Power Partnerships, a WiSE Tip from Dr. Shaila Kotadia and Dr. Carley Corrado

(Photo by Jonathan Bell c/o Unsplash)

Not very long ago we both embarked on our graduate education at UC Santa Cruz not knowing each other, and missing a strong community of support. We both took the opportunity to be officers in the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) group on campus. Separately, we had expressed an interest in outreach and were connected together by the president of WiSE. We started the WiSE Outreach program for K-12 students and after a few years of building our program, and our friendship, we both parted ways with UC Santa Cruz and fell out of touch.

Fast forward to 2016 and we reconnected to find that both of us were doing workshop facilitation; Carley in transformational facilitation, Shaila in equity, diversity, and inclusion. We decided to respark our friendship and to start consulting together.

We started by reaching out to the UC Santa Cruz WiSE chapter, connecting with the current president Pauline Blaimont, and created a tailored career empowerment workshop for WiSE members. In a playful interactive session, we sought to empower early professionals to identify their unique career goals - differentiating them from society’s standard definition of success. We crafted facilitation techniques, like mindfulness exercises and in-depth self-reflection, resulting in group bonding and personal breakthroughs. WiSE invited us to come back the next year to hold additional workshops, to further home in on the professional needs of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.

Power Partnership and how it changes everything

The idea of starting an outreach program went from really intimidating and scary to easy. Doing it together made it feel about 1000 times easier. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were forming the seeds of a “Power Partnership.”

The WiSE Outreach program that we started as graduate students at UC Santa Cruz brought undergraduate and graduate scientists to nearly 600 K-12 students in just three years. We demonstrated to students that science is fun, and in the process we were breaking the stereotype of what a scientist looks like.

For Shaila this experience significantly impacted her career as she has since dedicated herself to making the STEM environment more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Carly included expanding the WiSE Outreach program into her NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship application. Her fellowship application was approved, allowing her to spend time growing the program and increasing its funding.

Of course, the personal interactions with the students and volunteer scientists were the gold - making science equitable and accessible to all of the potential scientists in K-12 classrooms! WiSE Outreach is still alive and thriving, demonstrating that this single act from a Power Partnership ended up making big waves!

The power of a hand to hold at the edge of your comfort zone

Linking arms and working toward a shared goal essentially created the success that we experienced in WiSE. It was amazing how feasible the opportunity became once we came together, held focused meetings, and followed through due to our accountability to one another; a true Power Partnership. You can’t drop the ball when someone is standing there, in ready position, waiting for you to pass it!

Power Partnership is one of the jewels that we include in our workshops. Having a power partner will make a huge difference, not only in your career but also in your life. The success of it depends on a few factors.

Are you someone who has vision? Someone who has a creative impulse? Someone who wants to make a difference? Someone who can feel this urge, this calling, this deep desire that you wish to express, to contribute, or to experience? If you happen to be any of those, you could develop a Power Partnership with someone who:

  • Has aligned values with you
  • Has a similar vision as to what you want to create (for example: choose a career, do a creative project, etc.)
  • Has similar motivations
  • Will commit to showing up 100%

With that lined up, you now have an accountability partner, which we term a Power Partner. You can check in regularly in a structured way to mirror each other’s power and potential, and elevate the actions each of you take towards your agreed-upon goal.

Your follow-through and success energizes both of you and ensures small and big steps towards your goal. It’s possible to have a one-on-one Power Partnership like we did, or meet in a group. Carley has been part of a Power Partnership that lasted for over six months, meeting with a group of 7 people weekly over video conference. It was incredibly impactful to her career progression, as she used the Power Partnership to start her own business.

The point is that Power Partnerships are amenable to your needs and you can design one perfect for you and your partners.

We absolutely cannot emphasize with any greater passion that this one tool, which ultimately does not require a huge amount of effort, has a Return on Investment that can completely alter your life’s trajectory. If you commit to it and take it seriously, your potential can be catalyzed to the next level. We both continue to have Power Partnerships in multiple areas of our lives and we have seen our careers grow in major ways, one of which was bringing us back to work together!

We can’t become ourselves by ourselves

Whatever that thing is in the back of your mind, not getting the attention that it needs, is ready to emerge and have someone to help keep you accountable to it. This person will also inspire you, reflect your greatness, courage, and many additional qualities you are embodying. The partnership will help you to take solid steps forward in alignment with your intentions - energizing your partnership at the same time.

You’ll probably look forward to talking to this person, and you may become incredibly productive the night before you’re scheduled to talk. You might come to the meeting a little mopey, not having reached any of your previously stated goals. You will get a pep-talk from your partner and be motivated to make moves later that day. You may also be inspired by what your partner has done, and feel proud of their strides forward. This could excite you and encourage you to move forward as well. Whatever way it supports you is perfect!

When you look back over a few months, you may be surprised at how much you accomplished with just a little encouragement and accountability.

Learn more about Enliven Leadership

Our efforts are continuing in a new business created by Carley called Enliven Leadership, at which Shaila is a co-facilitator. Enliven Leadership supports mission-driven entrepreneurs in cleantech and sustainable agriculture, helping them come into full-alignment with their mission and team to create unstoppable momentum forward.

Shaila is the Director of Culture and Inclusion at Stanford University School of Medicine and also consults with clients to advance their mission and goals with diversity, equity, and inclusion. If interested, contact her at shaila.kotadia@gmail.com.

Carley and Shalia

Dr. Shaila Kotadia and Dr. Carley Corrado, UC Santa Cruz Alumnae