Giving back to my community as an Engineer

Macarius Agagah

I’ve been working at my company for three years and it has been a generally positive experience. I have never been made to feel like my skin tone held me back from progression opportunities or affected my voice being heard when decisions are made. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to engage in racial and gender diversity initiatives; mainly in the form of STEM outreach which has been encouraged at all levels of the company. We have employee diversity networks present and while it isn’t understood by everybody, it is supported by the leadership. 

In a previous role, where I was hired as a contractor within the same company, I went through some negative racial experiences and generally wasn't respected in my position. I concede that with it being my first job after university, there were some mistakes which I made, however I felt like my margin for error was much slimmer than others yet I wasn’t offered the opportunity to rectify them. This made me apprehensive about corporate workplace cultures.

In my current role, I took the opportunity to speak to students and other professionals about my experiences as a Black engineer. I was able to offer general advice as well as reflect on my work experiences within the company. A memorable race-related experience I had is when I told a colleague that I also pursue music and he remarked: “but you don’t look like a grime rapper”. Fortunately for him, we became good friends after. The outreach initiatives had the support of my team and the company in speaking at events during and outside of working hours. Not only did this fulfill my desire to help others but it also allowed me to be known within the leadership team. However, this did not necessarily translate into forming deep relationships with them. 

Having worked in different business areas I had experienced two very different working environments. This is to say that my personal experience cannot be taken as a blanket endorsement of the company as a whole, but rather there are several working cultures that exist with it being a multinational organisation. Having spoken to fellow black colleagues who have also worked in different parts of the organisation, they agree with this multi-cultural assessment of the workplace. For example, as a Black man, my experiences cannot extend much to those of Black women. I work in a heavily male dominated environment and this can’t be ignored when considering the role representation plays in not only recruiting but also retaining the best talent.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I feel fortunate for the position I am in - as I feel like this is what everybody deserves by default - however, I am cognizant to the fact that I cannot relate to the race-related struggles that some of my friends face at their respective organisations and therefore I am grateful to be at a company that values meritocracy and actively promotes diversity and inclusion.

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