What is a personal quote/mantra you uphold to help you thrive in your career?
“Never work hard, always strive to work smarter”. Earlier in my career I assumed the more hours you put in working yourself to the ground the more credit you would receive for all the efforts you put it, but that simply isn’t true at all. To my detriment it meant that I was sacrificing my mental and physical health and it never accounted to greater overall success. It’s important to understand the why behind what you do because it gives you more perspective, which should lead to better discernment. Also, it’s important to document all the accomplishments you have achieved and sing your own praises too. When I started getting more comfortable mentioning in meetings or to Senior staff what I had accomplished confidently, I would find out later that my name was being spoken highly in rooms I wasn’t in.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with imposter syndrome?
I used to struggle with this a lot, but essentially if you do not believe you deserve a seat at the table, then who else will? Sure, this isn’t something you can learn overnight and for me, it took a long time to be more comfortable with the fact that not only do I deserve to be here, but I have worked hard in my career to afford me with the immense experience and knowledge. What I have learned along the way is if you don’t document your achievements down (especially with metrics) it’s difficult to determine why you were placed in certain rooms, or positions, so to speak. Also, I think for most black people hearing that you “have to work twice as hard” as your counterparts growing up, plants a seed of doubt and that your 100% is never enough, and I think that is a damaging rhetoric to speak over impressionable young minds. Granted there are clear disparities socio-economically, but you have to speak affirmations over your life and speak up when you have accomplished great things- the more you start to get used to hearing yourself speak on your own accolades, the more comfortable you become voicing this to other people and that’s a force to be reckon with.
How important is Black role model visibility within the workplace?
This is very important because representation matters. More so when Black role models are in higher aspirational positions of power, this may reinstate the idea that the glass ceiling can be broken. It’s also important to note that those in higher positions of power need to “keep the lift door open” by mentoring younger or more junior staff on how to gain the resources to get to these positions and continue the healthy cycle, by doing so, you’ll start to see the birth of more representation across the board. More often than not, many corporations will release their D&I statistics and surprise surprise the majority of their black employees are most likely in junior positions, or on the off chance, one being in a managerial position but it’s rare to see representation in senior positions (on the board, CEO, Head of etc), where your voice is more likely to hold weight when it comes to real decision making within the company.
Name two of your top role models and how they inspire you?
My mum was a true inspiration to me. Despite having to raise 3 children, she was consistently driven to achieve her goals and dreams and determined to make them happen. Growing up, she spoke great words of wisdom and encouragement into me, and I’m grateful for that because it allowed me to be more forthright with taking the leap and going for what I want in my career. I have inherited (or learned) her tenacity to aim higher for myself and know that even if a particular route to where I want to be in my life is more resistant, I can always pivot. Things are not always linear and that’s ok.
Another person that I’m inspired by who is similar in age, is Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe better known as Melissa’s Wardrobe. Her sheer authenticity makes her truly relatable, and I love her audacity, I want to see myself and more Black women have that sense of conviction in us, especially when securing the bag and walking into particular rooms that can open the doors to more opportunities!
I’m always in awe by her journey to continual success and her candidness about it all too; essentially betting on yourself can be not only the most perceived riskiest thing but also the biggest payoff, and Melissa has demonstrated that time and time again.
What are some of the ways people can illustrate their allyship concerning Diversity and Inclusion?
If we’re being completely honest, there has been a lot of virtue-signally during and post-pandemic and it has done more harm than good. We are living in a time where there is an abundance of highly skilled and talented young, Black professionals who just need a foot in the door. Mentorship is really important too, going to schools, colleges/sixth-forms, and universities to hold initiatives there will not only open students to representation but also learn and build organic networks. Also allies who are privy to opportunities that they are afforded to simply based on privilege should make a conscientious effort to turn down opportunities (if it’s not right for them, no matter the financial compensation) and offer those within the Black community who are a great fit for those same opportunities- the same can go for within the community too.
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