‘I'm passionate about connecting with people and having meaningful conversations.'
On Friday 21st May 2021 we celebrate ‘World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development’, also known as ‘Multiculturalism Day’. This annual day does not only celebrate the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development. At Capgemini we support Diversity and Inclusion as we believe that diversity is a key driver of innovation and critical component of being successful. Our colleagues actively participate in Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, one example being the ‘ECHO Mentoring Program’, supported by our partner ECHO – a dedicated non-profit organization focused on Diversity & Inclusion in (higher) education and the labour market. Our mentors support students with a non-western migration background or refugees new to the Dutch labour market. One of the aims in this program is to stimulate intercultural dialogue and learn from each other. In this interview, Tessa - a Manager at Capgemini Invent NL and one of our dedicated mentors - shares her experience as a mentor and Shakila shares her experience as a mentee.
Hi Tessa and Shakila, can you briefly tell us about yourself?
Tessa: My name is Tessa Rammers, Manager within the Workforce & Organization division within Capgemini Invent NL. I’m 30 years old and I live in between Utrecht and De Bilt, in the middle of the “polder”, which I love because being outdoors and in nature is my passion, my colleagues might already know this since I gave a workshop within Capgemini last year about starting your own vegetable garden! Next to gardening, I also love hiking (especially in the mountains), yoga, reading and cooking. I also love spending time with friends and family, and I am passionate about really connecting with people and having meaningful conversations. Next to my role as a manager, I’m a mentor for the ECHO Mentoring program.
Shakila: My name is Shakila. I am 26 years old and born and raised in the Hague, the Netherlands. Currently, I am working as a project management assistant on four energy transition projects at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. I have been travelling around the world ever since I was a 3-month-old-baby. The many visits to countries, such as Cuba, India, and Dominican Republic, inspired me to study International Studies, because I wanted to know more about global history, politics, and cultures. Besides travelling and learning about countries, I love to dance, I am an Indian classical dancer (Kathak and Odissi) and I love to write! Last year, I started a blog ‘Our Shakti’ where I discuss women’s related topics. I also love bonding over food with friends and family. Tessa is my mentor for the ECHO Mentoring program.
What does ECHO stand for and what does your role entail as a mentor?
Tessa: ECHO is a non-profit organization focused on Diversity & Inclusion in (higher) education and the labour market. ECHO provides consultancy, programs, and project management to develop and implement D&I policies that fit the needs and dynamics of your organization. Through Capgemini Invent, ECHO connected me with one mentee – Shakila - we have been meeting each other once every 2 to 3 weeks. So far this has been virtual, but we are hoping to meet each other in person as well! My role as a mentor is to help Shakila with navigating the labour market, preparing for the opportunities and challenges of (getting) a first job and discovering their talents, interests, skills, and ambitions.
What is your motivation for participating in the ECHO program as a mentor and mentee?
Tessa: As a mentor, I have been coaching people and colleagues more and more in past years, and I have discovered that I really love doing this. When the opportunity of becoming a mentor in the ECHO program arose, I was very quick to respond. The fact that I would be mentoring a young professional of color was an extra dimension to this.
'I remember how exciting but also scary I found it to make my first moves in the job market. I felt overwhelmed by all the possibilities and options and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. For me it was still relatively easy, knowing our society well and not having to deal with bias. For a professional of color, I could imagine it would be a whole lot more challenging and I wanted to be a help in this.'
Next to this, I also thought it would be a good challenge for myself and my own bias, I always try to expand my views of the world and this would help me with that as well!
Shakila: I graduated in 2019 and as a newbie on the labour market, I thought it would come in handy if I could have guidance from a person who has experience in navigating their way through the labour market.
'I am the only one in my family who has graduated from university and I don’t know many people in the field where I would like to work. Growing my network is also one of the reasons for participation. Lastly, in the context of diversity and inclusion, I wanted to join the discussion and spread awareness on what it is like to grow up in the Netherlands as a bicultural person.'
How have you developed yourself as a mentor and what skills did you acquire?
Tessa: During our first conversations, I felt quite responsible for the structure, topics, and flow of our meetings. However, I noticed that, because of this, I did a lot of the talking and this didn’t help my mentee. I was supported by a coaching session in Capgemini Invent to develop key mentoring skills and by having a self-reflection. Therefore, I started to listen more and ask a lot of questions. This helped her open more about her needs and what she wanted to get out of our time together. Next to this I realized that the mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t mean that she is the only one that learns or benefits of this relationship, I learned a lot from her as well!
Shakila: Like Tessa mentioned, in the beginning we were looking for ways to shape our mentor-mentee relationship. So, it took us a couple of conversations before we found out how we were going to structure our meetings. Ever since that it has been going great! Tessa is very supportive and gives many compliments. She has helped me with preparing for conversations and gave me networking tips. The major takeaway for me has been that is okay to approach people and ask if they can say more about their job and to ask further ‘is there anyone else I should have a chat with?’
We also have had check-up meetings with other mentees. ECHO also shares interesting vacancies. We also have an ECHO WhatsApp group with mentees where we share vacancies, network events, tips, and our experiences about the program.
Could you describe a typical mentoring session from your own experience?
Tessa: We often start with some small talk; I would ask Shakila how she has been and what kept her busy lately. She just started a new job, so we often talk about the challenges she faces there. In our last session, I helped her in preparing for her first yearly development conversation she was going to have with her manager. I asked her questions about what she wanted to accomplish in this conversation and what would make her walk away from it with a smile on her face. She went into that conversation well-prepared, with clear goals and this really paid-off for her!
What have you learned about diversity and differences in culture?
Tessa: That there is a lot to learn! Shakila gave me a presentation about her culture and religion, and it was eye opening for me! I found it really interesting and enlightening to hear about her experiences in our country and the difficulties she encountered. An example of this, something I never thought about, is how often extra-curricular activities (f.e. a board year or an active role in student/study association) are demanded when you apply for a job.
'My mentee told me that in her culture it is normal to stay at home while studying and that you are expected to study, help around the house, and support your family wherever possible.'
These extra-curricular activities were just not a, logical or obvious, choice for her. However, she is being excluded for a lot of great jobs because of this! In this example you can see quite clearly how you can exclude a lot of good people in a vacancy text by a lack of cultural understanding. A wake-up call for me and a clear sign that we should all be looking for more diversity and representation throughout our organisations.
Would you recommend the ECHO program to other young professionals?
Shakila: Yes! The experience of a professional and the tips that they give is super valuable. It is nice to be coached in the first phases of your career, because when you graduate from university a new world opens and it comes with many lessons to be learned. It is easier if you can receive guidance from a professional and you also get to teach the professional about the things that you are experiencing as a person of colour. It was nice to have discussions on career and diversity in society.
Appreciating diversity is being aware of different experiences, capacities and talents and positively stimulate this. It also means consciously choosing innovation, development and collaboration, in which the differences in experiences and perspectives are represented to strengthen our workplace. Interested to work at Capgemini? Check out our vacancies here.
If you want to know more about the ECHO Mentoring program, visit their website:
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