Aleah Robbins
Owner/Creative Director
Left Brain Creative Group

Did you choose print or did print choose you?

Print choose me before I even knew it! I was always fascinated with creating and reverse engineering things as a kid. I remember being curious about why there were 4 colored dots on almost every piece of packaging that I picked up. Still, those were pre-Google, and none of the adults I knew could give me a satisfactory answer. I’ve always enjoyed the process from design to print, but I wasn’t aware that the industry even existed. Like any good relationship, I also had to choose print! After going down a couple of different career paths, in my mid-twenties, I found myself laid off from a high-level accounting job. I took that time to make a pivot in my career and focus on more of the things I enjoyed. I accepted an entry-level accounting position at a print shop to get back on my feet. Still, I never stopped talking about my passions and interests. The owners of the shop saw how curious I was about graphics and the production process and gave me shot working in Prepress. The prepress manager at the time was planning to retire, wanted to train someone to take over Color Management for the shop, and thought I would be a good fit. With that opportunity, I dove headfirst into the world of print and color management, and I havenʼt looked back since!

How do you establish credibility with customers, colleagues and bosses?

Establishing credibility in the workplace and in the print industry was a unique challenge for me, as with most women. On the one hand, we know that our knowledge and life experiences extend to us being phenomenal leaders in the workplace. On the other, we are often left to deal with crippling self-doubt and struggle to make sure our voices are heard and valued. Although I studied day and night and was taking on increasingly challenging projects, there was still a voice inside that would question, ‘Is this enough? ʼ That led me to doubt the work I was doing and not speak up when I needed to. It wasnʼt until I started intentionally working on my mindset that my perspective changed. I realized that, yeah, I might be green in this particular role; however, I was not at all new to working hard and getting results. A lot of us are already extraordinarily credible and knowledgeable about what we do, its more a matter of getting out of our own way and leaning into our greatness! We have to win the war inside our minds first to tackle the equality issues we find in the workplace. Here is where the Girls Who Print platform is so valuable. It allows us an opportunity to come together in community in with other women and amplify our voices in a safe space. This then affords us the confidence to walk in and speak our truths to colleagues, employers, and customers.

What advice can you offer regarding negotiating salary raises/ addressing fair pay issues?

Negotiating salaries and wages is a tough situation to navigate, as a black woman in a male-dominated industry. My advice is to be diligent about your research and be a constant advocate of transparency as it relates to wages. The unspoken rule about not talking about the money we make is crippling and does not work to our benefit. Know your worth and be willing to walk away if your request to be appropriately compensated is denied. I know how scary that can be, given that the majority of us are also caretakers in some capacity. However, remaining in a space that devalues your efforts is damaging to your self-worth. Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself!

What advice did you receive early on in your career that you wish you had followed?

A combination of “Do what you love” and “Trust the journey” Growing up in North Philadelphia, there was always this feeling of, “I have to make it out. I have to go to the best school and pick the hardest major, so I can graduate and make as much money as possible to take care of my family”. I tried that, I decided to do the things that a “smart” girl would do. None of that served me! It wasnʼt until I leaned into the things that I really loved doing that I found the joy and happiness I thought would come from chasing what I was ‘supposedʼ to do. Although it took a lot of turns and redirections, I feel I ended up right where I needed to be.