Shmiko Cole – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


From a young age, I knew I didn’t fit into any “box.” I believe that it helped to shape my life mission from an early age.

I am Shmiko, a living mosaic of cultures. Born into a world where my existence is a blend of distinct heritages, I am a living embodiment of how belief systems can come together for a common purpose. It is now my daily mission to be an equitable gatekeeper and use the resilience I learned, breaking through many proverbial glass ceilings to open doors for the new rising stars of today.

My life has been a dance of colors and customs, filled with the intersections of divergent cultures. But this dance has not been without its missteps and stumbles. Code-switching and understanding how to adapt to different situations were critical to finding success on my journey. Words and gestures, so clear in one culture, could become distorted or misinterpreted through the lens of another. I faced stereotypes that tried to confine me within narrow boundaries based on my appearance and the cultural tags I carried. I was often challenged by the weight of expectations, torn between conforming to cultural norms and staying true to my values. I consistently chose the latter and planned my path accordingly. I remember the perplexed looks when I switched languages mid-sentence or merged traditions in unexpected ways. I learned very young to be an effective code mixer, which prepared me well for the challenges I would face in my career.

I entered retail management and the corporate world at a young age. In the 1990s, as a multicultural woman, I was shut out of many opportunities. Daily, I encountered biases, subtle yet persistent, which shaped my connections and career development. Colleagues were unwilling to train or support me, and I had to work twice as hard (or more) to prove my worthiness, time and again. 

“Harmony in Hues” traces my story. I saw firsthand how hard it was for women of color, especially the few of us with multicultural backgrounds, to be heard and to be given opportunities for advancement. I often felt pressured to adopt a singular cultural identity, to blend in rather than stand out. I knew that I had to keep fighting to be listened to and taken seriously in the white and male-dominated work culture. I had to break the glass ceilings, clean up the shards, and open the doors and windows for others like me who weren’t being invited to the proverbial tables.

Yet, in every challenge, I found a hidden opportunity. I refused to let others’ expectations and narrow perceptions of me and those who looked like me hold me and others back. If anything, it made me stronger as I learned to navigate these cultural mazes with resilience and openness. Every misunderstanding became a chance for dialogue, every stereotype a moment to educate, and every expectation I exceeded developed even deeper feelings of stewardship within me. I became committed to paving a smoother path behind me for others to follow.

I challenged societal norms, choosing to live as a testament to the value and added perspectives that diversity brings. Once I began to be heard, I was able to create tangible impacts in the workplace. Yet I still knew I wanted more autonomy and control to create opportunities and support for others I never had.  Now, as a female multicultural business owner of a global company, I intentionally clear the trail for diverse talent to bloom with their skill sets. I consider myself one of the new legacy gatekeepers and take the position seriously. 

Some folks now call what I do in the business world “magic,” but it wasn’t purely alchemy.  My current success, for myself and others, came at the cost of learning how to use my voice and break down prejudiced barriers while maintaining a balanced home life, my physical health, and raising two sons. 

Now, as a CEO and business owner, I can extend the table and add as many chairs as possible. Helping people helps feed my soul and aligns with the sense of purpose I always had as a multicultural person. I went from being gate-kept outside the proverbial palace doors to being a gatekeeper who throws wide the entrances for others and provides support so their skills can be utilized best. Previously, my voice was muffled, but now I can give a voice to the voiceless and provide opportunities to those who previously had few choices.

My journey of self-discovery led me to a profound realization: embracing both sides of my identity is not just an act of balance but a celebration of my unique path. I honor my position as a bridge between many worlds. 

My story is one that I hope resonates with anyone who has ever felt caught between cultures, challenged to find their place in a world with prescribed societal “boxes” for people. My journey illustrates the strength that comes from embracing one’s uniqueness and the resilience it takes to carve paths where no one “like me” has gone before. I am continuously inspired to lead others to success while proudly celebrating their diverse backgrounds. I move forward with the wisdom of what it took to get here… and how much further we have on this journey towards family legacy.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.