Episode 23: Tiana Conley, Vice President at Kellogg’s, Talks Leadership, Allyship, and How a Better World Starts at The Breakfast Table

From a young age, Tiana didn’t fit into any single box. The daughter of a South Asian mother and an African American father, Tiana’s parents taught her the importance of self-acceptance. This mindset helped propel her into a successful career at some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, including Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark. Today, Tiana is helping to reverse the systemic racism that plagues everything from our C-suites to our food system in her role as Vice President of Global Cereal at Kellogg’s.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

3:29 – The Opportunity For Our Country – “We had a historic election. We had a historic turnout for this election. And no matter what side you’re on or who you voted for, hopefully everybody is pretty excited and pretty passionate about the opportunity our country has here in the United States – to have the first ever female Vice President, especially a woman of color in that leadership position. It’s such an amazing milestone for our country.” -KS

13:14 – Intersectionality – “One of my favorite words is intersectionality, and I think that Kamala really captures that extraordinarily well. And it’s something that I felt in my personal life being someone who is a woman, like Kamala, being someone who is black, like Kamala, being someone who is of Asian descent, the child of an Asian immigrant. I’m also South Asian – my mom is from the Philippines – so that is something else that’s very similar to Kamala. To have someone that perfectly fits that intersectionality, that is quite so rare but becoming less rare, and to see that person occupy the highest office we’ve ever seen in the United States of America was absolutely incredible.” -TC

23:00 – Creating A Lane To Fit In – “I remember when I was in first grade, Matt Oberley asked me why I was brown. I told him it was because I fell in mud because I was so embarrassed in some way, or so insecure, or so unknowing at that time where I didn’t really want to be different. And to some extent that stayed with me all the way through high school where I wasn’t comfortable being brown. It was always something that I either had to make into a joke or spin into something but I was always wishing I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I got into college and saw other people like me or people I identify with – who played sports and did things like I did – who helped me rediscover my own heritage and be confident and excited about who I was.” -KS

39:54 – Working With A Purpose – “For me there has to be a component of purpose in what I do. I’ve reached a point where I understand that in order to be motivated I have to know that what I’m doing is not just for a paycheck, and that there’s a deeper impact that I’m having on people, on society, and what I’m doing and how I’m spending my time.” -TC

49:46 – The Importance Of Allyship – “My thoughts around allyship are perhaps slightly unconventional in the sense that I don’t see allyship as a noun, I see allyship as a verb. Allyship is not an award to be granted or a badge to be worn – that’s silly to me because it centers on you, the ally, versus the person you ‘re supposed to be lifting up. Allyship requires you giving up something to advocate on behalf of someone else. If you’re not struggling in your allyship journey, you’re doing it wrong. If it feels easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.” -TC

55:38 – Kash’s One Big Thing – “For me, the thing that stuck with me from the conversation was that if you really want to be an ally. If you really want to show that you care about someone else in a meaningful way, with action behind it, you’ve gotta give up something from yourself. You’ve gotta sacrifice something. To truly make a difference and make an impact for someone else we have to give up something of our own. Life has to get harder for us to make it easier for someone else. And that’s a powerful powerful insight, it’s simple but powerful and most people overlook it. And if we all embrace that attitude, and embrace that understanding that we are going to take a hit, we are going to cut back, we are going to lose a little something, but in the process someone else is going to gain, and someone else’s life is going to be better – their experiences are going to improve – that’s an amazing place for our communities and our society to be.” -KS

Episode 22: From Frat Life To Facebook: Kunal Merchant, Global Marketer, DJ, and Cultural Bridge-Builder, Reminds Us of the Moments That Matter Most

When Kunal Merchant decided to rush for the University of Texas’ first South Asian fraternity, he had no idea that he was actually joining his first startup. From learning how to lead large-scale events to collaborating with external organizations to fundraising to stay afloat, these experiences put Kunal on his entrepreneurial path. Ultimately, Kunal’s journey led him to join one of the most storied and successful “startups” in the world – Facebook. In this episode, Kunal shares how key moments and mentors – including Besomebody Founder, Kash Shaikh – impacted his journey, and what he’s learned about diversity, growth, and the power of connecting people. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

19:38 – Learning What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur. – “Our fraternity was less about our fraternity and more like a start-up. And it was a very interesting start-up because.. the founding group has a vision that says “We’re going to build this thing.” Then they get the first class in – the Alpha class – that’s like your first set of employees, right? You take who you want, you take some of the cool people, you take some of your friends. The barrier of entry is a little bit different because you just need to have a proof of concept. You need to bring these people in so that we can say, “We have more than just us.” We were the Beta class. I would think we were the first real class because you guys didn’t have to have us. The group of people that came together for that first class – we didn’t even really know each other. That whole thing was, “How do we fit into this organization that’s still trying to find its footing?” Everything we did was like a start-up. We worked as a team. We created things that never existed before. We built relationships all the time that never existed before. It was a phenomenal experience because it gave me the initial ground work – the learning – of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.” -KM

43:16 – Breaking Barriers. – “A lot of times celebrities and people of the highest net worth, and people that are on television regularly get credit for the barriers that they break, particularly when it comes to race, and culture, and opportunity. The reality is the people that are on the ground, on the frontlines, that are really doing the breaking of those barriers are people like you…. It’s not just the people that you see on sitcoms now or have their own comedy shows, it’s the people that have built this from the ground up for a long time so that it becomes customary and expected for South Asians to be a part of industries like this.” -KS

53:06 – Surrounding Yourself with Inspiration – “I love people. I love people who are passionate about building business and helping others. To me, when you meet someone and they have a spark in their eye, they’re inspired and they want to go create something that’s meaningful to the world – that inspires me and I just want to surround myself with that. Anytime I can meet someone that I feel is looking to do more for others, that’s an instant connection.” -KM

59:42 – Keep Going. – “I’ve been on a journey and I had to be humbled. Life put me on a path to be humbled because I had a good amount of wins in my life, I had a few losses early on, but I was in a place where things were working out. And it wasn’t until I started to get humbled by losses, and some of them on very very big stages, that enabled me to have the humility to see as clear as I needed to see in order to make the right decisions moving forward. And for me, that’s been the biggest blessing because it’s painful at times, but those learnings that come when you get knocked out, that’s when you really learn the most, if you are willing to pick yourself up and keep going.” -KS

1:17:08 – Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable. – “The journey is the journey and it’s what you make of it. And it comes down to how much you want to learn and grow. And that’s what I would tell people right now. Chase growth – especially with everything going on in the world right now. You can just see how life is so fragile. How we don’t know what tomorrow brings. So while you’re here, why not do something that makes you uncomfortable. Because when you’re uncomfortable is when you grow, and then you learn.” -KM

1:24:40 – Kash’s One Big Thing – “It’s just the realization that there are small moments in our life that we often overlook – that at many times pass us by, that make such a powerful impact on people. We get so caught up in the day-to-day, and the grind, and everything that we’re doing. And those experiences pile on, but if we’re doing it right, and if we’re making sure that it’s bigger than us – and we’re trying to serve, we’re trying to help, we’re trying to give – we affect people along the way, and we affect them in ways that we don’t even understand. And we become that person, or that moment, or that milestone that puts them on that path that they’re meant to be on. And that’s pretty powerful man – every single one of us has that opportunity, to be that person for somebody. It doesn’t take a lot. All it takes is genuine care, and concern, and belief. Whether it’s my coach in high school who yelled at me, but believed in me. Whether it was my mom who always pushed me to do better. Or whether it was the folks in my fraternity back in 1998 who gave me the opportunity to lead as a freshman in college. Those are the moments that shape us – and that’s pretty powerful.” -KS