Have you ever felt like a complete stranger in a particular space? Gazes wash over you, trying to fit you in a box so you can start making sense to the people you talk to. You don’t quite get the jokes (or you don’t think they’re funny), you lack context and familiarity, you bring up what seems like crazy ideas, and bottom line - the way you ARE is not the way you are EXPECTED TO BE.
You may be the guy growing up in a remote Dutch village now starting to work in the Randstad area, or the Italian girl trying to understand what is really inside a croquette. You may be an introvert amongst extraverts, a philosopher amongst engineers, the only religious person in the room, or the international from a country that makes people go “oh.. ah.. ok” with raised, worried, eyebrows. “You” may be anyone that doesn’t fit the image of the majority around you, whatever that may be.
To be frank, it’s just human nature. We try to make sense of the world with the tools and frames we were given. And people are attracted to what is similar to them and common around them. But as time passes, you become exhausted from trying too hard. Labeling your differences as weaknesses doesn’t make any sense to you anymore, because it’s just who you are. So what should you do? Should you cave in and continue pushing for acceptance, or should you fight for your individuality?
I suggest secret option number three: find somewhere that will benefit from mixing and matching different ways of working and thinking, and that’ll extract your strengths (rather than become obsessive about your so called shortcomings). I am certainly biased, but I found this in the last place I’d think to look: the corporate world within Deloitte. And although there is still a long road to go towards a diverse work force, we are certainly making efforts to make the workspace inclusive.
In the corporate world around me, it is common to be Dutch, extraverted, and male. And hey, there is nothing wrong with that – some of my best friends are extraverted Dutch males – I even went ahead and married one just to be on the safe side. But I have a place in this (corporate) world, too. It took me a long while to appreciate my unique voice as a non-European woman working in finance. I won’t lie – it’s sometimes still a challenge. It is a work in progress for our environment to open up to the changes sweeping up the world in the last few decades. And that is exactly why I am a die-hard fan of the Diversity & Inclusion buzz words that some people may chuckle about. It makes me feel that I belong, even if I don’t fit in.
You may not understand what I’m talking about if you are part of a majority group in a particular environment. But when you are a minority to one extent or the other, your experiences walking this Earth are somewhat different. Many people would like to think that these type of divisions are no longer a huge issue, and they will be somewhat right. True, these issues are not HUGE, but they are there, lurking like a little cough that isn’t deadly, but incredibly annoying.
There are many invisible doors you keep stumbling upon, even in this enlightened day and age, and even in The Netherlands. That is why initiatives like Deloitte Women’s Network, the Cultural Diversity Networkand GLOBE (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender network) are important. They allow you to share, laugh and get support from those who have the same small daily struggles as you may have. It’s an insider’s club for the outsiders – a great way to spice up our work environment.
So although there are still issues floating around in our corporate world, the diversity & inclusion initiatives we have within Deloitte are shaping our already positive culture to a more inclusive one. What I cherish in the work environment in Deloitte is the high performance culture that thrives on differences and fresh perspectives – all to avoid the infamous Group-Think phenomenon. The way we serve our clients is by accommodating the tension between innovation and the status quo by constantly challenging each other and asking the right questions, uncomfortable as they may be. This type of environment is the sweet spot for outsiders. That is also what I love about my work – our clients come to us when they need a fresh look on a familiar topic. We are there to research, analyze, advise and implement things that are either completely new to our clients or are a big change. Working in diverse teams with different professional and interpersonal skills is what makes us successful at bringing forth change. Because as I noticed, in reality, conforming to a particular mold is completely uninspired and may be dangerous to bring value forward.
"Staying my authentic self is more important than any job requirement, and I’m glad my employer encourages me to do so."
My name is Arina, I’m a consultant in the Strategy & Operations department in Deloitte. I was born in USSR in a country now called Azerbaijan, and grew up in Israel. About 9 years ago I moved to The Netherlands on my own. After a few years of work I was able to start and even finish a BSc in Business. I recently graduated from an MSc in Finance & Investments in Rotterdam University. I joined Deloitte in September 2015. Being a second time immigrant means that I have felt unwelcomed in many rooms. But I have also found some great perks in this confronting feeling. Being an outsider can be wonderful, valuable, and most of all liberating. Staying my authentic self is more important than any job requirement, and I’m glad my employer encourages me to do so.
I am a consultant for CFO services within Strategy & Operations. As a consultant I help organizations with complex financial transformations, enable companies to utilize their finance departments for strategic decision making, and drive efficiency through process improvements. My focus is on the private sector, where I enjoy the sharp learning curve each project requires. In my spare time I ponder about marketing, strategy and blogging.