Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”.
This was evident to me when I was laid off. After participating in multiple interviews, for multiple positions, with multiple companies, my employment efforts remained unsuccessful. Interviewers seemed shocked and reluctant to believe my resume was accurate. My history of managing a multi-million dollar portfolio was discussed as if the statement was a complete fabrication. My background of supervising a team of 23 employees was viewed with skepticism. It wasn’t my qualifications; it wasn’t my interviewing skills. Clearly, there was some barrier in front of me that created this obstacle.
During my career I’ve noticed subtle – yet blatant – differences between myself and my colleagues.
While in one role, I learned my peers were given corporate credit cards for business related expenses, while I was expected to use my own funds and request reimbursement. Although I had more experience than many of my peers, after filling the role for over twelve months, all other managers completed multiple trips to visit and train clients. I, on the other hand, was offered zero on-site opportunities due to “funding challenges”. This unequal treatment left me feeling frustrated. Do I give up? Should I accept things as they are? These questions were on my mind on a weekly basis.
And whether it's race, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, or any number of other things beyond your control, chances are you too have experienced similar situations. After reaching out to one of my former managers, she said something I’d heard as a child, but hadn't applied to my adult life. She said, “As a black man, sometimes you’ll need to work twice as hard”.
This wasn’t to discourage me. Rather, she was calling out the world I live in and what may be necessary for me to advance my career to the next level. This mentor sparked a fire under me which grew into a blazing flame. I started arriving to the office 30 minutes early, dressed in slacks and casual shirts while my peers wore jeans and t-shirts. As new projects were introduced, I was always the first to raise my hand to volunteer. No matter how much was on my plate, I always asked for more to be placed on top. This lead to me working after hours and seven days a week. I was determined to get recognized by any means necessary.
With my dedication and extra effort, I became the brightest light in the room. No longer could anyone ignore my shine or overlook me. These actions led to a substantial promotion I wouldn’t have received otherwise.
With my dedication and extra effort, I became the brightest light in the room. No longer could anyone ignore my shine or overlook me. These actions led to a substantial promotion I wouldn’t have received otherwise. These actions also negatively impacted my personal life. Even with the raise in salary, I later learned my new rate was still lower than some of my counterparts. But I was making progress toward equality.
These were just some of my experiences. And I am well aware that professional black women like my colleagues Wendy Marshall and Hollyn Forney face added complexity due to their intersectionality (belonging to more than one minority group) as black women. Statistics show that women face ongoing gender pay gaps in comparison to their male counterparts, and their progress toward gaining overall equality in corporate America is slower as well.
It was because of my experiences – and the experiences of Wendy and Hollyn – that we successfully launched the newest SyBER ERG (Symantec Black Employee Resource Group) chapter at the Tempe, AZ site in September of 2018. SyBER's vision is to create, develop, and maintain a dynamic environment where Black employees and other minorities can cultivate and grow their professional careers. Prior to our launch, only two SyBER chapters at Symantec sites existed – in Mountain View, CA and Herndon, VA. Clearly there was a demand for more. Following our inaugural meeting, 40 Tempe employees saw the value of having a SyBER chapter on site and requested to join the group.
ERGs are critical to eliminating hurdles like those I experienced, and they help to ensure that our workplace is more equal.
For those who are unfamiliar with ERGs at Symantec, they are targeted at various minority groups that represent the global personnel of the organization. The Symantec Black Employee Resource Group (SyBER) supports African-Americans, and reports indicate that it is sorely needed, with Black employees making up only 2% of the tech workforce versus 12% of the broader US workforce. It’s Symantec’s vision to improve this metric as well as similar metrics for other groups – such as women and Latinos. The goals of ERGS are to increase the employee diversity of the company while following four areas of focus: workforce, workplace, marketplace, and community. ERGs are critical to eliminating hurdles like those I experienced, and they help to ensure that our workplace is more equal.
To date, there have been many SyBER Tempe events I’m proud of, but some truly resonate in my heart. The SyBER organization, in partnership with UNCF, hosted a Tech Summit at our Mountain View campus where 100+ students from various HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) learned about Symantec’s footprint in the cyber security industry and the importance of what we do. Responding to attendees' questions and sharing my journey with them was truly rewarding. It was also great to drive the Symantec brand awareness to a demographic that may not have known that this is a great place to work.
Also, in Tempe – in a new partnership with the United Food Bank – we organized a canned food drive, which collected hundreds of non-perishable donations for poverty-stricken citizens of the Phoenix area during the holiday season and beyond. Community philanthropy and volunteering is something I’m passionate about on a personal level and as a representative of Symantec.
As we look to the coming calendar year, I’m excited at the events we have planned to help drive the focus of the SyBER ERG. Stay tuned for exciting updates on how we are increasing diversity in the workplace and helping the communities in our local area.
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