Micaela Christophe, 34, is a corporate event manager at BNY Mellon in New York City. Her job requires much leadership and a steady projection of confidence for her team and clients. Her poise and self-assurance make her one to watch in her field—but what you see on the outside took a lot of inner work and self-reflection for Micaela to get there.
Here’s Micaela’s story, in Micaela’s words, about how she stopped self-doubt from holding her back and why “faking it till you make it” is her proven approach to accomplishing anything in life!
How She Brings Her Confidence to a Peak…
“I feel the most confident on days when I’m putting on an event where people look to me as the subject matter expert and rely on my guidance to help execute it flawlessly. I find that once I’m prepared and do my homework—I feel extremely empowered as I navigate the event space. Then, once the event closes, I learn from each event, and become stronger in what I bring to the table for the next one to execute it to the best of my ability.”
Why Preparation is Key…
“I was a project coordinator early on in my career—which is similar to assistant level work. A project manager quit, and they had asked me if I felt ready to take the role on. At that point, I only had a few months of work experience in that industry, but I raised my hand and said, ‘I can do it.’ There were a lot of bumps, because I was very green, and my confidence wasn’t very strong. But being prepared really helped me a lot, as did speaking with people in similar roles and using their experience to help guide me in the decisions I started making. I faced trial and error, and you learn from experience, but much of my confidence grew through mentorships and guidance from folks in the roles that I aspired to grow into. Preparation is the key to becoming confident in a job you’re executing, and that’s what I’ve found throughout my career.”
On the Confidence Boosting Effect of Role Models…
“I have several “confidence” role models. Michelle Obama of course, because she’s amazing and I just love everything she’s done. She manages to be quite poised and elegant in her demeanor, and also seems to be a really nice, genuine person while demanding respect. That’s what I strive to be like. I like to say I’m generally a really nice person, and yes, sometimes being too nice makes you get walked over. But I feel like Michelle Obama has found that balance where you can be really warm, and generous and giving—but also demand respect. I strive to be like that as I develop in my career.
Kerry Washington—specifically her role as Olivia Pope in the TV show Scandal. I’m a huge Scandal fan and I find myself constantly echoing her. I use her catch phrase, ‘It’s handled’ in my day-to-day work. At this point in my career I’m far more confident when I first started, so that phrase is about me walking into a room and knowing that I know my stuff. It’s me asking ’Wait, why are we doing it that way? Let me take care of it!’ That boss mentality that Kerry Washington exudes as Olivia Pope is something that I try to embody in my day-to-day.
And of course Beyoncé, because for me, watching someone who started off so young in the music industry, and then managed to morph into an entrepreneur and advocate for both minority rights and female rights, plus she makes her own rules and isn’t forced to listen to what society wants to pigeon her into—that’s been very inspiring. Especially working in corporate America, you sometimes feeling like you’re stuck in a box. Seeing how she’s navigated her career and developed from a worker bee to the boss is something that I strive for in my career AND personal life.”
Why if You Just Fake It, You WILL Make It . . .
“Every morning while I’m walking to work, about a block away from the office, I play the “Flawless” by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj remix. It’s a woman empowerment song that gives me this sense of purpose as I walk into the office. It gives me that boost, because sometimes you do doubt yourself or you feel like, ‘Oh—do I really have it?’ It’s about faking it till you make it. You may not think that you’re the best—you might think you’re good–but you worry there’s always someone who’s going to be better. So, walking into a situation and giving yourself that pep talk, saying, ‘Okay, there may be tons of other people that know how to do this better, but you offer your special unique gifts, and just own it.’ Eventually, the more you fake something, the more it’s going to just become a natural part of your everyday demeanor ad everyday way of life. And I found that to be super helpful. I read an article about “imposter syndrome” and it hit home because as you grow in your career, you may start thinking that, ‘How did I get here? I’m not really supposed to be here?’ You can almost feel like an ‘imposter’ in your role because you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to realize that you’re meant to be there. You just have to shake that off and be like, “Okay, maybe in my mind, because of my own self-doubt, I’m an imposter. But to the outside people looking in, I deserve to be here.” It’s about channeling what others see in us, even if we don’t see it in ourselves.”
Don’t Fear Speaking Your Mind…
“I would say one of my greatest strengths is not following the pack. I’m more of a leader than a follower. It does make me unique, because as a minority and a woman working in corporate America, we sometimes tend to just want to fit in with the crowd, and not rock the boat too much. You don’t want to be singled out. But I was raised by really strong-willed parents who taught me to stand up for myself and not go with the crowd but go with what’s right. So, in both my personal life and my professional life, I try to embody that. I do think that makes me unique, because sometimes others ‘agree to be agreeable’ so they can get ahead. It’s a lot easier, especially for men from what I’ve seen, to be a little bit more combative, as that seems more appropriate for that gender. But for women, and especially women of color, when you’re too combative on a topic you might feel strongly about, you sometimes get put into this box of being too outspoken or having too many opinions which can isolate you from really getting ahead in your career. I try not to let that deter me. I really do try my best to always speak my mind in the most professional way—but I speak my mind when I think things can be done better, and I speak my mind when I feel like something is wrong and a certain situation isn’t being handled in the best way. Even in high school, I found myself always sticking up for the kid who was being bullied—because of the way my parents raised me. I really truly hope that I never lose that, because it’s something I do think makes me stand apart from a lot of people that I’ve been around, and I love that quality about myself.”