Workplace culture

Saying ‘no’ is an act of self-care: Accelerate Delaware’s Kia Ervin

Plus other workflow tips and tricks from the executive director of the First State's millennial retention effort.

Accelerate Delaware's Kia Ervin in her element. (Courtesy photo)

About a year ago, as she left the education sector, Kia Ervin started off her duties as executive director at Accelerate Delaware, the millennial retention initiative that launched as a nonprofit last year. She’s had a multifaceted career trajectory where she used to work with athletes and celebrities during her time in public relations, just before she went on to work for Johnson C. Smith University and Communities in Schools of Delaware. Today, Ervin’s work is only ramping up with her team in an effort to revitalize the workforce in the First State.
Here’s how she keeps it all together.


How often do you check your email, and do you use any program to get to ‘Inbox Zero’?
I check my email throughout the day and night and I still have not found a way to get my inbox to zero. More often than I’d like to admit, my days and nights are filled with meetings so I am still working on a method to keep up with all of the administrative demands on top of a very demanding work schedule. I use Unroll Me to manage subscriptions, but I’m waiting on the magic bullet for getting through the massive amount of emails I receive each day.
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
My family and close friends are my safe haven. I am so grateful for the laughs, love and advice they offer. I also love to binge watch Netflix with a glass of wine when I really need to escape.
What’s a unique aspect of your work style?
I can’t work in quiet. I am an extrovert so I like to brainstorm and talk with my team and then I’ll get into a zone (normally with music playing) to knock out my work. I’m also a night owl, so sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a major epiphany.
What kind of music is normally playing?
I love contemporary gospel. It reminds me of my core values … my “why” in life. I also really love R&B, soul and enjoy throwing jazz and classical music into the mix. You’ll always hear something playing when you walk in my office. I also really like listening to TED talks and podcasts. I’m always curious to learn more about people’s journey to success. As the youngest child in my family and core group of friends, I have learned the art of learning from other people’s experiences. I think that is why I am so inspired by TED talks and podcasts, it is a crash course in another person’s life that may save me years of trial and error.
What’s your gear?
When I don’t have meetings, you’ll find me hidden in my office with jeans on. This time of year, I live in jeans, boots and sweaters. But I love a good pair of heels. Although I love jeans, I’m a girly girl at heart.
What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that you didn’t do before (or did) that has made a big difference?

I am working on mastering time management and the art of saying “no.” It’s hard because sometimes “yes” is necessary for maintaining valuable relationships, but setting boundaries and having priorities is essential. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to work all day and have an invitation to something almost every night of the week. Sometimes saying “no” is for my self care and has nothing to do with my desire to support their event or initiative.
Now I’m running a startup initiative that impacts the state’s economic development through millennial retention. So every phase of my career has been very different, not necessarily better.
I am committed to knowing that my life and career make a difference in this world, and I’ve embraced that it will look different with each new role I take. My greatest joy (and sometimes heartache) is being a trailblazer. I often find myself as one of the youngest, one of few females and often one of the only minorities in the room. I hope that my work will open the door and allow access for other women of color who also work really hard and deserve a seat at the table like me.


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