Cadent Histories: Matt Wailoo

In the final installation of our Cadent Histories series, Matt Wailoo, Head of Assurance & Reporting, talks proudly about his heritage, and how his parents' values and beliefs have shaped the way he views the importance of diversity and inclusion in life. 

If you want something you have to be prepared to work for it…

When I reflect on my personal history, it’s unsurprisingly with a great sense of pride. My father came to this country from Guyana in 1966. Guyana is a small country at the top of south America bordered by Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil but is considered part of the Caribbean region.

His decision to leave his home, family and everything he knew was driven by his desire to study medicine and so he worked hard to secure himself a place at St. Andrews University in Scotland. I can’t imagine what it was like for him moving from a country on the edge of the Caribbean Sea to a small town on the east coast of Scotland!

He graduated from St Andrews and moved to Manchester, then Sheffield as his career progressed before settling in Leicestershire as a paediatric consultant. In addition, he taught at a university and led a research group to understand the cause of what used to be called COT death syndrome, now called SIDS. 

Stand up for what you believe in...

That’s just one side of the story though, because St Andrews is where my Mum and Dad met. Mum had also moved away from her family home in Shetland to study at university. Shetland is a group of small islands about 260 miles north of Aberdeen!

I think it’s fair to say that Georgetown, Guyana and Lerwick, Shetland are about as different as it gets! One is shorts and flips flops, the other is coats and hats. One is 80% rainforest and the other doesn’t have a single tree. At family gatherings it’s rum vs whiskey!

However, these two people from vastly different backgrounds and upbringings were able to come together and make it work. 

There is no doubt that as a couple they would have faced some tough times. A young couple with children trying to carve out their careers is hard enough. Couple that with the discrimination they would have faced as a mixed-race couple, this just makes me even prouder of them both.

What this taught me is that if you have a common goal or beliefs then everything else can be worked out. Both of my parents spent their careers helping others which they were clearly passionate about. My Mum through her career as a social worker helping the most vulnerable families and children in society, and my dad through his career as a doctor and his research. 

Impact on me…

I’m no different to anyone else, in that my background and upbringing has made me the person I am today. As I have said above I am proud of my heritage and I think that it has made me feel relatively comfortable to be around people who are ‘different’ to me. 

But not in all circumstances I hasten to add! I recognise that my upbringing has given me certain negative views and when I reflect on why that is, it’s usually because of one experience or something I’ve read or heard that I’ve latched on to. I suspect it’s the same for most people if they are honest with themselves…

I grew up in a typical market town in the middle of England. I think my dad was only about the third black person to live there! Inevitably that meant my siblings and I had some horrible experiences of direct racial abuse at school and social lives which you learn to deal with in your own way. For me it was always most prevalent when I was playing sport. I’m not sure what it is about sport, football in particular, that brings the best and worst out of people at times... 

Embrace our differences…

When I first started as a manager I was hellbent on treating people the same, and that isn’t a bad place to start. However, it’s not enough. Everyone has to feel included regardless of their background, heritage, age, experience, etc… And to achieve that you have to be open-minded to other people’s opinions, encourage people to contribute and create an environment where people feel safe to do so. The balance of treating people fairly and playing to their strengths isn’t as easy as it sounds!

From a Cadent perspective, if we harness the energy that things like Black History Month have created and continue to grow our organisation to be truly reflective of the customers we serve, then there is no doubt that we will continue to be a company that people will be proud to be part of.

Cadent

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