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Disrupting the Status Quo: Fostering Inclusive Digital Economies

Calendly's Alicia McNease sat down with Trice Johnson, a Global Tech Executive working at Salesforce, for a candid conversation about the inequities that exist in digital economies and how to be an active disruptor of the status quo. 

Learn more about Candid Conversations with Calendly and join us for a conversation in the future.



Alicia McNease (00:00:05):
Welcome, everyone, to Candid Conversations with Calendly. This is our second edition. Very excited, and we are welcoming the great Trice Johnson. But before we get into that, I do want to talk about the why, like why are we doing this here at Calendly, right? So we are on our own DE&I journey. We're continuing to learn, elevate our knowledge and actions to create an inclusive culture. So part of that is bringing in speakers like Trice to have those conversations, meaningful conversations around DE&I to represent and support underrepresented communities and groups within tech to learn about the challenges that those communities face, and then how can we drive change not only at Calendly, but across the world, right?
So, we have Trice here. I'm going to read your bio because I have to because you're just so awesome. So Trice Johnson is a global tech innovative executive, published book author, and digital leadership coach focused on emerging and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things, and next generation cloud platforms. Her research and work over the past two decades is focused on helping Fortune Global 500 businesses' leaders to adopt both strategies to prepare for their digital future. Currently, Trice serves as vice president of strategy and innovation at Salesforce, where she designs short and long-term strategies for growth through market research, economic and future scenario planning, analysis, and future trend analysis that inform strategic and investment decision-making. Let's give it up for Trice The Unicorn, right? So happy to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Trice Johnson (00:02:05):
It is awesome to be here. With everything you just said, the only thing that probably could have been said are a few words is I am a serial disruptor of myself, serial disruptor.

Alicia McNease (00:02:17):

Trice Johnson (00:02:18):
Yeah, and the reason that it's important I start these calls off and making sure... I think the one thing that we have starting to see in the empowerment is at the beginning, I wasn't sure if we were recording, if we're not recording. It didn't matter, but we got to... People are wondering the times, and the sign of the times, and how do we get started and even began to start to transform ourselves so that we are shaping and reshaping, I think, the trajectory of our entire economy, our entire ecosystem, the world.

Alicia McNease (00:02:54):

Trice Johnson (00:02:54):
Sometimes it just starts with getting on the call and just saying, "You're great," and choosing to spend time with you.

Alicia McNease (00:03:01):
That part.

Trice Johnson (00:03:02):
Over the last month, as we've had many conversations and the work that you all are doing at Calendly to disrupt yourselves, even the big things you're doing to bring everyone together in a time when we all try to refigure things out, I have fallen even more in love with the culture of you all becoming because everyone is now becoming. So I wanted to start off just by saying you're amazing. You look beautiful today as well. I want to be all the time, but I mean, we have to really start learning how to take this new paradigm, making sure we are recognizing the special and unique things that people bring to the table and being okay leading our conversations with so much positivity that we start to begin to transform ourselves to do new things. So, yeah. It's important, I think, as we start this conversation to make sure that we are all very mindful of how we begin our conversations by the day, and that starts with the conversation that you and I are going to be talking about today. So it is a pleasure to be here.

Alicia McNease (00:04:08):
Yes. It's an honor to be able to talk to you today, and thank you again. I want to dive in. So the title of our conversation is Disrupting the Status Quo, right? Fostering Inclusive Digital Economies. So we've talked about this term. It's a big term. So before we dive into disrupting, let's talk about digital economies. Can you just break that down for us, please?

Trice Johnson (00:04:32):
Let's break it down. Digital economies is just not about when we go straight to monetary. People will think of, "Oh, digital currency." They'll think about the world that's been disrupted with crypto, with NFTs, our ability to digitally mint currency. That is a disruption on its own, but we have to go before that and think about the fact that when you show up in a grocery store, and you can hold up your watch, and you can pay for services that before took green minted paper money, what does that do to the person who used to accept it, have to count out? There's a behavioral change that they're no longer having to look for fraud in manual paper. They're now having to look for digital fraud and patterns.
Humans can't do that, and so we've got to look at every area, every aspect of our life. What has the internet of things done? Our ability to connect to things, connect to people. When we drive up our garage, we don't have to manually lift like we did 20 years ago, that before we even get there, we have our phone. It's programmed. We can cut the air on our car. Now, the things that we used to do manually, we now have the ability to be able to progress our lives. It's an entire ecosystem. What does that do to the people who were working in those roles before? What happens when robotics process automation, begins to replace some tasks that we do?
Calendly has amazing workflows, and you're rolling things out to make things possible in the world, the digital world for people no longer to manually have to remember a reminder, remember to email. You now can bring people into an entire human experience through one click of a button. See, that's the progressive thinking that you all are doing, but then what does that do to the rest of the world? It means that we are no longer needed in certain areas, certain tasks, certain things that we do. We now have to elevate the things that we do so that we remain relevant, and that's what the digital ecosystem is about. It's about the world.
Thinking about your network, your relationships should no longer walking just and depending on a big conference at the end of the year. You are now on places like LinkedIn. You are not just gathering for the purpose of getting a sale closed. You are now hopefully looking at learning ecosystems where you're all coming together to start up companies. You're building new bridges to things. So this new world of digital economy is every area of our life, and that's why you and I are here today for this important topic because it means it's no longer business as usual for us.

Alicia McNease (00:07:27):
Mm-hmm. Yeah. It's time for us to catch up, and I know we'll dig into that. For sure. So let's talk about personally disrupting ourselves, right, with that in mind, and why is that so important?

Trice Johnson (00:07:42):
Think about what I just stated. Every area of the world, we now are in a world where we're in the future of work, and you have many people over the last 5, 10 years who are saying, "Listen, I know that I'm purposed for so much more in this world. I've been in my role or what I've been doing for 8 years, 10 years. Not only that, maybe I have switched. Maybe I have progressed. Maybe I am a great leader, but I have so much more greatness that needs to be unlocked inside of me."
So what's starting to happen is that you are now thrusted into this new digital ecosystem, and you have all of these gifts. You have all these skills and talents, but what you learned 20 years ago, and what you learned 10 years ago, and even what you learned five years ago has now leaped 12, 30 years. So now you're amazing, incredible, and you're stuck, and you're saying that, "But I have so much more, but I have no idea how to participate in the world that's left me."
The world is leaving. Now, we have medias that's telling us robots, all of the chatbots, things are going to replace us. So then, we're putting fear inside of our own selves where we're living and waking up with imposter syndrome. We're living with leaders and managers that are over us that don't know how to lead in this economy, and so then we're putting it back on our own selves. Then, we retreat and go off, and maybe we are not literally going out and starting new businesses. We're not focused because we're so distracted because we don't know now how do we move forward to this next paradigm with COVID.
So all of these things are happening before us. When I have said all along, hey, I wrote a book during this timeframe because I've said, "Listen, you continuously..." I don't care what in the world is going on and what things are happening around us. We can never get comfortable with the world around us because we're supposed to be busy shaping it. Otherwise, you're going to have five or six things around us that are shaping the world without us, and so what does that mean when we have locked greatness inside of a world that's not cultivating us because it doesn't know how to move us to the next paradigm?
You've got to take the world. You have all of the resources around you to do it on your own by creating a disruptive path in every single area of your life, and so it means that the way even you interact with family... T and I who... She's an executive at Google, and we've been having some great conversations that is no longer about the families coming together. We sit down, and we eat. We let the kids go off on their devices and just so they're quiet. It is about the fact that the entire family now can monetize their greatness because the platforms around us have enabled us. You can build a story book together, a digital story book together. You can come together and videotape amazing and incredible moments, human experiences with that. You want to show a positive light and be a light to the world. You no longer are having to be locked into tradition.
So that's every area of our life. If we don't have families, if we every day... movies, and Netflix, and Hulu, and HBO Max. It's beautiful what's happening around us that the world has been democratized. Digital has democratized Hollywood to where Hollywood now... You can make a film in any place, and now have a platform, whether it's YouTube and any of the others. Then, you can schedule it all through Calendly and put it on people's calendar and say, "Don't miss my premiere."

Alicia McNease (00:11:31):
There you go. Mm-hmm.

Trice Johnson (00:11:33):
What is happening, Alicia, is the world is disrupting every day, and many of us are leading traditional lives in every area of our life. What I'm saying is now we've got to be critical, serial disruptors. It's a burning need. We can't wait anymore. Alicia, the time is now that we all have to rethink and reimagine our lives in a way that we never had before and say, "I'm not just going to go to a restaurant and consume and be a consumer, and go to the store and be a consumer. I need to study the patterns so that maybe when the metaverse comes and there are things that I want, a commerce that I want to put inside of the metaverses, I need to understand 3D technology, and I need to understand the metaverse so that I know the ecosystem that I can now start to move toward and participate in." So this is where we are now. Step one, we've got to start re-imagining our lives and our place in the digital world.

Alicia McNease (00:12:32):
Yeah. So, Trice, I want to throw you a curve ball because as you were speaking, something came to mind. You used the word "comfortable," right? You've done so much in your career. At what point did you notice that you were comfortable and that you had to shift and pivot? I know we're going to talk about pivoting later, but we're just talking about how can people start now, and at what point for you personally did you decide in your mind like, "Hey, it is time for me to take those next steps?"

Trice Johnson (00:13:02):
I remember maybe about 15 years ago. I think if something has to be in you, number one, and I remember sitting literally in a place. I think at the time, it was consulting. Maybe before then. I tried a bunch of different stuff from startup to... I was never. I don't think I've ever been comfortable being comfortable. So what happens when you are curious is you become just that. You start to say, "Well, wait a minute. I have a leader over me who doesn't want me to get anywhere. They're constantly taking things away from me. When I walk into this place, I don't feel good. When I wake up on Monday, I hate my job. I hate everything I'm doing. I can't stand the colleagues around me because the people around me, every time I rise to greatness, they're there to bring me back down."
It's my life. So that was the first thing is, "How am I going out and helping companies to disrupt themselves? Doesn't that apply to me?" So then, I started just deeply researching, becoming the best incredible researcher. Then, once you start to change your habits and you say, "Well, wait a minute. Why am I not learning and understanding artificial intelligence?" So then, I just go study that. "Well, wait a minute. Why am I not understanding IOT and big data?" So I go study that. Then, I say, "Well, wait a minute. Well, these macro factors, these micro factors, all that are impacting everything I'm doing, why am I not learning finance? I go take finance classes."
Alicia, something happened where the more knowledge I gained... It's called skills stacking. We'll talk about that later. I started stacking skills and everything. I'm like, "Whoa." Well, instead of me on Saturday and Sunday, "I'm going to kick it," "Well, let me go kick this knowledge. Let me go manage on myself." I will never forget 10 years ago when I first got my role at Microsoft, and people will always say, "What do we do with you? You have all of this. So now let's let you become a learner."
So I think this is the big area of what happened to me. As I realized my superpower of learning. It was a gift. I started to disconnect myself from the job because what happens is our identity gets wrapped in a job. What do you do? What's your title? When I realized my power was to be transcended, my power wasn't locked up in that. It was the fact that I could walk in anytime any moment and learn anything real time thinking once I tapped into that power and said, "Wait a minute. I can sit and learn anything, give context to it, innovate on it," then I double down on that.
So the very first place, you asked me where I started, was just discovering who I am. What is my intent, my purpose? I know that I want to change worlds. So that meant I had to double down on that. So, Alicia, to your point, once I discovered I was stuck... It's a model that we're going to talk about in a minute called the S-curve, and inadvertently, I realized what I was doing for customers. "Why am I giving other people more than what I'm giving to myself? Why am I out here empowering everybody else and I'm sinking, crying at night because I'm so distraught in my world because I have people around me who continuously want to just take me out and I'm fighting? So then, don't I need to put the same effort of companies that are fighting to be competitive, to put that same rigor in myself?" I became rigorous and unapologetic about it.

Alicia McNease (00:16:58):
Ooh, I like that word, "rigorous." Okay. I love it. You're preaching a sermon this morning for us. So I want to jump into what you talked about, the S-curve, because the disruptive innovation is not just for companies. Right? You talked about what it looks like personally for individuals. So let's dive into that S-curve model.

Trice Johnson (00:17:21):
S-curve model. Literally, more than 40, 50 years ago, it probably dates back before then, but when companies realized that they needed a model for business model disruption to innovate. The model starts at the bottom of the curve, and if you go look at the way this happens is that you introduce something new, a new product or a new service. You want to disrupt your business model, and things are slow. You got a lot of knowledge, a lot of research. That's why people invest so much in R&D because you got to be able to really understand what the design is, what the power of the product is going to do. How is it going to impact the market?
So you spend some time investing, and then what happens is this curve, it becomes what we call this hyper-growth where people start to come on board. You're activating. You're marketing. You're doing all this great stuff, and your product starts to move into the market. Think about Calendly. When it first came out, "Woo, awesome. I can schedule." Then, what happens is when you get mass use, you plateau. This is a natural part of the ecosystem. So that plateau happens, and you're sitting here like, "Wow, I've reached mastery. I've done everything I can do with this feature. Now, I've got to go disrupt, and start all over, and do multiple S-curves so that I can build products at mass that are constantly wowing people over. People are using it more. They're adopting it more." So, wait a minute. I started saying, "Well, does that work just for business? Didn't I just describe my life? I described my life."

Alicia McNease (00:19:05):

Trice Johnson (00:19:06):
We learn one or two things really well in our lives. In those things that we learn really well, we get to a point where we get so good, everybody... You're the go-to person. You get stuck in that role. 10 years later, you're still doing the same thing. You plateau. You're now disinterested. You're not happy anymore because you're... Look at the way our brains work. There's dopamine, these neurotransmitters in our brain that literally work on adrenaline. So when you learn everything, you think... Some people think they know it all, they know everything, and I'm thinking, "I don't care if you got a PhD. I don't care if you got all of this."

Alicia McNease (00:19:55):

Trice Johnson (00:19:56):
Not to say it's off the table, but everything has been disrupted. So even your degrees can't sustain where the world is going, which is why they introduce MOOCs and online. We'll talk about that in a moment. Salesforce going crazy with Trailblazer and the investments that they're making and Trailhead with Trailblazer communities where you can go learn anything.

Alicia McNease (00:20:18):

Trice Johnson (00:20:18):
Type on something that you want to know, and you become an expert in anything. So what we're saying with this model is when you plateau and when you start to get bored, there's a mastery there. You take that mastery and put it aside, and then you go disrupt the next thing. So, now, I'm a great finance person. Great. You know accounting, you know budgets, but do you understand how finance is going to work in the future in 2050 when AI is taking over and robotics process automation is taking over? So, now, you start over. It's very scary learning from scratch. That's the whole thing, the fear. That's when your adrenaline kicks in.
See, let me tell you something. You don't take nothing off the table with knowledge. Your brain has the capacity to learn anything, and this is why it's so frustrating that we are not as inclusive as we should be because we leave it to an elite group of people to continue to innovate in this world, and what I'm telling everybody is the game was disrupted. It is gone. Everybody is on a level playing field when we have to understand the metaverse, when we have to understand how the metaverse is going to impact eCommerce, the fact that we're moving into a trillion-dollar eCommerce economy, and we don't understand our role and our place in it.
If I were to ask many of us, "Do we understand the trillion-dollar economy, the multi-billion-dollar things that are happening in the AI, the billions of transactions that are happening in the world every day?" and if we don't understand our own role and how powerful we are... That entire economy has opened up for us, and we're still doing the same thing. It's frustrating because I'm on one side, and we're climbing the ladder. We're seeing as executives that there are incredible talent, inclusive talent, but then the inclusive talent is just waiting. "Oh, I want the opportunity."
I can't even give you no opportunity if you have not invested in yourself to the capacity that allows you to walk into a room and to be so attractive with talent and value that you knock everyone off their socks, and so we've got to get busy on the other side of it doing the work to be different, differentiated so that all of these things work together, so that when we say we can't find talent, you're sitting over here expecting something off that degree you got 10 years ago. The world had moved on. So we have a true gap that we've got to really begin to take the S-curve model and imagine... I S-curved once. I do S-curves all year long. So I S-curve multiple things to where now it's the metaverse. It's NFTs. It is a world of crypto that came from blockchain world. So, every year, it is important that you put things into your portfolio and say, "For this whole year, I'm going to go off, and I'm going to put these platforms together and disrupt using a new model and a new framework."

Alicia McNease (00:23:21):
Wow. Absolutely, absolutely. I want to pause here and let everyone know that we will be taking questions at the end. Please use the Q&A box, and I also want to pause to give everybody a breather because you are dropping knowledge and gems. Absolutely. So you mentioned something, Trice, that really, really caught my eye, ears, et cetera about leadership, right, and the group at the top. So I know we've talked about personal accountability, what companies can do to disrupt, and we'll dive more into that, but you being a leader, can you talk to leaders? How can they disrupt themselves to also... we have our personal accountability, but to also bring that next generation up to speed?

Trice Johnson (00:24:10):
Number one, it starts with first recognizing your role as a leader. A leadership is not a title. It's not just a position. It is about the impact that you were going to make on the lives of others. So the very first thing is we got to get level set on why you're a leader because in this new paradigm of the digital world, humanism is number one in everything. In fact, we're talking about human algorithms, human AI to where we recognize and understand we build technology leading the human experience behind because people matter.
So the very first thing to do to disrupt is to say, "Everything that I thought I knew as a leader, I know that I can't hire the same way because I used to hire linear. I would maybe take a role and say, 'Here are the skills you need for that role,' and ignore everybody else around." So much talent, so we can't even hire the same way. So then, now we say, "Okay. What's my new hiring profile? Is anybody who can open up their mouth tell a story, articulate the value, accelerate this company?"
So it's a totally different set of skills that we look for first. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is still going off getting these other skills. So then, when they show up, three or four people who understand the game coming in understanding the game, and everybody else like, "Oh, I do this. I lead that. I do that." So, leaders, I think we have now a big responsibility to be evangelists saying, "Soft skills matter." Cultivate yourself, and we got to be out here like what you and I are doing, helping people to... leaders to start to understand that they have to be champions to train the world.

Alicia McNease (00:26:07):

Trice Johnson (00:26:08):
We have to retrain the world with what we're looking for. We can't get upset and say, "Well, we can't find talent. I can't find underrepresented talent or disinvested communities to come," because you set the bar that way. So disrupt that first. Let's start over with what it means to bring a person in and not just cultivate the people who are the cream of the crop, but bring in a talent that you've never brought in before. That's number one. Take the risk, and then invest in them. That's first. Stop saying, "We can't find people." I'm tired of that. You have a choice and an option to disrupt your hiring approaches, and we've got to do that first.

Alicia McNease (00:26:51):

Trice Johnson (00:26:52):
The second thing as leaders is to see people. This gen Z or this gen-Zers, my babies, these millennials, my other babies, they have to be led differently. So we have to disrupt our whole leadership style. What we thought worked 5 years ago, 10 years ago. It does not work today. You say the great resignation. It's not all of a sudden, and this is something new. People are just pulling new levers. They now can go drive for Uber. They now can set up their world in Calendly, and go start a business, and say that, "I'm going to leverage the platforms and the technology around me to just go, 'I want to just do hair out of my...'" Whatever. "I want to go real estate and get my real estate license." Now, the world has opened up where I can market myself, and I can schedule appointments, and I can have automated workflows to thank people and bring my human experience back with the click of a button and a monthly subscription rate.

Alicia McNease (00:27:52):

Trice Johnson (00:27:54):
So now that we know this and we have this knowledge, it means that when you come into... Leaders have to lead differently, and so I think it's time for all of us to start coming together, having a completely different conversation. The way that we see The World Economic Forum doing, leaders have to come together to have a different, authentic, candid conversations to say, "Whatever you was doing, throw it out. Now, you ain't got to bury it. You can bring little pieces back in, but throw it out because it don't work no more." We have to now lead with a new mindset, with a new level of empathy. Gen-Zers and millennials coming together and generationally with baby boomers, with gen X. All of these are coming together for the first time in our history, so the conversation has to be different. The way that we engage people have to be different. Otherwise, when people don't feel valued, they will simply go and say, "I'm just going to drive for Amazon, Uber. I'm going to do this part."
See, now, we have a new set of levers that were never introduced before. So I am literally calling on leaders to stop this madness with this, "I can't inclusive. I can't find good leaders." We've got to get into now a new way of hiring, a new way of cultivating people, a new way of caring about the career trajectories of people, and seeing people that if you come in as yourself, whoever you are, you embrace it, and you stop this madness of hiring this same stuff that you are literally going to come in, and be deliberate and intentional about the way, the makeup, and the way that you build role models so that the rest of the world can get excited about where we're going. So I hope that helps because we're just in that season where we got to disrupt that.

Alicia McNease (00:29:41):
Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you for that. So we're going to dive into personal disruption, and we're going to talk about one of my favorite subjects now since you brought it to my attention, one of my favorite terms, "skills stacking." So you have a video on YouTube, Trice, called Trice The Unicorn, and it's called Skills Stacking. Let's talk deeply. What is that? What does that mean?

Trice Johnson (00:30:08):
Skills stacking. What happens is that people think, again, you go to school, you get a marketing degree, you get a finance degree, you get whatever degree, but again, the world has moved from that layer. In fact, I'm empowering a lot of different startups. Ones that comes to mind is Stimuli who... the young lady, Taylor Shed, who went off and said during COVID, "Hey, we're going to solve... Everything now is about solving problems, innovation, and mindset." So her personal disruption was man, and skills stacking came when she said, "Well, I know a lot about the world I'm in. I came out of Apple. Now, I'm going to take my world of Apple, and I'm going to start building education for tech because I am passionate about changing the lives of young people because learning is different." So, now, you're at this point where she's stacking and getting all the education and knowledge about technical education. She's stacking now doing all the research, and it led to the metaverse. Now, she is one of the Black-funded I think almost into the tune of $3.5 to $4 million, I think, all up. Founders, women founders. Young, millennial. Just doing her thing. Maybe between gen Z and millennial, but she opted to skill stack early and turned it into an entrepreneurial kingdom because that's where she's literally driving towards. It's the most incredible story I've seen. My situation was I came from a world starting with business process stuff, analyst stuff. I always loved tech. So then, just started really focused on... I loved architecture. So then, I went and got these architecture certifications. Then, I said, "Okay. That's not enough. I want to go get consulting. I want to be a premier consultant. I want to look at all technologies." So I've been, traveled around the world, so many different systems, and you're talking to somebody that does not have a tech degree, by the way. In fact, at the time I was doing a lot of this, I was still halfway going to school because college... For me, it couldn't keep up with startup. So I was just a startup girl. Love startup companies, love the culture, love consulting, and then continued and didn't stop. Then, I said, "Okay. Great. I've mastered the ability to learn tech. Now, I need to understand the purpose of tech." So then, I went and took a lot of strategy classes. I went online and took courses. Even MIT offers and Harvard offer now the online MOOCs where you don't have to have a degree even. You can go and get executive education and get that down because you really need to start to understand the macro/micro economics against all the knowledge that you have. So skills stacking is about taking what you know, the base of what you know, then moving into your gifts and your superpowers, taking those gifts and superpowers, and building everything around it. So it's the financial piece. It's the economic piece. It's being able to go to ResearchGate and putting research on top of it. You need to understand what the research is, what the frameworks are, and you take your domain. You take the adjacent domains. You take the industries, and you begin to stack all of this together to where when you walk into a room, it's not a situation where you're saying, "I'm in marketing. I graduated with a X degree. I have a PhD, and I've been doing this for 20 years."
It is, "Hello. My name is Trice. I came into this business because I wanted to solve problems for some incredible people who have needs around the world, and that's my passion. So I've cultivated a unique set of skills over the last five years that have really made me a powerhouse and my ability to be able to change and transform things the moment that I walk in because I have real-time thinking, and I have the ability to influence so that people really move to their trajectories, and so marketing is my passion." That's a lot different of a statement there than, "I've been working 20 years with a PhD," and so we really got to start to move the needle to stack skills. It is a gift, and it's taking our gifts, taking research, taking the frameworks, taking the economies, and putting that with our degree. Now, you go try that and build your roadmap for that, and then come back, and we can have a whole another level of a conversation and how that moves your career.

Alicia McNease (00:34:34):
Yeah. So, first off, awesome. Right? I love the skills stacking concept. I've adopted it since our first conversation. One thing we talked about, Trice, was community. How is community involved in skills stacking?

Trice Johnson (00:34:49):
It is critical. So if anybody were to go even... I'll start with Salesforce because it's top of my mind for Trailhead. You literally could go click Trailhead for free. Thousands and thousands, thousands and thousands of knowledge trails. I've never seen anything like it. You click it. Put in "Artificial Intelligence." You could put in anything, whatever you want to learn. "I want to be a leader." "I want to be a CRM." Whatever you want to do and achieve. It's amazing to see all these companies. Google, same thing. I mean, so much free knowledge because these companies really want to help elevate our ability to be able to just be incredible, productive members of this world so that we can become more competitive. So that's the first thing is get yourself yourself in a... The community, I think, is called Trailblazer, and they learn together. So that's the first thing is disrupt your community. If you're not a part of communities that are learning together, y'all, like a book club. Remember that?

Alicia McNease (00:35:48):

Trice Johnson (00:35:48):
That's how books came.

Alicia McNease (00:35:50):

Trice Johnson (00:35:50):
We'd call each other, "Let's do a book club together," and then what do we do? We go read.

Alicia McNease (00:35:58):
Yes, et cetera. Yeah.

Trice Johnson (00:36:00):
What do we do? Come back together. We enlight each other, talk about it. So we need to disrupt what we think our communities are and begin to learn together. That's number one. Second part of our communities, our network. If you got people in your network that have... you look back, and you have a portfolio, and you say, "They haven't even reached out. They haven't helped. They haven't contributed in a year," archive them. Then, put them on archive. We're not going to let you go because you need everybody, but you need to archive and build an active community of people who are thirsty entrepreneurial communities. Even if you're in corporate, nonprofit communities.The great work that the Jakes Foundation is doing. I'm so proud of Hattie Hill who... The CEO had a big vision partnered with Jakes, and it's just been absolutely incredible to see the work from the US to places in Africa, all over... and so when you get hooked up to these worlds, it transforms everything in your life because there's no longer... You don't have time to sit around and wonder what you're doing. Your community is an ecosystem of learning, of growth, of feeling good. See, that's that part where I keep going back to our neurotransmitters in the brain. Alicia, do you know that the... When you get up in the morning, and when you feel productive, and when you're around amazing people, what do you feel?

Alicia McNease (00:37:37):
Great. Awesome. Like I can do anything, right? Inspired. You want to do more. You want to learn more. So having great people that...

Trice Johnson (00:37:46):
What happened to the stress? What happened to the stress?

Alicia McNease (00:37:49):
You forget it. You don't have the stress because you have support. Right? You have community. So the stress has to leave when you have all of that positivity around you.

Trice Johnson (00:37:59):
This is how I wake up every day, anybody who knows me. It may take a minute. I don't drink coffee, but I do do my B12s. This is it. See, this is the other part of the secret sauce. You got to learn how to get rid of the distractions, the stress, family. You got to bring everybody along the journey to this new, joyful roadmap that you have to have for yourself. This joyful place of community is everything, and so you start to join other people who are doing amazing things. What it does? Dopamine. You can change the trajectory. It can either be negative bias where you wake up and you've beaten yourself up because you're not good enough. You're just stressed all week because you're like, "Oh my goodness. I'm not where I need to be and not where I want to be," or you can wake up, reverse it, and say, "All these neurons that are triggering other neurons to get me focused on negativity, guess what?" Someone told me yesterday... I used to talk about it and say, "You can have a cup of coffee and sit outside my door because I'm occupied. I'm too busy. My schedule is busy, so I don't have time for all this negative negativity in my communities. So I don't have time for that," and then they... At the end of our coaching call, she said, "Well, I have something better than that. How about there's a VIP line? You know who's standing at the door. So negativity can't get in because you're going to have to stay in the line a long time because this VIP is for special, positive positivity. It is for enlightenment. It's for uplifting, and so all, all of this, y'all stay in that line. I don't know if you ever going to get back in because of this fear of flight."

Alicia McNease (00:39:51):

Trice Johnson (00:39:52):
Many times, we're fighting all of this things that are happening, and we can't do that anymore because it's a distraction when you have to wake up and fight to get your mind positive. What we're saying is negativity is never going to go away. People trying to take you out is never going to go away. People who don't respect you and think that you're... They will think you're nothing. They're never going to go away. Put them in that line where they're trying to get into the VIP.

Alicia McNease (00:40:20):

Trice Johnson (00:40:21):
You don't let them in. I'm not fighting you. You stand right there and throw all the darts you want. Go ahead.

Alicia McNease (00:40:29):

Trice Johnson (00:40:29):
I have somewhere to be. I'm in here to get my education on, my knowledge. Yeah. We party. I'm on knowledge. Positivity.

Alicia McNease (00:40:40):
Right, and they're [inaudible 00:40:38], and they're not on the list. Yeah. I love it. I love it. You got to have a list, got to have bouncer at the door. Protect your thoughts, your mind, all the things. Right? Seriously, I love that. That's so important. I just want to hold on to that. Have a bouncer at the door of your mind, for real. Seriously. Woo, Trice, sometimes I think it's just me and you talking, but we got an audience, so I'm going to keep going. So I am going to go to... We talked about the steps. We talked about skills stacking, right, but we probably have some people who are like, "Okay. This is a big idea. Where do I start? What's my first step?"

Trice Johnson (00:41:20):
Step one is... Yeah. Step one is it starts with your mind.

Alicia McNease (00:41:25):

Trice Johnson (00:41:27):
Starts with your mind. You got to take everything off the table that you thought you couldn't do if you thought you couldn't start that business. Four or five businesses. We ain't even talking about two or three anymore. You got to have your hands in a lot of things. Where I started was empowering startups. There's a lot of startup companies out here reach out every day as a matter of fact, and they just need small support. So what happens is you got to start learning the knowledge. So then, you go pick a domain and say, "I want to learn more about intelligence. I want to learn more about digital intelligence."
So being with a startup company forces you to go do the research. So ResearchGate is my number one go-to when I need to know theory because you have to understand the theory behind anything that you're learning. So you pick a domain and say, "Okay. My S-curve is going to be four things this year. I really want to learn about digital intelligence. I want to understand more about..." Let's say, gaming technology because gaming technology, a multi-billion dollar industry is not just about gaming. We're bringing games in education. We're bringing games in training and business, and so you may want to be on the front-end where you're not just learning, but you're going to companies saying, "I spent one year learning and understanding game-based learning. I know the theories behind it. I've also worked with a startup company, and I also went and went with a nonprofit," because you got to give those skills.
So now, it may look like you're giving these skills away. It may look like you're working for free. It's an investment where you're investing in this company. They put you down. Then, you came and helped them. You got the skills that you needed. It's this beautiful market of exchange. So that really is the first place to start is pick your nonprofit, pick a couple of startups, pick the domains you're going to go after, and build a roadmap to say, "Every quarter, every three months, I'm going to learn this new thing, and now I'm going to go off and execute it."
The second big thing. Again, that was probably two, one in two, your mindset. Then, select the people, the domain, and then select the communities you're going to go after to empower. But then, the third big thing from all of that is don't forget to work on your own personal wellbeing. The one thing that I found is that the kinder that I became... I used to react and respond, so I would see people like either they wouldn't promote me or I had all this greatness and I see people being promoted over me, people they had to train, they actually brought in the door because of favoritism and all of the things that get locked into the systematic ways that we get treated. I think I'm starting to try to see some changes, maybe, but we got a long way to go, which is why it's important that we disrupt ourselves so that there's no excuse, and we don't leave gaps, we don't leave room for people to say that we cannot be in a certain place.
I don't leave room for it anymore, and so that's what fuels me to go off and do more. So I S-curve. I might learn 20, 30 things in six months. I'm insane because, Alicia, when you walk into a room and you are able to have a conversation with any leader, any executive, any entrepreneur, VCs, investors, there's something empowering when you can shift the conversation and give people thoughts that they never could have before. So cultivate you and being a person that... I say this that when the winds blow, when everything comes against you, when there is a force trying to take you out, you don't move. You don't change posture because you've cultivated yourself to the point where, "Oh, okay. I see. That's all right."

Alicia McNease (00:45:09):

Trice Johnson (00:45:12):
Your kindness overcomes the nasty wickedness around us because the world is tough. It's not easy, but we can't give up, go retreat, stop doing what we're doing. You build a resilience in yourself. So that really is the next thing that as you're getting that knowledge, build a better you, a kinder you, one that recognizes and sees special things in people, and make sure you're bringing people along the journey because they're the biggest part of why it is that we're here. So I think those four things start there.

Alicia McNease (00:45:49):
Mm-hmm. That's great, especially that last point, build a kinder you, right, because it's so easy to be mean. It's so easy to just not like people when you look around at what's happening in the world, right, but just fostering that kindness within yourself, it makes it better. It makes it feel better. Right? So, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. We're towards the end, but I do want to jump into disrupting yourself before you're disrupted, right, because we're talking about how to do it, and now we're talking about the urgency of it.
So I want to read from your book, Becoming a Digital Unicorn. I think this is a part of chapter two. It says, "You must be willing to quit the right stuff at the right time and understand when to pivot. Unpredictable change and uncertain times present opportunities for you to pause, think deeply, reset, and disrupt yourself to change the rules of the game. Be prepared to alter the events in your career that are fading to breathe life into new ones that will cause you to transcend the era of uncertainty. You must continually evaluate ways to disrupt yourself before you get disrupted and left behind." Wow. So, that last sentence, "Before you get left behind," can you break that down for us, please?

Trice Johnson (00:47:15):
Yeah. I wrote that book literally in maybe seven, eight months during COVID, and it was literally my thoughts of saying, "If people understood their power, there's no way in this world we wouldn't see more inclusive and diverse people shaping the world." No way we wouldn't see them on the front-end shaping algorithms. So then, when we get handed things like TikTok and we're now putting more positive algorithmic models to help train our minds differently... Every area of tech requires someone to solve a problem, and I just really see a lot of... that the world is transforming and changing, and how many people have lost their jobs, especially during that time that they had... They just completely got abrupted. Restaurants started delivering.
Like I said, automation starts taking over tasks where you're not needed to answer a phone anymore because a chatbot can do it, AI technology. We haven't even tapped in with deep neural and all of the really amazing, incredible... the models that are being derived from machine learning. That's going to be the next big wave. Where are we? Where are we? Why do I know this stuff? You have to have something intrinsic inside of you that says, "There's no way in this world the world is going to be shaped without me, so I'm nosy. I am a nosy tech person. I'm in all the business. I want to know what's going on. When The World Economic Forum brings all these leaders together at Davos and they have all these incredible conversations, I'm nosy. I just want to understand what are these big leaders saying about where the country is going. So then, it means that I need to know everything."
So building up your ability to say, whatever it is, that you are not going to be the person that's going to get handed down the tech and the digital world, that you are going to be at the forefront. The moment you speak those words into the atmosphere, everything around you has to come together to make what you speak come to full manifestation. So this is why it's so important when we talk about getting left behind. The world has moved on without us. In fact, it's moving so fast that we don't have the ability to catch up right now. So it's going to take a combination of human ingenuity with machine intelligence, and we've got to run alongside each other, which means that you've got to understand machines. So that's the big piece to that and why. The book, Becoming a Digital Unicorn, I think is just the beginning of me to start to explore, "How do I begin to take all this out of my mind so that people can embrace it in their hearts and begin to transform and pivot their lives in ways like we've never seen before?"

Alicia McNease (00:50:24):
Yeah. That is awesome. I want to dig a little deeper, if you don't mind. I know we're getting close to time, but you talked about pivoting, right? Keeping up, being able to transform your life to keep up with the digital age. So, life happens. We can be in a job one day and not in it the next, right? The economy is ever-changing. Can you talk about the pivot and how important it is when we talk about the economy, right, and being willing to shift into possibly a new industry? Maybe it's not tech, but what does that look like?

Trice Johnson (00:50:59):
So it goes back to me saying you got to tap into your gifts, your skills, and your superpower, and really, really know your purpose. Know the original intent of why you were here on this earth. It's at that moment that you know your power, that you become disconnected from the job. See, we've always associated with the job, the job and what we do. When we are so multidimensional, we're filled with so much greatness that it should be that there are multiple jobs attracted to our skill and our talent. Though the moment that you begin to say that I have a set of meta skills, that I'm cultivating, and these meta skills are the fact that I can learn quickly. I can disseminate information. I don't care what industry it's in. It could be retail. It could be manufacturing, a line that's producing product. It can be sales. It can be... So I'm going to go try all of these different roles because I recognize that the continuous skills that I bring, I can light anything up. If people need a program started, I can be there to lend my intellectual energy because I have this experience. I understand economy.
So, now, it's not about tech. It's not about industry. It's about the human ingenuity with the human experience, the human gifts, and all of the things that we can pour in because we're going to have 280 million new jobs by 2030 that are driven from a green economy that we're going to be moving into. Jobs that you never even heard of that don't even exist right now. So then, we throw everything that we knew and thought we understood, and you become a creator of the economy. That's the goal is we got to shift our mindset. We have to pivot not just from our thinking, not just from job, not just from industry, but gain so much skill that we are now disrupting industries itself and people are creating roles for us that don't even exist today. So it's a different way of thinking, and we can probably go all day on that.

Alicia McNease (00:53:04):
Right. Exactly. No, that's super helpful because it's not just about tech, but just who you are as a person and those skills that you cultivate. So thank you for sharing that. I was going to dive into... We have a couple of questions, so I want to go there.

Trice Johnson (00:53:18):
Let's go to the questions now.

Alicia McNease (00:53:19):
Yeah. Let's get into that before we end. So, from Jessica Richie, "What advice would you give someone looking to grow in the D&I space? What belief system did you have to adopt?"

Trice Johnson (00:53:34):
Number one, become a phenomenal researcher. You got to go back and understand the history. ResearchGate is a great place to start, to start to look at the trends of D&I. We're talking about diversity and inclusion, correct?

Alicia McNease (00:53:46):
Mm-hmm. Yes.

Trice Johnson (00:53:47):
Because you need to become a theorist. Now, these days, it's not just about understanding. You got to understand algorithms. You need to understand where AI is going in DI. So next, I research that. You do once you understand the theory behind DIs and you begin to apply the contextualization around that to say, "Where is machine learning? Where is AI? Where all these pieces going? Where DEI is starting to transform?" because it's going to give you an idea. "Do I want to start a business in this space? Do I want to start consulting in this space? Do I want to launch something uniquely different, or do I want to go work for corporate?"
Either way, it changes your language. So the very first thing you've got to do is get new language around DEI so that you don't look the same as the people around you, and that's going to become... becoming a deep researcher. So I encourage you, number one, to get the ResearchGate under your belt. Number two, understand what's happening in the world. Number three, know... By year 2030, what does DEI look like in the future? Then, begin to cultivate a new brand that includes a new language so that when you show up, you become an expert theorist and a person of the future, and you look like no one else around you. So, Jessica, start there.

Alicia McNease (00:55:03):
I love that. I love that. So we have Nana next. She said, "First, thank you for dropping gems." Absolutely. Question, Trice. She said, "I do what I do for my country, Ghana. Where do I start with the disruption paradigm when my nation is still developing? How do I even start empowering when individuals are just trying to get by?" That is a great question.

Trice Johnson (00:55:29):
Community. Hey, none in the world we can do on our own, and I think that's part of the thing. I've met beautiful women at a recent conference in Dallas. It was WLS, Women Leadership Summit, that Hattie... We had a panel, and I talked to a couple of women after that from Ghana who has some of the same passion. I think one was a physician and another was in tech. Number one is patience in the plan. You got to have a strategy for your own personal disruption that has to happen in order for you, your community, and building this new community of thought leaders that all are coming together and saying, "Here is what we do now here." That's going to be the bridge, and connect with nonprofits who are already doing this work.

Alicia McNease (00:56:19):

Trice Johnson (00:56:21):
Then, you all start to build that corridor so that you don't feel the load, the heaviness. Now, remember, we said this earlier, heaviness and load. It's all a part of the brain activity. Those are neurotransmitters that we've got to change and shift. You've got to become free. The only way that you're going to be able to change the world is when you are free. You don't have stress. You don't have the worry. You don't have the burden. You got to roll light, and the way that you roll light is go get your posse. I say, "Go get your crew." Go build this network. Go build this community, and then you all come together, and everybody is riding light because we're all moving to the Promised Land to make sure that everything we do here is for the world that needs us. So that's the power.

Alicia McNease (00:57:06):
Yeah. Roll light with your community. That's a big one, Trice. That's huge. That community takes the load off because a lot of times, we try to carry it on our own when we see a problem. So thank you for that. Oh, we have two more. Jordan. "What are some resources or tools we can use to search for or reaffirm our purpose? What have you used to search for or affirm this for yourself?"

Trice Johnson (00:57:30):
Number one, go get the book because I did put it in my book. It's called Becoming a Digital Unicorn. It's on Amazon. Audio book I think is the best. I recorded it myself, and so you'll get to hear the research. I actually have a whole section on research, some of the things I talked about today. So I would start there because of time. I don't want to get too deep into it. Then, the second thing on purpose is literally, once you take a look at the resources that I put in there, go to Amazon again, and do the search and purpose-driven. Do purpose-driven career or purpose-driven life, purpose-driven mindset so that you can change your mindset to focus on defining all that. But I think starting with the book because I actually break it down and give you the steps on how to get started because that's been the number one question people ask. So, Jordan, it's a pleasure. Thank you.

Alicia McNease (00:58:20):
Love it. One from Carrie. "What advice would you give someone starting in a role in a different industry than their previous role, also going from in-person to remote? How would you effectively make connections and build relationships?"

Trice Johnson (00:58:34):
Cultivate yourself. Become the best, most incredible person on camera that you ever can become. It starts there because you can't even really build your network powerfully unless people understand the value that you're adding, and so cultivating yourself means that you understand your value. When you walk into a room, you got a brand pitch. You got a pitch that's 15 seconds. People don't have attention spans anymore past eight seconds, but try to get that 20, 30-second. Get it down. That's number one, cultivate this amazing and incredible presence.
I actually have videos on Trice The Unicorn on YouTube where I actually have a thing where I'm teaching people how to interact with the video, how to just become delightful. But then, beyond that is the knowledge that you're going to be able to bring. So I encourage you to double down on the research, on becoming... understanding theories behind your expertise, taking your gifts, pulling all of that together, and building a brand portfolio that's filled with value. So every place you show up, whether it's getting your new network, it's linking into people, you have a quick pitch. They understand that they can take you places that you can't go yourself because you cultivated yourself to greatness, and so you start with those things, and you attract so much. I call it the spirit of attraction. You begin to become so attractive that things come to you as well. So it starts with you, my friend.

Alicia McNease (00:59:58):
Love it. We have two more. This one is a long one. "So technological advances have both saved my life medically and helped to maintain my independence due to being able to work remotely when I'd otherwise be stuck on a fixed disability income. I feel like there's been a lot of negative talk regarding tech. Am I misunderstanding that? I'm sorry if so."

Trice Johnson (01:00:22):
It's both. I think that technology has... It's ruined us in many ways, but it elevated us in more ways.

Alicia McNease (01:00:31):

Trice Johnson (01:00:33):
In any economy that gets disrupted, there's good and bad. We used to have to worry about the safety of children outside the home. Now, security cameras have helped with that. Security cameras everywhere, but now we have to worry about them online. So there are new problems. It's our mindset. If people come at you with all the negativity, remember, it's easy to be negative. We are naturally wired for negative bias in our brains. You have to look and say, "What can I do? How can I take my situation of my health being transformed? How can I write a book? How can I write a blog? How can I go on YouTube, Instagram, or it's one of these others and create a journey that people can follow and be inspired by?" So it's what can we do individually to transform and infuse the human side of who we are in the tech.

Alicia McNease (01:01:32):

Trice Johnson (01:01:32):
That's what's going to transform the world, so you keep going very proud.

Alicia McNease (01:01:37):
Yeah, and last one for our... I don't know what generation they are, maybe Z, but what advice would you have for high school students today?

Trice Johnson (01:01:46):
You know what? If I get one more student coming to me, and I ask them, "Are y'all on LinkedIn?" they're like, "Well, no. It's for older people." "You know what?"

Alicia McNease (01:01:53):

Trice Johnson (01:01:55):
Us, older people are here doing things like this. You would've missed. So it is getting connected with a network of people who are very powerful. Build a power network. You can do that, but know what you want to do, know where you want to go. Even if you don't know what you want to do, know your power and say, "I might not know. I might do two or three jobs," because remember your generation is not limited. "You know what? I'm going to be an entrepreneur. I'm going to do this, and here's how I'm going to get there. I built a roadmap for myself. You're included in this roadmap. You don't know me yet, but Alicia, I've watched you. I've seen your profile, and I feel like you can be a part of this journey. Can you join me? Once a quarter, just give me 15, 20 minutes because I want to make sure I'm on the right track." So my point is leverage the power that you have, but know who you are. Know your superpowers, your value, your gifts, your purpose, and you lead with that so that we are compelled and forced to help you along your journey.

Alicia McNease (01:03:00):
Yes. Exactly. I love that. So I know we are overtime. Trice, first, I want to thank you. If you have any closing words for us, please, the floor is yours, and then I'll close us out.

Trice Johnson (01:03:12):
My only thing is, first of all, thank you. Thank you, Calendly. You know how much I admire your leader. You all keep going. I think that we all can definitely take a page out of the book of just the great work that we don't stop, that now you all are in a disruptive phase yourselves saying, "Hey, we're going to go big and continue going bigger." We need to do that for our own lives. Nothing is off limits for any of us. We are all starting at a level playing field because none of us know any of this stuff. We just don't. Somebody has to learn it, so let it be you. Don't pull anything off the limits for you. I don't care where you're at in your life, in your career. You pave the way. Change the trajectory, and you change yourself along the journey to just become a better person. That's my guidance.

Alicia McNease (01:04:05):
Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much, Trice. We really can't thank you enough for joining us for this edition of Candid Conversations. I want to thank everyone that tuned in, watched, and asked questions. You just being here shows us that you are willing to be a part of change. So thank you so much. Everybody, enjoy your Friday. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you at the next one. Thank you.

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