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How I Get Paid To Eat Desserts For A Living

Taylor Reed is an Associate Product Manager for a living and this is how she got here.

Workin' Girl

The millennial generation is known as the job-hopping generation, but who can blame us? We're either often underpaid, undervalued, or we get stuck at a company whose culture and values doesn't match ours - so we do what we need to do and peace out. However, hopping from one job to the next isn't always our ideal way to go. For many of us, we wish we can find that ideal job or position that will not only pay the bills (and more), but that'll also fulfill us, and actually make us want to go to work.

This type of energy and vibe is what I got after meeting Taylor Reed at a networking event earlier this year. As Taylor introduced herself to me she said, "I get paid to eat desserts all day and I love it.'' Funny thing is, I knew that she wasn't faking the flex, but she really felt that way. I don't know about you, but it's rare that I meet a millennial that's actually in love with their job and with what they do, so I was intrigued.

After talking to Taylor, I learned that her actual job title is an Associate Product Manager for 7-Eleven, and like many of us, she didn't always dream of being in the role that she's in now.

Taylor, a fashionista from the Chi, went to Dominican University and studied Fashion Design and Merchandising. She always dreamt of working in fashion and with products, but not in the food services space (previously she worked at Nordstrom and at the Art Institute of Chicago). However, instead of ignoring the career path that the universe had sent her way, she stayed the course. After graduating from college, Taylor was approached with an opportunity that would get her foot in the door of working with products, but not as she originally dreamed with fashion. This opportunity, while not ideal, taught her a lot and is what really helped her get to the happy career place that she's in now.

Keep reading to see how she got there and what you can learn from her experience.

*Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Sometimes the best opportunities are in disguise.

Courtesy of Taylor Reed

"My first big break was working for Sears in Chicago as an Assistant Buyer for vacuum cleaners. This was definitely far from what I imagined, but I knew I needed to be open to managing multiple products. At the end of the day, everything you do in my field is the same language, but just different products. You just need to know the fundamentals," Taylor shared. "The cool thing that I learned while in this role is that, for many companies, they have their own private label or brand, and honestly this industry is growing so much. At Sears, one of the products that I worked with was Kenmore and it's a private label brand. Working on this brand is really what sparked my interest in working with private labels. With private labels, you have a lot more room to negotiate and to create what you want to go in the store."

In less than a year at Sears, Taylor was promoted to an Associate Buyer and she learned more about the product development and management process. Her work ethic at Sears caught the attention of another retailer, Payless Shoes, and she started working with them in their Kansas office. While at Payless, Taylor worked as an Associate Buyer for accessories, and then eventually for kids shoes. In this role, it allowed her to work more in a more fashion-based role, and it taught her how kids and millennials felt about the products and their buying decision process.

Don’t just go to work and then go home - network!

"After Payless, I started working at 7-Eleven from a combo of networking and having an interest in product development. Before I left Payless, they had unfortunately filed for bankruptcy and went out of business, so I had to find a job. I was really pressed to find something in this short, unexpected period of time. During my search, I ended up getting two great offers, one at The Container Store and the other at JCPenney. I literally never imagined working in the food services industry, but things shifted."

Taylor continued, "While I was at Payless, there was someone in a senior role that had come from JCPenney. She was really smart and just amazing to know, so I made it a point to get to know her. After connecting with her really well, I learned that her best friend was working for 7-Eleven and was looking to hire someone to work underneath her as an Associate Product Development Manager. My friend at work told her friend at 7-Eleven about me, and really advocated for me. After a few interviews, I ended up getting the role at 7-Eleven as an Associate Product Development Manager, focusing on private labels with package bakery products and bread. In my current role, I'm accountable for everything from pound cakes, danishes, brownies, honey buns, and the Little Debbie-style products but private-label type of products, just to name a few."

Forget the unpopular opinion, ask to pick their brain.

Courtesy of Taylor Reed

"I always tell people, no matter what situation you're in or what education you have, go out and network, and meet people who are doing the work that you want to do. At both Sears and Payless, I took advantage of picking people's brains at work, and not being afraid to ask questions. For example, if you're currently wanting to get into product development and you have a product development department at your job, first try to connect with those people. If you don't have that type of team at your current job, go to networking events or even just go on LinkedIn and network. You'd be surprised at how many strangers I've reached out to for different types of roles and advice, and vice versa. You never know who's willing to actually offer advice and be of help," Taylor advised.

Greatness takes time and effort.

One of the biggest things that I learned from Taylor is that literally everything takes time, energy, and effort, no matter what the product is or what industry it's a part of. You cannot rush the process, or make anything great without proper planning or testing. For Taylor and her team at 7-Eleven, developing the product, taste testing, determining the price point, and signing off on it, can take as little as 8 weeks (which is rare) and as long as 24 weeks before it's ready to go in the store. "In my role, I'm responsible for pulling a report for my team to see how well our products did, and then from there, I'm meeting with different suppliers that make the honey buns, pound cakes, brownies, etc. and plan out when the product will hit the store and everything that's associated with how the customer will view and engage with the product," Taylor explained.

"With my team and with the suppliers, we discuss the trends that people are seeing in stores, and what's popular in pop culture. After that, the supplier will give me the product to view and taste, and I'll give them feedback. From there, I meet with the marketing team because they help me determine if the packaging of the product is in line with our goals and if it makes sense for the branding and image that we are going for. Sometimes, if I'm working on a product that I need a little help with, I'll take advantage of our test panel. At 7-Eleven, we have a test kitchen at our headquarters, and we can literally bring people from random departments to get their opinion on the product that we're working on."

The decisions you make today will either have you struggling or glowing up in the future.

Courtesy of Taylor Reed

For many of us, trying to figure out this thing called adulting is often stressful and confusing. We want to live our best lives, and having a fulfilling career is a part of that, but sometimes it's hard. Even when we do find a job and company that we love like Taylor, everyday isn't sunshine and rainbows. Because of this, it's important that we intentionally surround ourselves with positive energy, people, and vibes that take us higher instead of lower. For Taylor, that intentional living means budgeting well so that she can afford to travel the world and gain new experiences when she's not tasting desserts and developing new products at 7-Eleven.

Intentional living means not settling for less and always making it a point to network, learn, and perfect her craft so that she can continue to sustain a career that brings her joy. "When I need a pick-me-up and source of motivation, I also like to study this quote by William Blake that says, 'My business is to create or else become enslaved to another man's creation.'," Taylor revealed. "This quote motivates me because it shows me that if I slow down and don't do what I need to do to reach my goals, someone else will come and do exactly what I want to do."

For more of Taylor, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Taylor Reed

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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