Before I begin to unravel the events that has led me to this opinion, I will make a disclaimer:
This story may not connect with you if you are:
1. Close Minded
2. Not genuine (true to yourself)
During the first semester of my junior year, after working 2 part time jobs the whole Summer to make ends meet, I was determined to get a good paying internship this year. Every year, my school, Tuskegee University, hosts a Career Fair where many top companies come to recruit the "best of the best" for jobs and internships. When that time came, I made sure I was prepared. I put on my Sunday's best, made sure my perfectly imperfect locs (dreads) were neatly re-twisted and tied back, and I had well over 20 resumes printed out for companies. As I walked into the room, I was bombarded with companies ready to speak with me, as they were interested in an African American female who studied computer science.
After a long day at the Career Fair, I walked away with 4 scheduled interviews from various companies.
The following day I had my interview with a small flooring company based in Georgia, as an IT Tech Intern. For the sake of confidentiality, I will call this company Geodes. The gentleman who interviewed me was an older, black man eager to bring me along with the company. I was told to come to the room in comfortable attire, and that the interview would be casual.
During the interview, Mr. Mack told me that he pushed for the company to come to a HBCU, and specifically Tuskegee because he "knows Tuskegee has underappreciated talent". By the end of the interview, I accepted an offer of a co-op position as an IT Tech. When I told everyone I was taking a semester to work for Geodes, I was given some "constructive" opinions.
-Who is Geodes?
-How will this help you?
-You should be working for a technology company!
In spite of all of the comments, I chose to leave my school for the spring semester and work with Geodes.
The atmosphere of Geodes was very genuine. During our orientation I was able to learn exactly who I'd be working for prior to starting. At first, I thought that Geodes would just be a job to make some extra money, because in reality, I wasn't going to waste my expensive Computer Science degree working for a FLOORING company. As I started to learn about the company, the area of Georgia, and the people in the town, it wasn't that bad.
For starters, I was getting a great weekly pay check! I also had some pretty cool co-workers who had taught me a lot, and lastly, the atmosphere was business casual and KHAKIS WERE PREFERRED (#winning)
After spending 5 months in the middle of Northern Georgia, at Geodes, my term was completed. I left the company feelings accomplished, refreshed, and appreciated, and ready to start my Summer Internship!
When I was interviewed by Trojan Horse, one of the top investment companies to work for, I was excited to speak with two of the gentlemen via phone call. The interview was pretty straight forward they asked a little about myself, then went to the technical questions to test my knowledge. The interview ended with one of the gentlemen saying, "Thank you we will keep in touch".
Eagerly waiting for a decision, I checked my email, voicemails, and mailbox every day for information. About two weeks later, I received an email offer to be an IS Intern. Overwhelmed with joy, I called my mom and told her that I received a job with Trojan Horse, and would be based back at home in St. Louis, Missouri. Friends and family were excited and congratulated me for "getting in with such a great company".
"Finally!", I thought, "this is the break I need to start my career and get GREAT money" (Which was even better than Geodes).
June came by pretty quickly, and it was getting close to my first day with Trojan. I asked my mom to take me shopping for some "good work clothes" that would be deemed as business professional. The night before my first day, I made sure my clothes were laid out, ironed, and that everything was prepared for the following morning. That morning I woke up, ate breakfast, got dressed, feeling and looking great (at least that's what I thought). To my dismay I entered the orientation room of
Trojan to see about 50 interns ranging from different Midwest colleges, all in their designer outfits REALLY dressed to impress. That day we learned about the company's history, its goals, and customs. The company seemed to be quite prestige and successful and I felt honored that they'd want me to work for them... Until a comment was made.
It was explained that Trojan was trying to diversify the business, and that a woman was counted as X% and a minority counted as (an even higher percent) towards their diversity goal for the company.
This was when I first questioned my worth to Trojan, as an African American Female I wondered whether or not I was there to benefit the company or for my actual strengths. It wasn't until this day did I actually receive my job assignment and department location.
My first week at Trojan was very hectic, but I expected it to get better after I was settled and comfortable, boy was I wrong. The following 8 weeks, I was placed on the back burner by my supervisor and team members who were, "extremely busy with projects and vacations". I get it, it's the Summer and most people take vacations, but for most of my time I was left to communicate with a team member who worked from his home, in Chicago. As weeks went by I became discouraged, aggravated, and angry that my experience with my team and Trojan wasn't as delightful as what the other interns had said. Instead of coming to work every day wishing I wasn't there, I figured I'd be proactive and SEARCH for what I was looking for.
I started to communicate with other people around the firm to discuss job shadows, discussions,and other ways I could be involved. With my initiative, I was able to network with many of our top African American leaders in our company. I was also able to find different departments in the company that I would like to work, if I came back. I took back much feedback, tips, as well as observations and made it my effort to pick the brains of everyone I came in contact with
The After Math
When I asked every employee why they worked at Trojan ALL of their answers included the following:
-"Trojan has never had a lay off. They have the employees in mind"
-"Trojan is more welcoming than other Investment companies."
-"Trojan really does follow their goal of _(inserts the company motto verbatim)_"
No matter who I talked to, I was always given the same answers, and I couldn't point whether or not the consistency was good, or bad.
-Were these people trained to say this?
-Were these their true feelings?
So my following question I typically asked was why they STAYED at Trojan:
-"There are great benefits to working here."
-"You can grow if you go after the opportunity"
Most answers were very pleasing and made me WANT to join Trojan, but not everything is as it appears.
By the end of this internship at Trojan I had been able to form my own opinion about the company and Corporate Amerika as a whole. Most of the people who work for Trojan had not experienced any other job besides Trojan, which make them biased to believe that Trojan is the best. The people who worked for other companies, especially those on Wall Street, believed that Trojan is FAR better than the others, when it comes to treatment of the employees.
These conclusions were okay, but my ultimate goal was to understand how it feels to work for Corporate Amerika as a minority. And it saddens me to draw this conclusion, but from the encounters I had with the black leaders, I felt as though I couldn't connect with them. I couldn't help but feel as though they were brain washed to believe that their environment was as GOOD AS IT GETS.
My overall conclusion is simple; Corporate Amerika is not for me.
As a young, educated, black female who also happens to be gay, I feel as though I would have to push my happiness to the side, to achieve. I am not willing to be not genuine in order to succeed, and some people are GREAT at putting on a mask every day to portray as something different to conform to Corporate Amerika's customs, but I am not that person. I want to achieve my goals knowing that I was respected, accepted, and furthermore I accomplished everything being ME.
Money does not determine my happiness, and I CAN NOT and WILL NOT work in an environment simply because it pays good. We only have one life to live, and I want to live it being who I am, NOT who others wants me to be.
To anyone who wants my advice, JUST BE YOU. Do not feel the need to conform or change to make others happy. If a company really wants YOU they will accept you for who you genuinely are. And if they don't accept you, make the decision whether or not you want to continue with the company. Many Corporate Amerika companies are like Trojan Horse, and will look and sound good, but in reality aren't.
To The Opposers
If you are gung-ho about Corporate Amerika, and you think that just because YOU don't see the problem, there isn't one... well you are a part of the problem. "Pay close attention to people who don't clap when you win" - Wolf of Wall Street