“Be you in your entirety. Don’t be anyone else – they’re all already taken. Own yourself!” Samir
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Although I’m British born, I spent a significant amount of time growing up in Mauritius (where my parents are from) before eventually returning to London. I read BSc Human & Medical Sciences at the University of Westminster before embarking a career at companies such as Nike, Converse, Toyota and Wrigleys in a variety of commercial roles. I currently hold the position of Insight Client Director at Dunnhumby.
Can you describe your journey to where you are now and what challenges have you faced?
I’ve faced many challenges across the way – I’ve often felt that I’ve had to move companies in order to achieve career progression. I would categorically say it is harder for people of colour to get promoted, there are certain hoops we have to jump through that are simply not there for others. Often, we’ll have to work significantly harder for the same outcome. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t think much, if any, of this misjudgment is conscious or malicious, but I do believe there are prejudices that occur in most companies.
If you look through my CV, the links between roles may be invisible but each one was chosen to grow against feedback delivered against me in the previous role. For example, at Converse I was told I would not progress because ‘a lack of negotiation skills’ so I moved to Car Sales at Toyota: the deep end of this skill set!! I guess one of the biggest challenges I have come up against is motivation; the ability to look further up the hierarchy in any organisation that I have worked for and see ‘someone like me’ who I can relate to and feel they have already made a hole in the glass ceiling for me to pass through. Someone who I can look up to and feel as though people of my skin colour, my culture or my religion are worthy, respected and very importantly – Valued.
More physically, as a sales rep, I’ve been kicked out of more shops than you can count because of the colour of my skin or religious beliefs. I’ve been made to burden the responsibility of terrorist attacks. I have been attacked walking down the street and even at school growing up. I’ve been pulled out of countless airport security queues. I’ve been stopped by police and questioned. I’ve had to look into the eyes of people who have made a judgement call whether to interact with me and see them turn away. All for reasons of which I have had no say. I was born this way. This is me.
What positive influences/events helped you achieve your goals?
I’ve had some great managers along the way that, despite the challenges mentioned above, have helped bring out the best of me and cared for me as an individual. I would also say that I do get a push from knowing that I could break down doors and shatter ceilings for the next wave of BAME employees.
Any proud moments you’d like to share?
These are shrouded in a level of secrecy but I have been able to work on several projects at Dunnhumby that have helped change the retail landscape to some level. Historically, I have also had my own magazine and interviewed the likes of Andrew Flintoff and Amir Khan.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
A wonderful opportunity to highlight to the world not only of the torrid history Black people have endured but also an opportunity to make them appreciate the contribution that people of colour have made and continue to make in society. Hopefully, someone finds something that resonates with them, something which allows them to see a little further past the pigment of somebody’s skin.
Are there any figures in Black History who inspire you?
Muhammad Ali: LEGEND. Muslim and a Boxer – two of my traits! He’s a man who changed the world for the better. As I discussed the importance of positive depictions before, he gave people tangents they could relate to which meant they could see past the colour of people’s skin and beyond the pages of their holy books.
Which contemporary BAME figure/s inspire you?
There are people like Anthony Joshua and Raheem Sterling who are publicly highlighting and changing the landscape. For me personally, it’s the not so famous people, business owners, who are building their own empires which inspire me. Azam Jaafri (Serial Entrepeneur), Michael Jarman (Man of many talents), Kike Oniwinde (BYP) are all people who ‘wake me up’ when they come across my social media feed, wake me up to the notion that I can change the world. The notion that I belong here. The notion that is on me/us to put our flag in the ground.
What do you do at work to affect positive change, influence decision makers, or improve the lives of those who may feel under-represented in the BAME community?
I am founder and a leader of the BAME diversity network at dunnhumby! We are launching in October 2019 – so watch this space. The goal is to make everyone’s lives easier from the BAME Community and put frameworks in place to ensure that we all have fair chances and opportunities. And more importantly that people can see the similarities in our differences.
What advice would you give to BAME candidates entering the job market in 2019?
You should be hugely optimistic that companies are starting to appreciate the value of diversity in the workplace and this alone should ensure you can have a prolonged career. My advice, as it would be to anyone, is to be incredibly well prepared. Go in confident to any interview, do your research and back the value that you are worth. But above all else, be you in your entirety. Don’t be anyone else, they’re all already taken. Own yourself!
What advice would you give to employers to make life better and improve opportunities for BAME candidates?
Get rid of your biases. Conscious or unconscious. Appreciate the value that people of colour and other cultures can bring to your organisation and understand that everyone deserves equal opportunities. Improving the opportunities for BAME shouldn’t be above driving inequality to fix inequality but using equality instead and to make sure we are all treated fairly.
Any final thoughts or recommendations?
My favourite song to drive to at the moment is Sowa by Fatoumata Diawara. Have a listen!