We’re kicking down doors, filling in spaces and rearranging seats at the table. Hear from three members of the Black Organizational Leadership at Discover (BOLD) employee resource group as they share how they’re leveraging their pasts to innovate their futures.
When I was in high school, I went to a predominantly white school in the suburbs. I was so upset when my mom made the switch. For the first year, I didn’t fit in at all. I was called racial slurs every day. I had completely lost my identity. It came to the point where I completely conformed to how I thought I should act or look.
It wasn’t until my junior year that I met my first black teacher. I thought, “There’s finally someone who looks like me and can relate to me.” She taught me how powerful I was. She taught me that my experience in life was unique. From then on, I thought that maybe I could be that person for someone else.
Since starting at Discover, my goal was to use what I’ve been taught to show everyone that it’s okay to speak up. In order to make someone feel comfortable, you have to show them that it is okay to be you. Individuality is important because not everyone has walked the same path. We all bring something different to the table. There’s always someone who can benefit from your quirk.
To me, being BOLD means having the courage to show up as my authentic self, regardless of the table I’m sitting at. It means having an unwavering belief in myself and my abilities. And lastly, but certainly not least, it means not being afraid to take the road less traveled. In other words, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I will never forget the moment I found my voice at work. It still feels surreal. Following the racial unrest last summer, I felt extremely conflicted at work. I was torn within the trauma the country was facing. I couldn’t shake the feeling of “I should be doing more right now.”
It was extremely difficult to focus at work, especially because I live next to a police station. Every day, right outside my window, I could see and hear the protestors passionately advocating for equality. I sat in meetings, listening to colleagues laugh and talk about the weather, as if a social crisis was not happening right in front of me. At that time, work felt so trivial in comparison to the pain the country was facing. I found it impossible to bridge the dissonance between my corporate identity and my reality of being a Black woman in America, experiencing a largescale shared traumatic event.
But that dissonance was what empowered me to merge my two identities for the first time in my six years at Discover. I approached my leadership team and expressed my concerns about the lack of acknowledgement at a team and department level regarding the recent events. Furthermore, I expressed how I had a desire to bring awareness to these issues at a department level. From there, my leadership team fully supported me in spearheading a committee within my business unit to spread the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) message at a department level, as well as provide an open space for employees like myself to discuss what we were and still are feeling.
This was such a monumental moment for me in my corporate career. For the first time it didn’t feel like I was being forced to choose between my ethnic identity and my corporate identity. Both were being fully accepted, acknowledged and supported.
The best part of it all— I’m just getting started.
Learn more about Discover’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Black Organizational Leadership at Discover (BOLD) employee resource group.