As part of our Black History Month celebrations we are talking to role models from the UK BAME community in order to offer an insight into their lives as well as help advise candidates and employers on how best to represent and encourage equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Talent Acquisition Manager
Siemens Mobility Limited
“Don’t put barriers on yourself. We are who we are. When you have a different upbringing and culture you bring something different. Don’t hold back, be who you are - this is your strength.” Savin
Savin Sathynayath was born and educated in Southern India until moving to the UK at the age of 24. He graduated in hospitality and started working in the UK in restaurants and hotels. After five years he made the decision to make a change and explore other opportunities, which led him to the recruitment industry.
After taking the plunge he was determined to work hard and focus for a year to see if this was the right move. That was a decade ago and Savin has remained in the industry, working for various sectors including oil and gas, and finally moving from agency to an inhouse role at Siemens. Originally contracted to Siemen’s for three months back in 2014, Savin is still there after he enjoyed working for the company so much.
Savin works in Manchester managing a team of six across various locations in the UK.
Have you ever had any experience of bias or prejudice during your career journey in the UK?
To be completely honest I’d say no. During the early days when I moved to the UK there were self-blockers I applied to myself. I would often unconsciously take comments to heart and would lose sleep thinking about what people meant. Were they judging me as someone new to the UK; as a foreigner? As my professional life progressed in the UK I understood that these were personal barriers I was putting on myself, interpreting comments in a negative way connecting them to my background, rather than as innocuous or simply culturally different to what I was accustomed to.
There have been times when I have heard about inappropriate office banter, not that I have experienced this personally. In some cases this may have an impact on colleagues, especially to the ones who are new to teams. Another factor to take note of is as people from all backgrounds coming into a different work culture. This shift in professional culture can be challenging within itself. Separating prejudice and unfamiliar cultural traits is important as it is key to be able to acclimatise to new working cultures, and to tackle prejudice when it is shown.
What positive experiences have you had working in the UK?
I have been fortunate to have mentors and managers supporting me in my early career. In pursuing professional growth I had to leave the hand-holding culture. When I started at Siemens it was a big learning curve. I was given autonomy and completely trusted on delivering my workload. As mentioned before, one of the key skills one can apply to work is adapting to new work cultures and rising to the challenge as an individual. The culture where I work now is based on trust and ownership and respects all employees’ autonomy. This brings its own challenges but with modern communication technologies we are able to build teams from any location. Technology is key and promotes inclusion offering flexible working allowing me and my colleagues to perform even when life requires you to be ‘out of office’.
What’s your relationship with Vercida?
We came across Vercida at a conference and soon built a strong relationship. It was an eye-opener to us, they helped us clearly understand where we were lacking. We at Siemens are a big organisation, with around 15,000 employees across 25 sites in the UK. Every site used to have their own bits and pieces of diversity and inclusion (D&I). We were doing great things but in silos. What Vercida helped us understand was that we needed to have one pull factor, we needed to understand what our competitors are doing, and more importantly what our customers are doing. We have made partnerships through Vercida and able to share knowledge within the rail industry, for example working with Network Rail, HS2 and Transport for London, in order to attract a diverse workforce. Bringing businesses together helps bring more diverse talent into the industry, building equality and better representing our customers.
How can others improve diversity and inclusion within their organisation?
Working with Vercida has helped us unlock rich and valuable data, allowing us to pinpoint our shortfalls, showcase how we sit amongst our competitors, and to clearly understand our strengths and weaknesses: where to improve. Technology is a key factor in allowing us to access data and to help us define our strategy going forward with a positive direction in D&I throughout the organisation.
What advice would you give to others with a similar story to you?
Reflecting on my own story, I would advise anyone who moves countries (not only to the UK) to understand cultural differences. There will be language barriers, and even the accent may cause problems. But these are all overcomeable. Don’t put barriers on yourself. We are who we are. When you have a different upbringing and culture you bring something different. A thought process that stands out. This is your strength. Don’t hold back, your diversity, your uniqueness is your strength. Be who you are.
Which contemporary figures inspire you?
Sundar Pichai. He’s someone that I closely follow who is inspirational. He’s the CEO of Google. When I look back at my upbringing in a middle class family in the south of India, I find direct comparisons as he grew up in very similar circumstances. After his education he went out and made a career, rising to the top of one of the biggest Silicon Valley giants, and at a very young age. I look up to him, not only due to our similar backgrounds, but also in terms of character. He’s softly spoken, he’s not the archetypal extravert orator that one finds in most CEO positions. He shows me that you can be a great leader in one of the top companies in the world. He is a positive reflection representing not only ethnic diversity in Silicon Valley, but also as a softer character in the often overbearing world of leadership.