Five Hidden Career Lessons in Hidden Figures

The new Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures is a true story about three African American women who worked as “human computers” at the NASA Research Center in Langley, Va. in the early ‘60s: programmer Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), math genius Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). At its core, the film is a powerful reminder of the destructive consequences of discrimination. But it also holds important career lessons about how to manage and excel at work, even under challenging circumstances.

Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer attend the ‘Hidden Figures’ New York Special Screening on December 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Set in the Jim Crow South, the women are subjected to constant racial and gender discrimination. They are denied promotions, forced to use separate, distant bathrooms and are expected to never complain. But if not for the critical contributions of these three, NASA might never have successfully sent John Glenn into orbit.

Here are five key career lessons I gleaned from the film and ones I think could help women and men at work:

1. Be indispensable. At the start of Hidden Figures, the three women are assigned to a larger group of “human calculators” who toil away anonymously in a back room, far away from the more important male scientists. But thanks to their hard work, smarts, dogged determination and prowess, each of the women eventually finds her way to a promotion.

Rather than allow the negativity to defeat them, however, the women do what they can to lift themselves up: they work hard, bond together and find significant ways to contribute that others can’t ignore.

The takeaway: Fortunately, few of us will ever face such extreme conditions at work. But no matter what frustrations you do face, you’ll be happier when you focus on your work, your attitude and your professionalism. As Spencer explained to People and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle in an interview about the film, “No matter what is going on, you have power.”

3. Cultivate a strong support group. One of the more uplifting themes in Hidden Figures is the power of sisterhood. The women depend upon each other for advice, laughter, support and a safe haven from the daily stresses of their lives and workplace.

The takeaway: As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in this essay, “Everyone needs this kind of connection. We need people who encourage us, believe in us, support us, and remind us that we are not alone. For women, this kind of support can be especially important — because, too often, the world tells women what we can’t do.”

4. Look for the greater meaning in your work. Despite all the injustices at their jobs, the women in the film clearly take tremendous pride from their association with NASA. One of my favorite scenes is when Glenn requests that Johnson be the one to double-check NASA’s calculations before the final approval for his lift-off. (The look of surprise on Henson’s face when Glenn asks for her input is priceless). Knowing that her work is vital to the outcome of such an important national mission clearly sustains Johnson, even though her colleagues are shamefully reticent to acknowledge her efforts.

The takeaway: Admittedly, it’s unlikely that you’ll find an employer with a mission quite as grand as NASA. But, meaning can be derived in any number of ways — by having a positive impact on customers; contributing to your community or by offering a much-needed product or service. When you connect with meaning at work, it inspires you to work harder. And that, in turn, leads to better outcomes for you and your employer.

5. Never leave a high-stakes career moment to chance. In one of the most riveting scenes of Hidden Figures, Jackson petitions the Virginia State Court for the right to enroll in engineering classes at the local segregated high school. She makes an impassioned plea to the judge for his help making her the first female engineer at NASA, reminding him that he was the first in his family to join the Armed Forces and to attend college.

“Your Honor,” Jackson says, “Out of all the cases you’re going to hear today, which one is going to matter one hundred years from now? Which one is going to make you the first?”

The judge is clearly swayed by Jackson’s personal appeal and, to the amazement of everyone (including himself), agrees to her request — with the caveat that she only attend night classes.

The takeaway: There are high-stakes moments in every career — job interviews, performance reviews, making important presentations — when careful preparation is a must. So the next time you have a critical career moment like this, do your homework, refine your message and practice relentlessly before making your pitch.

Who knows? Done well, it just might lead to your own Oscar-worthy performance.

Contributor: Nancy Collamer, Contributor, Forbes Online

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Show Patrol Producer hosts BBC Movie Themed Industry Party

Michelle Brooks, the Creative behind Black Women in the Media and Why Should I get Married? is helping the BBC Film club with their annual events, to raise awareness in the Company of all the amazing training Courses, Screenings and Trips on offer to Members.

BBC Film Club has been running as a Charity for many years and previous Screenings include The Hunger Games, Skyfall, and Jack Reacher. Members enjoy concessionary rates on popular Film Events and reduced priced filming equipment to shoot their own mini blockbusters.

Michelle, as an ex-BBC employee has maintained her links to the BBC Film Club for many years as an affiliate member and was excited to be tasked with the challenge. She is their new Events Officer and is hosting trips to Warner Brothers Tour this August as well as Pixar in Concert and Cannes Film Festival 2014.

The BBC Film Club Summer Party

A Cosmopolitan Night for All

This year they hold their first Summer Party- Cocktails and Screens- in a bid to introduce the 2013-2014 Season of events on offer and signal a new direction for the BBC who are keen to embrace their freelancers and affiliates in this exciting and ever changing era of TV and Film.

Any BBC Staff, Freelancers or Affiliates keen to attend please click on the link and Register for your FREE ticket.

All attendees must bring staff passes and printed tickets to avoid embarrassment as security will be tight on the night.


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“Jamaican Pride” Film-maker to feature on OHTV.

This year, in October, after Jamaica has celebrated it’s numerous successes in the London Olympics be prepared to feel the spirit, recognise the amazing talent and share the influence this Island has had on the rest of the world. Produced by Film-maker Michelle Brooks, the power behind the Black Women In the Media series, this amazing and rousing celebration reveals the story behind the lesser known Jamaica, The Events that made 2012 so special and the Pride it’s people have in it’s achievements.

Aimed at raising awareness and inspiring Pride amongst 2nd and 3rd Generation Jamaicans, this film shows the positivity and dynamism that comes from this mighty Nation with Jamaicans reflecting on their feelings towards their motherland at this significant time in history, the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence. Featuring an amazing soundtrack, stirring visuals and captivating anecdotes from famous Jamaicans from all over the world “Jamaican Pride” is a labour of love that guarantees to make you, “Get Up, and Stand Up”.

Displaying the talents of Jamaicans in front of and behind the Camera, the Project is unique in it’s conception and it’s scale and as such is not an easy Project to Produce. Because of this Michelle welcomes support from interested parties who are keen to Support this Project, raise up the infrastructure of this Country and also draw attention to their own brands at the same time.

To find out more and see how you can get involved email 

tweet us @JamaicanPridefilm

or follow our updates on


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Champagne Wedding Reception at Harrods

Wedding Champagne Reception at Harrods

Cedar Events hold a champagne reception at the iconic Harrods Store to celebrate the first night of the 3 day Inspire 101 series of workshops with VIP dream team of award winning wedding industry experts

Amongst the celebrated wedding industry experts are:

Multi Award Winning Yemi Osunkoya of Kosibah Bridal Wear Couturier

Bafta Award Winning Photograher Pippa Mackenzie of Pippa Mackenzie Photography

The Queen Of Cakes & three times winner of Wedding TV’s The Great Cake Bake Elizabeth Solaru of Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium

London‘s well known and established florist William Clarke Flowers
In attendance will be award winning wedding industry experts, fashionistas, bridal editors, bloggers, brides & grooms and futurologists

The evening offers an opportunity to have an enhanced networking experience whilst enjoying a canapés and champagne.
The evening will end with a show around the wedding & event space in Harrods to include points of interest for wedding: Pronovias dresses, Smythson Stationery and the Gift Bureau, Wedding gift list area.

Date: Friday 24th February 2012
Time: 6.30pm

Dress Code: Uber chic




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Michelle Brooks in New Series, February on OH TV


Show Patrol’s Michelle Brooks appears on TV this week, in the new Series Culture Vultures, Exclusively on OH TV Sky Channel 199 for their week long season during the Month of Love.

New to OH TV, Sky Channel 199, ‘Culture Vultures’ is a panel discussion and review show presented by radio personality Rosemary Laryea. Each week, special panel guests pick apart and review new films, music, books, classical art, plays and other trends emerging from the world of Arts and Culture. These Culture Vultures are passionate about identifying exciting, original work and to share their hot picks with you, the viewers. The panel guests on ‘Culture Vultures’ each week will include critics, authors, designers, filmmakers and writers, each with their own eclectic styles and tastes, led by Rosemary, this is sure to be a dynamic show!

Kicking off this season of ‘Culture Vultures’ is a ‘The Culture of Love’ three episode specials consisting of a Valentine’s Day Love Special where guests Relationship Expert Hilton Samuel and Broadcaster Michelle Brooks, who produced ‘Brides and Prejudice’ and ‘Why Should I Get Married’ discuss Valentine’s and The Singleton. Part 2 ‘How to Rekindle Your Relationship’ airs on Friday 18th February 2012 and Part 3 ‘Leap Year and Marriage’ broadcasts on Tuesday 28th February at 7pm 2012.?

Future episodes cover a wide variety of topics such as the Ubuntu International Fashion Project at London Fashion Week, and guest including Carleen De Sozer who is widely regarded as London’s most skilled and diverse Spray Artist and massive Summer box office hit ‘The Inbetweeners’ star Lydia Rose Bewley and many more, so don’t miss this?exciting new programme!

Tuesdays at 7pm, on OH TV Sky Channel 199 and during love week there is an additional episode on Friday 17th February at 7pm 2012.

No Sky? No Problem! Catch us on the OH Box, for more information visit

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