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Successful MIS alumni couple shares advice on navigating a diverse workplace

Feb 22, 2017

Diversity in Leadership DayThe Honorable Wayne Messam and Angela Messam, Florida State College of Business alumni, recently returned to campus as speakers for the inaugural Diversity in Leadership Day.

Coordinated by the Minority Business Society, the National Association of Black Accountants and Women in Business, the daylong event culminated with a student-moderated Q&A session with the Messams, who are graduates of the college’s Management Information Systems program.

“The Messams and our students know diversity is important because our country, workplaces and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnic groups,” said Michael Hartline, the college’s dean. “We can learn from one another, but first we must have a level of understanding about each other to be able to collaborate and cooperate. This kind of inclusive teamwork is essential in fostering great ideas and innovation.”

Mayor Messam, who graduated in 1997, has been mayor of Miramar, Fla., since 2015. He and Angela, who graduated the year before, are partners in Messam Construction and Asset Realty & Associates. They are widely considered two of the fastest rising young professionals in construction.

The two offered advice for minority students, as well as students in general, who aspire to be business owners or leaders, on navigating in a diverse society and workplace.

“Build relationships with college peers, including people not of your ethnic background because doing that builds your important future relationships,” Mayor Messam told students. “As a minority, there are challenges, but think of yourself first as a business person and be the best at whatever you do, and, most important, be a great person, a great networker. Know your employer and learn everything you can about your product and your market so you can add value to employers. That can set you apart.”

To graduating seniors, he had encouraging words: “Always stay open to new opportunities, and don’t be discouraged if you graduate without a job. Until every company on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq has your resume, you still have options.”

Ms. Messam added: “Have compassion and know that everyone has not had the same exposure to experiences and opportunities as you have had. Be sensitive to people with cultural differences and experiences because that can give you an edge in growing your customer base. Be aware that diversity is important. Not all businesses pay attention to that aspect of the market.” 

In their own business, the Messams embrace diversity and their individual employees. “We let them express who they are and what value they bring to our company,” Mayor Messam said. “As minorities ourselves, we enter every situation with an open mind.”

The Messams founded their statewide construction firm in 2003 and have offices in the cities of Miami and Miramar, as well as in Broward and Palm Beach counties. They have a number of certifications, including the LEED certification, which makes them much sought after as collaborators on a myriad of construction products. They also have an extensive client list, which includes federal, county and city governments and many private corporations. Their combined projects total more than 1 million square feet.

Ms. Messam is a member of the college’s Board of Governors, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the FSU Black Alumni Association and a life member of the FSU Alumni Association.

Mayor Messam is on the FSU Foundation Board of Trustees. He was a starting wide receiver on the 1993 national championship football team under Coach Bobby Bowden and served as vice president of the student body during his senior year. Also, the Black Alumni Association named him Student of the Year for his accomplishments as a student athlete. 

By Barbara Ash





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