As we continue to grapple with the current visual representations of racial injustice, I am eager to write something that will leave a smile on your face. My story is one of hope, one to inspire, and one to remind you that you are not alone in this battle. Although you may feel unseen, unheard, or alone, I am here to remind you that, despite the pervasive racial divide plaguing this country, the black community has the power to uplift its members. As a community, we are strong, determined, and limitless in our potential. And, I am honored to share with you how our brilliant black community has positively impacted my life with the hope that it will inspire you to tap into or build your network.
When my boss, the CEO of TechFides, asked me to share my experiences as a black woman in the corporate world, I felt unfit for the job. Unlike many of you reading this post today, my plight with racial injustice did not begin until I moved to the U.S. about a decade ago. I grew up in Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean filled with an abundance of love, peace, and joy. At nineteen, I embarked on the journey to the U.S. to pursue better educational opportunities and to experience life outside of my beautiful island. I have had a plethora of life-changing experiences living in the U.S.; it is where I met my loving and devoted husband, created new alliances, and became a more independent person. But even with these transformative moments, I faced numerous obstacles, mainly due to the color of my skin, my gender, and my nationality. On multiple occasions, I felt defeated, frustrated, and thought of returning home to the life I knew would be the best option for me. However, as bumpy as my journey has been, alongside every bump was a member of our community who helped me navigate my professional endeavors.
Whether you realize it or not, there is always someone looking out for you within the corporate world. While completing my MBA, I struggled to find companies that were willing to hire an international student. Just when I was about to give up, I had a life-changing conversation with a family friend who I consider my uncle, who instilled newfound confidence within me. My uncle has fought and won the same battles I have faced and had no doubt that I could do the same. He, a black Caribbean man, has successfully climbed the ranks in the U.S. His belief in my ability to overcome the obstacles and self-doubt was profound and reassuring. That is when I realized I WAS NOT ALONE in this. I urge you to reach out to the family, friends, old coworkers, professors, or anyone who you can talk to in order to build your network. For me, that’s my uncle. He helped me set career goals and connected me with others in the business field who have similar career interests, which opened up professional opportunities for me.
One of those opportunities was connecting with another black man, who was the first person to hire me as an intern. Securing my internship was the first hurdle and, coupled with hard work, that experience allowed me to secure a job, which was the opportunity I needed to stay in the U.S. to further my career. How? All because another black man believed in me and reminded me that I WAS NOT ALONE.
Fast forward to today, working for a black CEO, once a mentor, and now my boss, who saw my potential, work ethic, and drive that I still don’t recognize but thank God for every day. He saw enough in me for him to not only mentor me for years but hire me to work for his company. How did that happen? Yes, hard work, yes, long nights and lots of effort but most importantly, because he believed in my ability and again I was reminded, I WAS NOT ALONE.
I’ve worked extremely hard to be in the position I am in today, but it would be in vain if I never thanked those who came before me to pave the way. Those black men and women who took the risks despite their own obstacles, and then looked back at people like me and said, “follow this trail, you can do it”. In such an awful time, I know it is easy to feel unheard or forgotten, and I encourage you to keep the conversation flowing with everyone especially those of other races. You may be surprised that the most influential woman in my corporate life was a previous white boss turned friend. I also want to remind you to find a safe place within the undeniably brilliant black community through networking. If you take away nothing else from my story, I want you to remember this: 1) even though you may not always see it, there are multiple successful brothers and sister climbing the corporate ladder, so be inspired; 2) tap into or build your network with people who inspire you; and most importantly 3) YOU ARE NOT ALONE, there is someone looking out for you that has experienced your struggle and understand your pain.