THE WATER …
MY HAPPY PLACE
Hi, I'm Kelly Charles-Collins
Powerhouse Attorney, TEDx Speaker, Author, Consultant
Depending on where you meet me, you might think I’m two completely different people.
If you met me on a Jamaican beach covered in tattoos laughing, dancing, and enjoying time with my friends and family — you might have one vision of me.
If you met me training executives in a boardroom or standing in a suit addressing a courtroom — you might have a completely different vision of me.
It’s that dichotomy that has led me through my life and career. My contrasting personality and the awareness that minds make generalizations based on first impressions, has led me to a career based on uprooting assumptions about who people are, what is right, and how we can make a difference.
Boxes are for shoes. And I do love my shoes. But ...
From the start, I didn’t fit convenient, conventional boxes.
After moving to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica at a young age, I accelerated my education. I jumped ahead in my classes, graduated high school at 16, and immediately entered college at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. I earned my A.S. in Fashion Merchandising and B.S. in Retail Marketing and Management.
Then, I got pregnant.
What happened next is probably not what most people would expect out of someone in my situation. I immediately started my M.B.A. in International Business Management, earned my M.B.A. while working and attending school full-time, and then went to law school.
Children are blessings not roadblocks! – KCC
Unfortunately, children are often seen as roadblocks to a path to higher learning and professional success — especially when motherhood comes at an early age. Knowing that made me terrified to tell my family and boss.
But, assumptions are often wrong. My family was incredibly supportive and so was my boss. And me, well…
I went on to start a career that includes:
- Working as a public defender and employment law trial attorney
- Teaching at several universities including the University of Miami and University of Tampa
- Leading human resource investigations at Publix Super Markets
- Presiding as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association
- Becoming a partner at two different law firms
- Writing a book: ACE Your Workplace Investigations
- Founding a nonprofit for breast cancer
- Delivering an award-winning TEDx Talk on The Bystander Effect
- Starting two businesses
- Earning Professional Membership in the National Speakers Association
- Sharing my expertise on and in several media outlets
- Being nominated for Tampa Bay Business Woman of the Year
All while watching my son grow into a talented, successful man.
And I’m just beginning …
I didn’t wake up like this. Flawless takes work. – KCC
I’ll be the first to say it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of challenges — and I had to look at life differently to see a way past them.
I realized that what was “normal” for many moms or working lawyers wasn’t going to work for me. I couldn’t fit a superficial stereotype. I needed to create my own way of doing things.
Thankfully, I’m not one to shy away from going against the norm or tearing down assumptions to see things as they really are or for what they can be.
I assessed my life and found my own way to make it work. I built a non-traditional family dynamic where my mom and sister (or as I call them, “My Village”) helped raise my son while I went to law school and then worked hard to build a successful legal career that would create a better life for all of us. I imagined and designed a unique life that broke the mold, and it worked for me and my family.
I was only able to do this because I could see past what holds so many of us back — whether it shapes the way we see others or the way we see ourselves — and that something is bias.
Everyone wants a diverse workforce that feels safe, valued, and included.
The truth is that at times we all have a problem seeing what’s real and what’s possible because of the blurry lens of bias, stereotypes, and superficial assumptions.
I’ve seen this repeatedly through my experience as a public defender and employment law attorney. I represented many people who were hurt — financially, professionally, and personally — by bias.
Also, for over 20 years, I have represented Fortune 100 companies to small businesses that have been hurt due to their lack of awareness of bias, lawsuits that could have been prevented, and failure to protect one of their biggest assets – their employees.
And I personally have and continue to experience bias.
People need to be trained to become aware of and accept their biases so they can disrupt them.
Whether it’s a CEO who doesn’t see how their actions are alienating their workers and creating workplace tensions or a leader who puts unfair labels on others which holds them back from reaching their full potential — our biased minds can be destructive and unproductive.
One of the biggest problems caused by unchecked unconscious bias is a lack of diversity and inclusion.
However, if an organization makes an intentional, sustained commitment to Disrupt Unconscious Bias that problem and many others will be resolved.
That’s where I come in ...
I provide training and consulting to individuals and organizations to help them understand the causes, roots, and results of unconscious bias.
I help people open their minds and show them what unconscious bias is, why it doesn’t make you a bad person, how it affects our judgment, and how to disrupt it. We work together to understand how to let facts, morals and values drive our decision-making — not first-impressions, stereotypes, and superficial details.
Through training, speaking, and consulting, I also educate others about the detriments and dangers of the bystander effect — moments when indifference causes people to see wrongdoings and not speak out against them.
Emphasizing the power of intervention, I empower individuals to stand up, speak up, and act and inspire women to stand unapologetically in their greatness.
I also train leaders how to avoid friction, cover their assets and earn employee trust by effectively conducting legally compliant workplace investigations.
Successfully navigating all of these issues is essential for organizations to improve company culture, leverage diversity and inclusion, boost productivity and protect people and profit.
STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE NEXT #HASHTAG MOVEMENT!
I’ve witnessed first-hand what problems bias and indifference can create, and more importantly — I’ve seen what opportunities can arise when you disrupt bias and stand up, speak up, and act up.
After 20+ years of working in courtrooms fighting for employment rights, working with leaders to build safe, inclusive and harmonious cultures, and personally experiencing bias, I am committed to disrupting unconscious bias and advocating bystander intervention.
Kelly, Kelz, Kelly CC, KC - All Me ...
- Born in Kingston, Jamaica.
- Have tattoos. Yes plural.
- Managed my son’s hip-hop group and sang the hook on one of his songs.
- Owned a wedding and event planning business and was voted Best Wedding Planner in Atlanta.
- Was Mrs. Fulton County, Georgia.
- Daughter of an breast cancer survivor and shares a birthday with her father.
- Went to college at 16. Attended law school on a whim.
- Hates vegetables. Milk is not even an option. Carbs are my lifeline.
- Favorite poem is “The Dash.”
- LOVE shopping for clothes and shoes. That explains the degrees in Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management and Marketing. #agirlneedsasponsor
- Enjoys dancing. Created “HR Shuffle” parody based on the “Cupid Shuffle.” Click here to listen and download.