Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Precious Stargell Cushman.
As fall recruitment looms, many find themselves struggling to decide between two career paths, one typically in the corporate sector and the other in the non-profit world. These two tracks, however, are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as noted by Precious Stargell Cushman.
An alumna of Dartmouth College, Precious Stargell Cushman has held high-level positions in both the non-profit sector and financial services. A few weeks ago, she became CEO of Community LINC, an organization that works to end homelessness in Kansas City, MO.
Q: How did you get involved in the banking world?
PSC: I went through the college recruitment process. I was involved with Dartmouth’s Tucker Foundation, a forum that provided a lot of social justice opportunities. So when the time came, I already had some pretty good internships that I could reference and talk about, which made me a good candidate. So I had two job offers coming out of college. I could work for JPMorgan to participate in a management training program, or I could work with Pepsi. I chose to work with Pepsi by virtue of my internship the summer before.
But my first year at Pepsi was not what I had expected, as I was the only undergrad in my area. So what that meant is that I worked incredible hours. I actually slept on campus most days of the week to learn the basic skills to do my job.
But I kept in touch with the person who offered me the job at JPMorgan, even when I was at Pepsi. She asked me honestly how I was feeling about my experience, she said “We’d love to have you back at JPMorgan.” So after leaving Pepsi, I started working at JPMorgan, and that’s how I started my career in banking.
Q: How did you get involved in nonprofit work, and how does your financial experience influence it today?
PSC: The Tucker Foundation really helped me to understand leadership. It made me feel good, and it was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t put a pin on it from what it was doing for me at that time. What it did crystallize for me was that I always wanted to do more, and that came a lot from my background. My mom has been a nurse her entire professional career, and she’s always worked in service of others.
Obviously, having that financial services background and understanding that policy sometimes creates disparities taught me that that it wasn’t just enough to place money there. So now I’m CEO at a nonprofit called Community LINC, which is trying to end homelessness in Kansas City and provides families with housing and other comprehensive services for self-sufficiency.
A Final Word to the College-Age Woman:
- Go the road less traveled. Get out of your comfort zone.
- Don’t forget the value of relationships.
- Learn from your mistakes as well as adulation.
- Have the confidence to move forward.
- Have a sense of gratitude – no one gets anywhere on their own.