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Journalist from the East Storytelling down South
Hey, It's Arah.
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Your post resonated so much for many reasons. I once lived in Pittsburgh and am moving back soon. It is good to hear that the city is making some steps towards recognizing their bias. But your story reminded me of my good friend Victor who is originally from Uganda. I first met him when he applied for a job on a project I was managing. I remember how much I liked his open and friendly face. He was quiet unless prodded and When he did speak it was with a heavy dialect. His qualifications however, shocked me. He held 2 advanced degrees in Engineering (but had no experience in the far less demanding job he was applying for). I asked him why an engineer would apply for the position he was interviewing for, and he explained it was difficult to find work in his field. I knew that in the DC area there were endless engineering opportunities but didn’t push the point. Although he had no experience, I hired him because I remember how many times I, as a woman, was told I was “overqualified” for many positions I applied for when I was too young to understand and push back. I also knew that an intelligent inexperienced person can be more valuable than A person with years of experience Who can not adapt because they are used to doing things by rote without a fresh perspective. His hire was questioned: no experience, accent too thick, will he be able to work well with others? can he write? The job required analysis and the ability to communicate issues in writing but I insisted he be a member of the team. He exceeded even my optimistic expectations and I soon elevated him to a higher position overseeing the work of others. As I moved to other jobs and projects, I always tried to take him with me...for selfish reasons. And each time, the same questions about his ability to do the job, where other lesser hires were never questioned. I wish businesses would recognize this simple fact: When you truly care about the quality of your work and are looking for excellence, prejudices will only keep you from being truly successful. I have gone on to hire many more people and I have learned that slick talk, a nice suit, and a perfect ”fit” does not a successful professional make. Thank you for sharing your story.
so moved by all these powerful pieces. thank you.