As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to increase across the country, multiple studies highlight the importance of taking a proactive and productive approach to career development during these unprecedented times. “If done with care and sensitivity,” according to Pitzer Career Services, “this can be a powerful time to make career connections and have informative conversations and interactions with professionals.”


Many professionals encounter obstacles and roadblocks, and experience career ups, downs, twists, and turns during moments of crisis. Fear and uncertainty notwithstanding, those who are able to push past these challenges and strengthen their career are able to do so because the difficulties are accepted – even embraced – as opportunities. During the 2008 financial crisis, I ended my 17-year tenure at Reebok International in Boston, MA., and accepted a senior level role at Nintendo of America in greater San Francisco, CA. I became the company’s first African American to hold the role of Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications. Even during what was then called the most severe recession since the Great Depression, I was able to advance my career and break through another glass ceiling.

There is no question that an economic crisis created by a pandemic – a pandemic that has so far claimed more than 150,000 lives in the U.S. alone – is unchartered territory. Many individuals are still working from home – if they are working at all. If you’re a parent, you may have one hand on the computer and the other hand cradling your infant or preparing to home-school your adolescent. With this double set of crises, it’s tough to think about a career breakthrough when you’re primarily focused on just getting through the day.

Yes, these are challenging times.


Challenging times call for enriching experiences. I was recently picnicking with my friend Jehana on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near Boston’s North End. As we sat on our blanket, soaking up the summer rays and watching little ones run in and out of 6-foot-high waterspouts, Jehana and I reminisced about our lives and careers, before and during the pandemic. Then we began imagining what life will be post-pandemic. More specifically, how our careers might evolve. I’m a business owner and she works in corporate marketing. It was wonderful to share experiences, listen to each other’s stories and discuss our respective career growth. What was even more powerful was recognizing and embracing the growth of our relationship. It began as ‘department head and employee’ (she worked for me when I was the SVP at Boston Scientific).

In 2015, I left Boston Scientific and founded MDK Brand Management. Jehana also left and joined another company. Since then, our relationship has blossomed into a wonderful friendship. During our picnic, I reiterated my passion for creating for others what I did not have during a pivotal moment in my career journey: a career development plan or path. As importantly, during the early years of my career, I did not have role models who looked like me. People who could understand what I was going through. People who could help me navigate career waters that are rougher for professionals of color and women.


After breaking through several glass ceilings during my nearly 25-year corporate career, I am now solely committed to sharing my experiences, interactions, accomplishments, and missteps with professionals – primarily people of color and women. I am all-in when it comes to helping these professionals grow, develop, and realize that “glass ceilings were made for breaking,” even during crises. If not you, who? If not now, when? And if you don’t know how, find out.

That is why I created The Glass Breakers Summit 2020, a virtual series of powerful and enlightening conversations with five men and women who broke through and became “the first.” I invite you to spend just a few minutes online with me each day during the Summit – Sunday August 16 through Friday August 28 – to be inspired, uplifted, enriched, and energized. Watch these inspiring stories that focus on a wide range of important topics, including the murder of George Floyd, the marches and demonstrations against racial injustice, the influence and impact of parental love and support, the obligation of corporate leadership to close the gap of inequality, and the importance of creating your own narrative.

In addition to the virtual conversations with the five glass breakers, the series includes LIVE sessions with me in my Facebook group.Although the Glass Breakers Summit 2020 is free, registration is required. Upon registration, you will receive the Summit page, which includes the videos and the link to join my Facebook LIVE sessions. Visit glassbreakerssummit.com to register.

There is something special about watching stories from people who are authentic, uplifting, and energizing. I hope you will allow these experiences to fill your soul with inspiration, motivation and, most of all, the strength to push on and break through.

Denise Kaigler is a former corporate executive and is now the founder and principal of MDK Brand Management, a certified woman and minority-owned business enterprise. Denise leverages her decades of experience at several global brands, including Reebok, adidas Group, and Boston Scientific, to help clients reach their professional goals and break through glass ceilings. She is also the author of Forty Dollars and a Brand: How to Overcome Challenges, Defy the Odds and Live Your Awesomeness. Connect with Denise on Twitter @mdkbrandmanage and Facebook at MDK Brand Management.