As a part of our Landed Team’s blog series on Black Lives Matter, Fetima Alex-Carr volunteered to write this post about her career development to date. Fetima supports us part-time in our work to create a great experience for our entire Landed team. Thank you, Fetima, for sharing your words and experiences!
Growing up without a care
First and foremost, I just want to say it was not easy navigating the corporate world as a black woman. But then again, what is easy for people within my community?
Growing up in the very diverse city of Vallejo, California, race was never a big deal, so micro- and macro-aggressions were never taught or talked about in school (or outside it, for that matter). However, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have minded it if someone had talked to me about these concepts as I grew up.
Everyone who surrounded me didn’t care about race; it was more about a person's character. Although, I can only really speak for myself when I say that because my experience isn't the same as everyone else's experience. Growing up, it seemed all I had to worry about was soccer practice and finishing my homework so I could watch TV.
Taking charge of my career
A couple years after high school, I felt that my career wasn’t going anywhere, so with the help of my friend, I started to attend a one year program called Year Up Bay Area. She had invited me to her graduation from the program, and it inspired me to join after seeing this diverse group of adults wearing business attire, talking about closing the opportunity divide.
Coming into this program, I was really focused on just getting in and making it through until the end. However, it ended up meaning more to me than I had expected. The first day that we had a class, the staff had us playing a game where we had to remember everyone's name in a room of around 20 people; only two people ended up succeeding. Every Monday consisted of a “kick off” like this, and it helped us all become close, which in return made it easier for us to help one another with program assignments and other life challenges.
My first hands-on experience with being in a corporate environment was six months into Year Up, and we were all finally placed into our internships; five other classmates and I were placed at Wells Fargo on the Innovation Strategy Team. I got my first look at what being in a real corporate environment is like, and I appreciated every experience and every connection I made while there.
At Wells Fargo, they gave us the freedom to see what we did and did not like working on and took it under consideration when assigning us tasks in the future. Year Up taught everyone the skills they needed to succeed within the workforce. They even touched on things like micro- and macro-aggressions in the workforce and how to go about handling them.
Being Black at work
I can say first-hand that with the good comes the bad; I have seen and undergone my fair share of weird interactions with colleagues during projects. For instance, I encountered my first micro-aggression while working on a week-long project for a company, and the first day I wore my hair down, someone made an unneeded comment that really distracted me, but it didn't seem like a problem for anyone else that had theirs in the same style. After that confrontation, learning of the law that passed in California that outlaws discrimination on natural hairstyles that are linked to race made me feel comforted this might happen less in the workplace.
Job hunting wasn't as easy for me as it was for my other friends, and for the longest time I thought that I was doing something wrong. Yet, as time went on, I had noticed that it was harder for my Black colleagues and me to find jobs or keep the jobs we had from our internships. It got to the point where one of them had to reach out to the rest of us for help because he was homeless and nobody would hire him.
Despite it all, don’t give up
We were taught to “lift while we climb,” but it seemed like people were climbing and we were getting left behind; no one seemed to be lifting us. After searching for a job for a while that I felt best suited my needs in a job, I came across Landed, and since the very first day I’ve worked with the team, I’ve felt welcomed and heard.
What I want people to take away from this post is that what is meant for you will find you. If you're like me, it can take months or more, but just don't give up. It’s important that we keep going and get the jobs that we want and making our opinions heard so that changes are made. As Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”