A published author with a Ph.D. in economics and a former Administrative Fellow at Harvard University, Dr. JoAnn Rolle is a seasoned C-suite executive with 30 years of consulting experience and a formidable resume of entrepreneurial leadership and board work. Her skillset includes positions as Director and VP Business Development (International Global Listening Centre), Dean of Business (Medgar Evers College and Excelsior College), Program Committee Chair (HBCU Business Deans), CEO (Fairfax University), and CAO (LIM College, Manhattan, and South Carolina State University). Voted Top 25 African American Businesswomen, JoAnn is a proven leader whose experience identifying opportunities for growth and implementing solution-driven strategies make her a popular keynote speaker and in-demand global business consultant.
Dr. Rolle’s visionary leadership integrates business and technology acumen, partnership building, creative problem solving, one-of-a-kind entrepreneurial academic innovator, and global thought leader on the topics of the future of work and entrepreneurship for the underserved and in workforce diversity and development. With 20+ years of board experience as a member, treasurer, and secretary on nonprofit and private company boards, Dr. Rolle is open to additional private or public boards, especially in ed-tech, ESG, fintech industries.
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Table of Contents
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
JoAnn Rolle: Just published our first edited book and will be publishing another book on sustainability, of the Future of Work and entrepreneurship for the underserved.
The Handbook on the Future of Work and Entrepreneurship for the Underserved offers a unique overview of the future of work and entrepreneurship for underserved communities. Technological disruptions and post -Covid transformations are revolutionizing the industry and work in the 21st century. The drive to curate this body of work is to find authentic voices, narratives, and trajectories from practitioners and academics for the futures they envision for the underserved. Authors in this handbook canvass a range of topics in the broad areas of technology and innovation, diverse and inclusive labor markets, small businesses development, and education and training.
They also explore challenges, opportunities, risks, and aspirations that characterize the future of work and entrepreneurship in underserved ecosystems. The handbook brings together unique experiences and multiple perspectives from researchers on the future of work and entrepreneurship for underserved communities globally, spanning Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. The handbook underscores the heterogeneity of the Future of Work and Entrepreneurship and contributes to the ongoing discourses on the subject across the world.
“Transformation is a never-ending process. The future of work and entrepreneurship for the underserved is a struggle for the progress of humanity globally.”
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
JoAnn Rolle: Growing up as a young black girl in a segregated southern town, there was a time when I believed that only great people could change the world – and great people did not look like me. There was limited history written about the greatness of poor, black, women, or men.
It was my Howard University Labor Economics Professor, the late Dr. Joseph Houchins who encouraged me, he said, “JoAnn the history books were not written by us or for us, we ask you to read so much at Howard because you may need to write the books.” While I have work with many authors and we have co-created many works, A Handbook on the Future of Work & Entrepreneurship for the Underserved is the first full-length book from our body of work.
In a recent international webinar, I share some insights into the new book. The volume is a compilation of 25 new voices in 14 chapters co-creating what we believe could be a better normal post-covid. Professor Roberto Acevado, the physicist was an early collaborator and co-creator of works on the challenges of preparing the current global workforce for the future of work.
We first met Professor Roberto Acevedo, who was and still is an educator in Chile, at Medgar Evers College in June 2016 at our conference on Corporate Social Responsibility. In his keynote discussion, Professor Acevedo addressed the issue of happiness. I found it strange that a scientist would be concerned with the individual and society’s state of being as it relates to happiness. Since 2016 our work has included several other topics and we are scheduled to continue collaborations on future topics.
Dr. Roberto Acevedo, Professor of Physics – Over the years, as we collaborated with more educators, practitioners, and policymakers, I came to believe that there is greatness in all of us – if we have the courage to coordinate, collaborate and change from the inside out, true transformation is possible. In this webinar, I share with Professor Acevado and his graduate students from Chile, as well as colleagues from India, our work as it relates to increasing opportunities for work and entrepreneurship for many in underserved communities.
The book is now available on Amazon in Soft copy and Kindle formats: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B097XD9X2H/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2HDLGLFRF7SG
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
JoAnn Rolle: The worst advice was from a faculty member at my undergraduate institution. He saw me in one dimension and suggested I leave Business School for Liberal Arts. That was not the last time someone underestimated me – it was there that I learned no one else has the right to shape your destiny… if they have never walked in your shoes .. they don’t know that you can run barefooted.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
JoAnn Rolle: I am reading Tim Ferris’s new book, Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World. In the book, Tim interviews professionals in diverse industries, with diverse backgrounds who have notable achievements. Among other questions, interviewees were asked “What is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life? A book cited often was Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
While still plowing through the middle of almost 600 pages of Ferris’s book, and with limited knowledge of Frankl or his book I decided to acquire the audible version of Man’s Search for Meaning. I was stunned by the authentic voice of pain, suffering, loss, hope, and survival. I quickly finished listening and then re-listened again. When done I read the digital summary which was unfulfilling and finally I purchased a digital copy of the book. Why? Because like pieces of a puzzle Frankl literally gives meaning to life – the will to meaning.
While it was humbling to hear the autobiography of this Professor of neurology and psychiatry who experienced and survived life in four Nazi concentration camps what was truly inspirational was his theories of tragic optimism and self-determination. Frankl gives the term, “mind over matter” new meaning. Those who can envision the future while experiencing a past or present that is different can find meaning (and make choices) that re-defines their personal destinies. Of special note was Frankl’s expressions of the importance of the difference of man’s character in the face of similar human conditions:
In Auschwitz, the individual differences did not blur, but on the contrary, people became more different; people unmasked themselves, both the swine and the saints. What is especially disturbing is Frankl’s prognosis that many in society suffer existential vacuum – a feeling of meaninglessness. Frankl infers that we are educating our youth to be productive in society yet an existential vacuum would suggest that productivity does not necessarily fulfill the soul. Frankl speaks of the coming age of innovation and automation that will yield more leisure (and unemployment) yet the existential vacuum created will not yield increased satisfaction. Frankl’s focus on unemployment-related existential among youth can be devastating leading to addiction, depression, and aggression. Frankl presents evidence that many youths are searching for meaning; he gives an example of an officer who was productive but once he transitioned to a career that was aligned to his personal values it led to inner peace and a more fulfilled life.
Should we re-evaluate our educational system? Masses of educated youth globally are unemployed and may suffer from unemployment neurosis…. where the inability to be employed translates to a meaningless life. Should we be preparing students to find their life’s work – yielding a life of passion and contribution – a transformation to self-actualization? We must! In the closing lines of his text, Frankl warns us as only one who survived the horrors of multiple concentration camps and found meaning in his life to help others find meaning in theirs:
For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does our best. Since Auschwitz, we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima, we know what is at stake.
Doing our best translates to yielding to the inner soul, celebrating our differences, and exploring the will to meaning in each chapter of life until the inevitable death. Then and only then can the future be optimum.
As 2020 comes to a close, it is a time for reflection, memories, and renewed hope in the future.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
JoAnn Rolle: The way we work and live is changing fast. Global transformation is pressuring us to keep up. But how do we adapt? What qualifications are needed, and how do we develop skills for jobs that don’t yet exist?
The global pandemic has fueled radical shifts in the way we work. So how do we recession-proof our business when the future of work is now? I help people and organizations start-up, grow, and sustain their businesses by discovering new market spaces, developing essential skills, and creating new demand.
I’m a woman of numbers — an economist with over three decades of entrepreneurial, academic, corporate, and government expertise. It is my pleasure to work with people re-entering the market or shaping new careers and supporting businesses preparing for technological change by developing teams, building support communities, and honing the skills needed to stay competitive.
We created The Future of Work & Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program to help people and organizations identify and explore unknown market spaces. To expand professional networks, access new technology, and plan for growth.
Having supported all levels of business for more than three decades, I measure success on four basic levels. When clients walk away for our time together with a targeted market research plan, a strategy to bring new product and service to market, a ready-to-launch execution plan, and a future-focused strategy to keep up during times of uncertainly and change.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
JoAnn Rolle: Persistence, Listening, Active Learning.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
JoAnn Rolle: It’s very important. Your brand speaks volumes about character, mission, and purpose. People need to feel they can trust the brand — trust the leader.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
JoAnn Rolle: Laissez Faire – The world is complex. Not one person will have all the answers to any of the problems. We need to do our best work in optimizing a team that can work together and allows them to do their best work — together.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
JoAnn Rolle: Don’t give up — no matter what. Listen, learn and adapt quickly as you pivot to the next new vision.
Understand that most businesses fail… but don’t let that deter you. Look where others are not looking, find blue ocean opportunities, and build a team that can deliver what the market needs/wants. Remember it is not about you — it’s about how you leverage others to do their best work to succeed for the team.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
JoAnn Rolle: “Transformation is a never-ending process. The future of work and entrepreneurship for the underserved is a struggle for the progress of humanity globally.” — The editors of A Handbook of The Future of Work & Entrepreneurship for the Underserved
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank JoAnn Rolle for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with JoAnn Rolle or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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