Michallia Marks describes herself as a learner who is fascinated by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. She is an avid reader, a student of leadership, and one who is committed to living a life marked by excellence. She is a fourth year student in the Digital Business Management program at Humber College where she gets to pursue two of her interests, business and tech. She aspires to pursue a career in the technology field. Michallia was an AHF Summit 2019 participant and a member of AHF’s Advisory Group.

Tell us about what motivated you to pursue a degree in digital business management?

I have always had an interest in business and tech. I also believe that I am a creative individual in my own unique way. Therefore, I wanted to find a program that would incorporate all of the above. The Digital Business Management program provides just that and it has been very rewarding.

You’ve taken on leadership roles while at school including as President of the Digital Business Student Association. What have you learned about yourself as a leader?

Leadership begins with me. I have to lead myself first! That for me starts with the inner work of developing core values, such as, authenticity, passion, vision, and transparency, because who I am as a leader has an effect with the individuals I am leading.

You enrolled in your first college program at the age of 16 and were the youngest female enrolled in this tech program. Tell us what that was like for you.

To be frank, it was scary. Very scary! I went to an all-girls high school prior to that for five years, and so, it was my first time being in a room with over 20 males and being one of two females. The experience, however, taught me the importance of showing up even when you’re scared.

What is an achievement you’re most proud of?

I’m most proud of the tenacity I have displayed in pursuing my bachelors despite the countless challenges I have encountered along the way. There were times when I felt like giving up but I refused to throw in the towel. I will complete my undergraduate degree in April 2021. This has been on my vision board since 2016!

How do you invest in your own potential as a Black woman?

I am a student of leadership. I have determined that I will always show up as a leader in every capacity in which I serve. Without a doubt, I know I will hold many positions at the executive level, and therefore, I have started working on developing the leader within me. I also have an insatiable appetite for learning. I am always gaining new knowledge through reading, networking, attending conferences, and workshops to continue to grow as a young Black woman.

How do you “take up space” and make your talents visible?

I take up space by showing up authentically as Michallia – without any additions or subtractions. I also refuse to shy away from saying yes to the things that scare me because it’s an opportunity to learn more about myself.

On your blog you speak about how you transformed at the age of 17and the impact of a professor’s words that ‘You are a great leader.’ Tell us about this time in your life and the impact Professor Thompson had on you.

Professor Thompson is and will always be one of my favourite professors of my entire college life. She’s not only a professor in my life today, but also a friend. She saw something in me that I had no idea was there. One of my favourite speakers, Les Brown, once said that sometimes you have to believe in someone else’s belief in you until your belief automatically kicks in. That’s what she did for me. Even when I didn’t see myself as a leader, or even believed that I could be, she disregarded what I thought and continued to encourage me. Finally, I saw it, and even though I was scared and lacked confidence at times, I was encouraged by her belief in me and that motivated me to keep moving forward.

What advice would you give your younger self in high school or first semester of University?

Enjoy every season of your life – even the ones that seem to make no sense. Remember, all things work together in your favour. 

You’ve said that when someone tells you that you cannot do something, you tell them “watch me.” When was the last time you had your “watch me” moment?

I had my last “watch me” moment in the summer of 2020 and in the midst of COVID. Many people claimed that companies were not hiring students for internships and that even if I got one it would be unpaid. The job market was bad. I boldly stated that I would get an internship and it would be paid. I refused to accept anything less. I actually got an internship with a consulting firm in Toronto, and guess what? It was paid!

At AHF we believe in celebrating and amplifying those who have paid it forward in our lives and careers. Who has been a great mentor, ally or sponsor and why? 

A great mentor and sponsor is Audia Johnson, who is a Community Developer. She has constantly encouraged and guided me in navigating various spaces as a young Black woman. I’m grateful for her guiding voice in my life.