Adrian Bracy on Putting a Personal Mission Statement into Action

What do you do when your career doesn’t seem to be the great fit you once thought it was? Adrian Bracy experienced that ill-fitting feeling and did something about it. Armed with a new personal mission statement, Adrian was ready to tackle her next big move: CEO at YWCA Metro St. Louis.

If you’re interested in aligning your work with your personal mission statement, Adrian’s story can help you determine a course toward a fulfilling, meaningful career.

You started your career as a controller for the Miami Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium. How did you end up in the sports industry?
“Working in the sports industry was not something I was looking for – it really came to me. I was a member of the National Association of Black Accountants. At the time, the association helped me give back to my community and network. It was because of networking that helped me get an interview and get the job right away. Of course, I loved football, but it was purely through connections that I was able to work in the sports industry.”

How did your experience in the sports industry impact your career path?
“After one year, I decided I was bored and I needed something more. So I prayed and asked God for direction. What was on my heart was to go back to school and get an MBA. Around that same time, the chief financial officer for the Dolphins resigned and I took over his position. I wanted the MBA to complement my accounting background and to boost my reputation in the business world. In the interim, I was promoted, and I changed my title to VP of Finance and Administration.

I think, honestly, being in the sports industry really helped mold me because it gave me the opportunity to be a role model to many other women in my industry.”

After working for the Dolphins, you became an executive for the St. Louis Rams and eventually ended up in Arizona as the chief financial officer for the Arizona Cardinals. What inspired you to leave the sports industry and pursue the role of CEO at YWCA Metro St. Louis?
“It wasn’t long after I became the Arizona Cardinals’ chief financial officer that I realized I wasn’t happy in Arizona – the job wasn’t the best fit for me, I missed the closeness of the Rams and, most of all, I missed St. Louis.

During that time, my friend Tony Bailey came to visit me. She was on the board at the YWCA and she knew I was unhappy, and told me, “We will get you back.”

While I was trying to figure out my next step, career-wise, I took a class on crafting a personal mission statement. Through the class, I learned how to better communicate the passion I’ve always had for helping women. I wrote my personal mission statement: inspiring and enhancing the lives of women and girls. Even with my mission statement defined, I still didn’t think that I could follow my passion through my work. It was just something I thought I could impact by sitting on nonprofit boards.

Then, eight months after defining my personal mission statement, Tony called me to tell me that Joy Burns, the CEO of YWCA St. Louis, was retiring. I wasn’t sure what to do with this news at first. I didn’t have experience in the nonprofit world, but I knew I had the background and passion to lead a nonprofit that worked to empower women and further racial justice. I took a chance and saw it as an opportunity; so, I sent in my resume, interviewed, and got the job as YWCA’s CEO.”

What personal characteristics have helped you achieve your success?
“Having my financial background has been very critical. When you’re in accounting or finance, you see an organization’s big picture. That perspective really helped prime me to step into my role as CEO at YWCA.

I also believe that integrity is important. All employees want a leader they can trust, someone who has integrity.”

What challenges do African American women in particular face in the workplace?
One is pay. Nationwide, women are paid 78 cents on the dollar. African American women are paid even less than that. I’ve experienced pay discrepancy in my own career – my predecessor at the Dolphins was paid $40,000 more than I was.

Another stereotype I’ve personally experienced is that African American women have an attitude. I’ve been judged – people have assumed that about me, since I’m African American. It’s a frustrating experience, but I’ve used it to my advantage by always working to keep my emotions in check.”

How did you deal with some of these situations?
“It helped when I processed situations with other women in the NFL. I had a strong network of women that I could rely on for advice or information. It really helped me navigate different situations and realize that I wasn’t in it alone.”

What’s been the one most effective step that’s helped you stand out as a community leader in St. Louis?
“Collaboration is key. That’s the one thing that has helped me. I quickly realized I couldn’t be successful as a leader – as a person – doing things on my own. Collaboration has been, for me, the most distinct feature of being a leader. It goes a long way.”

Photo credit: Wiley Price of the St. Louis American.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.