Melissa works in our Information Services (IS) team. In this blog, she shares how she went from a World Kick Boxing Champion to a Project Coordinator with Cadent, and her advice for today's graduates.
I am so happy to have joined the Cadent Team as Project Coordinator in the IS Solution Delivery team, which has a clear vision to constantly drive change, adopt and deliver new technology to shape the future of Cadent.
I wanted to share the challenges that have helped to shape me, what I am looking forward to and what advice I would give to graduates, in particular those who look like me.
Hard work pays off
Most people would look at me, but they would never guess that I was Kickboxing World Champion, that I used to sprint in the championships in Birmingham and that I love clay pigeon and firing range shooting!
So what’s my driving force? Well, it was my Grandmother Gloria, and even though she is not with us anymore, her words left a lasting impression with me, in particular as an anchor. She always reminded us to uphold our Values and Morals as I saw her become a Church Leader, was active in various community initiatives and committees and counselled lots of people who needed her words of wisdom and encouragement throughout the community.
She made me promise to do justice to the Taylor family’s name and build upon the legacy they began, when they took that long trip from the West Indies and USA to the UK. She would always say “if yuh wah gud yuh nose affi run,” (if you want good, your nose has to run – i.e. you need to put the effort in). I would also like to share with you a link to one of my most favourite poem by Les Brown
, which keeps me motivated.
It's never too late...
I decided to go back to university as a mature student,
after working my way up the ladder in a variety of professions, to study Business and Management - it is never too late to go back to school. I remembered hearing Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and Author of 'Lean In' remark that if you asked most women whether they have the right to equality at work the answer will be a resounding yes! But ask the same women whether they would feel confident asking for a raise, or a promotion, and some reticence creeps in. This is often the case for people of colour. As I started to think more long term about my future, I came to the conclusion that getting a degree to back up my working experience was essential to my career development and financial future; and to get something you don’t have you have to do something you never did.
I did not know I was “leaning in” back then, but I am now able to describe it. I learned to “lean in” when I was battling to become the World Champion Kickboxer and fighting males of all different grades. When I was told to “forget that” or “don't even try to fight him,” I would evaluate my inner self talk, reposition my goals, research, look for the advantage points and focus. To become the best that I could be in that moment and team up with people and groups that supported and motivated me.
Learning from history
So, we are Celebrating 'Black History Month' and I have often heard the phrase "History is written by Winners" made famous by Winston Churchill. But the truth is history is what actually happened, not what’s written. History is never made by just paying lip service.
For people like me, I am now starting to learn more about the facts of our contribution to technology, war, pioneering medical and environment advancement, manufacturing, engineering, education, literature, the Arts and so much more around the world. This is exciting to me because as a mature student it helps shape a broader perspective of who I am and what I want to contribute to my job, my community and hopefully my legacy.
What advice would I give?
We will always meet challenges that we can either face or run away from them, but I like to focus on success because when you focus on being successful then you tend to look for solutions to problems.
The Oxford dictionary defines “success” as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” While this all-encompassing definition might summarise success in the general sense, it does not come close to covering the nuances that come with obtaining success as a woman of colour in a largely male industry and workforce.
The need for not only gender equality but diversity in leadership roles is still a prominent conversation across industries. So, this ties into one of my dreams. My dream is that a more even approach to the delivery of Black History be rolled out across education so that young Black and Brown girls and boys can be filled with aspirations, confidence, and pride as they move towards the career of their choice.
But until that happens, I am going to keep on smiling, telling jokes, and sharing experiences with my colleagues.