APU Business Careers Careers & Learning Leading Forward Podcast

Human Productivity and Performance — Keys to Success

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Podcast with Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University

and Dr. Jeannice Fairrer Samani
CEO at Fairrer Samani Group, LLC

Are you pushing yourself to be the best you can be? How do you motivate yourself to learn more and build new skills so you can advance in your life and career?

In this podcast, APU business professor Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt talks to Dr. Jeannice Samani about her six recommendations to become a high performer. Learn why it’s important to get certifications and training, specifically in digital information and design thinking.

Also, learn how to enhance your own performance by conducting a personal SWOT analysis to identify your weak attributes and turn them into strengths, how to establish a clear vision for your life, and why it’s so important to always be curious about the world around you.

Read the Transcript

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Kandis Boyd Wyatt. The goal of this podcast is to highlight our local heroes in our community who are champions of important issues affecting us all on a national and international scale.

Today, we’re going to add to that very important discussion happening both nationally, as well as globally, regarding the importance of human productivity and performance in the workplace.

So I am so excited to introduce to you our guest. Our guest is Dr. Jeannice Samani, who is a global speaker and executive leader in the world of emerging technology and integration. A transformational leader in both academia and also business and engineering.

As an entrepreneur and a global strategic advisor, Dr. Samani is the CEO of Fairrer Samani Group, LLC, which is a global think tank and a digital footprint producing the Global Tea Party virtual seminar and OcularPodcast. As well, she is the founder of the Fifth Wave STEaM Education Initiative.

So, Dr. Samani, welcome back, I should say, because this is now your second podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Thank you so much, Dr. Wyatt. I’m so honored to be a part of this podcast.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Well, we’re really looking forward to today’s conversation. So there are many discussions happening today that address human productivity and performance, especially during this global pandemic. So can you start by just telling our audience a little bit about yourself and how it relates to human productivity and performance?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Absolutely. Thank you. I’ve had the great opportunity of starting my own company several times. Being a serial entrepreneur, it definitely fits with human productivity and knowing how to perform, whether it be in leadership or whether it be as the entrepreneur with the idea and concept. So it lends this opportunity to talk to you more about it.

So I know part of our conversation is going to be about how does that leadership actually take form, and how does that human productivity actually form itself and then put it into action? So I’m quite thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences with you.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Well, thank you. Thank you again for joining us. So you mentioned leadership and sometimes people think that leaders are born and it’s an innate ability. And others feel that leadership develops over time, and you have to learn or be educated about it.

So can you start by talking about why just understanding the importance of leadership and education is important, and maybe can you also share your educational journey as it pertains to building your own businesses?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Absolutely. Well education, I see, I’ll start with a quote: “Education is a passport to the future for tomorrow, and it belongs to those who actually are prepared today.” And that was by Malcolm X.

I really do believe that leaders today, your human performance, your developing your habits, identifying your traits. All of that comes into form as a leader and how the role that education plays is that it lays down a foundation for exactly that.

Education is just not reading books, but it’s finding out the things that are around you that you can grab onto and learn from. And the experiences that you can have that would actually grow you as an individual. And it allows for your life to be independent of others, just based if we think about children and how they learn, and they learn just by absorbing initially everything around them.

So if you continue that type of absorption and curiosity and excitement about learning, I have found that that really is the path for me to build my skillset in human performance and being successful as an entrepreneur, as well as a leader and being on the global stage to share with others about leadership, being a transformational leader and my education and how that has played an integral part of it.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I think what you said was really impactful that you are constantly trying to learn, you want to be creative, you’re just trying to expand your knowledge of new things. So what stimulates you to keep learning?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Well, just by the sheer fact of the definition, just thinking about education, speaking of the definition of education, we’re speaking at a podcast that is for individuals that are in the education, in the university in the education system, as well as others that may be curious.

So thinking about the definition of education itself is the studying of different things or subjects that you can actually gain knowledge and have that understanding and trying to apply that in your daily life. So if we think about how that actually plays out, I can’t help but to be stimulated.

Many years ago, I thought about, “What can I do to continuously learn more? How can I expand my mind?” It’s said that we only use a small portion, a small percentage of our mind, and I wanted to really challenge that. I’m going to have those kinds of people that you give me a challenge, and I want to take it on.

So I was very curious about knowing, well, what could I learn? How much can I learn? I bought books on expanding my memory. I tested myself on memorization and knowing all my credit cards at one point.

I also saw how that played into my education in the classroom. I also felt as though I had a pictorial memory, and I really didn’t know what that was when I was much younger. But in college, as I continued my education, I saw that I actually built into my learning style the opportunity where I would put myself back into a study mode and be able to regurgitate a lot of the information that I had learned previously.

So that in itself was actually quite stimulating. And it drove me to continue to think and to continue to want to learn, and my interests just continued from there and it allowed me to continue to learn more about various cultures, about various languages.

I speak bits and pieces of about seven, eight languages. And I take those on as challenges.

I love the idea of going somewhere and not, it could be an actual geographic location or picking up a book. Some people will pick up a book, and they’ll read the flaps of the book because they really want to get the most out of it. They want to make sure that what they’re reading is going to be interesting to them, or it’s going to actually glean the information that they want from it.

Sometimes I’ll pick up a book and not look at the flaps, just for the sake of seeing what is actually in the content. Just that curiosity, that raw curiosity of the “what if.” So that in itself stimulates me. Those factors actually stimulate me to keep learning.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I think you provided several real-life practical examples of how to keep learning. I know we have a large student population of over 82,000 that are around the world. And so finding practical ways that anyone can use, I think, is really important.

I really like the idea of you saying just memorize your credit card numbers or try to learn a different language. I think those are great examples.

So we talked about education for a little bit. I want to shift to talking about maybe training or certifications. In my past experience, I worked in the federal government and there was training and I want to call it tactical training. So there was training to teach you how to do your job, but when it came to leadership, management, human productivity, a lot of the topics that we’re talking about today, there really wasn’t training per se.

So in a perfect world, what training or certifications would you suggest to help with this topic or to help people perfect this area of their career?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Oh, that’s a great question. Being that we are literally in our fourth industrial revolution, which is [the] digital information age, I highly recommend getting certifications in anything digital. And by that I mean, artificial intelligence, AI, is a huge caveat to what is coming into the fifth generation of the industrial age.

Also looking into other computer programming opportunities, such as deep learning. So learning Python, that’s a computer language that actually helps the input of information and your analysis of information.

I also strongly recommend other computer languages such as R, R as a statistical language that is extremely helpful and all of these can be obtained through certifications. So anything that is associated with digital information, highly recommend.

Now on the other side of our brain, I love the idea in which I have certifications in all of what I’m speaking by the way, is to look at design thinking. I have a certificate from MIT and one from Stanford, from the D-school, the design school, and I’m able to take and break down various problems into a canvas in which you can better understand that problem so you can better address it.

So I highly recommend a design thinking. It’s also called circular learning. It’s very similar, but design thinking is a great foundational tool.

Quite often, the trainings are done in person, but now quite a few of them have actually gone into an online, of course, an online classroom. So you’re actually able to learn it on MURAL, which is another software, but it’s very easy to learn. You can learn it in real time. So design thinking is on the left side of the brain, which is more creative and problem solving, highly recommend that as well.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I really like what you said about the online learning environment. I truly feel that just in the past couple of months, the number of training opportunities virtually have exponentially grown. And I think it’s a really great idea for people to research more and try and take advantage of some of these trainings and certifications in the online environment. So thank you for that.

So we did talk about trainings and certifications. Are there other resources that you’ve used or you’ve provided in the past to help individuals become more productive or just become high performers?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Well, there’s lots of books out there. The how-to books, personal development type books, such as highly effective people that use highly effective traits. Those sorts of books generally are pretty helpful.

I recommend just finding out, really diving in deep, to what your particular needs are. So maybe if you’re familiar with the SWOT analysis, since there’s some business students that may be listening. I would conduct a personal SWOT analysis. And that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

So begin to think of yourself, what your strengths are and then identify where you want to gain some strength. So what would be considered your weaker attributes of what you want to know, and then look at, “Well, what are my opportunities in doing this?”

So we talked about online learning. You may talk about a hybrid if there’s an opportunity to take a workshop, or when we go back from our, past COVID, we may have hybrid classes again, where you can do part online and part in person, but if not, do the distributive, do the online. That gives you a great opportunity to taking MOOC classes or taking additional classes. The MOOC classes are a lot of the certification type classes, which are the online classes.

Continuing just to build out your Rolodex or your contact list and contact individuals on LinkedIn or other various business platforms that you can actually interview. So some of those individuals can give you ideas about opportunities, identify trends, looking at the “Wall Street Journal,” and find out what are the actual trends that are happening in industry and various businesses.

Again, I’m talking about the O in the SWOT for opportunity. And then you look at the T, which are actually more of identifying what threats they could possibly be. So that I would say are the risks. So what exactly are your risks of taking on this opportunity of expansion and being able to grow in that way in this learning dynamic?

So the only thing that comes to mind generally for me is time and money. So if that is time and money, then we would really think about that may me be additional ideas or additional impacts for you.

And then you find out how you can work through those and around those, whether it be grants or whether it be timing. And once you take the additional classes or you continue your education, whatever that is.

But the beauty about identifying your personal SWOT is that you can move those weaknesses into strengths. You can move those threats or those areas that may be saying, “No, don’t go to school now. No, don’t continue your education now. You don’t need that certification.”

Those are opportunities. They turn into opportunities. So those are the pros and cons. So you could think about, “Well, if there’s some negatives there, let’s turn those into positives.” What does it take to actually move that to the other side of the matrix, the two by two? So that would be my recommendation.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Dr. Samani, I really liked what you said about SWOT, which are strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And I think what was really crucial about what you said is that it’s not permanent. That people can take items that are in one box and shift them to another. So we have the power to direct our thinking and to direct our future.

So a lot of our students are in the military and we also have a lot of working adults. So as we still talk about resources, what advice would you have for these targeted groups?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: I would highly recommend the use of SWOT, which I already mentioned, but think about additional tools that could make your life that much easier. Organizational tools, such as a tracking software system that you can put all of your assignments and your various tasks, as well as your home responsibilities or your work responsibilities, into one time sheet if you will, one project management sheet in which you could really be able to organize yourself and to identify where your time allocation.

When I was in grad school, my first semester, I knew I needed a time management tool. So I’m sure there are others out there that found that your time becomes less and less, and it just becomes impacted with more and more things to do.

So if you’re able to come up with or identify a program that works for you, even on an Excel spreadsheet, it would work once you color-coded and that sort of thing. So thinking about SWOT, but also a time management tracking tool.

So once you have identified that you should keep in mind that what your vision is for your life. You should identify clearly and establish your vision. What is it exactly that you want to achieve?

So think about also your core values, what those aspects are within your life that you want to illuminate, that you want to make sure are covered in your life, such as ethical, such as clarity, such as community engagement, those types of values, and even more. And then focus on exactly what the intention is over your life. And I have taken those aspects, my vision, my core values, and my intent and purpose over my life. And I created an advance matrix.

I presented it in Africa actually at a university to graduate students as well as professors. So they’re using it there at Covenant University. I also presented it at the BEYA Conference last spring, where I actually had individuals there from Lockheed Martin and Johnson & Johnson and John Hopkins.

And we spoke about them actually utilizing this tool. I said, “As long as you use my name, I’m okay with that.”

But the idea is that you can actually move what you want to do in your life forward. It’s about advancement. It’s about taking the education that you have acquired, and it’s not the books. It’s not always the books. So it’s not the reading and writing and all of that.

But it’s all of your experiences in addition to your academic studies and being able to implement that into a plan that allows for you to advance, hence the advance matrix. So I find that to be very, very critical and helpful. That brings about clarity, especially as a working adult.

And another thing is momentum. It’s the pace in which your mental energy actually allows for you to posture yourself for success. So momentum, and especially with the times and what we’re living in now, a lot of people are losing rest. So you have to make sure that you are rested. You have to make sure that you’re getting your exercise so you can keep your energy flowing and you can actually achieve your goals.

A third aspect is necessity. What exactly are you finding is the reason why you want to achieve what you want to achieve? That internal standard that you have for your life, the social duty, whether it be your life/work integration or whatever it is that you actually are achieving and actually taking on as your internal standards.

A fourth aspect is productivity. So how productive can you be? And actually staying focused and keeping focused on generating quality output. Doesn’t have to be straight As, it doesn’t always have to be the perfect parent if you will, or that individual at work that always achieves the grade A, but being the best you can be where you are at that given time.

And that allows for you to centralize. We’re talking about human productivity and human achievement here. So it allows you to centralize your energy and all of that learning and that education to be productive.

The fifth stance is influence. Everyone attains significant influence, and it allows you to continue to bring others into understanding your vision, understanding what your contribution is in your workplace, understanding you in your home life and in your personal life.

So you develop your influence, which is very, very critical to human performance because on the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, part of our self-actualization is that coming together as a community, as conscious, and as we influence others, and we come together as a community. It allows for us to build ourselves, build our confidence, have impact on others as well as being receptive and allow them to have impact on us. So the fifth aspect is influence.

And then think about your courage, give yourself props for being courageous and allowing yourself to be successful, whether it be at home or whether it be the quality of mindset you have, that you’re empowering others and as well as empowering yourself with your education and your performance. So those are my six contributions to actually being a high performer and taking on your personal ownership, if you will, and empowerment to forge forward with the integration of education and experience.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Wow, that is so impactful. Thank you for sharing that with us. I almost don’t have another question to add on top of that because it seems like that was so all-inclusive. So I guess as we begin to wrap up, are there any other nuggets of wisdom that you want to share with our listeners?

So for example, I know that the road is not easy when it comes to performance, and it becomes trying to be your best you and trying to be productive. So are there any words of wisdom you want to leave our listeners with as we begin to close the session?

Dr. Jeannice Samani: Well, I would just like to inspire others as we fit our role and our mold for this 21st century. I just think that it’s critical to take into account all of the learnings that you do have and to continue to be curious. I find that being curious actually stimulates me to learn more, to be more productive, to be a risk taker.

And it allows me to imagine as well as integrate all of my attributes and abilities, as well as taking and listening to others and actually allowing them to have influence over my life as well. So being curious, I think, is very critical and it allows for that trigger of, how can I say, it allows for the trigger of moving forward and not being stealth or sitting still and allows you to grow and be that individual that can actually make impact on the world. So being a curious person.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I think we’re going to leave it at that. Be curious, be curious, be curious. All right. So thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your perspective on this issue. And thank you again, Dr. Samani for joining me today.

Dr. Jeannice Samani: It truly was my pleasure, Dr. Wyatt, thank you so much for having me back.

Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you. And also thank you to our listeners for joining us. So until the next time, please be well and be safe.

About the Speakers

Boyd WyattDr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Jeannice Fairrer Samani, MBA, takes a vision and makes it a reality. She is a rarity and distinguished executive leader in technology and business intelligence. She has had a 20-year technical career in Silicon Valley as an executive manager and as a lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University and Santa Clara University in the School of Engineering.

Currently, Dr. Samani is the CEO at Fairrer Samani Group, LLC, a global business intelligence consulting firm; the founding director of Fifth Wave, a STEAM education initiative; and the managing director of Nextogen, focusing on the integration of business and IT engineering. She has led successful scaling to global markets and led innovative initiatives to build top-performing organizations with management “bench strength” and staying power.

Dr. Samani has led cross-functional teams, managed and strategized diversity and inclusion initiatives to drive change for women in technology. She developed and managed a dashboard platform for the engineering department at Cisco Systems and business system manager for the information technology products.

Dr. Samani has received a number of awards from community and business organizations. An architect and mentor for the Techwomen program for eight years, she has traveled to Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East as a delegate on behalf of the U.S. Department of State as an advocate for girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She serves as advisor for Space Apps NASA in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, Ignite Stanford University graduate business school program, and an advisor for Santa Clara University School of Engineering and Carnegie Mellon graduate students.

Dr. Samani holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Columbus University, a master’s in city and regional planning-transportation engineering from UC Berkeley and an MBA in management and sustainability from Golden Gate University. She also has a B.A. in political economics/city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and certification in management development entrepreneurship from UCLA.

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