Finding your voice in the workplace takes confidence, courage and lots of practice.
Meet five African-American women at Accenture, representing career stages from entry-level to leadership, who share their personal stories of finding their voices in the workplace. They offer advice on being authentic, confident and leading by example.
How do you find and nurture your voice in the workplace, while also being true to your authentic self?
Tamara Fields, Managing Director, Austin, Texas: Throughout my career, there have been times when I was the only person who looked like me on my team. While this made me feel isolated and excluded, I learned early on that the first step to owning my voice was to fully accept and embrace who I am. By understanding my personal brand, it became easier to find and nurture my voice. Even in a company culture that values inclusion and diversity, you have to own the courage to represent your true self.
Claradith Landry, People Program Senior Manager, Washington, D.C.: A key element to finding my voice was knowing when, where and how to use it. Naturally, there are times when my “voice” or perspective may challenge others’ beliefs and perspectives. But resistance is a natural reaction to change. I believe one of the worst things I can do is allow someone else to shape and share my narrative without my input. It’s critical to use your voice to tell your story.
Being part of an organization, culture and family that values uniqueness, differentiating perspectives and innovation gives me the opportunity to build bridges and to encourage others along their journey of self-discovery.
Latisha Roberson, People Program Manager, Washington, D.C.: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Accenture’s global and North America CEOs (both past and present) in my roles. While it can be intimidating working with the C-suite, I learned that transparency equals trust. As I built trust, I gained the confidence to speak up and make my voice known and heard.
I also found and nurtured my voice through exploration and experience—two areas where Accenture provides ample opportunities. For example, I started in government relations as a federal lobbyist for Accenture, and now I’m inspiring others as an inclusion and diversity lead.
Mariah Scott, Technology Advisory Services Consultant – Financial Services, New York: Finding my voice in the workplace has not always been easy. Early in my career, I was unsure how my voice (or appearance) would be perceived. For example, I spent so much time and energy debating whether I should let my hair go natural at work, wondering if I would give off the right first impressions. But when I allowed myself to let my hair down—both literally and figuratively—I produced higher-quality work. That moment was about more than just hair; it pushed me to be comfortable and confident in my own skin and to allow others in for the journey.
My ability to relate to people on an individual level enables me to find and nurture my voice at Accenture. By recognizing the similarities I have with others, I can tailor my message to a variety of audiences.
Tiffane Tingle, Marketing Analyst, New York: As someone who’s just beginning my career, it’s been difficult at times to find my voice. I need to push aside the notion that I should be grateful for where I am and what I’ve achieved. Communicating my career goals and expectations to my supervisors and other leadership is terrifying, but I’m gaining confidence every day. I’m building relationships with people in the company who have been in their careers for a long time. They offer advice about who to talk to, when to talk to them and the best way to approach them. Having access to strong mentors as I develop my own voice has been invaluable.
What advice do have for others seeking to find their voice in the workplace?
Tamara: The key is to know who you are so that you can articulate what you bring to help the team, clients and company succeed. Seeking feedback is vital. I believe in the “30/30” rule: spend 30 minutes every 30 days with peers, direct reports, mentors and sponsors to gain feedback and perspective on your skills and strengths.
Speak up in meetings. Volunteer for opportunities that allow you to lead an effort. Stand up, be you and contribute.
Claradith: A mentor of mine often shares this phrase: “Make them see you, make them know your name, make them hear you and make them feel you.”
It’s important to know who you are; to determine your “why” while demonstrating it confidently and unapologetically. Find your board of directors—mentors, coaches and sponsors—who remind you of your value, invest in your development and create opportunities for you to use your voice and to be heard.
Latisha: Don’t be afraid to speak up with confidence. If you appear unsure or uncertain when speaking, you may be perceived that way and could get overlooked. Take the time to prepare and become comfortable with your thoughts so you not only sound like you’ve got this, but that you actually do have it!
Mariah: I love this quote by Leymah Gbowee: “You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking tiptoe.”
You are invited into the room to add value through your voice and not just your presence. Start by promising yourself you will make one comment or suggestion in a meeting, then bump it up to three—next thing you know it, you’ll be running the meeting! Just remember to start somewhere.
Tiffane: Define your personal and career goals and align yourself with people who want to see you achieve them. A good support system is a great basis for developing the confidence you need to find your voice.
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