H@H: Ep 49 – Nuhamin Woldemariam joins host, Paulina Lee on this week’s episode of Here@Haas. Nuhamin, shares her journey from Ethiopia to Chicago and finally to the Bay Area. She also discusses her pivot from accounting to recruiting to consulting and finding her current career working in Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at LinkedIn. Other themes in the episode are the Black experience in America and Corporate America, corporate culture, allyship, privilege and creating boundaries for yourself.
Nuhamin also shares the importance of finding a workplace that allows you to be your true self, “I always have a really hard time not being genuine. And I remember in a longer conversation, he ended up telling me this is a really great value to have in life. But it’s not going to help you be great at this company and you are not going to succeed. I just remember looking at him and I said, ‘yeah, that’s not gonna work for me.’”
Nuhamin on how DEI has evolved over the past year:
“I’ve been fortunate to sit in rooms with some of our leadership to see them with my own eyes and hear them say, we want to see real change and we’re willing to do whatever it takes. And it’s not just for show, these conversations are happening internally. It’s really cool because they’re also pushing us. So we get to push ourselves even further.”
Nuhamin’s advice for our newest Haasies:
“Enter Haas with a blank canvas. I went in with a perspective of this is going to be a great experience, but I already have really good friends. And so I’m not really trying to make besties here. And I ended up making some of my best friends through the program and it took some time for me to become open.”
- LinkedIn’s Allyship Academy
- Forte Foundation
- All About Love by Bell Hooks
- Unlocking Us by Brene Brown
- Better Allies
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Paulina: I’m Paulina Lee, and this is here@haas, a student-run podcast, connecting you to all Haasies and the faculty that changed our lives. This week on here@haas, we are joined by Nuhamin Woldemariam EWMBA, class of 2022 AKA AUSkey queen, and our very own nuancey, which you’ll maybe find out later. Welcome to the show.
[00:00:27] Nuhamin: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:29] Paulina: How’s your week going?
[00:00:31] Nuhamin: That’s good. I’ve been productive.
[00:00:34] Paulina: Oh, yes, we’re in becoming superhuman. I just tell everyone at the productivity class. So, we are like living our best lives the best we can, as much as possible. Well, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about your journey to the Bay area and to Haas.
[00:00:53] Nuhamin: It’s been a long one. I was born in Ethiopia and we came to the States when I was six. It was a humid August day in Chicago. I remember landing and feeling humidity for the first time. And I’m pretty sure, I didn’t know these words at six, but I was like what the F! And I’ve lived in Chicago for most of my life and we had an opportunity to move to the Bay when I was 12 years old, but my mom wanted to stay within the community and not really move across the country. And so, I always wanted to be out here. I applied for a few jobs at some point in my career, nothing ever worked out. And I traveled a ton. So, that kind of fed my soul of wanting to see different places.
[00:01:45] I started to apply for full-time business programs and I started submitting applications. And I was so excited for this opportunity to live, not just in California, but maybe in some other States. All of a sudden, heard about a job opportunity at LinkedIn and I went for it. And eventually, when I got the role, I was super excited, and I moved to the Bay within three weeks of getting the offer.
[00:02:13] It was a fast turnaround. And I think I’d been in the Bay for about two weeks. And I heard about the diversity symposium that Haas was hosting. And of course, Haas was one of the schools I wanted to apply to. I was just looking at the full-time version. And when I attended, I met so many amazing people.
[00:02:31] I ended up applying for the evening weekend. I did not want to pause from this new role that I just started. I loved my team. I loved the work. It was just everything that I ever wanted. And it turned out that it was the best decision that I could have ever made. And it’s been about two and a half years so far.
[00:02:50] Paulina: That’s amazing. I’m glad that you applied the same year and that we’re in school together. So, you did undergrad at DePaul, and then you went and worked at Leo Burnett, which is for those who don’t know a very well-known ad agency in the US. What was that like?
[00:03:09] Nuhamin: Yeah. So, DePaul was actually three miles from home, so I didn’t even go that far, but it was great. I had the opportunity to experience undergrad within a city. And so, for internships, for example, it’s really easy to have an internship during school where other people had to wait until the summertime.
[00:03:28] I say that because I originally was an accounting major. And my senior year, I went to my counselor and I said, I can’t do this for the next 40 years. This is not for me. And she looked at me wild because I only had three more classes to get my accounting major and life would have been fine. And I told her, I don’t care, make it a minor. How do we shift?
[00:03:53] And I ended up taking a career assessment and HR was one of the options that I would be happy in supposedly according to the test. And it was interesting. I went for an interview at Leo Burnett for a recruiting coordinator internship. And that would allow me to get class credit. So, it was unpaid but I got it the same day as opposed to every single interview I went on for an accounting internship. I got none of them.
[00:04:26] And so it’s just one of those things in life that shows you what’s meant to be for you will be for you and at the right time. So that’s how I started, even though it was unpaid, they loved me. I mean, I loved them, it was a really great bond we had but I couldn’t keep working for free without class credit.
[00:04:47] So, after the semester ended, I went back to school and they called me around April and said we have a role in learning and development. They really like for you to come in to interview. And that’s how I got into a full-time position. And it was a great experience because I got to start working before I even graduated.
[00:05:08] So I would come in a few times a week and then literally the day after graduation, and graduation was on a Sunday, I started full-time work. And yeah, no time off. You know, looking back, I should have probably taken a week or two off, but I was so dedicated and excited.
[00:05:27] Paulina: Hey, that’s awesome. I mean, most people graduate and they’re like, ah, now I have to go work. So, the fact that you were so excited is great.
[00:05:35] Nuhamin: Yeah, it was really cool. It was cool to get my feet wet in a different area of HR that I didn’t intern in and meet new people. And I really think that helped me, even in my role today, the experience that I had within that department.
[00:05:51] Paulina: Yeah, so you did two different roles at Leo Burnett. Your second one, as I look at kind of your resume and your LinkedIn is where you started to get more involved in D&I. So, where did that change come about and how did you get into that role?
[00:06:06] Nuhamin: Back then there was no formal D&I team, at least at that company and the learning and organizational development team. So, the OD part was the folks who held the culture and a part of the culture is D&I work. And so, we just started building employee resource groups. And my manager at the time asked me, what is it that you want to do? What areas really spark joy for you? And it really was around D&I work. And I was fortunate enough for them to support that. And they literally shifted my entire role to be able to work mainly in D&I work. I started managing and consulting the employee resource groups.
[00:06:50] I got super involved. I was one of the presidents for one of the groups that we have there. It was a good experience being able to understand what it looks like within corporate America, doing something that you’re passionate about. During school, of course, I was super involved on campus, but that it makes you feel like, well, I just do that cause I’m passionate. You don’t get paid for it. There’s no real strong strategy behind it. So, that’s when I started to learn the corporate side and how the D&I work is just as important within the workspace.
[00:07:28] Paulina: What do you think was most surprising to you? Because you had done D&I work in undergrad and then bringing that passion and interest to the corporate world. What was most surprising to you?
[00:07:42] Nuhamin: Well for me, the D&I work in undergrad, I didn’t think of as D&I work. It’s just things I wanted to do and get involved with. And the transition for undergrad for me was I went to a high school where there were very little percentage of black and Latino people. And so, going to college for me, I was like, Oh my goodness. Look at everyone else.
[00:08:09] Even though the percentage was still small there, but it was, it just felt bigger. And so, I wanted to get involved with people who had very similar experiences as me. Now, when it came to the workplace, I started to quickly learn the importance of what it looks like for how people show up, the expectations at work, perhaps it’s your first time in corporate America.
[00:08:32] Even for me, I was learning. The other piece is also the layers that I was not familiar with. Right. So, the different experiences for demographics when it comes to LGBTQ, I had never really been involved in women’s programs either even though I identify as one, I really was more inclined to lean in more toward black groups that were on campus.
[00:08:58] And religion-based as well. The other piece I would say is how it really impacts employee engagement and how long people stay at the company. I didn’t realize that I didn’t put that together until I started doing the work. People will stay in a role that they’re unhappy with because they’re so in love with the culture and being involved with an employee resource group and people don’t get that until they see the fruit of that outcome.
[00:09:28] Paulina: That’s so true. My team president always says culture eats strategy for breakfast, and people love being on her team because the culture is such a big part of why we come to work every day. And then the few affinity groups that I’m involved in. I mean, that’s your support network. And then, of course, the ability to look up, look left, look right, and look down, and see people that look like you is a reason that a lot of people stay at a company or leave it for sure.
[00:10:00] So you were at Leo Burnett for almost five years and then you jumped ship. What made you make that change? And tell me about that next role.
[00:10:09] Nuhamin: I had a few friends who were in account management and I would watch them interact with clients or tell me about the different projects that they were working on. And in my role in HR, you only work with internal people and there was a little noise inside of my brain that was telling me, you need client-facing experience or else you’re just not going to succeed or you’re not getting enough of whatever that looks like to grow in your career.
[00:10:40] And once I had that thought in my head, I started applying for other positions. I knew I didn’t want to leave HR but I did want to work with clients doing what I did. And so, I ended up getting a role at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was really awesome because it allowed me to practice what I’ve learned at Leo Burnett, but with different industries. Now, ad agencies, I mean, think Mad Men. It’s really fun. The culture, you know, people are actual friends outside of work. And then I transitioned to the financial sector. It was very different. Although they have a good culture internally as well, it was really cool for me to be able to learn with top financial companies.
[00:11:29] I did work with a large retail company and healthcare as well. So, I always say it was the boot camp that I would never return back to, but I’m really glad that I experienced it.
[00:11:46] Paulina: So, it sounds like a little bit of a culture shock, but still learned a ton.
[00:11:51] Nuhamin: Yes, I really do think if you have the opportunity and the energy, get some consulting experience under your belt. It’s just a really great experience that you can’t replicate in any other place.
[00:12:07] Paulina: Yeah. I see a lot of our classmates pivoting into consulting and investment banking, and I tip my hat off to them because I think I’ve let that ship sailed because I really enjoy going to bed at 9:30, 10 o’clock.
[00:12:23] Nuhamin: That was the other thing. We were up till three at some points, and you’re traveling and you do develop a bond when you really go through the struggle with people. So, that was a good thing. And I learned a ton because people were really smart and they were able to share, but I also learned a lot about myself and I definitely had this one moment with a manager who taught me what’s important to me, what are my values, and what the next steps looks like for my career while I was there.
[00:12:55] Paulina: So, now I have to ask, what are those values that you hold on hold on to?
[00:13:02] Nuhamin: So, I’ll tell the story. I was in a meeting with my manager and he informed me how valuable it is for me to share the great things that I was doing. And our managing director didn’t live in the same city and so she would come in every few months. And he was trying to mentor me.
[00:13:28] And I was, I remember telling him, yeah, so it’s uncomfortable for me to just randomly bring up what I’ve done if it’s not already the topic of conversation. And I get it’s important to show the valuable work that you’re bringing to the team. But there’s a time and a place for these things.
[00:13:49] And I always have a really hard time just not being genuine. And I remember in a longer conversation, he ended up telling me this is a really great value to have in life. It’s not going to help you be great at this company, you are not going to succeed. And I just remember looked looking at him and I said, Yeah, that’s not gonna work for me.
[00:14:16] And then I said, this isn’t the place for me then. And he, you know, he said, in other words, it’s really important to show your work, et cetera. So that conversation led me to really unpack what is important for me. And when I looked at people who have gained a lot of success working in consulting, they are managing accounts that are millions and billions of dollars.
[00:14:41] And for me, I just never saw the joy in that. I never saw the joy in having to show up as a different person and perhaps having to fake the funk just to show that I’m doing great and I’m so valuable and you should be grateful I’m here. That’s not me. The lesson was one, I needed to work at a company where you can show up as your authentic self, but I also needed some support from a manager to push me toward being myself and not away from myself.
[00:15:17] Paulina: That’s such a great life lesson and you got it a few years out of college, which I think is good. I wish we started off at work like that because I know for me personally, it’s like your first big job out of college. You’re like, this is what it’s like to be in corporate America. And I have to be this, this, and this and this, and like that’s who I’m supposed to be to fit in and get promoted.
[00:15:40] And then it took me a little bit later on my career, similar to then finally look up and be like, Oh no, it’s actually way more fun if I’m just myself. And the leaders that I look up to are just themselves and they kill it at work, but they’re also just amazing people who are just so authentic and people want to follow them.
[00:15:59] Not just because they’re good at their job, but because they’re authentic humans. So, you obviously didn’t stay at PWC for that long where you’re there for a full year, a year and a half or so. And then you did a role at U.S. Cellular. Tell us about that switch.
[00:16:18] Nuhamin: I decided that, in looking at my role and different experiences at Leo Burnett, I’ve really loved the D&I work the most.
[00:16:26] So, I wanted to transition into full-time D&I work. That was a great transition where I was able to join a team. And I had a really great mentor on that team. We still are connected today. We actually have a meeting later this afternoon to catch up. I learned a lot about being a D&I practitioner in that role.
[00:16:49] I did a bunch of different projects but from a project manager perspective, that was a really great launch for me to understand what it looks like from a recruiting perspective, from inclusive behaviors from the way that we consult employees and consult leaders in terms of the way to take care of the culture of the company.
[00:17:11] Paulina: That’s great. So finally, after that role, you end up in the Bay area. You said earlier that you always wanted to move to the Bay. What about the Bay attracted to you and why did you set your sights on coming?
[00:17:25] Nuhamin: I remember visiting with my family and I just found it to be so beautiful. The combination of the ocean and the mountains all at once. Now I do think Chicago is the most beautiful city ever. There’s some competition out there that I won’t name but I think skyline is the best but there’s this air and this energy out here that’s connected to nature that I didn’t have growing up a lot of flat land.
[00:17:57] Paulina: So, it wasn’t like, I want a job at LinkedIn. It was like, I wanna get to the Bay area. And then we lucked out that LinkedIn had some roles that were really interesting to you.
[00:18:06] Nuhamin: Yes. And relationships really do matter. And that’s one of the values that the company, actually, a colleague who worked with me at U.S. Cellular left to LinkedIn first. And I remember when she left, she said, I’m coming back for you. And I said, okay, only for the right role though, because I’m planning to go to business school and when the right role happened, it just all worked out.
[00:18:31] Paulina: That’s great. I love that. And what was that role?
[00:18:35] Nuhamin: As a project manager on the diversity, inclusion, and belonging team.
[00:18:41] Paulina: And tell me a little bit more about that work. What did it entail? What was different versus of some of the other D&I roles you had had?
[00:18:49] Nuhamin: Hmm, that’s such a good question. Okay. So, at U.S. Cellular and when I was at Leo Burnett, a lot of my work was in supporting and consulting the employee resource groups. And this work was around the culture of the company and building an environment of inclusion. And so, what that looks like is it’s not separated for a specific demographic.
[00:19:16] It’s every single employee at the company combined with my learning and development work. And so, for me, I have a lot of experience in that area, and being able to build learning for people to understand what their role looks like and creating inclusion was the perfect combination. I also believe in programs that are developed for underrepresented groups.
[00:19:42] I just have this strong sense after working for a few years that every day single person at the company is responsible for the culture and we each have an onus to creating that culture. And a lot of groups feel like they’re not in the conversation or perhaps they’re the only ones that don’t really have a place.
[00:20:08] And I like changing the narrative to say, no, you are actually very responsible because you’re interacting with other people. You perhaps have a role in hiring people or promoting people or giving people feedback and these interactions that people have built by the day. Right. And so, if you have good interactions, it just continues to build toward the employee experience. If it’s bad interactions it also builds towards the door.
[00:20:43] Paulina: Yup! Haven’t heard that one before builds towards the door. Very true.
[00:20:47] Nuhamin: Oh, people leave so quickly, and when you ask them because there’s a lot of research out there and we’ve done research as well with folks, underrepresented groups who have left companies within 6 to 12 months. And a lot of times it’s not even this big thing that happens. One thing is usually there’s a trend around career progression, but the other piece is, well, my manager said this one time and I couldn’t let it go. And then it kept adding up and it just kept showing up as their inability to understand my experience or their inability to see the world only through their lens and not through anyone else’s experience.
[00:21:30] Paulina: That’s so true. A compounding effect that just really leaves you feeling isolated when you look around and think, wow, literally no one gets it.
[00:21:41] Nuhamin: Yes, especially for the one-and-only’s is what we call it. And what that means is if you’re the only person of that demographic in your team, and you never feel like people actually understand you, it’s really hard to get to a place of feeling like you belong.
[00:21:56] Paulina: For sure. For sure. So, speaking on that, you know, 2020 was a year, to say the least, it was definitely heartbreaking to see tragedy after tragedy hit the black community, the American community, everything that was going on. The summer across the whole year and continues.
[00:22:18] And what I appreciate, I think about last year and about speaking with you and getting to be your friend this last year too, is just the discussion, the learning, the embracing of uncomfortable conversations for some, about learning about what it is to be black in America. So as a D&I manager at one of the largest tech companies in the Valley, how was that for you in that position? How was that for you as a black woman? And did you see any shifts in the last year? Both at work or in personal life?
[00:22:53] Nuhamin: Last year was very difficult. There are pros and cons here. I will say I did have a moment where I had to pivot for myself personally. I take this work very seriously. It’s very personal. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like doing things that just don’t feel sincere and genuine, and that includes my profession.
[00:23:26] And for me, it was really tough because I would do this all day, meaning supporting employees who are impacted, supporting managers who are trying to support the employees who are impacted, and giving advice and consulting and coaching and all of that during the day. And I had to be out in the streets protesting as well.
[00:23:50] And so it felt like a 24-hour job where I’m also black 24 hours. And so, it just came to be a lot and I had to step back and I ended up going to a healing session. That was so beautiful. And it’s COVID, too, right. So, add that layer. The world was just exploding. So, I went to this outside healing session at Lake Merit and there were crystals and sage and it was just so beautiful and it ended with us, you know, doing the hustle and we were dancing to music, to Kendrick Lamar.
[00:24:31] It was just so beautiful. And that’s when I had to realize that I don’t have to do everything and I don’t have to show up for everyone either. And I had to make the decisions of where I’m going to place my energy. So, I stopped going to as many protests and lean more into the workspace. The other piece that also personally hurt a lot is that there was a lot of hurt with employees at the company.
[00:24:58] And I kept taking it personally and wanting to make a difference and a change for things that were happening. And I really couldn’t carry all of that. So, there was a lot of internal work that I had to do. And in terms of the shift and the change that I saw, a lot of the other end of the experience for me was okay, welcome to the party. We’ve been saying this, this is nothing new. I’m glad you’re having your aha moment now. Cool. And this is so layered because there’s another side of me that says, okay, great. Thanks for being on board. Now let’s take this opportunity to really provide the support that people need.
[00:25:49] And I saw a lot of raised hands. I saw a lot of, I want to do this and I want to do that. And I want to gather the people. And I saw a lot of humility and people wanting to listen. On the flip side, I also saw a lot of performative allyship, which was problematic. And so, we needed to have those conversations.
[00:26:10] And I don’t think all of it was with negative intent, but the impact was negative. And what that means is there were a lot of people who weren’t black or even people of color, white people who are just really passionate, showing up and doing certain things, but receiving the credit in the end and that’s problematic because voices have been silenced for so long.
[00:26:35] And so whenever the recognition is given, it’s really important to shift the recognition back to the underrepresented group. And there was some, a learning curve there as well. So, with all of that said, I’m glad that we’re in a place where more people are aware and understand some of the issues that are going on and there’s so much work that’s the left to do so.
[00:26:58] The more people that are on board the better. And I hope when I look into the future that there’s space for black people to start doing some healing. Cause I think that’s where we need to be. And sometimes we play too much into the role of, okay, let me advise you and let me teach you and let me tell you my experience.
[00:27:21] And for me, I’m at a place where I don’t, I’m not teaching anyone anything because there’s this great thing called google.com that will give you all perspectives. And some is bad perspective. Some is good perspective. Some are okay. But I’m not carrying the burden of teaching everyone. And I feel great about it.
[00:27:43] Paulina: That’s it true.
[00:27:44] Nuhamin: so
[00:27:44] Paulina: I think, you know, the conversations that we’ve had, the conversations that I think a lot of people had, it was like, yes, come and check-in. But also, you shouldn’t be going to your one black friend, your one black colleague, and leaning on them to be like, I’ve just discovered all these things and I’m upset, help me, cause that’s not fair. And unfortunately, that that’s what was happening for sure. And probably still happening. As you look at your work and your role in D&I, did you see LinkedIn make any shifts or see any other corporations in the space as you evaluate from a competitive landscape, make a shift in a direction that you thought was new and different because of what happened in 2020.
[00:28:31] Nuhamin: You made it tricky when you said new and different.
[00:28:36] Paulina: Or where did you guys lean in? What did you change? I know P&G specifically has made a lot more different stance. We’re talking about race a lot more. I just got out of a full two-day session digging into systematic racism. We’ve put out new policies, we’re changing the way we advertise and who’s in those advertisements, and a lot bigger strides than we have. So, you know, little things like that, but sitting inside, what have you seen or what have been some of the conversations that you can share?
[00:29:10] Nuhamin: I will share it is cool to see companies being more forward with the commitments they’re making around D&I and Black Lives Matter movement and all of that which is good because a lot of companies weren’t very forward about it, but I think the gap is what happens now after you declare these things. Internally for us, it’s been really cool as a D&I practitioner being at a company where you give advice and recommendations and leadership actually listens.
[00:29:45] And they’re very serious about wanting to see a change. And it goes to what we just talked about. One of the pieces was how do we guide employees to support one another and managers to support their direct reports. And a lot of what we said is stop asking people for advice and what they should do and support them by asking them, what do you need and how would you like to be supported?
[00:30:11] And the fact that we’re able to put these messages out there is really great. There have been other companies that I’m very familiar with and have worked at who would just say, yeah, that might be ruffling the feathers, we don’t want to do that. So, I’m really grateful that I’m in a company that is receptive and wanting to push the envelope.
[00:30:36] The other pieces I’ve been fortunate to sit in rooms with some of our leadership to see them with my own eyes and hear them say, we want to see real change and we’re willing to do whatever it takes. And it’s not just for show; these conversations are happening internally. And it’s really cool cause they’re also pushing us so we get to push ourselves.
[00:30:59] So, it’s really good. I was able to launch an inclusive leadership program specifically for managers last year. It took a bulk of my work and I’m very proud of it because every time that someone asks me, why aren’t we seeing change? And why are people still leaving? I go back to the same experience message to say, you’re a manager.
[00:31:27] You work for them. You don’t work for the company. Your manager has impact over your day-to-day experience. So does your team. And this is where we need to focus. Middle management has always in other areas too has been the really tough nail to crack or nut to crack that’s the term. And we were able to launch a workshop for managers on what it looks like to find the bias and address the bias.
[00:31:53] So we’re shifting away from what is bias or there is no bias on our team. It’s, no, there is bias. You just have to find what kind and figure out how to do with it and have a little detector when you see it. The other piece is how do you support career progression cause that’s also why people leave and you would think career progression is something similar for all, which it is, right.
[00:32:18] Everyone should have opportunity and access, especially to internal mobility. But there’s a difference when it’s an underrepresented group and there’s a difference in the way that someone who’s unfamiliar with how to engage with someone who’s not like them the way they give feedback. And there’s the other piece that people don’t also think about; this fear that people carry of saying the wrong thing. And so, I don’t want to criticize this employee because they’re going through so much externally in the world. And so, I’m not going to give them direct feedback. I’m going to tell them they’re doing great, but you’re actually holding them back from developing.
[00:32:56] And so there’s a fine balance that we need to find here in giving specific feedback versus vague feedback. A lot of unpacking of even for women, the way they’re giving one another feedback or they’re getting feedback and how those little things are many rocks that just ended up being built into this huge mountain. And we’re just taking the rocks apart one at a time, and it’s going to take some time but we’ll get there.
[00:33:29] Paulina: You’re trying to move mountains one rock at a time. I love it.
[00:33:35] Nuhamin: I think people really are solutions-oriented and they want to see a change. And so, they just want to dive in to say, okay, what are we going to do to solve this problem? And when you’ve stepped back, it’s not a problem that was created in one day. It’s over several years. And history has really impacted where we are today.
[00:33:54] And a part of it is encouraging people to look within themselves why this work is important to them. The company can say diversity, inclusion, and belonging is so important. This is a part of our value, but if you don’t get the why, why are you motivated to do anything, you can just continue doing your job.
[00:34:16] I had a colleague who shared his experience with me in a program that we run called the Allyship Academy. He shared I’m a Jewish man and I never understood why I should really care and put in extra effort until I remembered the moment when I was othered by being in a group and I couldn’t relate. And I couldn’t believe that people feel that every day.
[00:34:42] And I only felt that one or two times in my upbringing and that really gave me the fire within. And so, looking within first and then how do you then develop your team and help other people.
[00:34:56] Paulina: I think that’s a great story to share and a great point because I think if anything, what this pandemic has helped do is force people to sit at home with themselves and take a real good look in the mirror and listen to their own thoughts about who they are and who they want to be. And so, I hope this is a moment where people will take a step back and understand within themselves.
[00:35:19] Why do they have the biases that they have? How do they overcome and then how do they make change? Even if micro change in their own lives and their own circles of influence, but to kind of the point you’ve made a few times, I feel like there are interviews like little steps, little changes have ripple effects into bigger change and bigger changes.
[00:35:42] Nuhamin: Exactly. And the huge learning is, let’s put away the guilt because guilt doesn’t do anything for us. It’s not really impactful. Everyone has privilege. Okay. Everyone has privilege, but how do you use that? How do you leverage it? How do you use it towards solidarity? Right. Even for me as a black person, as a woman, as an immigrant, there are different ways that I can stand in the underrepresented group area but I still have the privilege of education, speaking English, being able-bodied, being cis-gendered. And so how does it look like for me to take these areas and then stand in the gap for other people or show up for others?
[00:36:27] Paulina: I love that. So, tell me more, why did you decide you wanted to get an MBA and why was Haas at the top of that list?
[00:36:37] Nuhamin: Oh, the MBA journey. It was a long one. So, I applied to MBA programs three years out of college and got into none of them. And I remember after a few years, I thought about it. And I looked at him for the Forte Foundation, which is a program that prepares women to go into business school and they had a 10-month MBA prep program.
[00:37:09] So, I just decided I’m going to apply for this prep program. The application isn’t that long. And if I get in that means the universe is telling me that I’m going to try again. If not. My ego is just not going to let me, my pride is too big. And so, I got in and I was like, dang, now I have to go for it.
[00:37:33] And so I’m going through the program and I start learning all of these things that you’re supposed to do when you apply to business school that I would have never known, that I didn’t know and do before. And I read my essays and I realized how just like that they were. I remember saying I’ve worked in corporate America for three years and I’ve just realized this isn’t for me and I want to be an entrepreneur.
[00:37:56] That was really like the summary. I had no prototype. I had no ideas. I’m not in the market. First, I also have been only working for three years and mentors will say you still got Similac on your breath. That means you’re still a baby in this game. And so, through the program, I ended up really digging in deep for why I want to do this again.
[00:38:27] And I do like who I’ve become within my work because I’m able to show up as myself and I like human resources. So, if I’m working in corporate America, I do want to rise to leadership into being a chief HR officer in the future. And I also am a planner. So that’s one path. My other path is still entrepreneurship and I’m able to explore that.
[00:38:53] So now that we’re in electives, I’m taking the course and I did the StEP program and I’m looking into Skydeck and Leap and all of the other things that Haas offers. And the third option is, you know, we’ll see, maybe I’ll marry rich. I don’t know, but we have options here, you know? It’s just been such an amazing experience because I remember going to the diversity symposium back when I applied to Haas the first time to the full-time program and falling in love with the culture, visiting multiple schools, you still get an MBA at the end of the day, but it’s the culture and the experience that makes or breaks what it looks like for you to not even enjoy the program, but the network and the alumni people you actually want to connect with and help in the future because people are going to be reaching out to you.
[00:39:51] Paulina: So true. What do you think surprised you the most when you got to campus?
[00:39:58] Nuhamin: I remember getting to know people during orientation and getting to know just who they are and not necessarily what they do. A lot of people you would think, and sometimes in the Bay area, it has that rep of people lead with their role or their company. Yeah. That was not it at Haas. And I found out what people did or what company they worked at in conversation or during class when a professor would ask. And I would just turn and say what, Oh my gosh, so cool. Wait, you’re going to be important. But the humility was just so beautiful and that’s a great part of my experience.
[00:40:51] Paulina: I love that. So selfishly, I’m always looking for good book and podcast recommendations. What have you been reading or listening to lately?
[00:40:55] Nuhamin: Okay, this is my favorite question because I love podcasts. And right now, I’m obsessed with Unlocking Us by Brene Brown. I just feel like me and her really connect. She has an episode on shame and vulnerability that I’m going to plug real quick. She released it last June, especially around the protest time.
[00:41:17] And she talked about her work in racial justice. And she is just an amazing woman. And there are episodes that make me write down the quotes that she says like right now I have a post-it it says the messy of a person is hard when we’re scared. I was like, that’s deep.
[00:41:38] Paulina: Ok, I love that.
[00:41:38] Nuhamin: But, and it, really hit home for me because right now I’m exploring a lot of learning around what love is and what that looks like and how it shows up.
[00:41:50] And I’m reading All About Love by Bell Hooks. And it was recommended to me by my cousin and actually this morning when I was reading it, there’s a page on there that talks about fear and love and how those two connect and how a lot of people lead their lives or their actions through fear because they feel like something is being threatened.
[00:42:15] If something isn’t what they know, if something shows up as something different then there’s this wall that goes up and then their actions relate to that. And that’s the very opposite of love and that’s not perfect love. And then she unpacks what perfect love is and perfect actually doesn’t mean perfect.
[00:42:33] It means refined. It’s something that we’re practicing. So, connecting it back to the work I do and just life and work and solidarity. I just think that a lot of the world operates out of fear. And we really need to unpack that. And I wish everyone just go to therapy.
[00:42:50] Paulina: I agree. I totally agree. And this is my last question for you and you’ve just been dropping knowledge bombs, so I’m sure it’s going to be great. Yeah, but as we close, I’ve been asking guests this month to share advice to our newly admitted class of 2020 for our new baby bears. So, what would you share to them? Those who are looking forward and excited and nervous to come to Haas this fall?
[00:43:17] Nuhamin: I like the term baby bears. I would tell them to enter Haas with a blank canvas. For me, I went in and you know this, I went in with a perspective of this is going to be a great experience. But I already have really good friends. And so, I’m not really trying to make besties here. And I ended up making some of my best friends and through the program, it took some time for me to become open. That’s it.
[00:44:05] Paulina: No, I love it. And honestly, I could probably go for hours but I know people listening usually have, you know, short attention spans. Now I would love to continue the conversation as we always do, but thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate everything that you had to share.
[00:44:19] And thanks for tuning into here@haas. Know a Hasie that has a story to tell? Nominate them on our website, haaspodcasts.org. And if you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review. And don’t forget to share this podcast out with your favorite bears. This episode is published with help from one of our editors, Kyle Cook. And until next time, I’m Paulina Lee. And this is here@haas.