An executive, a publisher, a minister, an advocate. Qiana Cressman, director of donor recruitment and development for Miller Keystone Blood Center, is all of these and more.
Despite her success, there were many times during Cressman’s journey that she felt she was either not quite enough or just a little too much. She knew something was missing.
With introspection, Cressman came to realize that holding parts of herself back was limiting. She began to work hard to be authentically herself. She no longer created separate compartments for “the executive,” “the writer,” or “the woman of faith.”
As she integrated, Cressman found that women were responding. She was able to reach and inspire them, something that had always called to her.
She listened hard to that call and added “entrepreneur” to her biography, launching Emerge Woman, a print and digital magazine, in 2018.Designed to inspire and coach women to find their purpose, it has re-energized Cressman.
She recently opened up to LVB about the magazine, her work-life balance and how important it is to be all of who we are.
What inspired you to create Emerge Woman magazine?
I wanted to show women to value their own voice. Many times on my journey I was trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. I wondered how to find the happy medium of being authentically who I am but not stepping on anyone’s toes. What I’ve learned is that the best version of me is 100 percent of me.
I began to look at publications, I wanted to see where women were getting information to get through their process. The professional women who just went through a divorce … if she lost a client, these are real realities, not just the win, but how do you rebound from setbacks? And I wanted to do something for women of color. I didn’t see us represented enough as businesswomen.
With Emerge, I want to provide women with coaching like this, with quality information, with substance. Emerge is a place where they can learn from other strong women who are sharing their own mountains and valleys. I wanted to make Emerge the kind of publication that women won’t throw away, that they will go back to and refer to.
That’s where the name Emerge came from- to inspire women to emerge to their highest self. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You continue to emerge to the next level. Women have taken to it like wildfire.
What do you have to say to the people who claim that “print is dead?”
Print is dead based on the quality of it and how you present it. We sell more print copies than digital. Our covers are dynamic. It’s how you market it. Women love it when they see it.
We have the best of the best working on Emerge. It really is a timeless and transformative publication.
While you will see African American women on the cover, we aren’t just a publication for black women. You will see women of all ethnic groups, of all generations and races.
You’ve mentioned that you kept your full self hidden for too long. What do you mean by that?
I hid that I am a minister for 22 years. I thought it didn’t have a place in the other parts of my life and that I might be judged for it. What I’ve come to realize is that when you are connecting with people, you connect with certain aspects of yourself. Some I connect with as minister, some as a publisher, and some as a nonprofit executive.
As a little girl of color growing up in Philadelphia, writing wasn’t considered a viable career pursuit. I loved to write poems and short stories and share them. But I was encouraged to go into science instead because I was good at it. I sort of pushed writing away, but it always came back up.
I was working in the lab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and would never tell people that I was writing articles on the side, or ministering on the side.
I was living a compartmentalized life because of the requirements of other people’s insecurities and my own. I made a decision to stop compartmentalizing.
Tell me more about your work with the Miller Keystone Blood Center.
Miller Keystone is a nonprofit that serves 29 hospitals with blood products. I am director of donor development and recruitment, which means I am responsible for leading the donor-recruitment team to ensure an adequate flow of eligible donors to meet the demand of the hospitals we serve.
We go in to different demographics and create programs that engage executives and communities, businesses, schools to support Miller Keystone so that we can in turn serve St.Lukes, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Reading Hospital etc. We process the blood that serves cancer patients, premature babies and anyone who needs blood.
I started in the lab at CHOP 17 years ago and that helped lead me here. I use that scientific background to educate, build relationships, and serve as a national advocate for sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia patients are chronically transfused. I do a lot of advocacy.
I’m also on the African American business leaders’ council board of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
When you work in the nonprofit sector, it’s excellent preparation for being many things, including being an entrepreneur. Never do you have just one job, never do you have two jobs, you usually have four to five at once. You learn to master a lot of different things.
Do you still feel uncomfortable talking about your faith in some arenas?
Faith is a part of my life. I was called to ministry at 19 and I grew up in the church. I met my husband, who is also a minister, at a singles in ministry event. My husband said to me, “You have a calling in life. You need to be who you are.”
It’s always going to be a part of who I am and I’ve learned to be open with it.
There was pain in hiding it, knowing that I was called to serve women and hiding that and calling it humility. God showed me that that is not humility. Humility is being bold in your gifts while being guided by wisdom.
How do you balance it all, with so many different pursuits?
I don’t try to compare my life to anyone else and I don’t try to do everything at once. When I see that everything is becoming a little too much, I say ‘OK, where do I need to make an adjustment?’ Life is a series of do-overs.
What balance looks like for you is completely different for the woman next to you. The playing field is not equal because we have different gifts and talents.
That’s why I created Emerge. I didn’t want the stay-at-home mom feeling like her life isn’t just as important as the executive.
People want me to say the decision to launch Emerge was based on analytics or a marketing plan, but it was simply inspiration from God. He told me it was a need for women, women of all faiths and backgrounds. It’s personal and business development. That’s our niche. The niche is important because if you create something for everybody, it won’t be for anybody.
Our motto is “Every woman’s journey matters.”
How do you make time for your marriage?
It’s a learning process. What we have learned is, “better together.” It’s important to constantly communicate.
When we faced storms in whatever area of life, we did it together. Oh it was rough, but we faced it together. We learn together. That way you don’t outgrow each other. You don’t get to 7, 10 years down the road and look at each other and say “Who are you?”
You can’t be in a healthy marriage and not be a healthy version of you. I was raised by a single mom. She had to work a lot of hours and couldn’t always be with me, so she taught me to make responsible decisions on my own and how to take care of myself. It was me and her. We were partners, teammates. I learned how to be independent and take care of myself, and to be on a team at the same time.
My husband and I also have a lot in common and like a lot of the same things. We plan time together and commit to it.
Representing and advocating for women and women of color is very important to you. Have you ever encountered situations where racism or sexism got in your way?
I will say that racism and sexism exist. I’ve faced them here and there. But the main glass ceilings I’ve encountered were in my own mind. Once I took those blockages down, people were interested in me. They wanted the value that I had as a thought leader, ideas that would move the team, the company and the bottom line forward.
When you come into it expecting to win, you become magnetic. If you expect that people are going to marginalize you, you will be marginalized. If you feel limited, you will be limited. When I have a seat at the table and I’m the only one, it’s an honor. But it is an even greater responsibility to hold the door open for those who are going to come behind me. It’s my responsibility to make sure I don’t remain the only one at the table.