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BE BOSS Noni Williams

Jennie O'Dell

It started off as just a photo shoot. It turned into two women chatting away - in between shots and outfit changes - about work, school, family, obstacles we’ve faced trying to reach our goals and how we’ve overcome them. Noni is a mathematics grad student working in data science, high school slam poetry coach, photographer and so much more all at the age of 25. She has accomplished it all with GRACE, perseverance, against adversity, all while keeping a smile on her face. This is what the definition of “boss” has morphed into for me.

So instead of just having a great memory from a photo shoot, we at beyourself decided to make this a thing – telling all of you be babes out there stories of women who are kicking butt at whatever they are doing in life.

This is the be boss series – not just to coincide with the name beyourself, but in hopes that for anyone reading these blog posts to find fortitude to BE a boss in their everyday life.


It has been said time and time again, but not enough people listen and act.


When you are able to nurture a hobby at a young age and integrate it into your adult life is an incredible thing. “If you are lucky enough to find your passion at a young age, don’t be afraid to foster it and let it grow….If you have this thing that you feel really passionate about, jump in with both feet.” Her love of math started at a young age and became a subject she could pursue in graduate school alongside data analytics.

“For me, math…in the bare sense of it is, finding a way to give context to the universe.” –Noni

Noni’s choice to pursue a Masters in a subject where she was a minority was not easy, but believes that everyone should OWN their choices. In a field where white men are the majority, there was an invisible, but ever apparent, wall between Noni and everyone else.

“As a black woman, I never saw myself reflected in the classroom and so that just compounded with not feeling like I could communicate with anyone…..There was a big push to get brown students into the classroom, but not a lot to make us feel welcomed or retain us.” – Noni

Even with this dissonance, Noni pressed on no matter how many times she became discouraged by the lack of diversity, from being thought of by her colleagues as inferior because she was a woman, or by being told she had to solve a problem a certain way no matter how valid her argument was.

“People want to invalidate answers when those that don’t look like us, or think like us stand up and give it.”

Life Lesson From Noni: When you are being discouraged and told that you are not doing something right or the “correct” way, as long as you are able to solve the problem in the end, do not let them put you down or invalidate you. We all have a different way of thinking, there is no “normal” we are all UNIQUELY OURSELVES and that is valid.

But none of this can be done without a support system or role models.

“100%, I don’t think I would be where I am today without my support system.” – Noni

Please remember: if you think you have no one behind you, you always do. Do not be afraid to ask for help or support, and NEVER be afraid to advocate for yourself.

Please remember: if you feel like you don’t have any role models in the field you are pursuing ...sometimes it isn’t easy to find them in person, but you can in books, through a public figure, or in a different field. Just because someone is pursuing a path different than yours does not mean you can’t look up to them. You can look up to their work ethic, how they overcame adversity, or how they make a positive mark on society. BUT not only should you find role models to look up to, but you should be a role model, for those you know are looking up to you AND for those you don’t know are looking up to you.

“If you feel like you don’t have someone to look up to, you must remember that there must be other people who feel that way…..Don’t be afraid to find your role models wherever they are….if you don’t see it, don’t be afraid to be it.”

Please remember: if you think that the field you want to pursue is over saturated. Even if you see it, don’t think there are too many people in that space. Create your own space. “There is always room for you to showcase what you like and what you love.” Do not compare yourself to others, or think that you have a certain timeline to accomplish a goal. Set goals, but accomplish them organically.

“There are going to be people out there that are going to put you down, make you feel inferior, and not worthy of your dreams, but remind yourself; you are worthy, important, beautiful, and amazing. You deserve everything that you work towards.”

“YOU SET THE TONE OF HOW OTHERS THINK THEY CAN TREAT YOU.” Which is all encompassing of this blogpost – “showing people, telling people, and having them recognize how you should be treated; how you deserve to be treated….and giving yourself enough GRACE to know when to set your boundaries and what those boundaries are.”

Please remember self-care and self-love. Noni remembers a time where she was “trying to be too much for other people.” She recognized this and asked herself, “Do I feel like this is nurturing me? Do I feel like I have a chance to be still? Do I have a chance to rest? Am I grateful for what I am doing? Do I feel appreciated?”

If you answered NO to any of these questions, remember, it’s okay to take a step back. “It is important to be mindful of the balance.”

What does being yourself mean to you?

“I think for me, being yourself is finding the self-love and finding the self-confidence to not be afraid to live how you want to live.”


From Noni.

“To people who once liked math but feel like maybe at some point you got away from it because we have this huge stigma against math especially in this country, especially for women. If you feel like you have an interest in something or a passion in something, don’t let somebody tell you it is not for you or that space isn't for you. Discover for yourself, see if the space is for you for yourself.”

From Noni’s mom who we casually ran into at the coffee shop we met at.

On the topic of authenticity “if you are going to be present, you may as well be you. There is only one of you, you don’t need to be anyone else. If you are being true to yourself, then you are authentically showing up and everyone else gets to experience you in that way. And it also helps reinforce that you know who you are and you start to trust your gut more often.”