Cincinnati native Tracy J. Edmonds is a force to be reckoned with and a great role model for us ladies. Edmonds spent 31 years working in corporate America, including as the Chief Diversity Officer for Anthem Inc, until she decided it was time to step out on faith and create her own business. Edmonds and her family have been in Indianapolis for about 14 years—and now she has found her true passion working for herself. An inspiration for any woman who is finding her way, debating a career change, or combination of the two, she’s a businesswoman, wife, mom, and so much more.
Edmonds is currently the owner of TJE Coaching & Consulting and is creating the path for more women to name their passion and follow their dreams as an executive coach and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant. She is also an author and speaker, and her book, Wild Hair, A Courageous Woman’s Guide to a Bold and Authentic Career, was released in March.
Honestly, we could talk to her for hours.
What led you to leave the corporate world and branch out on your own?
You know, what is interesting is that I did not have an entrepreneurial spirit or thought in my head when I left my job. I truthfully left because I didn’t see continued growth for myself. I had done a number of things in the organization, and at that point I had been Chief Diversity Officer for over five years, and I thought that the next logical step for me was to head HR. They filled the head of HR role there with a fabulous woman, and when she came on board, I told her that it was time for me to go and see what was next for me. So that’s where my new journey started.
What can women expect when working with Ms. Tracy Edmonds in a coaching session?
They can absolutely expect accountability, and homework. They should also expect to be affirmed and supported. The title of my group coaching program is Affirm. Activate. Rise., which is group career coaching for Black women. I think so often with women, especially women of color, we don’t get affirmed that who we are and what we bring to the table is enough, right? It’s enough. I want the ladies who work with me to know that they have what they need to build upon and create the career and the life that they want and one that they love. A lot of times the women that I coach want to show up more authentically in their leadership. It’s not so much about climbing the corporate ladder, unless that’s what they want to do, but most often it’s women who just want to know that they are good enough where they are at.
Let’s talk about your book Wild Hair. Why this title? What is it about?
I started journaling when I was probably 10. I have always been writing. Using my voice and expressing myself has always been important. I continued that up through my adult years and then started having kids, and it got harder, but I knew I wanted to get back to that. I always wanted to write a book to share what I’ve learned.
I remember reading this book by Maya Angelou. I think it was titled Wouldn’t Take Nothing from My Journey Now. Her book is a set of essays and insights around things that she’d learned through her journey, and I had this vision that one day I would write a book that would be about what I’ve learned on my life journey. Wild Hair is that book and it’s aimed at women who are on a career journey. It’s about my career journey from beginning to end and it’s entitled Wild Hair because my biggest a-ha moment or one of the greatest a-ha moments in my career was when I chose to go natural at work. My book is about releasing the wild hair and it was simply because I got tired of the time consumption around maintaining relaxed hair and the damage that it was doing to my hair. However, for years I put that off wearing my natural hair because I didn’t think I would be accepted.
I was walking this walk as Chief Diversity Officer back in 2014, telling everybody to bring your whole selves to work, and then I was spending all day Saturday in the salon to look a certain way. I finally decided I’m not doing it anymore, and I literally got a wild hair. The entire book outlines different career lessons that I have learned along my journey and where the wild hair moments were and how I got it right sometimes and how I didn’t get it right other times.
You recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about mental health that is going viral. What led you to share your story?
I was having challenges with my mental health for at least two years. As I wrote in the post I would say “the dam broke and I could no longer continue to show up as if everything was okay.” I’ve been married a long time, and have five kids. Making a marriage work while elevating in my career to a [certain] level was where the lines between work and home got really blurred. I was engaging with the CEO, his or her direct reports. I was listening to the organization as a chief diversity officer and hearing the pain of women and minorities and being the bridge between the corporate room, which looked very white and very male while the rest of the organization was filled with diversity and trying to navigate those issues.
At the same time, I just wanted to be my best and I didn’t want to make a mistake. That’s the other thing, as Black women in the corporate environment, there’s so much at play first and foremost, and we’re very often one of few if not the only one. You’ve got this internal pressure of how do I show up authentically, yet in a way that’s still received well by others because I need the majority to make things happen for the rest of the organization. It was just a lot of pressure. My mother-in-law passed away, and I believe that was a bit of a trigger because she was 72 years old, not super young, but also someone who gave and gave to others.
I think witnessing that, as I had lost my own mom back when I was 30, a similar woman who gave and gave to others and died of metastatic breast cancer. I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t give any more to my family, to my husband, to my job, to the organization, to the women who meet me, to the people I mentor. It was too much, and I knew I had to take care of myself.
If there was one thing you wanted people to know about you and who you are, what would that be?
I want to be a source of affirmation, information, inspiration, and strength for women. I sent a screenshot of my LinkedIn article to my coach and told her I couldn’t believe it was going viral and her words stuck with me. She said, “Tracy, your authenticity is your currency.” I thought about that and it is what I try to convey to all the women that I coach from now on.
When it comes to your coaching, what is the best way for women to connect with you?
Anyone who would like to work with me can find me on my website, tracyjedmonds.com, which is probably the easiest way to connect. They can also text Empowered to 55444, and that will get on my mailing list. I’m also on LinkedIn as Tracy J. Edmonds.