 hours. Right. And just think about that it can rest in and ask yourself am I about to send something that will have an internal impact on my career? Is it that bad. Or how can I say it differently because now the emotion man,

Jennifer Moss: is it worth it? Getting your angry position out there?—you should think about it-- mull over it. Give it that 24 hours.

Angela Nelson: I have done that a number of times for sure.

Jennifer Moss: Well, Angela Nelson I really enjoyed this conversation speaking with one of our powerful women right here in West Michigan. Want to thank you so much for joining us.

Angela Nelson: Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Moss: And we also want to thank all of our listeners as well for joining us for this edition of powerful women. Let's talk. I'm Jennifer Moss.


Outro:  Produced by women about women in these powerful podcast focus on powerful women in how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more powerful women. Let's talk Get additional interviews at wgvu dot org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe. It is produced by wgvu at the Myer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU. Its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.


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