This is the first of two blogs to mark Black History Month. In this blog, we will hear from two members of the BEAUT community within Siemens Financial Services (SFS), co-founder Sensi Williams and member Aidan Lewis, about the importance of open conversation, and how the community has helped them.
BEAUT came about in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, as a response to the lack of conversation surrounding the topic within the workplace. I remember a colleague of mine, Pauline Woods, reaching out and checking in with the black community within SFS just to ask how we were feeling. In our discussion everyone agreed that it felt very weird that nobody was talking about it in the office (at least, not to us) especially when it seemed like the whole world was talking about it and we felt that we should be more open to discussing our emotions.
It seemed people were scared to speak on the topic of race, which is understandable in a corporate environment especially. It is not an easy subject to broach at work and it’s difficult to know how to even bring up that conversation.
Thankfully, the leadership team responded with real empathy, offering support to those that had reached out. Our CEO, Julian Hobbs, spoke earnestly about wanting to learn more, to understand deeply the impact it has on the black community. It really can’t be understated how important this was for me and many others to hear. Feeling comfortable to begin talking about race within the workplace felt like a huge weight off my shoulders.
From this came the idea of hosting a ‘Talk @ 12’ titled “Do all lives matter?” which proved so popular that it led to four sessions in total with over 90 participants! It was a clear demonstration that people were interested in what the black community had to say about our experiences and equally it showed that they wanted to learn. In helping to break down the uncomfortable stigma that comes with not wanting to broach difficult subjects, BEAUT have helped spark open and honest conversations within the business about race, which in turn has helped reduce the feeling of isolation felt by many within racial minority groups.
In my first ever job I got fired for the tone of my voice. My job entailed cold calling around 150 people a day and one day I was pulled into an office and asked to listen to one of my calls. The manager suggested that I sounded rude and unfriendly, even though I was just speaking in my natural tone. That was tough to deal with and really knocked my confidence going forward; to this day I am still very conscious of how I come across on the phone.
There have been occasions where I have found myself being the only black male on some contracts that I have worked on, and I have found that this can not only lead to feeling marginalised socially, but also being judged on a professional basis too.
The way I have dealt with that is to remember that I cannot control other people’s pre-conceptions of me. My true character will come to be known eventually and I will be judged off my own merit.
Since I have been with SFS everybody has been super accepting and receptive of me and I have even been complimented on my phone manner! Being a part of BEAUT has allowed me to feel like I can celebrate and be proud of my culture and all cultures and has helped me feel comfortable being myself within the workplace.
Sensi Williams, Project Specialist at Siemens Financial Services UK
I have been working for Siemens for just under 5 years, starting off as an Operations Executive, then a Collections agent, followed by my last role as a Business Processing Team Leader.
I am now a Project Specialist as part of our current Contract Management System (CMS) project and am enjoying being involved in something so important for the business. In my spare time, i am a DJ. I played my first ever gig in February this year and have been booked up ever since, including playing my first ever Festival a couple months later in June.
Aidan Lewis, Operations Exective at Siemens Financial Services UK
I joined Siemens in February this year as an Operations Executive and was introduced to the BEAUT community by my colleague Sensi Williams. Since joining, i have been able to share my own personal experiences and spark interesting conversations around race and it has allowed me to connect with other colleagues around the business whose paths i may not have past this early on in my career at Siemens.
A little bit about me outside of work, I'm a proud father and I enjoy playing and watching football (ARSENAL!!!), music and film, going to festivals. I'm also avid reader of non-fiction books on subjects such as black history, economics and auto-biography's .
Fun fact about me - I can whistle like a bird