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The Day the Music Died - Be a mentor Find a mentor

A 3-Step Call-to-Action for all professionals!

I lost my mentor Bo Black. She not only made an impact on my career track; Bo inspired an entire region by helping other women advance their professional goals over 30 years ago when such efforts were minimal! I reflect, honor, and share my story of how meeting Bo changed my life from a broke single mother to the woman I am today. My hope is that my journey resonates and inspires other professionals to take action. For the women feeling stuck, I impart hope that you too can reach your dreams and change your life.

Bo Black was the Executive Director of Summerfest from 1984 until 2003. Summerfest is an annual music festival held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin along Lake Michigan. The “Big Gig” offers live music over 11 days, 12 stages with over 1000 acts from local and nationally known artists from various genres, performing throughout the grounds from noon to midnight.

My career journey began back in the late 1980s. I lived in the rural town of Dousman, worked at Brownberry Ovens, and hated my accounting job. I attended my evening college career event where Bo spoke. This spry, confident, stylish woman starred at each of us while we leaned in to capture her advice. Bo emphasized, “My degree was not in event management, but I learned and then earned respect through volunteering and showing I could bring results.” and did she ever deliver results! Black successfully fundraised and secured sponsorship, bringing a new amphitheater that sat over 23,000 patrons and brought permanent buildings and stages to the Summerfest grounds.

“When you admire someone’s work and their regional impact, then you get to work with them, what a gift that becomes.” Carla Rutley

In my small cubicle at Brownberry Ovens, you could find pictures of Bo from articles showcasing her improvement efforts at Summerfest, affixed with sticky notes saying Dream Big! Volunteer, who knows where it will lead! In Southeastern Wisconsin Bo seemed larger than life, a local celebrity always promoting Milwaukee. Working for a musical festival instead of making bread, heck yes! Discouraged from the many vocal doubters who imparted Well, they always need a cleanup crew. Do not get your hopes up too high. My defense, I wrote Bo a letter. A sad professional reality: sometimes your core support group does not back you, just never let that stop you.

Two weeks after writing my letter, Bo herself called me and said “We are starting The Pin Program; we could use a volunteer to help launch that. Your letter showed an interest in marketing what do you think?" After collecting my breath, the only answer was WHEN do I start! She took a chance to offer me an opportunity to “volunteer”. A week later the woman in charge of the Pin Program moved out of state and the rest is history. (photo credit, LLC – Bobby Tanzilo, June 29, 2017 article)

Mind you, I started part-time, and gave up benefits as a single mom, and adapted to the 90 -minute round trip drive. I would take that risk all over. I want other women leaders to reflect on the people who have crossed your paths. Were you afforded an opportunity for change? When was the last time you volunteered? I was so proud of my Tempo Waukesha women's professional group. We developed a six-week career readiness program and met with the women once weekly to help rebuild their lives, confidence, and give them hope. There are plenty of ways you too can be a career change agent and impact lives.


Mentors 1 - Help direct a journey. It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start.

2 - Share your story good, bad, and ugly. These lessons made you who you are today. Explain how you overcame obstacles and made the career choices you have.

3 - Find ways to help advance and promote your mentee to others. It is one thing to guide but another to get them involved. Take them to a women’s membership group or a business alliance luncheon to get introduced to professionals’ networking and learning.

Mentee’s Rising professionals, or those resetting your lives. 1- Never be afraid to approach someone and ask for guidance, or a meeting over coffee. You never know where it will lead. This can start with leaders in your workplace. They may not know your aspirations.

2 -Give some thought to your dream job so when meeting a mentor, you can articulate what you enjoy, the skills you have, and the direction you hope to take your career.

3 – Start Volunteering! Be ready to roll up your sleeves and show what you can do. The people you meet when you “give” of yourself will be returned to you in what you gain later along your journey.

About the Author:

Dr. Carla Rutley works with small to mid-size businesses and nonprofits to find cost-effective publicity leading to increased profits. She is a marketing professor for multiple universities nationwide, a curriculum designer, and a job coach helping professionals’ self-brand and grow their careers.

Carla is a five-time entrepreneur who has over 25 years of senior-level marketing experience working with high-profile organizations such as Summerfest, Country USA, United Way, Harley-Davidson, and more. Her expertise is in public relations, lead generation, sales, and fundraising. She is available for workshops, seminars, training, and consulting. She has been an advocate for women’s professional development for over 20 years, leading groups such as Tempo, Milwaukee Women Inc., Professional Women’s Network, and others. Her first book on career development strategies is set to be released through Emerson Agency of Baltimore, Maryland later this year.

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