We asked our upcoming speakers a series of questions to get to know them a little better in advance of their presentation. In this post, we’re featuring Dr. Shanita Williams, learning and development specialist.


What was your reaction when you learned you were chosen as a speaker for TEDxAM18?

I have always admired the TED stage, so when I found out that I was chosen as a speaker, I literally jumped into my husband’s arms and let out a scream! I could not believe it! I told my children and they were so happy for me. My 6-year-old told me, “I am so proud of you, Mom.” I wasn’t sure if she realized what was going on so I asked her why and she said, “for being selected to speak.” My heart almost exploded. My kids were going to be able to witness one of the most exciting moments of my life … and I hope it inspires them to believe that they too have ideas worth sharing.


Who is an inspiration or mentor who has influenced your work?

I have always been inspired by the work of Oprah Winfrey. She is a shining example of what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself, listen to your inner voice, and, as she says, “align your personality with your purpose.” Her ability to overcome adversity and achieve success to the level that she has fosters hope for so many people (like myself) who are simply trying to find their way. I am in awe at how she uses her platform, not to elevate herself, but to elevate mankind by focusing on the human experience and demonstrating the power of simply being heard. Her work is the backdrop to my exploration of our internal dialogue and how it intersects with our purpose.


What is your favorite TED or TEDx Talk and why?

Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability is one of my favorite TED talks.  She describes vulnerability as an emotional risk. I enjoyed this talk because it speaks to the heart of thriving in a world that can sometimes make you feel unworthy. It reminds me to admit I am not perfect and that saying so gives me permission to forgo the mask and accept myself as I truly am. It is the talk that I go to when I fail and feel embarrassed and feel stuck in those feelings … it reminds me that no matter how perfectly polished I try to be, mistakes are sure to come, especially if you are being vulnerable.


How does what you wanted to be when you grew up compare with what you’re doing today?

If you asked anyone from my childhood what I wanted to be when I grew up, they ALL will tell you that I wanted to be a track and field Olympian! You’d find me on the blacktop at every recess racing the boys and awaiting the next challenger. I’d get up every morning and run around the lake while everyone else was fast asleep just so I could build up my stamina. It wasn’t about winning, it was about pushing myself to be better than I thought I could be. With every race and every jump, I wanted to see what else my body could do and what new goals I could achieve. I carried that desire all the way through college. Today, you’d have a hard time getting me on the track to do anything! While I did not achieve my childhood title, I am currently living my childhood dream: challenging myself to be better than I thought I could be each and every day. But now I have the added bonus of doing that for myself and others as the leader of the Learning and Development department.


If you could pick one person to present a TED talk, who would you choose? Why?

Kris Plachy is a must see! She is an executive leadership coach that mentored me early in my career. She has 20+ years of leading and managing high-performing teams and has created college courses and written books on working with difficult people. She has a podcast and is great at coaching people on how to work through their thoughts so that they can be at their best. She is a dynamic speaker and authentic coach. She is not afraid to challenge your thinking. She also provides you with practical steps to move the meter on the goals you seek. People will forever be changed after hearing her! She is my shero!


You can see (and meet) when she presents at the TEDxAmoskeagMillyard event on June 2, 2018. Register now.

Join the conversation on social media! #TEDxAM18