Corporate Startup Culture & a Young, Black, Introverted Woman

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In a recent blog post, I hinted at a previous job transition I had made going from your typical multinational corporation to a smaller, younger company with a more start-up vibe. At the time, I was ecstatic about this change! Finally, I was leaving a place that had too many rules about the wrong things i.e. what I wore to work, whether I could work from home, exactly when I could take lunch, etc. I was going to a place where I could make an impact, where my voice could be heard and my expertise valued. A company whose values aligned with mine. Not only could I relate to its products, I liked what the company stood for: health and wellness.

It’s ironic but, well is not how I would have described myself after working there for a year.

Many corporate startups/smaller companies pride themselves on their company culture and use this as a major recruitment tool. Shortly after the words “our culture” is spoken, it’s followed by things like: in-office yoga, free food, ping-pong, cornhole sets, no dress code, and in my case, free kombucha. Since I loved kombucha and couldn’t afford to pay for it as often as I’d like, I was sold!

But as Krisserin Canary alludes in her article 5 red flags every woman should look for when considering a job at start-up, these perks do not a culture make. She goes on to indicate that for a lot of these misguided companies, culture is an “arbitrary set of attributes that define what a person who works here looks like.”

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5 Things I Did On My Recent Staycation

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You know one thing I’ve seen several colleagues do throughout the years that makes no damn sense? Give up their vacation days! So, most of you in Corporate are probably familiar with the term “use it or lose it” as it relates to Paid Time Off. This essentially means that you are required to carry a balance of no more than x hours of PTO at any given time. Thus, if you have more that the allotted amount, you will end up forfeiting those hours.

You may as well be returning a portion of your paycheck to the company. How crazy is that? Why?!

I know a few close African friends who feel guilty and undeserving when they take time off, perpetually waiting for “the best time when things calm down at work”. Let me tell you what I tell them. There is never a perfect time. Trust me, the building will not burn down if you take a few days for yourself. And if waiting for the best time means giving those days back…not worth it.

I value every single day of PTO just as much as I value my pay check.

While I enjoy travel, I have actually come to appreciate and prefer the beauty of a well-planned staycation.

For one, you save some coins and you spend way less time prepping and stressing as you would planning a vacation.

3 weeks ago, I took 5 days off and staycationed, coming back feeling more recharged and reset than I have ever felt on any vacation. Here is how I spent my time:

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“I Love Your Hair! It’s a Weave, Though, Right?”

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In this post, I wrote about my initial hair-related experiences in Corporate America as a Black woman. Sadly, after over a decade later, I still experience the unsolicited, often annoying commentary regarding my tresses. And I must say, I have still not gotten used to it. Even though I have come to expect it, I still find myself getting worked up. However, judging by the number of hair-related tweets that were featured in the #BlackWomenAtWork twitter eruption this week, I am not alone.

Recently I worked with an amazing, fast-paced, startup – unbelievable perks, flexible environment. The kind of place that has essential oil workshops, Wednesday in-office yoga and free vegan food at our fingertips. This is the company of my dreams…with one exception. I am the only Black woman that works there. The only raisin in the proverbial cookie. Let that sink in for a minute.

So I essentially have two jobs. One is the job I was hired for, a Supply Chain executive, while the other is the more tedious, unpaid responsibility of representing Blackness.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into work on Monday, doing my usual route – walk in, head to kitchen to drop off lunch, fix my breakfast smoothie and eggs, before heading down to my desk. I should mention that this kitchen is unlike that in most offices. Equipped with a full range, pots and pans, a Vitamix and free food, our kitchen is often the office hangout, as someone is usually making breakfast or baking vegan goodies for everyone. Anyhoo, as I walk in, one of my White, female coworkers (let’s call her Becky) engages me in the following exchange:

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If I Were a Boss…

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Many of us have goals and dreams of leading and managing our own teams someday. While some of us are closer than others in achieving that goal, it is never too early to begin identifying and developing the right skills and mindset required for those responsibilities.

So, if you were in charge,  if you called the shots at a multi national, multi billion dollar organization,  what would you do? What kind of environment would you foster?  It is so easy to point fingers at our managers, but what would you do differently?

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Get Out

get outAm I the only one who lives for all the intelligent, positive, thought-provoking films for and by Black folks coming out recently? Like honestly, I am still feeling the tingles from Hidden Figures and am often reminded of some of its scenes. Last Saturday was date night and I grudgingly agreed to go see the movie Get Out. To be honest, other than seeing the trailer pop up on social media a few times, I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I thought to myself, “this is probably your run-of-the-mill horror movie and um…ain’t nobody got time for that”. Plus, I am not a huge fan of Peele’s style of comedy. 

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Hidden Figures (2 of 2)

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Still on Hidden Figures and the moments that had me squirming in my seat, sighing deeply, or straight bawling my eyes out…

Yesterday’s Wooden Door is Today’s Glass Ceiling

A few days ago, a girlfriend of mine called me, completely distraught.  She has been working on a difficult work project for months and just as she was finally approaching a note-worthy breakthrough, a senior leader took the project and assigned it to someone else.  She felt disregarded, invisible, unimportant.  How many of us have felt this way in the workplace at least once? You work hard on something only to have it snatched from you in the moment of glory.  Kat must have felt the same heartbreak each time she was asked to work behind the scenes only to have a White, male counterpart take credit.  In the final scenes of the movie, she solves a complicated and life-altering problem, and as soon as she communicates the solution, the door is shut in her face. Literally. She is shut out from seeing the fruits of her labor.  She is shut out from the glory and recognition.

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