Project BFF sat down with Felicia Jadczak, Co-CEO, Co-Founder, and Head of Training at She+ Geeks Out, to talk about the friendships in her life.
Project BFF: Tell us a memorable experience with a friend when you were younger. Why has that always stuck with you?
Felicia: When I was in high school, I didn’t really have a very tight knit group of friends or very many friends at all. So, part of my process when I went to college was to deliberately look for a school where I didn’t really know anyone, or people from my high school would not be also applying to. I wanted a fresh start. I was very socially awkward, very shy and still figuring out who I was.
I attended Haverford College, a Quaker institution, a really lovely place. In my first couple of weeks, I there was this other girl on my hallway named Huma. I had been setting up my dorm room and putting my things away. I love to read; especially at that point in time, at 18 years old, I was a voracious reader. I’m into sci-fi and fantasy novels and was reading two series: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. She came into my room, saw my books, and got really excited. She had read and loved The Wheel of Time and was in the process of reading Game of Thrones.
I thought she was super cool and very put together—a lot of things that I was not. And then to realize that she also really liked the same things that I liked…we kind of nerded out about it together. It was such a a bonding moment for me. She is still such a good friend in my life today. That story really sticks out to me just because it was one of the first times that I really felt truly accepted for the things that I liked, without having to pretend to be someone that I wasn’t. And to realize that I could connect with someone else on goofy books and nerdy things that I was really excited about.
Project BFF: Social media was touted as a way to keep us connected. What is the impact you see that it’s had on friend relationships?
Felicia: I consider myself an elder millennial, so I’m right on the cusp of the internet age and social media coming into play. I still very much remember growing up without even having a telephone, (obviously we had a regular land line, but not having a cell phone). And I didn’t have a computer or internet until high school. In terms of social media, I definitely remember very vividly graduating from college, and then seeing a couple of platforms already out there, then Facebook came along and it was very exclusive at first. I had a friend who had gotten on Facebook and she said, “You should get on this because it’s the cool new thing.”
The rise of social media came at a really good time because I had just left the structure of college with seeing my friends every day, 24/7. To go from that to not seeing them and not having the same kind of ways to connect, social media was a really nice way to maintain a lot of those relationships.
Now, almost 20 years later, I’m still settling into what social media means in terms of my friend relationships. These platforms are certainly a surface level way to stay connected with people. I think in previous generations, you would go back home for a high school reunion or a college reunion, and that’s how you would keep up with people; or if you lived in the same town or in the same area. Now, I feel like I know what most of the people that I grew up with are up to these days. But on the flip side, I do think it creates a false sense of intimacy where you feel like just because you may like someone’s post or their tweet or their Instagram or Facebook, whatever it might be, that that’s the same as having a deeper, more meaningful interaction.
Especially with the pandemic this last year, I’ve seen the whole range of it, where there are some people that I never interact with in terms of my friends, except beyond a retweet, or a like or response to a post. That’s fine, because that’s all it can be, a way for us to stay in touch. There are other people I’ve reconnected with through social media.
Like a person I know from high school, (we weren’t even that friendly in high school), we’ve been in touch, and stayed connected through the years. I went to a private girls school, with about 40 girls from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. I wasn’t super friendly with most of them because I was very shy, very nerdy on the outside. At the same time I’ve known her since I was seven years old, so there is a history there.
She’s currently in New York, I’m in the Boston area. She rescues cats in her backyard and, long story short, I ended up adopting one of her backyard cats this past summer. We met up very socially distant, pandemic safely, and now I have this cat. We joke that he’s from the “mean streets of New York”. He’s delightful addition to our family.
It turns out that she is a professional photographer, and I asked if she knew anyone taking photos in Boston because I was getting married in the fall of 2020, even though it wasn’t going be the sort of wedding that we originally thought it would be. She came up from New York and did the photos for my wedding. To me, that is the best of everything when it comes to social media and reconnecting and friendships.
I’m not that I’m looking for that kind of experience with every single person I’m connected with. But it’s an example of the possibilities and why we stay connected, and then of course, there’s other friends where I’ve totally lost contact and I’m friends and connected with them, but we may have a phone call and then realize, Oh, I need more than just the like or the scrolling through.
Project BFF: How do your friends feel about your mission/career? How do they support you and your work?
Felicia: They are so supportive. My friends are my biggest supporters out there beyond family. I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that the majority of my friends saw the progression of everything with building She+ Geeks Out. The friends I had before I got into this line of work, or who I met at our first meet-up, or were there at that first meet-up—it’s been really lovely seeing how much passion from other people for something that is my passion project.
One of the other really nice things has been as She+ Geeks Out has grown and evolved over the years and transitioned from being a side hobby project to my main focus, and now I’m supporting other people and running an actual business, it’s been great to not only have my friends as my champions and be able to share this with them, but they’re connecting me with resources they think can be helpful. And on the flip side, it’s been great to see some of my friends being helped by what I’m doing—being part of the community, getting jobs, making new friends. That has been really awesome because it’s something that’s not just siloed for a certain group of people. This is my dream, to support a wide range of people, including my friends.
Project BFF: What is the silliest thing you and a friend have ever done together?
Felicia: I went to business school at Boston University and have really good friends from those days. We were on a class team together working on a project for our operations class. We picked Newbury Comics, which sells a wide range of things beyond comic books. We asked our teacher, “How can we get a good grade in your class?” He said, “Entertain me.”
We took that to heart. We bought a couple things from Newbury Comics for our final project, just to have props and show what they sell. One of the things we ended up buying was a plastic figurine, probably about the size of a volleyball. It is a gnome, bent over with his pants pulled down to show his bare butt. We adopted him as team mascot, and named him Dr. Poopy McGnome. We created a Facebook profile for him, complete with his birthday and the educational institutions he attended—the rest of the class was friending him and interacting with him.
When the first couple in our team got married, after we graduated, we brought Poopy with us. There were some shenanigans at the wedding and we left him with that couple. That started the tradition where every time someone else from the team got married, they would become the recipients of taking care of him. I was the most recent person to get married, though I have not received him yet. He’ll be on his way at some point in the future. I had to explain to my husband that if it weren’t for the pandemic, Poopy would already be here in our house somewhere.
We are now down to one person left to get married and that person is in Thailand, so we’ll see how that works. I graduated grad school in 2011, we have been doing this group thing for 10 years!
Project BFF: If you could be friends with one famous woman (alive now), who would that be? Why?
Felicia: Lizzo, because I very much admire her. I first became aware of her several years ago when she was a guest on a podcast. I was impressed with what she was talking about. She’s a singer and a public figure, and they were talking about issues related to a lot of the work that I do, diversity equity, and racial justice. She had some really wonderful insights, and it was an interesting conversation. That’s how I first got to know her and her music, and then I started to follow her and have watched her career grow over the years. I rarely feel like this happens, but I felt like I got in before she became really popular. I also very much admire the fact that she’s a Black fat woman who is out there, unapologetically.
Her message has a lot to do with body positivity and loving yourself and taking pride in who you are, and I very much admire that. Those are things I struggle with myself, in terms of understanding who I am and how I’m showing up in the world. I know no one’s got it all figured out, but she’s got a really a positive force to her, and I would love to be a closer friend with her.
A funny little side story, my husband actually met her two years ago. He used to work as the marketing manager for Chicken & Rice Guys. He was at their Medford restaurant and she was doing a show somewhere in Boston. I think they got lost and she just rolled on up into the restaurant in the afternoon one Friday and ordered a bunch of chicken and rice. I was running a diversity training, and I happened to look at my phone during a break and I had a text from him: “I’m pretty sure Lizzo is in my restaurant. Should I take a picture with her?” And I’m frantically typing back, “Yes, do it!” So, there is a picture of them together; that’s my closest point of being friends with her. That’s pretty close though!
Project BFF: What advice would you give your 12 year old self about making friends throughout your life? Your 21 year old self?
Felicia: To my younger self before the age of 21, I would probably say not to worry, you’ll make friends. And, just be yourself. I know that seems trite in many ways, but it’s been so true. I felt like for a lot of my early childhood in terms of trying to make friends, I was trying to fit in with a group or a clique, trying to be someone that I thought other people wanted me to be. If I could go back and do it over again, I would just be myself and not worry about it.
To a slightly older version of myself, my 21-year-old self … I would probably say don’t force yourself to change, to fit in; I feel like that was a theme for me. I’m 39 now and I’ve changed so much since that point in time. One of the things that I’ve been really grateful for is that I feel that the more I really understand about who I am and put it out there in the world, the better it is for everything and everyone.
I feel more secure. And I’m attracting the kind of people who I want to be friends with, who I want to be in my orbit. It is a very positive experience as opposed to an experience that’s more limiting. I’m not saying that I wasn’t meeting great people or having good experiences, but it was a narrower definition of who I was.
Project BFF: Any other thoughts about friendship you would like to share?
Felicia: I’ve been thinking so much about friendship lately. It’s March 2021, that’s a huge marking point for a lot of changes. Just the other day, I realized I haven’t talked to some people in ages. I don’t talk to anybody anymore because my world has shrunk in so much. So, I literally went through my phone and texted maybe seven or eight people, almost like it was a dating app. How’s it going? What are you up to?
Not every single person responded, which is totally fine, but a lot did respond. And with a few people, it led to a deeper connection. With one, I ended up having a two-hour long conversation with one of my very dear friends, one of the women from grad school who helped create Dr. Poopy McGnome. I love her to death. I hadn’t talked to her in probably two years, beyond a happy birthday text here and there.
It was just so soul filling to be able to ease back into that. What I loved about it—and I think this is a measure of a level of friendship you only have with certain people—is that we just slid right back into it as if we’d been in constant contact for the past however many years. At the end of the conversation, we both remarked that it was so wild, we haven’t talked in so long and it doesn’t feel like it and it wasn’t awkward. It really built me up, and has helped me feel a lot better about being in this point in the year and in time. That’s the kind of energy I’m really hoping to kind of continue to bring.
Felicia is Co-CEO, Co-Founder, and Head of Training at She+ Geeks Out. Felicia Jadczak is a recognized voice in the diversity and inclusion field. She worked in the technology industry for over ten years, specializing in the creation and development of innovative programs and solutions. She has extensive experience in providing strategic guidance for diversity and inclusion across cross-functional teams.In 2016 she pivoted to focus solely on She+ Geeks Out. Felicia runs sales and business development, is the lead diversity and inclusion facilitator, and works closely with Co-CEO Rachel Murray on strategy and corporate programming on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Felicia received a BA in Comparative Literature (French, English) from Haverford College. She holds an MBA and a Masters in Information Systems from the Questrom School of Business at Boston University and is also the recipient of Georgetown University’s Certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management. Felicia is the product of an entrepreneurial family and continues that tradition with her work on She+ Geeks Out. Felicia loves street art, fitness and wellness, wine and french fries.