Leveraging Your Defined Natural Abilities (DNA) With Tareka Wheeler

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Table Of Contents

In this episode, Mike Gardon chats with Tareka Wheeler. Tareka is a Career & Mindset Strategist that helps ambitious Women of Color and Working Parents advance in their careers, and learn how to discover their defined natural abilities to level up professionally while achieving work life harmony.

Wife and mom of three amazing and very busy kids! In 2020, after successfully navigating several shifts and pivots in her professional journey, she decided that others could benefit from her experience. So she reflected on what helped her and how she successfully tackled challenges and barriers to ensure that I reached her goals?”. The answer… it was her defined natural ability.  What she now calls her Professional DNA!

This concept is totally aligned with my concept of start where you are and know your circle of competence to help anyone navigate a career change.

In March 2021, she launched Professional DNA to create a space and community for every person looking to level up professionally, grow their business, improve their performance, or simply refocus their professional journey. The Professional DNA Podcast is a weekly conversation to educate, liberate, and empower you to discover your defined natural abilities so you can become your best unique self. I’m lucky to have been on her podcast - that’s where we really hit it off. We speak the same language, so I was super excited to bring Tareka to our podcast.

Lastly, Tareka is busy putting together her very first live virtual conference EXPAND 2022, a new career development learning experience that serves as a one-stop-shop where professionals across all industries and sectors can learn how to advance in their careers with a focus on mindset, strategy, and achieving work-life harmony.

Expand is on November 18th, so listen to the episode to get all the details. You don’t want to miss it.


  • Tareka’s background
  • How Tareka juggles having a day job and Professional DNA
  • Why work-life harmony is so important and how it’s different than work-life balance
  • Defined Natural Abilities (DNA) - what it is, how someone can discover their professional DNA
  • The power of mindset and how it can help you win at work and life
  • Live virtual conference - EXPAND 2022


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Mike Gardon (00:00):

Hey everybody. And welcome back to another edition of CareerCloud Radio. I'm your host Michael Gardon. Today's guest is Tareka Wheeler. Tareka is a career and mindset strategist that helps ambitious women of color and working parents advance in their careers and learn how to discover their defined natural abilities to level up professionally while achieving work-life harmony, which is an amazing way to describe work-life balance. I love harmony. She's a wife and a mom of three amazing and very busy kids. In 2020, after successfully navigating several shifts and pivots in her professional journey, she decided that others could benefit from her experience. So she reflected on what helped her and how she successfully tackled challenges and barriers to ensure that she reached her goals. The answer she found was her defined natural ability, which she now calls her professional DNA. This concept is totally aligned with my concept of starting where you are and knowing your circle of competence to help anyone navigate a career change.

Mike Gardon (00:58):

So on March 20th, 2021, she launched the  Professional DNA podcast and website to create a space and community for every person learning to level up professionally, grow their business, improve their performance, or simply refocus their professional journey. The Professional DNA podcast is a weekly conversation to educate, liberate and empower you to discover your defined natural abilities. So you can become your best unique self. I'm lucky to have been on her podcast. And that's where we really hit it off. We speak the same language. So I was super excited to bring Tareka back to our podcast. Lastly, Tareka’s really busy with the work she is putting together her very first live virtual conference called Expand 2022. It's a new career development learning experience that serves as a one-stop shop, where professionals across all industries and sectors can learn how to advance in their careers with a focus on the mindset strategy in achieving work life. Harmony's expansion is on November 18th of this year. So listen to the episode and get all the details you don't wanna miss it. I'm actually lucky enough to speak at this conference and I'm really excited about it. So without further ado, here's my conversation with my new friend Tareka Wheeler. Tareka welcome to the podcast. How are you?

Tareka Wheeler (02:11):

I'm great, Mike, how are you?

Mike Gardon (02:14):

I'm doing great. I'm super excited to talk to you again because, for folks that are just tuning in, I was on Tareka’s podcast a little while ago. I don't know if it's dropped yet or not, but, uh, we

Tareka Wheeler (02:27):

Almost, so I'm super excited about it.

Mike Gardon (02:30):

I'm excited to listen to it because I felt like we had an awesome conversation and I'm excited to kind of follow that up today, but I just wanna start with like, how was your weekend? What'd you do this weekend?

Tareka Wheeler (02:42):

, you know, there's this, like, there are two sides to that coin. So what did I do this weekend? I'm still adjusting to being a new empty nester that that's right. My husband and I dropped our youngest off. It's quiet. And as a third kid, he was like the loudest one of the bunch. So it's really quiet, right? Like, so I'm getting used to that, you know, we're just exploring, I'm like finding new things to do, like, I guess really, I don't have to cook dinner for everyone, so let's, let's go hang out and let's go have dinner. So that was really good. Yeah. Just getting ready for this like new fall kind of autumn season. I'm in the DMV. So the weather is changing. The leads are changing. It's gorgeous. Trying to figure out which wineries might we try to go to cuz we haven't really done that over the past few years, cuz we're always at a football game, a basketball game, or a cheer competition. So life is changing in the Wheeler household, but it was a good weekend. How about you?

Mike Gardon (03:40):

Oh man, let's see, uh, chased my kids around to uh, a bunch of football practices, some basketball tryouts, uh, cause we're in the thick. So I've got three, like, you know, and they're obviously younger than, than where you're at. I'm dreading the day when I'm an empty nester, but I'm certainly definitely really busy with all of those guys. I watched a little bit of the Ironman competition that was here in Madison. So Ironman is a really long triathlon and they've been doing it for 20 years here in my home city of Madison, Wisconsin. And I've actually participated in it a few years ago. And so I always try to go out and watch, but unfortunately, so it's yes, we're recording this on a Monday. The race took place yesterday on a Sunday mm-hmm and it was like in the fifties and it rained the entire day. It was just brutal.

Tareka Wheeler (04:28):

The fifties. Oh my goodness.

Mike Gardon (04:30):

We just had a really bad dip and the worst part was just the rain. So I, I felt so bad for all these guys and gals that have trained for like a year.

Tareka Wheeler (04:39):

Yeah. Oh my goodness. That's brutal. Well, I'm sure as the name itself is iron man, I'm sure they like pushed through it and people were doing some phenomenal things. I didn't know that you used to do an iron competition. That's awesome.

Mike Gardon (04:53):

Yep. Yep. Little bit. Uh, learned a ton. That's like a, I could talk your year off for hours about it. Um, but we won't do that. We won't bore the audience with that stuff, but of the top five days of my life. Right. I'm married. So that's one, I've got three kids. I think so. Um, yeah, so that's what I did. All right. So talking about a little bit about this transition that you're in, where I wanna start with you in your kind of, I'd love to get the backstory in your professional career because as we were talking, you've handled a bunch of different shifts and pivots kind of in your professional journey. I want to start with you giving our audience a little bit of backstory. So start with just where your career has kind of taken you.

Tareka Wheeler (05:40):

Yeah, for sure. I will tell you where I am right now. No one, not even myself could have even thought that this is where I would be because coming out of high school, I actually was fully committed to being a physical therapist. I was going to go to school. I was going to study sports management with a minor in kinesiology and I was gonna become a physical therapist. Life changed, completely shifted. And that is not the direction that I ended. I’m actually coming out of what being at school for probably three and a half years or so. I met my, you know, my college sweetheart, and we got married and started having a family and you know, did all the things, you know, you built a home and we moved to Texas. And in that time I still wasn't really sold in on what my career path was gonna be because I had completely abandoned the idea of being a physical therapist.

Tareka Wheeler (06:33):

And so I then said, well, you know what? I think I wanna go into nursing. I wanted to be a pediatric oncology nurse. And I started doing the prerequisites for that. I worked at our local children's hospital in Austin, Texas, and started down that path. And then I had my daughter and you couldn't have told me that in having my daughter, that was gonna change my path again. After I'd been doing these prerequisites serving as a critical assistant, you know, on a pediatric oncology floor, learning all of the things very quickly, I got incredibly emotional . I was like, OK, this is different. I've never been this emotional before, but I don't know that I can be a pediatric oncology nurse. And all that comes with working with families and patients who have cancer childhood cancer. So I said, okay, what's next? I knew that I loved healthcare.

Tareka Wheeler (07:22):

And I knew that I wanted to do something that I was able to just build. I was super creative and loved, problem-solving. And I had an opportunity to transition into this role where it was more like community building coalition building around child safety. And so I worked in this level one pediatric promise center in developing child safety programs, which was amazing. It was a ton of fun. And in doing it, it allowed me to really start tapping into what I know we're gonna talk about later. My professional DNA, like what Rica was really made out of from a professional perspective. So I was building programs. I was writing research. I was writing grants. I was managing and building relationships with community members. I was helping to write legislation for the state of Texas, for child passenger safety. Like the world in my eyes just opened up.

Tareka Wheeler (08:11):

And it was also at that time, that I decided to go back to school and finished my degree. And so in doing that, I started to get clarity in the direction I wanted to go. And I had an opportunity right after graduation. So I, an adult learner graduated at 33. I had an opportunity to move to the DC area and take what I was doing locally and statewide and start to do it at a domestic and international level. And so I worked for a global nonprofit for about three and a half years, same thing, childhood safety programming, but doing it for fortune 400 and 500 companies, which was phenomenal, phenomenal experience, phenomenal opportunity, got to travel to some really cool places. I went to Malaysia. I went to the beast by, in Germany, like all of these really cool places and I loved what I was doing, but it was in that season in my career that I also started to think again, what does Tareka really want?

Tareka Wheeler (09:04):

And Tareka needed work-life harmony, Tareka needed peace. I needed a really good space where I knew that I could be in a good place mentally and physically. And I, I wasn't in the best environment for that. And so I made a hard pivot into a different industry while leveraging my transferable skills. Mm-hmm . And I went into project management formally and did it through the kind of federal contracting side, which is what I do now. I manage, uh, federal contracts in the strategic communications and its space and I love it. And it pulls on everything that really makes up my professional DNA, my defined natural abilities to succeed. I'm a critical thinker. I'm a problem solver, all these different things. And it really started to help me hone in on that. So yeah, that's where I am now and I love it and it's been a journey, but it's also positioned me to start thinking about, well, what else?

Tareka Wheeler (09:59):

And that's how I started to become an entrepreneur and a business owner. And just thinking about how do you begin to monetize on your expertise and really broaden it and have these multiple streams of income based on your multiple streams of interest and expertise. So that's like my journey and a nutshell, you know, I left out like a couple of chapters on the plane. There's not enough time to go in there, but that's the bigger picture for how I, you know, went from coming right outta high school, into where I am now. And it's been a journey. It's been a ride.

Mike Gardon (10:28):

Excellent. Well, you may have left some things out, but I've got plenty to kinda dig. So I've got a couple, I've got a couple of follow-up questions. So what I noticed out of that was like, you had some pretty specific directions early on, as you said, you wanted to go into PT and you started going to school, for that. I talked to a lot of guests about this idea of career discovery on like how you, it seems like everybody sort of figures it out along the way, and it takes 10 years to figure out what you actually wanna do or whatever. What was the, like when you were thinking I wanna go into PT, what was it that was driving that decision? Did you have a family member that was in that? Or were you just thinking like this is healthcare and I think I have an affinity for this, but I'm not quite sure where my toe fits in the water kind of thing? How was that? How did that go?

Tareka Wheeler (11:15):

That's a great question. So my family is an avid sports family. Right? Okay. Everybody plays sports, something or another. And I knew that I had this interest in healthcare, but I didn't wanna become a doctor at that point. I really wasn't interested in being a nurse. So I started to kind of explore what are those other opportunities to be involved, but also to connect with something that I like, which was sports. And so that's how I kinda got to this place of physical therapy that I quickly abandoned but I got there, but that's what was driving. It really was a passion that I had, but also my environment. Right. I don't know that if I wasn't like in a sports family if you will, that's where I would've been drawn to. And I think that's true for a lot of individuals. It's what you're exposed to. And it's, what's in your environment, you kind of conditions you some time to make decisions because that's what, you know.

Mike Gardon (12:06):

Yeah. I mean, I think that's definitely how it happens for most people. Right. It's sort of this availability bias, right? Like, right? What's avail the information that's available to me in terms of my parents or family members or whatever is how I get exposed to something it's interesting. And I, I haven't cracked this nut, but I, I keep talking to people about this, this kind of conundrum, because it's like that colors, how we make a gigantic decision in our lives. Right. Mm-hmm like we're exposed to a very small percentage of the things that we could possibly do to earn a living and define fulfillment mm-hmm and that's what essentially drives. Yeah. That's what we do. I mean, I was in the same boat except, I didn't have a specific thing. Mm-hmm I was like, I don't know. I just don't know, period. And so, well, you gotta get a degree. So, I mean, I know some things about finance, so I'm gonna just do that. Like , you know, and it took me a decade to sort of break that mold and, and figure out something else. So what then turned off PT in your mind, you said you kind of really quickly abandoned that. How did you know that that wasn't for you,

Tareka Wheeler (13:10):

To be honest with you? I think it was the shift, right? So I went from being very much focused on, getting a degree, getting a degree, getting the degree, and started like life started to happen. Right. So married right out of doing some college. And I was like, well, can I really continue to be a PT? Like, oh my gosh, like I'm getting ready to have a family. And you know, do all of these additional steps, physical therapists are practicing and they go through all these. So I started which I wish I did it in some regard. Like, I'm very pleased with where I am, but I started to question myself and I allowed all these little limiting beliefs to come into my head to make me believe that I couldn't do it anymore. So it said, there's no way you could do that.

Tareka Wheeler (13:52):

Perhaps you can still stay in healthcare, but do it inside the hospital. That way you're not having to travel the whole bunch. You're not having to do all these different things. And I think that happens with people. A lot that life happens, right? Something is it transpires in the course of your day-to-day and it triggers you to start questioning things that you care about. And I think that's what happened. I started to question an area that I loved and was really interested in, I, my family jokes all the time, because I'm like the resident nurse slash doctor slash physical therapist in the house. Right. Like, that's it, like, I was an athletic trainer in college and studied a little bit of PT, but that in no way makes me certified. However, I take my kids. I do mm-hmm them on my kids, like all types of things.

Tareka Wheeler (14:35):

Right. So that, that knowledge is there and this expertise and this like, love for it. It's still there. It's literally still there. My parents will call me today about a health issue before they call their doctor. I am nowhere qualified , but they will have that conversation. But I think that's why the shift came. I think it was nothing strategic at all. It literally was a circumstance changed and I felt the need to abandon something because my circumstance changed instead of really thinking through, well, how might this work? Right. Mm-hmm how could this happen?

Mike Gardon (15:08):

Yeah, correct me if I'm presumptuous. But what it sounds like is like this, you were struggling to see how that would fit into essentially what you now call work-life harmony, right? Like, yeah. Cause you, you had this big, that's it exogenous, exogenous change of, of building a family, which you, maybe you weren't prepared for from a professional standpoint. Right. Um, and that, yeah. And instead of being in a position, maybe you weren't in a position to really think that through super well. Cause obviously I , I've been in the midst of, uh, of the whole family thing as well. So I, I get that. So then you were kind of like looking at, I definitely understand why you got out of pediatric oncology nurse. Uh, I get that. I, I know some oncologists and I know other people that work with kids and it is very difficult, but that was kind of your next

Tareka Wheeler (15:58):


Mike Gardon (15:59):

I guess experiment. Yeah. And what might work, right? Is that kinda what it sounds like? Okay. Go

Tareka Wheeler (16:05):

Ahead. Exactly what it was. It was an experiment that was like, okay, well now what, and what do I love? It was like, I love kids. Right. And I wanna see myself in some type of healthcare, clinical setting. And what could that look like? And when I started to kind of blend what I could have an impact on individual's lives, especially kids and the family was like, wow, how amazing would it be to work in an oncology unit? And not only help them with their care but really just help through these types of ups and downs and transitions. And so I got drawn to something that a lot of people will say, you're crazy. Why would you run towards that? There's so much pain and agony in childhood cancer. Mm-hmm but that so much joy and like the transformation that happens in that space as well.

Tareka Wheeler (16:49):

And I fell in love with it, very ease. Like it's just like, it was, it was like I was at home. Right. And I started to go down the path hard of wanting to like started back up school, started doing my prerequisites. Like that's what I was doing. And when I got pregnant with my daughter, the emotions and the hormones took over and I was like, there's no way . I was like, what is this feeling like? I'm a pretty tough cookie, but I don't know what just happened. And I said, let me just think about it a little bit more. And I was like, gosh, yeah, no, I don't know about this. And I, and I actually, I think I, I skipped a small step. I went from working in the oncology unit to actually working for our chief nursing director in the hospital and did, uh, a lot of support for him.

Tareka Wheeler (17:33):

But that's what kind of positioned me to move more into that programmatic role. But it was like my trying to hang on to stay in that healthcare space. And I was like, I just can't let it go. And even right now, Mike, like even working in government contracting and being a project director across it and palms like projects, they also relate to health. All of them. Mm-hmm, , that's the one thing that is staying consistent, which I think is so important that you are actually connecting to the core values that you have and what things are important to you and what gives you joy and where do you leave impact impacted? Where do you really know that you want to make a difference, right? You want to have a footprint in that space. And for me, it's health and healthcare. And that has stayed with me no matter what, it's still there. And I, I love that. And I encourage people to do, I say all the time, do what you love. So you can actually love what you do. And if you actually operate in function in spaces that you truly have an affinity for, you're gonna see that type of fulfillment that you want in your career, because you're making sure that it's connecting to a core value. It's connecting to something that you truly care about.

Mike Gardon (18:42):

Yeah. There are all sorts of ways that you can. I mean, people think about like job change industry changes are like this huge thing, right? Like, oh my God, I'm switching industries, but there's so many, there are so many businesses in every type of industry, right? Yeah. So you can kind of, you can always keep this thread of working on or with some type of customer population or in your terms, like a patient population right? In healthcare, right? There's a, there are so many ways that you can do that, that like changing industries, isn't that scary when you are really able to kind of like holistically, get your head around all of the different options where you can potentially work and be able to do that research, which is really interesting. You obviously change completely out of healthcare, like the defined healthcare industry. And you really kind of talked about how you, you did that by like taking these transferable skills. That's something that I talk about a lot. There's a difference between like technical skills needed to execute a job. I guess a lot of people call it meta-skills that transcend job roles or industry talk a little bit about like what those transferable skills were. How did you know you had these? Yeah. And that, and then like how you had the confidence to say, like, I can bank making this change on these types of skills. Mm-hmm,

Tareka Wheeler (20:09):

, I'd love to say that I have like this magic formula right? Of how to figure it out and what I was forced to figure out. Okay. You make those changes. I was forced to sit down and think about what are you good at when people talk about things like imposter syndrome, where someone will, you just don't believe that you deserve a seat at the table. You really don't believe that you're kind of as good as you are. Everyone around you might be praising you and giving you that affirmation, but you just don't feel that. And I had those moments, but I had to like really think back and think about, well, what do people say? You're good Attica. Mm-hmm like, what do you actually perform? Well, just pause for a minute. Like, okay. Yes, you do good work. Great. You're always getting accolades about the work that you're doing, but what is it that you're doing?

Tareka Wheeler (20:58):

And what is it that you're doing consistently? Well, company over company position, over position, project, over the project. And I started to create this inventory list of what makes me good at what I do. I was like, well, you're a creative problem solver. Like you don't just come to the table to try to solve a problem. But you're like, so open-minded that you're ready to bring forth a creative solution, or you're very much an analytical thinker. And while math, then you are not friends and you don't like math, you will leverage data and really try to conduct as much data analysis as you can, to inform decisions that are being made rather for a company, a team, or a division. And you love strategy. When I was small, my mom said that my favorite thing was puzzles. Like I love strategy. I love like give me a problem and let me strategize the best ways to kind of get it done.

Tareka Wheeler (21:53):

And I started to have almost a pattern of what was allowing me to be successful and to ascend within a particular career or title or position or what was allowing me to ascend in a particular company. Once I have that inventory, that's what gave me the confidence because I know, and I know now I can take my data analytical skills just about anywhere. It transcends across industries like data is gold. I can take my critical thinking and strategic planning skills and take them just about anywhere because building a strategy has very lots of different types of methodologies, but it is a pretty clear cut. One that if you know how to build the bones and the foundation of a strategy, you can take that and go do strategic planning for just about anyone. I am an incredible communicator and not just, a communicator to where I say, oh, you have great verbal and written cation skills.

Tareka Wheeler (22:46):

No, I actually am a good active listener to be able to take what people are saying, give it back to them in a way that's gonna help them see additional insights or additional transformations that can happen, which is something that is incredibly valuable to companies to be able to be heard. And then from what they can't figure out themselves because you heard them say it out loud, you can now help transcend that into a plan, right? Or you can now help transcend that into action or some type of profitable product that they could pursue. So it took me some time to get it and to really do that assessment. But once I did, that's what gave me the confidence to where I don't care, what job description I look at. Like I can think of times when I was looking for jobs, especially with the pandemic coming board and the government contracting world was a little bit like, Ooh, what's gonna happen here?

Tareka Wheeler (23:34):

Right? Because the government was going home and there were just so many things happening. And I remember applying for various positions and really thinking about what was next for me. And I wasn't concerned. I didn't have heart palpitations of, gosh, am I qualified for this job? Because I was confident and still am really confident in what I will bring to the table. And I think that's where professionals have to be. You have to get to a place to where you know, that you know that, you know, the areas where you demonstrate value no matter where you go, no matter what industry you're in company, you're in a team, you're on that. You always have this package and it's this value package that you bring to the table every single time. Cause I know we're gonna talk about it. Like when you're able to know that value you bring to the table, the moment you start exploring, adding additional kinds of areas or strings of income and going into entrepreneurship or all these other different areas, you're confident in a core set of value, add that you have that. It just helps you with confidence. And I will tell you if I hadn't done that, I don't know where I would be, because I think I'd be questioning my every move. But I don't question it because I know what any individual or company gets when Taka comes to the table.

Mike Gardon (24:50):

This is just a fantastic conversation right here. Because like I just got, so I think about like what you are calling your essentially your professional DNA and the things that, that knowing where you provide value, right? Like I call that essential circle of competence. So there's a, you know, a universe, this big of all the things that you could know and could be good at. And then there's a much smaller subset of what you actually know and what you know, that you know, that, you know, like, as you said, and I talk about that as like, you have to know that that concept comes from Warren Buffet, the famous investor, right. I think of a lot of things through an investing lens. So you have to know that because that's your rock-solid foundation, that's the asset that you can then apply leverage to, to grow it smartly or use it to solve certain problems and stay away from other problems that you just shouldn't even be involved in to essentially get the most growth out of yourself.

Mike Gardon (25:54):

It's so important. But I just got a question, you know, the other day, like, okay, you're Mike, you're talking about how you need this to really understand your circle of competence. How do you do that? And so you kind of came up with this inventory, right? And I think you, you really touched on, I think you said something like, I listened to what people said that I do. Right. So one of those ways is definitely external feedback. Like how did you go about gathering that external feedback in a way that you could sort of package it and say like, this is the rock that I stand in?

Tareka Wheeler (26:28):

Yeah. Oh my gosh. That's so good. So, I know that everybody doesn't love these things, but peer reviews, like performance reviews, are golden to me. And even in the times when companies don't do like a formal performance review, I will figure out a way to do it. Like I'll figure out a way to actually get it done because I think you have to be able to get feedback. You have to be able to hear from people and like from individuals, what they actually think of you. And when you hear what they think of you, you also have to be in a position where you can say, okay, here are all the positive things that you have said about me. How can I break that apart into like some consistent skills and things, the way I perform year over year? So that's one way it's like, I actually went back to my performance reviews and looked at what my supervisors were saying about me.

Tareka Wheeler (27:19):

Right. Like what they were actually saying, I would go back. The other thing I did is I actually ask people like, and I did it in a way that was more like a, I know if you've heard like of a 360 review where you kind of send out a survey. So I made my own 360 if you will. And I wanted to hear from peers, I wanted to hear from team members that I had worked with over the years. I wanna be even here from like staff on what they thought areas that I could grow and where areas that they thought I was really strong in. So I wanted feedback on both sides. And that was an incredibly scary thing to do because I was like, oh goodness, some people. And I didn't just pick everyone who I knew would say amazing things. Like I asked some people who might not have great things to say because it was really important for me to get a good list in inventory.

Tareka Wheeler (28:08):

And then I looked at that and I was like, okay, there's a couple of things that keep coming up over and over again. I guess you are kind of really good at like program planning. Like you've made some amazing, amazing programs there. Rica, you've actually helped fortune 400, 500 companies decide on programs that they can make a huge impact, you know, and like do some social good. Like, yeah, you're kind of good at that. Okay. And I just kind of started comparing and then that gave me the confidence. To see how I had, I couldn't start with myself. I started externally, which gave me the confidence to sit with myself and say, well, what else? Like, this is a really great list I'm hearing from these other people, but okay, well, what else you got? What else you got girl? And so I started to think about it and that's why I came up with like my inventory, my defined natural abilities to succeed. Like the things I can just again, keep in my little value backpack and take wherever I go.

Mike Gardon (29:02):

Yeah. It's so key. And it's so powerful. I struggled with this big time. Yeah. But I did, I did essentially the same thing that you did, you probably did it in a much more sophisticated way. I, I tell people like, get a Google form. Mm-hmm right. I can give you some question ideas. One that I love for somebody like me definitely imposter syndrome. I assume that everything that I know, everyone else knows, you know, that kind of thing. Right? Yep. Completely downplaying my skills. But like one of my favorite questions is like, what am I known for when you think of my name? And you've worked with me, like what's top of mind. Right. And I think just even that one question, and then the other one, if the flip side is like, what do you need more out of me in the next six months? Yeah. You know, something like that. Even if you just ask those two questions or a variation of them, you're gonna understand how people see you a lot more. And it's probably gonna surprise you because if you're anything like me or, or, or Tareka, you you're like, oh, I, I don't have any skills. Like I don't, I don't know how to, I don't know how to say this. Right. But then hearing it from other people,

Tareka Wheeler (30:13):


Mike Gardon (30:14):

Help you package and define it. Mm-hmm a little bit mm-hmm I love that. And yeah. I love this idea of the kind of, if you're in a situation where you don't have like real strong performance reviews or you're, you know, your one on ones are like right at the end of the year and you know, you're not like figuring out how to do your own. Like, I, I love that idea. When you went through this whole exercise, that was the basis of your professional DNA. Right. And what you're kind of teaching

Tareka Wheeler (30:42):


Mike Gardon (30:42):

Yes. Okay. So talk to me a little bit about, you have a full-time job. You still are cranking out the nine to five and doing excellent work. Yeah. And you've also become an entrepreneur to help kind of serve predominantly women of color and working parents who are in your, your same situation mm-hmm and help them to grow professionally in the ways that, that you kind of has. So talk to us a little bit about what you're doing, the business. Yeah. And how you're trying to serve.

Tareka Wheeler (31:10):

Yeah, absolutely. So believe it or not, you know, people always ask the question, why did you start your business? Right. What, what made you are you, are you exiting out of your nine to five? I started the business because I wanted to have a bigger impact. I wanted women in particular, but also working parents. And what I say as parent preneurs, right? So those who are in their nine to five, and they're also exploring entrepreneurship that you can win at home and you can win at work. Right? Whatever you define as work, you can win in both areas and you can do so without the mom or dad guilt, you can do so without sacrificing work-life harmony. And if we, we pause on that for a second. I mean, when I talk about work-life harmony, it is very different from work-life balance, work, life balance like this 50, 50 on, off switch.

Tareka Wheeler (32:06):

I work and then I have my personal life and it's very separate. And I don't think that's realistic. That's not how life comes at you. And we all have these different dynamic areas of our life. We have travel, leisure, health, wellness, and fitness. We have our finances, we have our professions and careers. We have our spouses, and our children, there are all these different pieces of the puzzle. There is no 50-50 of that. It's, it's like looking at like a diversified investment. Like it's all over it on purpose there's the intention behind that. And you can't always give 50% to the same thing. So when you think about work-life harmony, it's about work, life integration, and things coexisting together. Meaning I'm very present when I'm mom, right? Or when I'm wife, but I'm also very present when I am project manager and director, or when I am CEO of my company.

Tareka Wheeler (32:58):

And I give them, attention with intention so that when I'm ready to kind of turn this piece off and go into the next, I can again, give attention with intention and I can schedule my time accordingly, which means every day throughout the day, yes, I may have a nine to five, but sometimes there are things that happen throughout that day that are related to the family. Sometimes there are things that happen throughout that day that are related to my self-care because I make sure every single day I take 15 minutes to at least reset the day because there's so much going on that I need to pause. And just like self-care, to me is not like the Saturday, Sunday hashtag should be a part of your lifestyle. Right? This means you've gotta be intentional about where you insert it. So with that, I had to really think about how I was going to go about achieving that work-life harmony piece.

Tareka Wheeler (33:52):

But as a professional nine to five, it took me to experience some things I think in my career that I didn't want others to experience, which is why I built my company, IST Wheeler, strategic solutions, and became a career and work-life strategist. Because I wanted individuals to understand that they could ambitiously go after like unapologetically, go after what they want as a professional, but you could do it without sacrificing being a good mom, being a good dad, being a good wife, being a good husband, being a good partner, whatever it may be like, you don't have to sacrifice that piece. You don't have to sacrifice not having a personal life because you want to Excel in your career. And at the same time, guess what guys, you don't just have to stick to a career. If there are other things, especially as you do that inventory and you know what you're really good at, and there are other things you wanna do then how can you monetize on that expertise?

Tareka Wheeler (34:52):

Right? And give your experiences and your knowledge and your value to others. So that's really why I started that shift in starting to add being an entrepreneur to my plate love by nine to five, as I said, I love project management. I love what I do and I'll continue to do it until, you know, I may, maybe don't wanna do it anymore. But my transition or addition, I should say of being an entrepreneur was really because I wanted to help others see that they could do it too. And they could win in both areas of their life without feeling like they have to sacrifice, you know, other pieces. So that's really where it came from. That's why I started it. I wanted to help others see that they could do it too, too. And seeing that transformation in my clients is just like, it's the biggest smile ever. Like, I get so excited when we get to the end of coaching or we get to the end of a V I P day or whatever. And a client sees like that type of transformation, or I get an email because someone listened to the podcast or they read something that I wrote, like seeing that they have the aha moment, like just comes all over me because I remember what it felt like to be in places where they are. And I remember what it felt like to transition out of it.

Mike Gardon (36:07):

So a couple of things like first, I mean, in your transition, cause I love to talk about the transitions, like in your transition. Yeah. Just going back to what we've kind of built on in this episode. Mm-hmm you didn't say I want to be an entrepreneur and I'm gonna go be a yoga instructor. Right, right. Like, and do something that you don't have competence in or at the natural ability for mm-hmm you took a pause and you said, here is what I'm good at and what I've built today as to Rica. And you started right there where you were with the skills that you had. Yeah. And you figured out another way to use those skills in an area that you're passionate about. What I always say is the easiest plan. The best plan I should say is one that you can adhere to.

Mike Gardon (36:56):

The one that you can keep doing. Mm-hmm , it's not the most complicated one. It's the one that you can keep making progress on. And the only way that you do that is if you have the skills or have the ability to acquire the skills with relative ease and you have an interest yeah. In what you're doing. But so many people say I'm gonna be an entrepreneur. And I think I like mm-hmm, building clay models or something. Right. And mm-hmm and then it, it just, it dies, right? Like you took your foundation, you took your asset, your core asset, and you said, how can I use this or leverage this in a new way to do it? So that I think is, is number one. And then the second thing I wanted, to ask you about is you say, you can win at both ends or you can win at everything. And, and I completely agree with you mm-hmm but it also sounds too good to be true. So what is needed? What do people have to give up? What are the sacrifices or, what has to be in place for people to win at both ends?

Tareka Wheeler (37:56):

That's such a good question, cuz you're right. And that's what I hear all the time. Like, okay, I hear you, right? That's too good to be true, but it's not because you have to be willing to do a couple of things. One, you have to be willing to shift your way of thinking and really shift your mindset. And I know, you know, mindset, I'll be honest with you, Mike. I feel like, over the past two years, the word mindset has just been thrown all over the marketplace. But for your listeners, guys, mindset is real. It is real. It's your perception of life? It's your perception of how things are going to turn out? What are the outcomes going to be? And you can choose to have mindsets that are in the positive lane, cuz there are multiple different mindsets, right? There's a gratitude mindset, a success mindset, and a growth mindset.

Tareka Wheeler (38:47):

It's all types of mindsets, right? A limitless mindset. There are all different types. Or you could be in a mindset that is more negative and pessimistic and starts to invite limiting thoughts, which turn into limiting beliefs. And once those limiting beliefs get into your subconscious mind, it's very, very difficult to kind of make the flip, right? You gotta do a lot of work to get those limiting beliefs out of your head. But if you're willing to go down that road to really shift your perception of the outcomes that you want in life, like what you know that you deserve and you desire, then you can win at home and work. Number, one is a mindset. The second thing you need is a strategy. And this is where we go wrong. We start to approach life at the same speed at which it's coming at us.

Tareka Wheeler (39:33):

We start to approach life at the same speed which is coming at us instead of taking control of time, which I know we believe that we can't, but you can pause and be strategic about the moves and the decisions that you make. And that's why having a strategy is so important. Especially when you're building a strategy that is a career strategy, right? Or I've worked with folks to do work-life harmony strategies when you are sitting down and thinking about strategy is a big, little fancy word for approach. What is your approach going to be? I mean, what's the action plan? That's going to support that approach. You wanna win it at home and at work? Well, let's start breaking this thing down what are the things that you actually want to achieve at home? What are the things that you actually want to achieve at work?

Tareka Wheeler (40:21):

And then let's start to make goals that go up to a larger vision because honestly, Mike, a lot of people are challenged. Like you guys may be listening right now. Think about it, do you have a vision for your overall life? Not a vision for your career, not a vision for your family, but truly a vision for yourself and where you want to be in the next five to 10 years. Because when you have that vision set, then you can start to build strategies and goals and action plans that are gonna support the ultimate vision. And the vision is not just about one or two areas. It's holistic, right? So when I talk about you're able to win at work and in life. When you have a vision that is encompassing personal and professional work and life, then you're gonna start developing goals and strategies that are on the work and life.

Tareka Wheeler (41:11):

And when you start to do that, we're integrating the way that we live every single day. So how do you win at work? How do you win at home? You start living it as life. It's you're one person. You're not two people. You're one person. So you have to start living and thinking and strategic planning that way for what you're doing. That's how you win it home. And that's how you win it work at the same time, you need the right mindset and you have to have a strategy. And I love what you said. What are you willing to like actually adhere to and repeat? What habits can you actually commit to doing that is gonna set you up for success in that plan? That's how you do it. Is it easy now? Is it worth it? Absolutely. Absolutely. Because you are going to buy back time that you don't even realize that you've lost because you would've been strategic about how you are going to spend time with your family, friends work.

Tareka Wheeler (42:09):

You're gonna start being incredibly intentional about it, cuz you're gonna be strategic. And you're gonna think differently about it because you are gonna be, think about where you want to be and where you desire to be. And you're gonna start working to affirm it. So, every step, every plan, every goal, the dollars you spend, what you invest in versus what you don't, whether it's time, energy, resources, or money will start to be different because you're striving to reach a certain vision for your life. That encompasses home and work. That's my thought around it. It's like, it sounds very Disney world like up here like it sounds very like fantasy that you can, but you can, you absolutely can win it both. Some days you might not feel like you're winning and I'm not gonna sit here and think every day feels amazing because life is life. But for the most part, you're taking control. You're like the chief executive officer and you can execute on your time, energy, resources, and money in your life every single day. And when you have that type of control, you're winning, you're winning.

Mike Gardon (43:11):

I love it. Couldn't agree. More mindset is real folks. And just as an example, right? Little quotes and things hit people in different ways. Right? I just heard this one the other day and I use it now. You don't need a job. You need a revenue source. That is a mindset shift. That's a complete mindset shift, right? Yeah. You can stop thinking about it, I have to get a job and you can expand your set of options. mm-hmm, just through thinking about that one sentence, right? That's a mindset shift that people can start with. Look, I've been an entrepreneur for a lot of my, and that just hit me. It's wild. And then on strategy, I love what you said. I would just add a lot of times what I've tried to do and what I've seen other people do successfully also think about what you don't want.

Tareka Wheeler (44:00):


Mike Gardon (44:00):

Like view it from the negative mm-hmm and how can I remove those things? Mm-hmm from my life mm-hmm and what does that great openings for? And I think like just viewing it from a little bit different perspective, like that can be a mindset shift in and of itself. But I just, love everything that you're saying on here. All right. So I wanna get to the biggest thing that you're doing. That's coming up. Mm-hmm you're gonna do a virtual conference. I want you to talk all about this. You've asked me to speak I'm so flattered. I'm happy to. And I'm, I, I think I go to bed every, every night thinking about like, I should say this and that and Patrica like that, or I don't know. So I'm trying to figure out and hone in on it all, but please talk to us about the conference and, uh, what it's all about.

Tareka Wheeler (44:44):

Yes. Well, first of all, I'm so excited, um, to have you at the conference because our conversations have been great and we're gonna keep having them. And you know, I think you're stuck with me. So I hope that's because we just, we have a great conversation, but I wanted to do something different and provide a learning experience. That's not just focused on the technical skills in the industry, but also looking at soft skills. And I love that you talk about like the meta-skills, like what are those broader things that we really need to be focusing on to develop in our careers? And I started thinking like, how does that come to life? What does that look like? And the word that I couldn't get rid of expanded. And the other word I couldn't get rid of was a focus. And so in November, November 17th and 18th, to be exact, the inaugural expand conference career development conference will launch and it expands 2022 is a career development conference that in its first year will be live and virtual, right?

Tareka Wheeler (45:47):

We're using an amazing virtual platform, really excited about that. And the theme is leveraging the power of focus and how you can actually advance in your career by focusing on mindset, focusing on career development, and focusing on work-life harmony, kind of like lifestyle design. Because as professionals, you actually can write your own story. You, you really can, as much as it seems like you can't, you really have the ability to control the narrative here, but how, and what are the types of skills and conversations that we need to have with, I would say career development experts and, you know, industry leaders in these spaces. So we're gonna dig in, we're gonna have some great keynote, uh, breakout sessions. We're gonna do speed, dating, networking style, to get folks opportunities, to engage and build networks. I tell folks all the time, 80 to 85% of jobs are never even posted, guys.

Tareka Wheeler (46:45):

If you're looking to make a job or career transition, you need to network and you need to get to know people and engage and build relationships. This conference is really for those who they know like without a shout of a doubt I'm supposed to be doing more. Like, I definitely know that I'm supposed to be doing more. I want to do something different. I just need kind of that boost to think about where the areas that I need to expand, where I need to take up more space in my career, more space in my team, more space in my company, and more space in my industry. And we are gonna have some amazing speakers to help you really think through that and really think about how you do it in areas of mindset, career development, and work-life harmony. So super excited about it.

Tareka Wheeler (47:29):

Registration opened on September 19th cannot wait. Um, I encourage folks to follow in a couple of places. So if you're on Instagram, definitely following professional underscore DNA, or we actually just recently launched a handle just specifically for the expanded conference. And it's at expanding conference super simple and easy to remember. And then we'll be standing up. Our website will launch with our registration to that folks can go on, learn more about the conference, and learn who our keynote speaker is. And some of our speakers will be joining us and we'll be announcing speakers, you know, over the next month or so as well. Just kind of rolling those out, but I'm really excited about it. I am a long-time learner. I love to learn. I love to grow and I want others to kind of experience learning and growing in just a different way.

Tareka Wheeler (48:16):

It'll be fun. Cause I'm all about learning in a fun space. So it definitely will be fun, lots of high energy, and an opportunity for folks to really leverage focusing on their professional growth and development. And you know, we know what you focus on expands, what you actually put. Some attention is gonna expand. It's where you put the attention. If you put it in positive spaces, you have the opportunity to expand in those positive spaces. If you put it in not-so-positive and negative spaces may have the unintended consequence of actually expanding in areas, not so great. So what better way to actually leverage the power of focus? So you can start expanding in areas in your career that, you know, you need to, so I'm excited about, I can't wait, I've done conferences for, you know, other companies and all, I mean, I've, I've planned conferences. I've just never done it for myself. Right? And like for my company, and this is gonna be an exciting venture and I'm, I'm already thinking about 20, 23 and being in person and going back to my hometown, which is Austin, Texas, and, and doing it there. But first things first, we gotta get through November and get through the first year and I know it's gonna be great. And I cannot wait to have you, Mike, as one of our speakers.

Mike Gardon (49:26):

Well, thanks. Yeah. I'm really excited about it as well. We'll make sure we have links to everything you mentioned in the show notes. So people can follow along and get more information from now and leading up to the conference. You'll be hearing a little bit more about it from me as well. Just, uh, reminders and everything cuz uh Terica and I are fast friends and uh, I'm gonna promote it as, as well as I can. And um, okay. And, and, and you know, I'm, I'm excited to speak. And so anybody listening drops me a line if there's anything that you're curious about that you think would be great for me to expand on. Yeah. And we've talked about or anything like that, happy to work it in. I'm excited. And now that you've talked about 20, 23 possibly in Austin, I love Texas. I love Austin. So , let's make that happen.

Tareka Wheeler (50:13):

Yes, yes, yes. I, um, I'm so excited about that. I mean, I was born and raised in Austin. I'm a little biased that it's like in the top three best cities in the country. Yeah. I was like, you know, to do it live, what better place than like to go home to my good old Austin roots and have some great relationships and friendships there, uh, that from a space perspective, right? To make something like that possible. So I'm really excited about it and can't wait for 2023, but we're gonna make 20, 22, 1 of the best live virtual experiences for professionals that we can. And I would love to have all of your listeners participate so early registration. Again, it opens on September 19th, and stay on the lookout for updates.

Mike Gardon (50:57):

Excellent. Tareka, thanks so much for being here. I love talking to you. I'm really excited to continue our friendship in the future. Best of luck to you. And thank you so much for being on

Tareka Wheeler (51:07):

Same to you, Mike, same to you and I, as you know, we will be talking soon.

Mike Gardon (51:11):

All right. Perfect. Take care.

Tareka Wheeler (51:13):


Outro (51:14):

CareerCloud Radio is a production of CareerCloud.com. Please review this episode on iTunes. We really appreciate it a lot. And thank you for listening.