My shero Carmen Duncan's blog - years in the making...

Where to start? It’s not every day you meet a woman who is a CEO of a company she founded before the age of 30. I’ll never forget it, meeting Carmen Duncan at the Hudson Café in Albany. I’d responded by chance to listserve post about a study group for our social work licensure exam back in Spring of 2011.

Carmen had been in the class year before me at UAlbany. We hit it off quickly as it became apparent that this fierce, kind woman was perhaps the hardest working front line advocate for her community that I’d ever met. I’d never known anyone who spent so many of their days, nights and weekends grinding it out, making both her dreams and those she constantly lifts up for others to come true.

My favorite story about how this community champion, known by many as Coach Carmen , truly ‘shows up’ for her people took place back in 2015. Bronce Perez Matos and I had taken up the mantle as committee co-chairs to make the New Leaders Council Fellows fundraiser a successful event. With how much energy we poured into the planning, organizing and donor relations it’s safe to say we were as relieved as we were thrilled to see we’d packed Pecks Arcade the evening of the event.

The restaurant was stunning with Christmas lights everywhere. The 2015 NLC fellows worked hard to bring the art auction and wine tasting together and achieved a beautiful ambiance. About halfway through, after I’d given my introductions, I was walking around checking in on all the vendors and volunteers to make sure everyone had what they needed. Carmen came up to me tapping me from behind to say “I got this. Go enjoy yourself.”

To be real I was a bit stunned by her offer. I was thinking that as much as I had going on personally leading up to the event, and with everything involved with making it run smoothly I couldn’t enjoy myself. To my amazement I said “Ok” to Carmen anyways and it ended up being perhaps the best event I attended in my thirties! And the first time I ever enjoyed an event I’d  been a lead organizer of.

I’m not sure anyone else on this planet could have convinced me to just go enjoy myself with my new and old friends that night other than Carmen Duncan.

Female friendship is an amazing thing with its depth, emotional intimacy, and the challenges that come with that. For all our common passions and interests, Carmen and I naturally discovered many differences over the years. We haven’t always been as close as we are today, and we could still be closer…but no matter what, maintaining a stance of love and respect for each other regardless of any differences has always been a priority for us.

What’s my greatest takeaway today from our friendship? Learning to trust and support each other as women, from an honest, integrity-filled place is something we do for ourselves, our community, for our own growth, and even our career development. Any rising leader, community champion, manager, coach or creative can practice these soft skills by showing up for your friends the way you want them to show up for you. You’ll naturally expand your impact while enhancing your personal well-being!

If you want to check out this super-woman in action at a FUN dance-party-meets-networking-opportunity, go to her next Dancing with the Stars Dance-A-Thon https://matransitionservices.org/danceathon/ or, https://www.facebook.com/events/519633625113061/ I’ll be there!