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The Next List: Felicia Shakespeare

Felicia Shakespeare is an author, entrepreneur, international speaker, and an accomplished educator who is on a mission to inspire others to be intentional about living a life of faith and purpose. Felicia holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business, Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Master of Teaching, and personal development coach certification. She is also the founder of A Purpose Driven Woman LLC, The Purpose School and host of A Purpose Driven Woman Podcast with Felicia Shakespeare.

What has your career path been like up to this point?

I actually began my career while I was still in college.  I was a commuter student and at the same time was funding my own education. I chose to become  a bank teller as opposed to a more typical student job, because I didn’t want to give up all of my weekends, evenings and holidays for work. I kept that job through college and because I loved banking, I migrated through different positions in the banking world. It gave me a great foundation for business and customer relationships. At the time it was one if not the largest bank in Chicago!

I thought I would stay in the banking world, but I started to sense somewhat of a glass ceiling when I started the journey to be promoted.  Because of not having the opportunity to advance on the schedule that I desired, I decided to look outside of banking. The first look out, landed a very coveted job at IBM Global Financing’s division in my last semester of college (one class remaining)  because the interview went so well. I progressed at IBM for 7 years, four different positions that had been created specifically for me. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time. This move prepared me and grew me up a lot as I navigated through the highs and lows of corporate culture. 

When IBM offered me a forced “surplus” package, the cute for downsizing,  I had the choice to seek to move on to another role or take an exit package. After an eye opening conversation with a trusted family member, I chose the opportunity to not just  look elsewhere, but make a pivot. I knew by that point in my life I wanted to do more purposeful work that would nourish my soul. 

In a series of destined moments, I was chosen as one of 20 for a pilot cohort to go through an accelerated Masters degree program in education, which included part of my tuition payments and a guaranteed position upon completion of the program. I was successful to finish and my new journey began in teaching and in another move earned a second Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and then switched to an administrative role in the school district. 

How did you know it was time for a change?  Was there a defining moment that sparked you into action?

What I realize looking back is that these experiences were all propelling me towards my higher purpose. I realized after many experiences where I felt out of control that I needed to now become the designer of my own life, and not let the course of a  career navigated by the popular opinion or not determine my life and future.

Pivoting in a career did not translate to “perfect” but  “perfecting” myself along the way. In one final instance where I was promised an opportunity and it not coming into fruition,  I then decided I can tell my story and translate what was intended to a position into writing “how to.” The book You Are Your Brand, Building From the Inside Out was born.  I created this book in mind for the emerging or re-emerging leader. Recognizing that I never had a blueprint for many of the happenings and obstacles I had faced throughout pursuing my career and education goals, I decided to make it a book. I was actually the first person to go to college in my immediate family. I decided I wanted to share my knowledge with others. My avatar was the newly graduating college age student and anyone who was making a career change. I wanted anyone reading the book to understand that knowing who you are, and what your purpose is, can lead you in all components of your life, both personal and professional.

In 2016 I launched my book at a women’s conference, and through that experience that night and forward,  opportunity after opportunity after opportunity I found myself invited consistently to share my story with other women, to go beyond what was written in the book.  Speaking on personal and professional growth created the platform where I presented to larger audiences about branding, personal identity, empowerment and growth. After then realizing in 2018 it was now time to create something on my own,  A Purpose Driven Women LLC was born. Within all the work I do the ultimate mission of APDW is to create safe space (community) for women to receive empowerment resources for personal development and professional growth through online and offline platforms.

Where did you find support and inspiration?

I firmly believe that we all have a purpose, and we only get one life to live it out, so we MUST go for  it! We can’t let life “run its course,” we must “live life with intent.” I only get one opportunity to be me.  I believe it's time to take full advantage of that. I’ve always been a driven person, with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and a love for learning. But I know my greatest support system has come from my faith and my family.  I came up in a home with a strong foundation of faith. I was taught to believe that if you stay the course and put in the work and persevere, anything is possible.  

What was your biggest challenge in changing direction or starting something new?

The fear of the unknown.  Whenever we do something totally new, out of our comfort zone that’s different from the original plan it can be scary.  It impacts our confidence and our view of ourselves. Believe it or not I was a very quiet timid child (in public), fearful of doing things in front of others.  I’ve learned to realize that once you push yourself to move beyond your own FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) and not let it paralyze you, you can overcome it (Face Everything and Rise) to become what you desire to become and be what you want to be.  One thing if I could take back is the time I lost not being a risk taker because of the fear of the unknown in my own mind.

What advice would you give to other women that feel stuck in their current situation?

Change is inevitable, it's coming  regardless of you being ready, whether you choose to evolve with it or not. Nothing is going to stay completely the same just by the force of nature.  Change can be good if we’re willing to embrace it. Why wouldn’t you want to pursue the things that make your heart happy? You owe it to yourself to at least make the effort!  Do something radical even what you may fear and find a way to get over it. You have to embrace the mindset of ‘If not now, when?  If not you who? ‘ You have to have a sense of urgency and intentionality about your life because the clock is ticking for everyone, everyday.  You must make the most of life while you can.   

Do you have a favorite quote?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”– Maya Angelou

I can see how this has proven to be true in my own life. One particular example is my memory of how my third grade teacher as I recall how she made me feel. I don’t recall all the actual content of what she taught me, but I do remember she believed in me and she made me feel valued and smart.  That memory had an impact on me then and to this very day. I remember her impact vividly! I believe we were all sent here to give value, and to help others find their value. A Purpose Driven Women was born out of my desire to help women successfully position themselves in their careers, business and in life.

What are you reading, listening to, who are you following?

Because we’re now in a new year I go back to  “Slay Your Goals” - by my friend, local Chicagoan and life coach Linal Harris. I consider Linal the male version of myself in many ways because we share very similar perspectives on purpose.

What’s NEXT for you?

I’m currently preparing for several projects for A Purpose Driven Woman, starting with my conference in Atlanta on March 20, 2020, themed Positioning for the Pitch.  I am bringing together  experts and influencers to help women get into position to pitch themselves in many arenas,  venture capital funding, marketing in print and digital platforms, understanding the power of PR and most of all purpose!

I also have a book project forthcoming with myself and 13 other career and entrepreneurial professionals, who are sharing their stories of overcoming struggles and becoming successful in business and in life. I’m excited and will be hosting a launch event in the first half of this year.

Personally, I am working on the goal of being more conscious of self-care, practicing what I preach!


Felicia is the 2019 recipient of the FWD Collective Award (For Women and Diversity) and a 2019  nominee of the prestigious Global Woman Award in the Inspirational category. Felicia is also the 2018 winner of the WNBA Chicago Sky #RedefinePossible Women’s Leadership Award. In 2017 she was nominated by the Indie Author Legacy Awards as an Author of the Year Finalist for her book, You Are Your Brand: Building from the Inside Out less than a year of its release.

When time permits, Feliica enjoys going to the movies, traveling, fine dining, and attending concerts and spending time with family and friends. She resides in Chicago.

Learn more about Felicia

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