Note from WIRe in Color program chair Marion Elliott: "The purpose of this new blog series is to capture the unique experiences, expertise, and perspectives of the global WIRe in Color community as they happen. Reflecting on last year and this one, one cannot help but to remember that our lives have been changed forever. Equity, Inclusion and belonging remain at the forefront of discussions. Adjacent to those is Change, Advocacy, and Growth. As a member of the Market Research and Insights community I encourage others to speak, listen, and share their knowledge and experiences. The importance of this blog is to offer another medium for knowledge and culture share. This is an opportunity to spearhead change and promote growth within and outside our industry. We will continue to network, host our webinars, and connect globally. Feel free to share your stories on impactful studies, martech, and your experience or thoughts on change in our industry. Share our blog and encourage others to submit."
Working in Tech, I often witness the disparity in confidence between men and women. When I first started mentoring recent graduates, women of color primarily, I quickly realized that role models are needed long before entering the workforce. Therefore, I found a program to work with female high school students and help instill a sense of confidence and ambition early on, that would be a force to be reckoned with. Understanding the many ways in which we can influence others, I strive to be purposeful in my actions. This reflection is especially important, navigating the complexities of a global pandemic, while raising children and balancing a demanding career. Accepting that, helps me to stay humble, have faith in myself and what I can accomplish and pay it forward.
I advise my mentees and work closely with them to build self-confidence, break down goals and design actionable plans to achieve them. I make sure that they understand that there is nothing ordinary about their intellect, drive and accomplishments, especially at such a young age. At first I thought I would share lessons learned and inspire from my experiences. I did not know that I would be so inspired and learn so much from them – it is truly a two way street. Keeping in mind all those I have mentored and influenced, I always think of my next challenge that will showcase the rewards of hard work and aiming high. I emphatically try to lead by example, sharing personal experiences with all the highs and lows.
For example, during my first maternity leave, I accepted an Adjunct Professor role to teach an introductory course on innovative product development. To succeed, I made several sacrifices, but the experience was both exhausting and energizing. Teaching a three hour course weekly, after a full day of work, pumping and the long commute took its toll. However, working with such a diverse group of students, exploring their creativity with centering humans in technology development and learning from them kept me going. The students were highly engaged, impressed with my commitment and felt invigorated to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. As the semester ended, at work, I was asked to take over a new account at work and lead a cross functional team to define strategy, product vision, user / product research, the technical architecture and roadmap for the client’s new mobile app. The assignment required travel which would have been difficult with a young child. However, as one of a handful of black women in the organization, I saw it more as an opportunity to demonstrate my talent, composure and ability to lead in complex situations. Thus, I arranged for my family to come to help with my daughter and have a bit of a vacation. Meanwhile, my all-male team had the rare opportunity to witness firsthand how a new mother could lead and excel with the many responsibilities. These are the kinds of stories that help my mentees become comfortable with ambiguity and driven to show off their talent.
I believe the world needs to see more people, especially women and minorities, who dare to dream big, are willing to make tough decisions and go through the unglamourous aspects of bringing those dreams into fruition. We cannot change the world in a day, but we can take steps to support and empower each other to set off a chain reaction of inspiration and achievements. I have watched my mentees mature into confident young women seizing bold opportunities to challenge themselves and build their skills. Together, we push each other to be our best selves, stay motivated and realize new potential. If you are wavering back and forth about embracing a challenge, consider this your sign to go for it - after all, you never know who you may inspire!