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Meet Jamie Dandar McKinney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Dandar McKinney.

Jamie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Always walking the fine line between feminine, yet fierce, and woman, yet warrior… That’s how it always felt throughout my career in heavily male-dominated industries. It took balance and determination, and there was always one tool, that no matter what the day held, either out in the field or in the office, meeing with customers or presenting to higher ups, this one tool I consistently relied upon to achieve success. And although it wasn’t until a few later that I was able to specifically identify it, that tool was to lead with confidence.

I started my career in the automotive industry where I was the third female to join a team of 400. I was the youngest by about 20 years on average and I hadn’t grown up in the industry. Another variable that made me stick out was that I had a college degree and for some that was seen as a threat, rather than an asset and they would seek out ways to undermine me. Prior to the start of my professional life surrounded almost exclusively by men, I came from a very female environment. I’m one of three daughters. I went to an all-girls high school; I was in a sorority and I know my way around a sewing machine. I enjoy a good football game, but this male dominated environment was quite foreign to me.

I was constantly tested and challenged. It took determination and finesse to power through, and confidence consistently prevailed. I started studying it and figured out that not only is there a formula for confidence, but also that ANYONE can build it and lead with confidence too.

After ten years in automotive and a realization that the industry was not lighting my spark, I pivoted over to an industry for which I had a ton of passion, the energy industry. When I arrived in Oil and Gas, there were a few more women, but the balance was still heavily skewed toward males. The women were very welcoming and incredibly intelligent. I remember attending an all-women’s luncheon. Each of us was asked to introduce ourselves by saying the company you worked for and your name. As we went around the room, a presumably safe place for the 40 women who had attended, I found it heart-breaking that I could only hear about half of the introductions. The other half was so quiet and timid, soft voices, and eyes pointed toward the floor. It bothered me and I wanted to help. That experience served to plant a significant seed for what would later sprout the career pivot to where I am today.

In 2017, around the same time I attended the women’s luncheon, I was featured in Scale It Magazine in an article titled, Strong Female in Male-Dominated Industry. It was the responses I received from that article that made me realize that my stories and experiences were helpful for other women. It was empowering for them to know that if I could do it, they too could stand in their power, channel confidence and achieve success. That article fertilized the seed planted earlier, so to speak, for what would later grow to become my future company, Jamie Empowers. I started receiving requests to speak to women’s groups, and then inquiries about where to buy my book (something I’d never even thought of, let alone written) and requests for professional coaching too. I kept listening and responding and noticing just how fired up I felt when working with women and even more energized to hear their success stories!

Now, as a speaker, virtual workshop leader, coach and author I’m so blessed to empower professional women to ditch doubts, SPEAK UP, and achieve the careers they deserve and desire. It’s pretty fulfilling when you finally figure out why God put you here on earth and are able to DO the work you know you are meant to do.

Professionally, I’m an executive, a strategist and have an MBA. I’ve worked for companies of all sizes in all phases from start-up to Fortune 100. On the personal side I’m a wife to an incredible husband. I am a God mother and big sister. I feel very blessed and grateful for my tribe… A phenomenal group of women and men; whom I like to call my sheroes and heroes.

I like to hike, bike, jog, catch an occasional yoga class and go on a digital detox diet every now and then. I’m a huge college football fan, am terrible at growing plants but like to try, love a good Greyhound cocktail, complete with fresh-squeezed grapefruit. My spirit animal is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG!), my favorite color is glitter and my dog’s name is Penny.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I often talk about the Top 5 Gifts of Confidence and the very first one is seeing challenges as opportunities, rather than obstacles. Has it been a smooth road? Not particularly, but with every obstacle comes opportunity and when you adopt that as your navigation system, it’s like you’re building your own personal shock absorbers and bumpy roads do tend to smooth out.

As an employee there were always challenges. I love the phrase, “New level, new devil.” If you’re wanting to advance in your career and be in a perpetual state of learning, you’re guaranteed to run into challenges. Like the time when a fellow female colleague didn’t like that I was on her turf and so lied to my boss to try and knock me down. She told him that I’d gotten drunk and was dancing on the bar with all the guys when I was out of town at a work event. Spoiler alert, I did something far less scandalous and saw a movie in the theater by myself that night. What I learned from that though was that my boss unequivocally trusted me and because his opinion was far more important to me than hers, it was kind of bonding moment between him and me. It was affirming to know that he didn’t question me for a second.

While working in start-up environments, my experience was that challenges are standard operating procedure because everything is new. The opportunity is that you learn to pivot fast and be nimble. You realize that what might at times feel like ‘game over’ may instead be an amazing invitation to play the game a different way or a different game altogether.

In my own business, I was just lifting off when COVID19 hit, and public speaking engagements came to a screeching halt. No stranger to pivoting, however, I made a hard right and converted existing programs for virtual delivery, earned my virtual speaker certification and launched a full workshop, called Empower Hour. My message of confidence and leadership became even more timely and I’m proud to say that professional women’s groups, both local and nationwide, have been ignited, inspired and empowered by the experience in just this short amount of time. Hearing their success stories is incredibly motivating! While I did slip in the occasional Netflix show, COVID19 was a catalyst for me to speed up and push my business even harder.

I often reflect on the expression, “Water has a way.” When even a trickle of water is running, it bends and turns and moves with the landscape. It’s determined to reach a destination and honors the sometimes-circuitous journey to get there. It always finds a way. I think of myself similarly, trying to be equally as fluid yet heading toward a specific destination.

Jamie Empowers – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Jamie Empowers inspires professional women to ditch doubts, speak up and achieve the careers they deserve and desire! My material is based on two key themes, (1) developing an unshakable foundation of confidence and (2) immediately leveraging it for noticeable performance improvement of soft skills at work. Hard skills get you the job, yet soft skills, are what all great leaders possess and what will catapult your success, help you earn promotions and receive the recognition you deserve.

Delivery of my message and materials is achieved in two ways. First, I speak to professional women’s groups, virtually and in-person, as permitted. I have several programs ranging between 45 minutes and a full day. Engagement is a huge focus and it’s my goal that every participant experiences true TRANSFORMATION. This is not a sit-and-listen type of experience. I want you to walk away feeling unstoppable and ready to achieve Brave-ah-na! Brave-ah-na is a Jamie Empowers signature word. Brave-ah-na is the euphoric feeling that washes over you when you’ve conquered a fear and enlisted courage to do something you were afraid to do. Talk about empowering! When you achieve Brave-ah-na, you’ll be immediately inspired to achieve it again and again and again!

Second, I champion women individually through my Signature Leadership Coaching program where we work together over the course of several months. As one of my clients recently said, “For anyone looking to find her voice, make powerful changes in her career, and show up every single day as your best self… Jamie will help you get there!”

What I’m most proud of is the success stories of my clients and workshop participants. I love the impact it’s having for women and the ripple effect of what happens when these women go on to empower other women. One of the assignments from our sessions is to pay it forward. I love getting phone calls either on my cell or my office line, (347) 92 -SHERO, when a woman has achieved Brave-ah-na. The excitement in her voice is palpable and she’s often made an impact in someone else’s life too. For example, a woman who works in education and advocated for a child with special needs who wasn’t getting the care he needed. She stood up to correct something wrong going on behind the scenes. She used her voice to speak up for someone not capable of doing it for himself. Or the woman who was about to discuss her compensation and just prior to the meeting and paused before leaving her office so as to go through the Confidence Boosting Ritual she’d learned. As she later exclaimed over lunch, “I negotiated a 20% increase in my salary AND a bonus!” Not a bad return on a two-minute confidence exercise, eh?

What sets me apart is what’s in my DNA and what 20 years of experience has culminated into. I’m like a big sister with executive experience who’s spent her entire career walking the walk, navigating tricky situations, studying the science of confidence and the role that it plays in both self-validation and leadership. I will help push you out of your comfort zone, discover your superpowers, and not play small. I will unequivocally be there to support you, lift you up and help you believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
There’s a certain smile and posture that appears when someone is carrying herself with unshakable confidence. I LOVE seeing that smile. That’s one indicator of success. In my workshops, I measure success by the commitments participants make and the actions that follow. With my one-on-one clients, they set goals at the beginning of the program. Success is measured both in the accomplishment of the goal AND the journey to get there. I see success in women supporting women, lifting each other up and realizing that we are stronger together. Women genuinely centered in their confidence thrive on helping other women and it’s awesome.

Personally, I measure success when I speak up in situations where it’s not easy nor comfortable, yet I know I must. I have butterflies in my stomach and I do it anyhow. There is success found in crossing finish lines, sure, but I also deem success in taking the first step over the starting line of a race I’ve never ran. And I measure success by finishing my day with no regrets and a feeling that my highest self had a hand in helping someone else be her highest self too. That’s my purpose, that’s my passion. Everybody wins!

And this fall when my book, ‘Speak Up, Sister! The Professional Woman’s Guide to Confidence and Success, is published, I’ll measure success not by the number of copies sold, but rather by the success stories of my readers as they call on their courage and confidence, do the thing that scares them and achieve newfound success in their careers!

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Image Credit:
H. Nguyen Photography

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