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10 Lessons On Authenticity From Jopwell’s Black History Month Event

Estimated reading time ~ 5 min
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Eager professionals of color filled the seats of SeatGeek’s trendy events space. Upon arrival, we asked guests to take a post-it and write down something that they are not doing in 2020 and we’re inspired by the overwhelmingly authentic responses that we received.

“I’m not letting self-doubt affect my work performance.”

“I’m not accepting less than what I’m worth in life, work, relationships, etc.”

“I’m not saying ‘sorry’ when I do not need to apologize.”

“I am no longer second-guessing myself and settling for less in anything, periodt.”

In partnership with SeatGeek and in honor of Black History Month, ‘Working In Living Color’ unpacked common challenges that people of color face during their day-to-day workflow. Conversations surrounding the importance of shifting the workplace narrative, creating environments that focus on productivity, and the overall well-being of people within the workplace were welcomed.

The panel consisted of 5 Black women in the tech field who spoke candidly about traumas they’ve experienced in the workplace, how they learned to find their tribes along the way, and how they’ve overcome barriers—like being discriminated against at previous jobs.

Panelists included:

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Left to right: Tani Brown, Chanel Ward, Chante Butler, Shirelle Ruddock, Shona Pinnock.

Often times, terms like burnout, code-switching, and imposter syndrome are familiar terms for people in the workplace—especially for people from marginalized groups. ‘Working In Living Color’ created a safe space where people from various communities could share their stories and journeys with others like them. Here are 10 notable lessons from the panel.

1. Be authentic to yourself, always.

“I was born in The Bronx, my family is Jamaican, I went to Spelman, I feel like my entire life has prepared me for my current role. I was an outsider when I was younger, but I went through it early enough so I could process it. As an adolescent and an adult, I became very comfortable with myself and I try to give those pieces of comfort to others who feel like they can’t bring their true selves to work. Who we are and our experiences make us valuable. I no longer code-switch.” - Shona Pinnock

2. Maintain the ability to disconnect from work and don’t let burnout defeat you.

“Work is just something that you do, it’s not who you are. It’s really important not to get lost in that and to stay centered with yourself and who you are as a person.” - Chante Butler

3. “No” is a complete sentence.

“I’m realizing that there’s a luxury that many folks have had for hundreds of years, which is the ability to say, ‘no.’ It’s important for me to be able to give myself the same luxuries that I’ve witnessed everyone else have and to be an advocate for others like me.” - Chanel Ward

4. Make sure you are being empowered and supported at your place of work. If you’re not, it may be time to move on.

“I didn’t let the system work me, I worked the system—but it took a great deal of burn out for me to finally assess my circumstance. I wanted better for myself in my journey to seek leadership and eventually become a leader.” - Chanel Ward

5. The only way to change something is to push boundaries and have those difficult conversations.

“I’m blessed to have a tribe, at work, of people who look like me, but I also have people who don’t look like me. I have to explain to them that I don’t need their opinion, I just need them to bear witness to something that happened. This has led to difficult conversations, but it’s important to talk about it.” - Shirelle Ruddock

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6. Don’t assume that you don’t have anyone in your corner, just because they may not look like you. Make an effort to seek out allies.

“I’m a firm believer in owning my own career and my own destiny. I chose to focus on people who are supporting me professionally and allow me to be authentic. I focus on how we are moving the needle forward. I would say 90% of the time, people do want to help and be allies, they just don’t know how to.” - Chante Butler

7. Your uniqueness is your strength and it’s important to use your differences to your advantage.

“This world that we’re in was not built for us specifically, so we have to make it work for us and use what we have to thrive.” - Shona Pinnock

8. Keep documentation of everything that you experience, but make sure you do the personal work to heal from experiences that you may have gone through in the workplace.

“Keep a document running of everything that you’re experiencing, everything that you are witness to. If there was advice that I would've loved to have, it would’ve been around my own need to heal. I’ve had to create some emotional distance to be able to do the work that I’m proud to be doing today—meaning I cannot let some else's opinions, based on their lack of awareness, impact my confidence. I had to figure out who I am as a person, who I am as a woman, who I am as a Black woman to really own it and be unapologetic about it. It was important for me to see institutions and systems for what they were and not expect too much more.” - Chanel Ward

9. Speak up for yourself and speak up for those who don’t feel like they have the agency to speak up for themselves.

“I’ve had an experience where I was the only person of color in a training group and I noticed one of my supervisors would critique me a lot harder than others, and I did something that no one should ever do—thinking something was wrong with me and that he was right. Eventually, I moved my way up to where me and the trainer were on the same level and I was able to see that it wasn’t just a one time thing with the trainer. I had enough documentation to raise the concern to management and it was taken care of. I learned that when I saw it happen to others, it made me feel even worse, so I try to always speak up when I see something that isn’t right. - Shirelle Ruddock

10. Stay in environments that allow you to thrive and be trusted to succeed.

“I thrive when I am given free range to create. In my current role, I’ve been told that I’m trusted to be the expert and that I can structure my department the way I want to structure it. It helps me be creative and fail fast if I need to. I also thrive in the company of a really strong network of Black women and sisters. - Shona Pinnock

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