The pandemic rocked many of our lives in ways we could never have imagined. For Anu, a Global HR Consultant from Nigeria who started at Shell UK in the height of lockdown, it was more than that. It was the jumpstart she needed to truly be herself at work.
BYP: Tell us about your journey
Anu: I am the last in a family of seven. I am lucky to have people I can look up to, from my late gramps, my parents, and siblings who consistently break barriers, so I know it’s possible. I received my first degree in Nigeria and worked with a multinational that exposed me to experiences and projects that prepared me for a global career.
Having only moved to the UK in 2017, I am as Nigerian as it gets. The loud music, love for food, ambition, sarcasm, humour, and unexplainable sense of pride. You’ll hear this a lot with people with similar pathways as me, but it was not until I sat in that Masters class at Lancaster University in 2017 did I notice that ‘hey, actually you are black, and this place does not feel like home’.
Since then, it has taken me four years to search for a career environment that remotely reminded me of the inclusive feel I had on my first job. I am still on the journey, but Shell has indeed given me something that makes me genuinely glad to go to work. Knowing that I will do challenging work, but also have the liberty to bring Anu to work, share my humour, my fears, and courageously challenge myself and my colleagues.
BYP: What are some of the challenges you faced when starting your role, and how did you overcome them?
Anu: Imposter Syndrome. You know, everyone typically says they feel this, but I think it’s even on another level as a black woman. I worked on significant projects, even landed a promotion in my previous role and was recognized for some excellent work, but still felt like I was not supposed to be here. How dare me.
I started my role in the pandemic, and right in the middle of a big restructuring process at Shell. However, the support I received from my team and leader remains one of my anchoring moments in the organization. The honesty, the support and the fact that I felt like I was seen. With imposter syndrome, you need to silence it with your brag sheet, and my team, without knowing, helped me build that brag sheet, every feedback, virtual tap on the back, encouragement, we are in this together soon silenced the loud noise.
Shell is a global organisation, so virtual working and seeing black colleagues on calls, posts, and chats made me feel like I am part of a community of like-minded people who understand my perspective and have had similar journeys.
BYP: What were some of the misconceptions you had concerning your field/chosen?
Anu: I remember telling someone I was starting a career in Shell, and they gave me the “look”, “Why are you joining a company that has …. (insert all the headlines you can find here.)” However, I knew that Shell was reinventing itself, which was enough motivation for me.
If an organisation of over 100 years could be a learner and challenge its norms, there must be something there that enables people to thrive. The release of the Powering Progress Strategy last year was the first time I had seen any organisation invest so much time to communicate and immerse its people in its strategy. Many things about the strategy excites me, but the top of the list is the realisation that people and partnerships is at the centre of the change we desire for our planet through the energy transition
The strategy commits to power progress by supporting an inclusive society and inclusive organization. An organization that creates an environment where everyone can learn from each other’s unique perspectives and deliver outstanding results together. Seeing that clearly stated in the strategy was inspiring.
BYP: What does changing the Black narrative look like to you?
Anu: Changing the narrative for me is showing up excellently and ensuring that I do not damage the chances of the next black person. This does not mean sitting pretty and silent; it means always putting my best foot forward, lending my voice, challenging courageously, and fostering relationships that I and others can leverage. This does not mean I cannot make mistakes, but what I do with those mistakes makes the difference. As a Nigerian, this also means keeping the integrity of my name and changing the perception of the motherland.
BYP: Are there any podcasts, webinars, or series that have inspired you that you would recommend to our network members?
Anu: The Last Dance Documentary on Michael Jordan’s life. It reinforces the importance of excellence and hard work if anyone desires the kind of success MJ had.
To learn more about Shell or to apply for their available opportunities please visit their BYP jobs board here.