During COVID19 pandemic I’ve had time to reflect on past, enjoy my present, and dream about my future as I’m sure you’re no different. Additionally, the black community has seen the long-time fight against racism, police brutality and social injustices exacerbated just in 2020 alone. As I’ve had to continue to show up to work, even virtually, I keep thinking about an article I read entitled The Support You Need To Give Your Black Employees Today by Matt Bush. He states “One of the hardest things to do, especially if you’re Black, is witnessing these events, taking this trauma, and then trying to show up to work the next day and trying to act like you care about what Client X is doing about communication.”
Black employees in corporate America have the ugly responsibility of carrying trauma to work all while focusing on advancing within the workplace and fight racial ceiling. Oh, make sure you have that smile on as well!
So in my reflection here’s what I’ve learned during my journey as a black employee in corporate America in 2020.
- Your Network is Your Net Worth
I’m not quite sure where I heard this phrase, but it’s always stuck with me. My entire career and the opportunities I’ve experienced along the way have been the result of intersections between my networks. The old African proverb still stands strong, it takes a village. Personally and professionally I’ve benefited from having a solid network. Engaged, reliable, and diverse individuals who’ve sometimes unknowingly added to my worth in essential spaces. Which in a world where black women make $.62 to $1 compared to white men and even still lower compared to white and Asian women accordingly to LeanIn.org. is extremely important.
- Everything Is An Opportunity
We’ve read and heard the journeys of so many celebrities – Collin Kaepernick, The Obamas, and Muhammad Ali are some of the few that are dear to me. One thing that stands out within each of their stories, is that these individuals used everything as an opportunity to build their dream. Your opportunities aren’t built with the things you don’t have, their built with the things you do have. Which historically has been the position of Black America. Forced to be innovation, turning nothings into somethings. In the wake of 2020’s harsh reality, I realize that this is still a time where the black community needs to use everything as an opportunity. Not for just for individual gain, but for the greater good of the entire group.
- Time Is Essential
Oprah Winfrey one of the most known talk show hosts, entrepreneurs and philanthropists always begins her podcasts SuperSoul Conversations with this statement – “I believe the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time. Taking time to be more fully present. Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the world around us starts right now.” I frequently think of this phrase as I’m considering how I spend my 9am – 5pm and 5pm-9pm. No matter where you’re at in your career time is essential. When we fail to realize that early in our career the concept may be close in knowledge but far in practice. Apply for that job, take that vacation, join that board, read that book. It all matters, and it matters when being and brining your best self to work.
- Take Notes
For many years, and even now I’ve been asked to be the note taker. Now there’s a few reasons this comes to mind: youngest employee, newest employee and some invitations by mentors. Nevertheless, being the note taker created a space for me to give and receive. Some found my worth and receiving copious organized notes, yet I saw my worth in having the exposure to executive level agenda’s. These agendas would inspire me to make some bold moves. Being a black employee sometimes means being a position of observation before implementation. This sometimes, is what I believe as our seat at the table.
Corporate America will mark 2020 as the ultimate year of change. The year where the companies evaluated processes around hiring, training, culture, and even effectiveness. Yet, my hope is that as corporate America is doing this, so is Black America. Ultimately, I want what we’ve learned and felt this year to be a driving force to change. I hope as you’re reading this it encourages you the write down some of your leadership learnings too.
For the greatest lessons on leadership doesn’t come from comfort but from leaning into discomfort.