Delania Barbee Leads Beautifully

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... when I am sitting at any table, irrespective of the age, gender, or ethnicity of the others at the table, I feel that it is because I earned it.

Tell us a about your current professional role(s) and what brought you to this line of work?

I am currently an attorney at a law firm with 300+ attorneys and with offices along the east coast. My primary practice area is technology law, which I discovered after graduation! I actually went to law school with the goal of opening my own law firm after graduation to serve small businesses in my community. However, during law school, I was discouraged from "hanging up my shingle" without having practiced. Therefore, I searched for a job later than my peers in my class, but thankfully, I obtained and worked in a wonderful position in the Corporate Law Department of a Fortune 500 financial institution for over two and a half years before joining my current firm. The Corporate Law Department is where I discovered technology law. I also provide general corporate services to clients.

As part of my efforts to address the under-representation of Black legal professionals and advance the progression towards a more inclusive legal profession, I founded and host the Practicing while Black podcast, which shares the experiences of Black attorneys in the U.S. and provides career strategies and inspiration. I also work towards similar goals through my role as President of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association, which is a volunteer state-wide organization of attorneys, judges, and law students in the State of Connecticut.

I received my B.A. cum laude from Smith College and my J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law. I am licensed to practice in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

As a woman and leader in your industry, how do you prioritize your many roles? 

I prioritize my roles, first, by scheduling my responsibilities. Generally though, I check in with myself often to ensure that I spend my time on activities that align with my vision for my life.

What is your proudest professional achievement and why? 

My proudest professional achievement happened before I became a lawyer. I took a year off from school between undergrad and law school. During that time, I served in the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship Program at a nonprofit in my community, which provided financial aid advice to local students to help them get to and through college. I was brought on to build a community engagement program to assist non-traditional students, such as those who were pursuing GEDs, with college access. Before the end of my year with the nonprofit, I received a 40 under Forty award for my work. The award only served as additional validation that the work that I was doing was making a difference.

Have you ever felt like an "impostor" during your career? If so, tell us about the experience. 

No. I do not feel like an impostor, because I recognize the amount of work that I had to do to get to where I am today. Therefore, when I am sitting at any table, irrespective of the age, gender, or ethnicity of the others at the table, I feel that it is because I earned it.

Tell us about a time when you felt that your career had stalled. How did you get unstuck? 

Although I enjoyed working at my prior job, I knew that I would be limited in my ability to advance within the company, because I did not have the traditional experience of working in a law firm environment. It was very difficult to leave my role, but I ultimately decided to leave to join my current firm. Though it was a difficult decision, it was the right decision because I have learned that I like working as outside counsel and have had the opportunity to work on a greater variety of matters with multiple clients.

What habits have you followed that led to the overall growth of your career? 

I believe my career has grown because I seek out the advice of others, and then based upon a variety of thoughts and perspectives, I make my decision. While the advice can be from people that I know, I also get advice from podcasts and books.

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How do you embrace femininity in your professional and leadership roles? 

I just do what I like!

What is one interesting fact about yourself that you can share? 

I never wanted to become a lawyer. However, in high school, my mentor—a lawyer who no longer practiced—convinced me to be part of a youth program that introduced students to law and government. Still, upon graduating from high school, I had no idea that I would become a lawyer. Several years later, that mentor helped me to choose which law school I would attend.

What is one piece of advice you would share to a woman who has fallen into complacency at work, but knows she could be doing so much more with her career? 

I would want her to ask herself why she feels that she cannot do more and think about what her life will be next year, in five years, and in ten years if she does not begin to work towards achieving what she knows that she can achieve. Then, I want her to imagine what her life will be next year, in five years, and in ten years, if she does work towards achieving what she knows that she can achieve. Then, she should determine, which she wants more.

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More about the Women Leading Beautifully series:

To learn about She Leads Beautifully founder, Uzoma F. Obidike, and why this series was created, click here!

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