Becoming Confidently Caribbean at work with Kerry Ann Reid Brown & Monique Russell

Becoming Confidently Caribbean at Work

Monique Russell is a Bahamian American International Teacher, and Executive Communications Coach based in Atlanta, GA where she teaches effective communication strategies. 

In this episode I chat it up with Monique Russell on becoming Confidently Caribbean at Work. We discuss the age old question “do you share your culture at work?” Why you should share your culture and how it can be beneficial? 


Monique and I will be co-faciliating a workshop on April 4th in Brooklyn, NY called Confidently Caribbean at Work. It’s interactive learning experience on How to Leverage Your Caribbean Culture with Confidence at Work.


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Kerry-Ann:  Hey everyone welcome to another episode of Carry On Friends the Caribbean American podcast celebrating five years of podcasting. Yes, I’m going to keep saying that all year as much as possible. And I am excited because we have a returning guest to the podcast Monique Russell. Monique, welcome back to the podcast. Welcome back home. All right, so for anyone who didn’t hear you the last time, tell us a little bit about who you are Caribbean country you represent, what you do and all that good stuff. 

Monique Russell:  Absolutely. Kerry, it’s so great to be back. I can’t believe that now. We are already in 2020. And now we are having this conversation again. But yeah, I am Monique Russell and my Caribbean island of heritage is the beautiful island of the Bahamas. And what I do is I specialize in teaching individuals and teams, how to have positive and productive relationships using Effective communication strategies. So they call me the clear communication coach because if your communication is not clear, you’re going to struggle. And I love doing this and speaking keynotes workshops, and Online Training Solutions and coaching as well. So it’s so great to be here and kind of talk a little bit more about how we’re in this space where we definitely need to amp up our communication skills, because things is changing so quickly, 

Kerry-Ann:  Very, very quickly. All right, so the last time you were here, we talked about a lot of stuff. Like what was what like, what’s, what’s one of those memorable parts of our conversation we had the last time you were here. 

Monique Russell:  I think we’re talking about that whole self-awareness and just really making sure that we are able to understand who we are and embrace who we are our whole self. And I clearly remember you had the young man on prior to my show and he was so vulnerable and sharing how he approached work, how he parented his children. And we kind of connected that whole aspects of self-awareness and how when we’re raised, we take what we know from our parents, our grandparents, and we carry that on consciously and subconsciously into everything that we do. 

Monique Russell:  Yes, that was the episode with Mark. I just love it. It just gives me like so much joy when I think about it, because that was, that was a nice box that he opened. And like you, it’s the gift that keeps giving because it’s just like you said, the vulnerability and the self-awareness, the introspection from that episode. So I’m really glad that that was that resonated with you as well because, you know, it’s one of those episodes that you think it’s just timeless because wherever you go in any stage of your life, there’s this level of You know, reevaluation and introspection, retrospection, that that is a good healthy dose for everyone. So yeah, so now, what are we going to talk about today? I think we could always talk about so many things, but what are we? What should we focus on today as a discussion point? 

Monique Russell:  You know, what I think Kerry-Ann just building on to what we’ve already talked about. And when you said how Mark open that box, I think we need to dig a little bit deeper into that aspect like opening that box and especially as it relates to our heritage, because now we’re in a, we’re in a time where our teams are really diverse. Our teams are multicultural our teams are global. And we have to find ways of connecting and communicating more effectively within our teams if we if we want not only for the team to succeed, but for us to succeed. And I remember having a conversation not too long ago, we were at dinner, we were at the dinner table and there was several Caribbean and African heritage people at the conversation and the question came up, you know, should you share your heritage at work? And that led into all sorts of different conversations. And I definitely want your input on this too. But the general consensus was No, you don’t. And even if someone were to ask you, you know where you are from, they felt like, they didn’t need to share that. They would say, you know, I’m from New York, even though as clear as day, you know, you can hear an accent. Yes, yeah. I think though, what do you think?

Kerry-Ann:  No, This is like, this is bringing up a lot of conversations. I think even a couple episodes we talked about being Caribbean in the workplace. And I can definitely relate to those who said no, because for years, I would go to work and no one would know that I’m Jamaican, unless I had to do an emergency trip to Jamaica. Or I brought, like, it wasn’t something that I advertised. And it wasn’t that I was ashamed. It came from two folds two things, right? It came from one, just this aspect of Caribbean culture where we all grew up hearing don’t like don’t tell yuh business at work mind yuh business, keep to yourself and do work, especially as immigrants. Right? And, you know, when we came to the to America in 1993, you know, my uncle who’s been here years before that from the 70s, or whatever, you know, people didn’t, you know, advertise where they were from, because, as immigrants, they didn’t want to bring attention to themselves. So we’ve learned to just like, no, we’re not going to talk and we’re going to use the Queen’s English as best as possible. And so I you know, we’ve internalized those messages and not show up that way at work where it’s just like you bring your heritage because you didn’t want it to have a negative impact on you. And I didn’t necessarily experience this but people did experience being made fun of from an immigrant or a cultural perspective. And for me, I so when I started working in legal, I mean, the legal industry is a naturally conservative industry. It’s very, you know, still suit and tie are very, you know, very structured for lack of a better word. And I mean, I haven’t worked in that industry for a couple years now, three years, but I’m not that far removed from it to say, this was the experience was suit and ties, we had clients coming in. So you represented the firm and that was a very, Whether or not it was explicit, or it to me was implicit that I represented the firm to the point that even when I started carry on friends, like I did not put a picture of myself anywhere on the blog, because I didn’t Not wanted to come back to my firm. And there was going to be a big old counsel about whether this blog because I had a pretty high enough position in a firm and I didn’t want them to feel like this blog was representing the firm and it would impact their clients. So all of these things from a corporate cultural perspective impacted how I showed up at work. So it’s kind of those things like the industry culture and the company culture also impacted how I showed them that work in addition to what my your family would tell you that they didn’t necessarily say don’t be Jamaican at work, but don’t bother go on with anything too extra to stand out. And, go ahead. 

Monique Russell:  No, but um, so Okay, industry culture is one thing, company culture is another thing. I mean, definitely, I think you have to understand how to how to play how to play when you are in different organizations, but yes, did you? Did you ever reveal at any point?

Kerry-Ann:  Yes, I did. I did. I did. I couldn’t. There was. I mean, I did and it’s the unfortunate thing like, you know, when you cross I hear the little accent Come out, or, or I think it came out more like when you got a phone call. And it was a family member, and you went someplace and had a conversation and they were hearing something like, wait a minute, like it and this is how you know that people eavesdrop when you’re on the phone, they’re like, you were talking to your family. What language was that? You know, so that’s how it comes out. And it’s just like, Oh, I didn’t like the first thing I ever like you’re from Jamaica, Jamaica, Queens, like no Jamaica, the island. And they were like, oh, and then you know, so it wasn’t something that I announced but it came out in very small ways by interacting with co-Workers because I am unapologetically Jamaican and I’m unapologetically Caribbean. So if your work if you have a co-worker, at some point, they’re going to know your culture, you know, like, I bring lunch to work, you know, I speak to family at home. You know, My, my daughter goes to school, if there’s something at school and you know, the family member who picked her up, say this, and that, you know, I’m just going to be like, with this particular, you know, like, all right, me will call you back later, blah, blah, blah, even when you’re speaking faster. They, I mean, it’s natural with family, you know, you could hear the switch in, in tone, or how you speak and people will pick up on that because we, you know, I didn’t have a sprawling corner office that everything was private, you’re in cubicles, so it’s not that private. So it did come out.

Monique Russell:  And when it did come out in those little snippets, how did that influence or impact the way you interact with people or the way they interacted with you?

Kerry-Ann:  So I think it’s so. So going back to that piece, right? Where it’s like, all right, you go to work your mind your business, you know stay outta trouble. So naturally, and I think my personality tends to be I’m quiet, I’m quiet, I’m reserved, I’m observant. And so when the accent or the culture comes out, it becomes what people use to try to engage and be social. And the young Kerry the eight, you know, because I’ve been working corporate since I was about 18. Right? So the younger Kerry is going to be like, why dem want to fass in my business. But this Kerry, you know, the 40 plus Kerry is understanding that it is their way of making a connection with their coworker. And if it’s the accent that they’re hearing, or, like, what it’s cold in New York, why would your family want to come to Jamaica? And it’s like, to us it may seem like obviously, why would any immigrant family come to Jamaica, but come from any country to come to the US. But again, it’s a it, was an opportunity for our conversation to educate that co-worker and not necessarily tell you exact business. But I realized that there were just opportunities for conversation that they wanted to have that they had no other way of having a conversation with me other than the work that I’m doing on it. And at the time, I’m very specific. You asked me a question about work, boom, I’m answering a question. It was just like, what happened to that project? That yes, this is what’s happening. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, tell you what you need to know. That’s it. 

Kerry-Ann:  So Kerry-Ann what’s going on? Oh, nothing good morning. And, you know, like, so, you know, learning those things. But, you know, again, I the environment, because even when I when I was when I was going to school at Marquette, you know, like you worked in the student union and that school student union was very different. I’ve met people who are from the Hmong society. I was like, what is I’ve never heard of that. But you learned about a new culture. So it was easy to kind of show up a little bit to be Jamaican, or be of Caribbean heritage. And then it was it was always a back. It’s, there was always a toggle between the company and where you were. 

Kerry-Ann:  And so I remember my first experience working when I’m moved back to New York, and I worked at this design studio and the bosses. They had a house in Fire Island and they invited me to their house. And that was a struggle for me. Their beach house I thought was about was a struggle, because you’re like your boss invited you. First they invited me to dinner at their house, which is on Bleecker Street in the city. So you know they have money because they are you know, and then they invited us to that they invited me to their beach house in Fire Island and it was just like going because it’s an invitation from your boss, but not all the way comfortable with the invitation. Because not only like you grew up not knowing how to be in people’s house without hearing echoes of your mother or whoever saying make sure you behave or don’t do anything, but it was a new, it was a whole new world because by going to someone’s house, you have to open up a little bit more than you would in the office, because now you’re out of that context. So conversations aren’t always around work. And because of that, it’s this. It’s this awkward phase of how do you communicate and I think that was the struggle, not wanting to go to these things because they’re asking your business, but I knew that it was I didn’t know how to communicate with them without guarding myself because you’ve all heard the horror stories of co worker throw this one on the bus, you know what I mean? So those were like some of the things that it was the tug of war, internal tug of war of when these opportunities came up, what do you do? Mmmhm

Monique Russell:  you know what, um, and I love that I love. I love your stories too, because I feel like they are such universal experiences, especially for people who are at work and not sure how to bring their heritage or how to leverage the heritage. You said you talked about connection and the fact that you know, they were using it, to have conversation. And that is so true. And I find especially when I am coaching leaders and coaching managers or individuals in the workplace, on how to communicate and how to build those bonds, how to build those connections, those aspects come up all the time. And it’s not like you’re going to tell everything about your personal life, but it is the connection and learning how to communicate that whole self-awareness piece. So the 18 year old Kerry was like no, yes, no finish. But now you know, the grown and mature, Kerry is more self-aware and understands that this is the way to bridge connection and to have relationship and community at work. Yeah, your story, your experience I feel once you started connecting and I mean getting invited to the home is a whole nother level. Right? Yes, the beach home is a whole nother level. Yeah. And that is how you build relationships. Yes. So now that’s a benefit. I mean, what else? Let’s see, what else could you think of that, that you would categorize as a benefit of now having this new way of thinking about your heritage at work?

Kerry-Ann:  You know, I’m like for me, and that’s part of why I started carry on friends like there was this really the shifting tides of technology impacted how I showed up from a cultural person. Perspective, right? I think the technology globe, I mean, everyone, if we go back to the 90s, you will see a lot of conversation about globalization. And now globalization is like, it’s like here is here, like every level every couple of you know what I mean. So when I, when I shifted from one firm, where the, they were more traditional, and they were not about heavy socialization, because the boss that I went to wasn’t in the legal industry, they were in the design industry. So there are more like, you know, relaxed creative. And so when I worked in the legal industry, the you know, in the early years of working in the legal industry, it was that industry culture was I don’t want to say fed but it was conducive to the very conservative Caribbean Jamaican person, you know, I don’t want to say conservative, what’s the word like, you know, not secretive, but it was conducive. To me not having to be myself or tell everybody my business, it was conducive to that because of the environment. And so as, you know, times change and the workforce and the law firm became younger, the younger generation wanted more conversation they wanted about who you are, what you are, what you’re doing all of this stuff, you know, and that’s when happy hours increased, you know, versus when I worked. You know, my early days in a law firm, happy hours were far and few in between, because we were one we were working around the clock, so no one had time for happy hours, really. So and your happy hour was when you know you’re at the law firm dinner comes at eight o’clock and everyone sits in the break room for dinner, and then you go back because you have to finish a brief for delivery. So it was conducive to that so as technology we got more social that’s why And the struggles came up a little bit more, because people wanted to talk more than I was willing to talk. I was comfortable to talk. And you know, this this, this gray area of you know, reflecting in on my Caribbean my Caribbean ness and saying my spirit can’t tek a person they always want to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to this person because I can’t fake it they’re going to look at my face and see that I don’t like them. Like, like that. Not being able to really hide my I don’t want to say disdain for a person. But that’s kind of what it because you have that co-worker that is just not always the best colleague.

Monique Russell:  You know, and you have that you have that everywhere,

Kerry-Ann:  everywhere. And as Caribbean people sometimes we don’t have a poker face, you just can see it all written all over your face that I don’t like you. You know and how again, it comes back to the clear communication like I don’t have to love you to work with you. But I need to be able to communicate in a way with you without shutting down or just stonewalling you, which is kind of what Caribbean people are very good at. If we don’t like you, we stonewall, you know, working through those communications to say, Okay, I don’t have to like you, but I have to work with you and get stuff done. And I can be I and, and balance and being okay with them saying, Well, why did you tell Monique that you went to Jamaica? You didn’t tell me and I’m like, because I told Monique. I don’t have to tell you, you know, but in a way that it’s like, you get why I tell Monique why I had that conversation with Monique because I have a different relationship. So that is kind of where the challenge is. It’s not so much that we don’t talk. It’s like we don’t feel like justifying why we tell one person over the other person, things about us. And that is something that happens not only in work, but in any relationship, any context. I feel like people will always wonder why one person, in families what Why did you tell this brother this and not tell this brother that so that and that comes off also in you know work relationships as well people want to know why some people have access to some information more than

Monique Russell:  I mean I think the thing is at the end of the day, we have to identify what is personality and what is culture? And what is what is our ability or lack of ability to communicate effectively. Sometimes we hide behind culture, Uh huh. And say that’s just how we are. But we are missing those fundamental pieces of awareness because let’s say the same we’re not the same person that we were 1020 years ago. We have more experiences now. And for those especially that I’ve been able to work with who have now saw, learn new ways of thinking or being and bringing their heritage or their individuality to work. I think it allows them to stand out. Yes, it allows them to stand out differently.

Kerry-Ann:  Yes, I agree.

Monique Russell:  And you want to be able to I mean, everybody is you don’t want to blend in with the noise. And so you just you have to learn how to leverage that how to bring that out how to embrace that, but like, Mark, he had to break out of the box.

Kerry-Ann:  Yes. Listen I have a, so when I left the law firm, but not the legal industry. I went to another company. And that was, that was like the most amazing experience of myself personally, because, you know, I was like, upset because I couldn’t be who I was. And years later I can see that okay, I just wanted to be this heads down Caribbean person at work. I shouldn’t say Caribbean, naturally, whether Caribbean or Jamaican heads down person. That’s why I’m heads down, get work done, I’m executing. And I was upset that my work was defined not on my work product, which was excellent. It was an excellent work product. I knew this. But because I wasn’t social enough, I’m getting these dings on my review or how people view me, and I was upset. And so when I started this new job, I had just done some work around confidence and taking up space. And just being this, this personality that I knew I had, right. And I knew I got the job when I went in the interview and everybody in that interview was just like, they were. By the time I left that company, they were like, Oh, the always charming Kerry-Ann. I was like Kerry-Ann’s Charming because I learned the parts of my personality that people responded to. Right. And it’s the quick so the company itself had a multicultural environment. And not because a company had a multicultural environment made it easy for me to be like ta-da I’m Jamaican, because, or I’m Caribbean, because if you spent years kind of bottling or you’ve trained yourself to lock parts of yourself, your identity and your culture away, it doesn’t just open up because a company has flags all over the place, they have International Day, it doesn’t open up, it takes time. But before I started that company, I was already doing the work to say okay, I in order for me to get to this next level of success, I have to do things differently. So I did a lot of work in terms of self-awareness and the confidence and I showed up to that job. Like, like the best me I could be there was not one person who did. I mean, I didn’t went from you know, quiet Kerry to chatty Kathy, or you feel that person but I, I engaged and I interacted and I showed parts of my personality, I would talk to my coworkers about track and field like things that you make connection with. So like, you know, I like basketball. I didn’t really watch football. I’m not a big football fan like American football, but you know, understand the basics of the game to have a conversation. So, you know, when these conversations were happening, or people were talking about movies, you know, being part of those conversation, even if it was those one liners, right, just like jumping in and, and people like that. And I remember the part that made me come alive was sharing what I did with carry on friends, the blog, and people were just like and the podcast and they were like what tell me about This and it was it was it was a new feeling. It wasn’t a confidently walking out this gate to say yeah, I blog and I podcast but it was just like yeah, you know I do have a blog and I have a podcast and the marketing person was like oh really? Maybe you should write for the company blog and I was

Monique Russell:  Stop right there. What did you say you think maybe you should write for the company blog?

Kerry-Ann:  Yes, that’s what she said.

Monique Russell:  So, okay, Kerry-Ann

Kerry-Ann:  I’ll tell you the story. So you know, things that you know, I I’m, you know, having this time at the company, there’s so at this company, I realized that you know, you remember watch Superman and all Clark Kent did was take off his glasses and then people didn’t recognize him. How could you not see it’s the same person? He just took off his glasses and put on like a red suit. But that Clark Kent effect is something so I remember I showed up at the company’s holiday party and I had my contacts in and I didn’t wear glasses everyone was walking by me because they did not recognize me. I was like, how could you not see it was me. They’re like you look like a very different person without your glasses. Right? So those are like, those became conversation piece like, yeah, we just like we talked about what would your disguise be? They’re like Kerry-Ann It’s easy; She just needs the glasses and then take off her glasses. You know, like little things like that. But what really came as a transformational moment, the company was doing a reduction in force, meaning they were laying off people. And they laid me off. But they called me back the next day and say, we have a job for you in the marketing department. Because of legal processes, they have to leave me off because they couldn’t say, okay, we’re switching from this department to the other department, because then it wouldn’t be equitable for the other employees that they’re laying off within that particular department. Right. But they called me back and say, Hey we really like you. It was a really tough decision. Every one of those director said when it came up to making the choice on who they were making a decision about laying off. They had a very hard time laying me off. They struggled with it. And they figured out where can we put Kerry-Ann. And they were like, the marketing director was like, I’ll take her like, and it was because they were like I said, Oh, I have a blog and a podcast. Wow. And that kind of, you know, kind of moved me into different areas using skills that I didn’t learn from years in the legal industry, but because I was doing carry on friends, and they saw the work that I was doing, and that’s how I got a job in the marketing department at the same company.

Monique Russell:  That’s what everybody who is listening to us talk about this right now need to hear because how are you going to teach them to have the Clark Kent effect or the Kerry-Ann Reid effect because if you are closed off and you choose not to share parts of yourself, or you’re not sure how to Engage, you won’t be seen. And you want to be seen at work, 

Kerry-Ann:  And you can’t create new opportunities because for what was happening, I wanted to get out of the legal industry, because I’m a, I trend spot and I saw where the industry was going. And I was like, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into this industry. I want to gain new skills. Because if I should ever end that that layoff was again, not my worst fear. But what I knew was going to happen as the legal industries and companies or firms are merging. Companies are merging, there’s going to be always a reduction in force somewhere. And I didn’t always want it to be playing defense. I wanted to get offensive. And I was like, I needed to get out of the legal industry, because the skills that I had at the time are very specific to the legal industry. I can’t do or I can’t use those skills anywhere else, but In a law firm, or in a corporate in a in a corporation that has a legal department, so any of these tech companies that have a legal department, I could only use that there. I, you know, need very specific skills. And I’m like, I needed to develop skills that I could use in any industry, you know. And so, when the opportunity came, yes, it was less money. It was less money than what I was making in the role before, but it was a job. And now I could add this to my resume as marketing coordinator, or you know what I mean, and I was still doing project management within the marketing department. And now I had a small team that I was running, whereas in the previous role, I didn’t have a small team that I was running, you know, so but, but it was big knowing from a future standpoint, like career, what do I need? How do I need to always be creating opportunities for myself to slingshot and that’s why I call I call the slingshot approach. How do I step back because less money for some people and not for some people less money is a step back because now you have to adjust your finances right? But how I was going to use this new role to catapult to where I wanted to go, and that wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t having a conversation that yes, I do have this blog and podcast, I am Jamaican. And so anytime something happens, you know, I remember the HR director was like, you know, carry the charming Kerry-Ann you know, because there was always I wasn’t being the funny stand up person, but I was showing parts of my personality. That is, that is not something that is so special and unique that I only get to show it to friends and family. And because of that, you know, I had a repertoire relationship, not just with peers, people on my level but people who are higher up and who thought highly of me because of one my work product and they got to know part Of Me and my culture. And yes, they will say, hey I’m going to Jamaica, tell me where to go. Those are like the things that they also want to know. Like, you went to Jamaica, where do I want to go? I did have an experience with someone thought I was because I was in Jamaica, smoked weed. But those are that’s like one in five. That was my experience, right. But most people, they just want to know, they’re curious. And like we talked about in a previous episode, it’s our responsibility, you know. And this is, I think, where people struggle, you, you don’t want to feel responsible for training them about your culture, because then you go into this rabbit hole of trying to undo some of the things that are stereotypical about the culture, but I have to represent me and if I’m representing me, I’m part of my culture. And if someone says something, I’m like, No that is not entirely the truth. I don’t have to do a full on history lesson. But it’s while I’m there is my opportunity to take up space as this Jamaican, born Caribbean woman and say, No, that’s not true. I am not. I’m not the CARICOM spokesperson for the other Caribbean countries, but I could tell you No, I don’t think that’s entirely true. I could tell you about what we do in Jamaica. But I can’t tell you that this is what they absolutely do in Trinidad. You know, so it’s, you know, the opportunity to what’s the word I’m looking for advocate for the culture? And not necessarily instead of teaching you advocate for the culture that said, No that is not necessarily right. And I encourage you to find someone who’s from this country in this country and learn about it.

Monique Russell:  I mean, I can relate to several things that you said in terms of, you know, bringing my culture out at work, I, I never had that issue where I wanted to reserve I use every opportunity for any and everyone to know that I am from the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, and that has served me well. So in your experience in terms of being able to be seen, be heard, be recognized be exposed to other opportunities. I have experienced all of that simply because I chose to stand out and not allow my culture to hold me back or hide it not to hold me back. And I think that if we can create something if we can create the space and allow the space for people to come out of that box to do what you did change your perspective, embrace their heritage, you know, just engage outside of work, because your blog and your podcast you were doing that outside of work. And that is something that allowed you to even brand yourself at work with your personality. I think we can create that environment or that space for people to learn how to do it, because you said you just don’t do it overnight. And you don’t do it on your own. But you do it through a process of awareness and when they do come up with what they call, quote unquote stupid questions. You need to know how to respond to that or How to answer that. Because at the end of the day, like you said in the beginning, Kerry, they’re looking for a way to have a conversation. They’re looking for a way to have that connection. And so we take that approach, and we realize and recognize that at the end of the day, if we think about it this way, if we take these specific approaches, if we use the slingshot effect, then we have the Clark Kent result. Yeah. We’ll do we need to do to get there. 

Kerry-Ann:  Yeah, I love it because I literally my strategy is called the slingshot strategy. Like when I evaluate something, how will this well I don’t call it slingshot because in the Caribbean, what we call it catapult. How do I catapult myself? That’s why, you know, what we’re doing in terms of confidently Caribbean at work, how to leverage your Caribbean culture, you know confidently in the workplace is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to Have these transformational experiences and show up to work being authentic is the place to do that. Because especially as companies become more multinational, we’re working with colleagues that are on up entirely different continent. And, you know, as Caribbean people, we, we are exposed to multiculturalism, right on our, on our, in our countries. It’s a natural part of us, because most of us, you know, most Caribbean culture, I mean, most people think of Caribbean as Afro Caribbean, and that’s the majority but we have indo Caribbean, we have Asian current, we have so many and we we’ve learned to deal with this multiculturalism, you know, naturally, and the fact that we traveled from an entire different country to take up root in a new country. Those gives us those things give us experiences. I think this learning experience on April 4 is a great way to start the process of doing the work building the self-awareness because that is a key part. Because I had to tap into what I know I do very well. And once I do it, I see how my colleagues react to me and it’s not a show. It’s not, I’m not being fake. It’s this the side of me that I know exists that I can. It’s a gift that I could give freely. And it’s the gift that also gives me back because then I begin to build repertoire colleagues that I’ve worked with five companies back are sending me text messages, I got a job for you, you know, those are the wins that happens, you know, you connect with them in different ways. And, you know, I just think that the more diverse what like you said, multicultural teams, diversity, diverse teams, it’s, you know, diverse thought and thinking because we experience things differently and these are valuable. So like you said, the success connecting with our team and the success of our team.

Monique Russell:  I mean, when you when you first talked about this, this learning experience, I was so excited Kerry-Ann because I was like, what nobody is actually taking it from this angle from this perspective. And so I think this is cutting edge, because you are going to serve people in ways beyond what they can imagine. And I think that just it’s not a matter of shutting down the heritage or saying, you know, don’t do this or don’t do that. But it’s like, how can you leverage who you are at work? How can you step more into, you know, your greatness, and I’m not talking about Okay, just telling everybody a business or doing it in an inauthentic way.

Kerry-Ann:  Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, it’s so the work that this learning experience we’re having is April 4, right here in Brooklyn, and I’ll make sure we put all that information Monique and I will be facilitating, you know, what’s important is that we all want to thrive at work, right? We want to be good at what we do. We want to be successful, we want to be paid accordingly. Because when we thrive at work, we were supporting or ourselves on our family financially. And, you know, that’s one of the, you know, Maslow’s’, you know, something you survival, that’s how we survive, right? But if we are not happy, and we’re, we’re the lone wolf. And, you know, we keep getting complaints from HR. It’s, we can’t point our fingers anymore. We also have kind of have to look at what we need to do differently, you know, and say, Okay, we have to tweak something in order to show up in a way because we’re not happy. And if we keep if we don’t change anything and go to a different job, we’re going to get the same results. So we have to, to identify what authentically I can say To do and it is not what’s out the gates with everything short beat chest like, the Jamaican is here. But it’s what small thing because it really started very small for me what small thing I can do to show up and be my authentic self and say it’s okay. They you know, and realize that it’s not necessarily personal. And even if it’s, if it’s personal, it’s not my business like, I just know that I’m, I’m here, and this is where how I’m going to show up so I can be excellent in what I have to do, because most people of Caribbean heritage. We’re worker bees, and we’re focused on doing work. We’re and work nowadays is about making connections. Yes, and yes, and if we don’t make connections, teams don’t flow efficiently and effectively. And again, I am not saying to tell them about your mother, father, Auntie, all of that good stuff, unless you want to. But there has to be a change. There’s a different connection when you and your team meet. You’re in sync about something, because there’s this creative flow or energy that you experience and it goes into your work. And then that impacts because there’s just so many things and that’s what we’re going to get into, in this learning experience, all the things that could be impacted lessons, strategies, and it’s not about, you know, Monique, you and I given a lecture, we their activities that are planned. And, and, and we want to apply that some of the strategies, you’re going to apply them in real time. So you feel comfortable because we don’t want you know, I definitely don’t want anyone to walk away with a whole bunch of strategies and not practice some of those strategies. Right. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s critically important to create opportunities, you can’t create opportunities unless you like you said, and you do the work but self awareness. 

Monique Russell:  Mm hmm. Definitely not a lecture style. I don’t do lecture Kerry-Ann, and I don’t, I will have to get an extra insurance because I would fall asleep and hit my head on the table. No we’re going to be doing a blend of activities just like you said, and engaging and networking and fun and just really, really having open honest conversations because like you said, it is really all about connection. And things are changing. And we have to adapt as well. We have to be resilient. And we have to develop new skills, but they’re not only just going to help at work, they’re going to help in every area of your life. So like you said, if you find yourself running into the same obstacles over and over and over, no matter what type of job you’re into, they always out to get you. They always don’t understand you. They just because you Caribbean just because you this just because you’re not if you’re always running into those same types of obstacles, then it might be time to just look at things a bit differently. And

Kerry-Ann:  I love that you said that. It’s it and it’s just that that was that was the transformation that came out of that time. Between 2014 and 2015 where I was like jobless was like, I have to make a change. I just have to, and you know, going into that interview and just was like, and I made so much of a change. I forgot to tell you I had two job offers. Yes, yes. I had two job offers. And they both were courting heavily and I chose so I think either one I landed up, it would have been a it was a step in a different direction from where I was coming from, this is me, this is why I’m why can no one understands me, that type of thing. It was still Yes, you know, understanding who I am. But understanding that, you know, I’m in this culture, and I need to understand what the company is the culture is and then you know, you know, adjust accordingly, but still bring my authentic self so I’m really, I am really excited because I think for years carry on friends. We’ve been talking We’ve been having these nuanced conversations, and I’m excited about in this 5th year and opportunity to bring these conversations live, and to walk away with actionable things or strategies that anyone could do and apply it in not just work, but in church, right? Churches have different culture, you know, whatever group that you’re working with, outside of a work structure, I think these are things that these are the strategies that I believe that are, you could use all around. So. And before we wrap up, like I’m curious, like, what are some of the things because I know you do a lot of diversity and trainings and multicultural trainings for, you know, fortune 500 company and all of this, like, what are some of the things that CEOs and other people are saying and what they’re looking for, and I know we can be jaded about the whole thing about Diversity and Inclusion. But what is the reality? And what are CEOs, managers saying that they’re looking for employees and teams?

Monique Russell:  Hmm you know what? It I think communication has been around for a long time, but it’s just that now leaders in various organizations and business owners are finding how difficult it is not only to attract talent or attract employees but retain employees and employees are finding it difficult to find meaning at work to find connection at work, and to just feel connected or have productive relationships. So the whole aspect of the soft skills you know, World Economic Forum came out with their skills have more than half of them are communication related skills, self awareness, introspection, they’re looking for people who know how to build connection, and that’s extremely hard. Especially when we all have different filters. So I think being able to just understand and realize or recognize that yes, we do have different ways of being we do have different ways of thinking. Your culture does things in a certain way. My culture does things in a certain way, where do we find commonality? And it’s, it’s, it’s challenging for a leader to be able to have that conversation, when they haven’t had that experience. Or even if they’ve had that experience, it’s challenging for them to say that same thing to their team and for their team to receive it. So a lot of times I can go into those organizations, and I helped to facilitate those difficult conversations, not from a degradation standpoint, but from Wow, look at the abundance that we have, you know, the issue is a lot of leaders don’t really feel that we shouldn’t have diversity in our teams. They’re just afraid because they know that with diversity with different personalities, with different cultures, there’s gonna be conflict. So instead of running away from conflict, we just need to find ways on better addressing it. Having those types of conversations and I think especially for us Caribbean folks, too, we are in a space where as long as we have that awareness, we can leverage the history. You know, I read Michelle Obama’s book becoming and one of the things that I picked up in there and I don’t know if anyone else picked up in there is that she had two Caribbean friends that pushed her that that really encouraged her. So I’m going to put a plug out if you don’t have a Caribbean friend, you better get one. But the truth is, we have so much to offer everyone who has a diverse culture who has you know that their culture is something that can be leveraged, but I’m specifically talking about Caribbean culture, and people grow into the conversations that you have around them. I remember I worked with one lady and that example that you talking about moving from place to place and finding it difficult is actually real and it happens. It happens more often than you think actually. And smart. You know one thing one thing I can say is the culture. Caribbean culture focuses on excellence. You know who got that honor roll who have that is you see it all on social media. You see it on Facebook, people are celebrating their children for the grades that they have. You don’t see anyone celebrating? Oh, my son was a dropout. No, okay. My daughter just got to law school we put place a very high emphasis on academics, and learning, which is good, it’s not a bad thing, but sometimes we flex way too much and we forget the practical side of being a human being. And we miss out the opportunity to connect at a deeper level not just at work, but also in our home. And this one, particularly lady we work together. And it was very, very staunch and rigid thinking in terms of, I am not here to do anything else but work. Yeah, I’m here to do my job. And smart. She was extremely smart doing a great job. But guess what, you work with people unless you’re sitting behind a computer and you don’t have to talk to anyone. And then the other thing was facial expressions. Oh my god,

Kerry-Ann:  yes. We don’t have poker faces.

Monique Russell:  Oh, my goodness, everything came out. And she just didn’t see how or why that was a problem. But like I say, we grow into the conversations you have. So as long as you are able to provide the exposure and you have the awareness to say, Wow, did you think about this? Did you realize that maybe this could have been the reason why you were passed up and not because you didn’t do a good job? Because the truth of the matter is nobody want to be working with you. If you can’t work with people in a nice way, I don’t care how smart you are. I don’t care how much money you are making the team Or the company, if it’s difficult for me to get along with you, if you are really putting such a high expectation on your team, because you yourself have not worked through this need to drive, drive, drive and push thinking that, Oh, I’m all about excellence, then I don’t want to work with you. So we work on that.

Kerry-Ann:  Yeah. And, you know, someone listening might be thinking, because I was there, too. I see it all the time. And it’s easy to go back to these places where conversations on Twitter, why do people want to come to work and think it’s a social club, and to think that there’s a high emphasis to be placed on whether you’re going out with a team, or whether you, you know, it’s just like you said, it’s, I’m just here to do work and nothing else. You know, for a lot of people it’s about trust, and if they don’t feel like they know you or they could trust you. And I know it seems crazy and it seems weird but if they don’t feel like they know you and trust you, they don’t the work that’s how it affects the teams because they know nothing about you. And they want to know you or want to trust you. And it’s, it’s very hard. I see these conversations. But I also understand because I was in that same place years ago, where there was like, What is has to do with my work? I was I was cussing up and down what does this have to do with my work. I’m doing my job. Why this people can just leave me alone. Why won’t my face look mean? Like? You know, like, I literally had people tell me that. And were they right to say that I’m not saying they were. But I looked at the impact that it had on my career. And by them thinking that I wasn’t nice and the impact it had on my career, my family finances, no one should have that power over me. And that’s kind of how I said it. Like if they I have to take control as much as I can take responsibility for my career and how I thrive. Because this is a matter of food and, and shelter, you know? And it’s a survival how do I survive and still be authentically me. And this is like, Okay, this is how it works here. This is the game at play. And a lot of people are like, I didn’t come here to play no game. But from a person who’s been laid off from a job that I thought was unfair to be laid off from a job, but going to a new job getting laid off because they were truly being laying off people but to be rehired because I, I showed them my excellence, who I was outside of the office and the other skills that I brought to the team that weren’t necessarily utilize on the team I was before, but it’s completely valuable on a new team. That was a whole new way of thinking for me. 

Monique Russell:  I mean, I think it’s just something that we need to have that continued conversation and it spills over into every other area too. Because people say, well, that’s my work life, that’s my home life. But chances are the way you are interacting with people carries over into both areas. And even if you’re a parent, and you see that, okay, you know, my child is just following my orders. And you talk about trust, trust can’t happen with without connection. You know, you just you just can’t have trust without connection. Even if you you’re working with your child, and you know, they’re just following orders and being very compliant then later on in life. You’re wondering why didn’t they tell me those things. Yeah, why don’t we have those relationships well all along their formative years, those aspects of trust building and connection were probably absent, and so it’s harder for them in their later years to now suddenly have this relationship which I see in my Coaching work as well, with men and women, where they want to have deeper connection and relationship with their children, but it hadn’t started early and it’s never too late. Yes, it’s never too late. Once you become aware, like you said, you learned that, okay, the way you were showing up was impacting you in a negative way. And they didn’t have power over you, you have power over yourself, and you have the power to change it. And you got the power to have the results of what the changes were as well.

Kerry-Ann:  Oh, Monique, we could always spend time talking about this. But you know, we are going to be doing this April 4 right here in Brooklyn. If you go to, you’ll see information about this amazing learning experience that we’re putting together. Early Bird Tickets are on sale. And we want you to join us because we feel like you can be doing so much more where you are or there are opportunities that you don’t even realize that existed for you be if you showed up, you know in a way that is going to be an amazing for your team. And so I am going to put all that information in the show notes Monique and I would love for you to join us for this really great learning experience and Monique. Anything else before we wrap up?

Monique Russell:  I just agree I’m I can’t wait to serve you. I can’t wait to see you guys coming into the workshop experience and walking out with a fabulous awareness of what to do next to take your next step.

Kerry-Ann:  Yeah, and we’ll have some good times, you know, as Caribbean people we have our little niceness.

Kerry-Ann:  Yes, yes. All right, so I’m going to put all the information in the show notes. I if you have any questions for Monique and I about this learning experience, feel free to email love to see you there. And as I like to say at the end of the show Walk good


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.