Leading a Global Career with Amara Igboegwu

In this episode, we speak with Amara Igboegwu about her journey from IU Bloomington to her most recent role at the Norwegian Refugee Council, where she works in the Middle East and Africa. Amara is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert with more than 15 years of international work experience in a variety of positions and throughout multiple sectors. Starting as an English language teacher in Japan, Amara went on to work at global organizations, including Google, UNESCO, and more, where she has created, taught, and led training programs for new staff. Amara has even worked in academia at Heidelberg University in Germany, where she taught courses on culturally responsive teaching. Amara takes us on a journey where she tells us about her career path and how resiliency has helped her be the person she is today.

Amara Igboegwu is a Global Induction Trainer at the Norwegian Refugee Council. Amara is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert who creates diverse and inclusive spaces in her workplaces. She also specializes in designing and leading employee training programs in governmental, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations. 

Currently, Amara facilitates training programs throughout the Middle East and Africa for new staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Besides being a DEI expert, Amara is also multilingual and has knowledge of seven languages, which in part stem back to her Bachelor of Arts in French from IU-Bloomington. Along with her French degree, Amara studied Psychology and International Studies. In this episode, Amara tells us about the transferable skills, like communication and leadership that she learned during her College of Arts and Sciences education. We hope you find Amara’s nuggets of wisdom applicable to your current and professional lives. Enjoy the episode!


Participate in Themester 2021 — Resilience

Season 5 of All Careers Considered is produced in conjunction with the College of Arts + Sciences Themester 2021 on Resilience. One way you can participate in Themester is to attend a Themester event.


Transcript

Sophie: Hey Hoosiers, welcome back to the All Careers Considered podcast hosted by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the Career Services Center that specifically serves students and alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. We are on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in your pursuit of impactful experiences, Designing Your Life, sharing your story, and building meaningful connections. My name is Sophie Todd and I’m a peer coach for the Walter Center for Career Achievement, working with an amazing team of undergraduate and graduate students who you have or will hear from and other episodes of this podcast, you may have heard that you can do anything with the College of Arts and Sciences degree. And I’m here to show you that really is the case by interviewing alumni to ask them where they are now. Next up is this week’s interview with Amara Igboegwu, a Global Induction Trainer at the Norwegian Refugee Council and an expert in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In her role at the Norwegian Refugee Council, Amara leads training programs for newly recruited staffs in offices throughout the Middle East and Africa. Amara graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2002 with degrees in French and Psychology and a minor in International Studies. I had a great time getting to know more about Amara’s career path, her resiliency, and how her time at IU and degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences have helped her throughout her life and career. I really enjoyed our conversation and I can assure you that you will hear lots of wisdom and great advice from Amara. Enjoy the episode.  

Sophie: Hi, Amara. Thank you so much for being here today on the All Careers Considered podcasts with the Walter Center for Career Success. We are so excited to have you. So to begin Amara, you have a resume chock-full of impressive experience in education, creating training programs, many of which are focused on empathy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. You started as an English teacher in Japan after you graduated from IU. And now you’re a global induction trainer at the Norwegian Refugee Council. So I’d love to hear a little bit about your current role at the Norwegian Refugee Council, what all it entails and how you came to work in your current position.  

Amara: Wow. I want to thank you, first of all, Sophie, for inviting me to the show. I’m very thrilled to be sharing my experiences. I’m a proud Hoosier. And when I think about my IU days, I just, man, I wish I did, I did even more. I wish I did more things. I’m so grateful for the experience, no, I’m really so grateful for the experience I had was so powerful and looking back all the things I did, but most especially the language, the foreign language aspect of my undergrad, so my undergrad in psychology. My majors were Psychology and French and then I minored in International Studies. And during my junior year, I had the wonderful opportunity of doing an exchange program. So I got to, to live in Aix en Provence in France, in the South of France, which is absolutely incredible. And that just kind of started my trajectory into what I’m doing right now. When I think about my profession as an international trainer or a global trainer, I mean, I don’t think I’ll be here without having the French language. I mean, right now I’m in Niger, in Niamey, Niger and training in French, right? So this was the foundation I got from from, from, you know, having a French major from, from IU. When I graduated from IU, I had the opportunity of teaching English in Japan, which is again, such a huge opportunity there because I was able to… Francisco. I immediately enrolled in, um, in the Toastmasters club, which really gave me the fundamentals of public speaking. That really allowed me to grow as a speaker. And I knew that I really wanted to work in the field that had to do with adults, adult learning and so on. Of course, I had this dream of also living in Sweden. I don’t know why, but for some strange reason, I was, always had this desire to like go to Scandinavia. And I don’t know, I think it’s something about the winter, was something about the winters being dark, like super dark, and the summers being super long. And I thought, well, I’ll be so cool if I lived in a country where would get dark at like 2 o’clock, and actually it wasn’t cool at all. And I thought, oh yeah, it will be so nice. It would be sunny all day long. And it really wasn’t because having the sun hit you at like four o’clock in the morning is really not fun at all. So lots of interesting experiences, but they all prepared me for work in development, which is what I do. So I work in the development sector. I work for an incredible organization, the Norwegian Refugee Council, which is headquartered in Norway. And what we do is we support refugees with focus mainly in conflict areas. So, we support mostly refugees and internally displaced people. You know, our motto is “rights respected, people protected,” and that’s exactly what we do. And we’re in all corners of the world, I mean anywhere there’s a conflict, we’re there. So, my job as a Global Induction Trainer is to help support new recruits into the organization, ensuring that they’re well inducted. So what that means is we want people to come in understanding our values, understanding our need for them to feel connected, to feel like they belong. And we try to do everything possible to make sure they have a good induction experience so that they hit the ground running and really being able to apply their skills, helping us support our beneficiaries who are refugees, mostly refugees and internally displaced people. So that’s kind of the long, long answer to your question. That was long.  

Sophie: No, that’s totally okay. That is so great to hear that your, your time at IU and your French major have helped you so much as you left IU and decided to go into development. And now, you’re even using it now in Niger at your role as a Global Induction Trainer. And I also love the slogan of the Norwegian Refugee Council. And I think that, er such a, such a great slogan to have and the work that you’re doing and, and in, er, the Norwegian Refugee Council is doing is so important right now. I wanted to ask you a little bit, speaking of your studies at IU, how did you decide to do psychology and French and then minor in international studies? Was that something that was easy for you to decide or was there a bit of a process and coming, coming to decide that’s what you wanted to study? 

Amara: It was very clear from the beginning that I wanted to do psychology and French, first because in high school I studied French and I really just, I just love foreign languages. So the reason why I said I wish I did more was I wish I’d learned like Swahili because I think it was in my junior year, the African Studies Program were offering they were offering Swahili and I just didn’t take advantage of it. And I think back and like, uh gosh it would have been so amazing if I studied Swahili, but hey, you can’t win them all. But it was, it was yeah, it was already pretty predetermined in a sense. My mother is a clinical psychologist, and I’ve always been very interested in people and and actually psychology’s the basis of my job as well. Because you have to understand, you have to deal with people and work with people. And, um, having that sensitivity really helps in my, my profession. So my journey towards a psych-French major was pretty simple because I knew I loved French and I knew that I wanted to do something in psychology because of my background, especially with my mom and the work she does. And I just I just knew I didn’t want to do the whole clinical part, working with people in an enclosed area. I wanted to transfer my skills, my interpersonal skills, as well as my ability to connect with people into more of a, yeah, a workshop-y kind of space, which is what I do. I mean, I run and design training programs all around the world. And that, that just works perfectly and matches my personality perfectly. In the meantime, during the work I do also led me to live in different countries where I’ve been able to pick up some more languages and it’s been such a blessing, actually, to have that foundation. So my IU years are really precious to me. Yeah, such good memories. Yeah. Thank you.  

Sophie: That is so cool. And I saw on your LinkedIn that you, you speak like seven languages or you have proficiency or fluency in seven different languages, which is, I’m a Spanish major, so I’m also a second language learner and Spanish has been hard enough for me to learn in the last 10 years. So I can only imagine having skills in seven languages, but I wanted to ask you, how have you, you’ve touched a bit on how French has helped you throughout your career, but how have the other languages that you have proficiency or fluency in helped you? And how, what have you learned from being able to speak so many different languages or communicate with so many different people?  

Amara: I think I’ll go communicate with different people. I mean, I, I wouldn’t say I have like, expert, you know, language level, language speaking skill set in German. I mean, I lived in Germany for like six years. So I speak German. And it’s powerful when you can speak all these different languages. And like I told you, I love languages. For me, it’s a barrier breaker. I’ve been in situations where just by knowing like a sentence, say for example, I remember was in, in a party once, and I remember a couple people walked in and just said hello, like in a very nonchalantly. And then later on when I met up with them in the kitchen, and I said, and I found out that they were from Serbia and I said, “kako ste?” and they were [gasps]! I mean, you could see their faces just like, light up. It was instant, they just became, like, you know, warm, you know. And that’s what happens, is that magic, when you see people. I remember being in Brussels once and I saw some Polish workers and I just said, ah, you know, “dzień dobry!” And, like, good morning. And they were so happy. They were just smiling and so happy and that’s what I love to see, like when I say hello to people, when I connect with people. Not too long ago here in Niger, I was in a restaurant and a guy walked with his group, he walked into the restaurant and said, ah “bonjour madame,” which is normal, like, you know, good morning or good day lady or whatever. And then I heard him speaking German, I was like, wait what? And we started speaking German! It was so amazing and it’s just this little contact, right. Like, the little touches you have with people just create such an instant connection. And that’s something I absolutely love and something that really helps me my work. So like I said, I work internationally, working in different. I mean, I work in Asia and the Middle East, East West Africa and Yemen, and of course, Central West Africa and Latin America, and you know, I work in all these areas or regions. And, you know, I’m not fluent in Spanish, but I do understand it quite a bit because of, you know, French. But just having these little connections with people when I’m training or um, yeah, or just running a training session and learning their own native languages. It just makes people light up. It’s amazing. I’m Nigerian as well. I’m Nigerian American and I used to speak Igbo, which is my native language, and Yoruba, which is another native language in Nigeria. And just also when I meet other Nigerians, um, and I speak these languages, it’s connection. And I also speak Pidgin, which means that, you know, I can pretty much speak with anybody from any tribe in Nigeria. And that connection also just using that language builds, um, a lot of, it just breaks people’s barriers, or the walls that everyone carries, you know, just kinda just shatter those walls with a word or a sentence in their native language. And it makes me feel really good. And it helps me bridge gaps, even psychologically, I would say, yeah, it’s, I don’t know, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled and I just love the fact that I can connect with people. I always tell people I’m a cultural scientist because I get to really work with people and connect with people while doing something I absolutely love.  

Sophie You can’t see my face right now, but just sitting here listening to your stories about talking to people or just saying like a single sentence or good morning in a different language and that being a barrier breaker, like you said it, that is one of the reasons why I have loved learning a second language and having run-ins even in Bloomington or wherever I am. And just being able to communicate with someone who before I had never been able to communicate with. And having, having those moments of connection is definitely one of my, one of my favorite parts of learning a language. So it’s amazing to hear that you’ve been able to do that all over the world, that is, that is so amazing. I wanted to ask you a little bit about your, your career, in an international sense. So what made you decide that you wanted to work internationally or like wanted to be able to travel to a bunch of different countries for, for your work? And then what advice would you give to students at IU who might be wanting to do the same thing after they graduate and want to go international and have an international career after they graduate?  

Amara: Sure, that’s a great question. Thank you, Sophie. My career kind of pivoted. So when I started off after, after, right after university, after my undergrad, I moved to Japan because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to go to graduate school right away. So I wanted to get some experience. And while I was in Japan, I realized that I had a knack for public speaking and connection. And even right then I was really talking about diversity and inclusion because the teachers were very interested in, in having me share stories about being an African American, uh, living in, well, like living in, in, in Japan, they wanted to know how that experience, how that felt. And they wanted to also draw parallels between my lifestyle in Japan, in contrast with the US and what, how women were or how they lived. I guess, I don’t know, it was interesting to see. Those questions come in and, and interesting because yeah, it makes sense because if you’ve never been to the US and you’ve only experienced the United States through movies and books, and maybe, I don’t know, people telling their only lived experiences. It’s nice when you get to hear from the horse’s mouth, right. So it was nice to see that aspect and that just helped me recognize that I had something that I really wanted to develop. And so when I moved back to the US, I already started working on myself. And of course I went into the corporate world, but I wasn’t really fulfilled. And that’s when I decided to go back to school, to graduate school where I focused on my, my research work on international comparative education, adult education. By focusing on adult education that just gave me a good foundation for training and designing trainings and so forth. And of course, when you are working in that field of education, I felt like if I could, you know, work. Actually the idea was when I was, uh, after my Master’s have a chance to do an internship in Germany at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, which was a major element of my Master’s thesis work. And uh, my supervisor then advised me to apply to a job what UNESCO in Nigeria. And I thought, yes. Because I thought, well that would be just the perfect, you know, uh, jump. And so I worked in Nigeria for about three years. Not in, in because, that was like at the height of the Boko Haram crisis and the UN building got bombed. So that just didn’t work out. But, okay, that’s not funny. But I mean, it just didn’t work out. But then in the process of being in Nigeria, I was able to get a great opportunity working with the government, working with the World Bank project, and to find my way through the development world, again, focusing primarily on just training programs, I was able to, yeah, flourish as a trainer. And I was just finishing up my doctoral studies in Germany when I decided I wanted to get a job in the development world again, and that’s when I took the opportunity as a, as a Global Induction Trainer with the Norwegian Refugee Council and now even in the NRC, am also again, coming back to my roots, which is about focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion, something I did in Japan almost 20 years ago. And I just think that that’s just amazing that I get to do these things and I get to explore and develop myself. And so for fellow Hoosiers out there who are wondering, okay, uh I’m doing this cool degree. What’s going to happen when I graduate? And first off I think that a lot of times what you end up doing is really based on your lived experience. So I would say to do a major that you, that you love, that that will give you the skills like critical thinking skills, writing skills, and speaking skills. Because these are fundamental skills that will help you excel in any job, right? If you know how to think critically and how to write well and know how to speak well, you’re pretty much set and everything else becomes an add-on, right. So, I would say that having those skills definitely led me to what I’m doing now. And I would definitely encourage anyone in this particular faculty or department to make sure that whatever it is, there’s the heading. I mean I mean, there’s so many different elements. I mean, so many degrees out there, but whatever it is you’re doing, definitely learn how to speak well, communication, writing skills, yeah, and critical thinking and of course, I mean, come on, I’m almost forgetting the most important thing. Learn a foreign language! You know, if you can learn to 2 okay? Yeah. That just makes you, that just puts you one step ahead of everybody else, you know.  

Sophie: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And it’s amazing to hear about all of the many places that you lived around the world throughout your career and some of those driving factors that, that helped you decide where to go next. Um, and then that advice also is wonderful to remember that it’s the transferable skills that are the most important and that even, even if you get a degree that you may not use or, not use, but that may not be directly related to the career that you have. The skills that you learn, those critical thinking skills, communication and writing and speaking skills that, and foreign language skills that, that can be the most important as you, as you go throughout your career. On a more lighthearted note, I wanted to ask you if you have a favorite memory from IU or a favorite, um, a favorite spot on campus?  

Amara: Yeah. Oh, yeah, oh yes. I have lots of wonderful memoriesBut, you know, I mean, it’s not, it’s not going to be a surprise, you know, back in the day I might I don’t know if you guys still do this. There’s like the intercultural center. And every Friday we would have like a country like present food, music and something special like whether it’s, you know, literature or film. And I remember going there and I would have that every Friday, I think, and that was really amazing because I got to meet so many different people. I mean, this is where it got introduced to kendo and little did I know that like two years later or three years later I would be going to Japan. You know, so this was really incredible, I’m not sure if those still happen? I’m sure it does. Yeah. I also have such great memories of Foster Shea, which is where I stayed. It was an international dormitory. Yeah. And it’s so funny, it’s so funny how everything kinda connected. Because there, I met my, I met my friends, my first Brazilian friend. And it was the first time I even heard Portuguese or, you know, even knew what Portuguese was, I mean, of course, I knew it was a language, but I’d never heard of it before and through my friend, you know, I learned Portuguese and go figure, I now live in Portugal. So it’s just really weird like how everything connected gosh, so many, so many memories. Riding my bicycle down to Woodrow, I think it is Woodrow, right?  

Sophie: Woodburn? 

Amara: Was it Woodburn? You know where you have the big one where you have all the undergrad like 100 level courses yes. Woodburn, right? Yeah. I’m totally forgetting. And what else? Oh, goodness, how could I forget? They incredible IU Opera. I mean, goodness, so many incredible things, so many incredible things. I remember watching Carmina Burana and I was just transported. It was such an incredible experience. Ahh Goodness. Yeah, just watching world-class operas and classical orchestras and symphony orchestras, getting exposed to classical works of art. And all of that, I mean, it was just really phenomenal. I my experience at IU is just I don’t know. I just I just have all the members coming back now. Just being, you know, you go through life. You just think there’s going to be like that forever. You don’t even understand how precious it is in that moment until it’s gone. I mean, you’re thinking about it like, you know, I I just remember all these things I did. It was just a normal thing to me. Like I didn’t think it was anything special. And when I think back it was probably one of the most important pillars of my life really, because it just set me on this trajectory. So I owe everything to IU. The opportunity I had to go to France to learn French to expose me because it was through my experience in France that led me to meet someone who talked to me about teaching English in Japan. So it just kind of everything, it’s connected, you know, and I have such incredible memories of IU and yeah, I just feel so privileged, and I am indeed very privileged to do what I do and to be loving my job like every single day. Thank you IU!  

Sophie: So I love that. I feel like I can just like hear the excitement and the love that you have for IU in your voice and those, it just goes to prove how many opportunities there are at IU and how much there is that can be taken advantage of by students and how many opportunities there are here that I think a lot of times, like you said, like students don’t even realize a lot of times what they might have until, until they graduate or afterwards. And then they look back at all the amazing experiences and see, see how much it helped them grow. So I want to talk a little bit about the theme of this semester’s podcast, which is resilience. So I want to ask you, what does resilience mean to you? And the work that you have done and do now?  

Amara: That’s a good question. Thank you. Resilience, it’s a powerful word. Sticking through things and uhm just weathering the storm, recognizing that failure is just an opportunity to learn. And I think that if we understand that in life that we will all have ups and downs. And it’s so easy to you know go through these ups and downs and, and be completely devastated and then give up. But you can’t give up because every good thing that happens and every bad, quote-unquote thing that happens to us, is all part of the story. It’s part of the life, the journey, right? So for me, when I think about resilience, we think about learning. I think about just taking every opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn, right? Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. And, and I’m talking specifically about making mistakes, failing, quote- unquote, failing, and feeling like completely worthless. But then recognizing that that’s just a phase. And whatever happens, there is an opportunity to learn. And actually, when we make mistakes and quote unquote fail, we have even a great opportunity to be better. And sometimes it’s those failures that make us better. So resilience to me is really about persistence. It’s about having faith. It’s about understanding that good times and bad times must co-exist in some degree and that they will always come through in life and to not get to not get overcome. To not be overcome by these experiences, right? To just take them as they come. Recognizing that every single thing that we experience is an opportunity to learn. And I think if you understand that, you understand that life is about learning good and bad, then, you have something to hold onto when it gets really, really tough.  

Sophie: That thank you so much for that answer. That is such and such a powerful answer. I think what you said about quote-unquote failing is so important. And I think for a lot of students, especially, it’s hard when we’ve, when we’ve been told our whole lives that getting good grades is succeeding and getting bad grades is failing. And we have this idea that failing is, or can have this idea that failing is often like the worst thing ever to happen to us. But I think it’s really important to remember that failing isn’t always bad. It results in learning and leads you to learn more about yourself and about what you can do better in the future. So I am a huge, huge fan of that ideology, so thank you for sharing that. So I want to talk to you a little bit about where you work right now at the Norwegian Refugee Council. So you work to help train people as they begin to help refugees and internally displaced people. I’m sure this is a challenging field of development to work, especially as these groups in the Middle East and Africa where you work are dealing with the pandemic alongside being refugees or internally displaced. So I’m wondering what some of the biggest challenges are and your role and as you prepare newly arrived staff.  

Amara: Yeah. So I just wanted to quickly clarify something like my role is to ensure that new recruits, like new and new joiners, we’ll call them new joiners to NRC, regardless of what, how they are coming in, whether they’re coming in in program support, that they get the right induction, right. So I don’t really train every single person that comes in, I mean, that would be impossible with thousands of people. But what I do though is support the country offices that recruit people. So for example, right now I’m in Yemen and then tomorrow I’ll be going to Ouagadougou which is in Burkina Faso. And I’ll be working primarily with people who have been People have been identified as potential trainers. And I would do a cascade training. So I would build the capacity of other trainers so that it can go back and cascade the training and different regions in different areas offices that they serve so that they ensure that whoever is coming into the NRC and understand the values that guide our work. We want to have people who are coming out to be very clear on who we are, how we serve, what we do, and our values. And this is very important to us. So it’s very important that we do that. And in my position, I find it, So it’s a very privileged position because I get to work with people. And when you’re working with people, you have a chance to influence people. And for me, when it comes to training in general and the challenges that lie therein, it has to do with people, right? It has to do with leadership. How do you train people or support or reinforce those leadership skills that are so fundamental to managing teams, right? So when people come in, of course, going to be working with groups working in units. And it’s extremely important that especially at NRC, that who have people who are coming in are well-supported so some of the challenges is just making sure that people understand what it means to lead. And showing that people have a very good understanding of what it means to lead, which is to care. Leadership is about caring. Leadership is about supporting and, and ensuring that you’ve got, you’ve got your peoples’ back, right? You’re there to support them to, to do the best to fulfill their potential and the organization. Because when people are doing well and loving their jobs and and having a very supportive environment and they get to do good work, right? With all their heart. That’s how I feel like I love my job. I mean, I literally love every single day that I get to work. I mean, I have a privileged job because I’m also doing that around the world which I love to do. But I mean, even if I mean, I’m not traveling all the time. But even when I’m traveling, I have such an incredible team and my line manager has such an incredible leader. I just feel so supported. And that’s what we want to do and that is not so easy. And so for me, challenging part of my of my job is is a welcome challenge, anyway, is to help people switch their mindset when it comes to building inclusive teams. And recognizing that when we put people first and we do our best to really support our our line managers, to be inclusive managers that just helps us deliver, you know, and really support our, our bottom line, which is showing that those who are displaced, the refugees who are in really difficult situations are supported to the best of our abilities. So that’s really what I would say regarding my position and what I do. It’s really about ensuring that we have the right staff. What do you get staffed and that we have new joiners, that they are well equipped with the knowledge, the values necessary to do good work. And also my position is such that I also have to build capacity of our leaders to ensure that we’re creating inclusive, building inclusive teams across the organization. So that’s kind of what I do. I mean, it’s pretty amazing. I have to say I’m not, you know, hey, I’m one of the lucky ones.  

Sophie: Thank you for sharing. That sounds like amazing work. I love your vision of leadership as something that, that has to be caring and that people should feel passionate about and inclusive. I feel like so often there’s this idea that leaders have to be these really like great public speaker, that you have to have all of these, all of these super important, difficult skill sets to be a good leader. But I love that to you, caring and being inclusive are of the utmost importance in leadership. What would you say to IU students who want to gain leadership experience during their time at IU or even after they graduate? 

Amara: They should try to solve problems. I think that leadership is also about not necessarily waiting for something to happen, but making things happen. If there’s an opportunity to serve, serve, you don’t need to have the special title. Leadership is about getting stuff done and getting people to get the stuff done with you, right? So if you can influence people by doing something great, do it. If you find a mean, there’s always opportunities for leadership, right? If you find areas of improvement, if there are areas that you think need some areas that need to be improved or things to get better or needs to be done. Do it, take the initiative. Leadership is also about taking initiative. So for those students who are out there wanting some leadership experience, look around, where’s the need and go volunteer, lead a project, run for office, come up with a new way to do something and get people to come on board. Spend time, spend your time supporting underprivileged people. Use your skill sets, whatever it is that you have, maybe sing, whatever it is, use it to bring joy to other people. That is leadership. Whatever you are, use your voice for somebody to become an activist. That’s leadership. It’s really about taking initiative and in influencing people. And I think that when you do something you love and it shows people are going to buy-in and want to join you. So I would say, find something, do something, use your voice to change something. There are 1001 different problems out there. Solve one. Yeah.  

Sophie: That is, that’s great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that. I have one last question before we finish up with the podcast, but I would love to know what you’re most proud of about your career so far.  

Amara: I have to say last year after the George Floyd uh murder, I was in Germany. And uhm when that happened, you know, prior to that, I was actually teaching at the University, Heidelberg University. And there, I was already talking about diversity issues and the need for that. And so I had set up a safe space for, for BIPOC, for the BIPOC community in Heidelberg. And, you know, and it’s still growing. And that experience kind of propelled me when I joined NRC and I recognized that there was really no very clearly defined DEI strategy, which was, I found kind of shocking at the time. And like I said, you know, I saw this gap and reached out to my line manager and said, You know, I think, yeah, I think we can do more. And literally, I was able to galvanize support. And just through networking and allyship, I was able to apply for an innovation fund, to actually fund a baseline study on NRC’s position around DEI. And that just opened up this huge opportunity for the organization to begin to think about DEI in terms of how we look at staff, how we look at recruitment, and how we want to be able to really stand for representation in the organization. And that was an idea that I got because when I was signing my code of conduct, I recognized that issues around discrimination and racism, were not so clearly defined and I felt that an organization like NRC needed to be clear about that. So that when people are coming into the organization, they know exactly what we mean when we say we do not. We are an organization that does, that has zero tolerance for discrimination, zero tolerance for racism. People need to understand what that means. And I felt like having a DEI framework to kind of help communicate that would help us all be on the same page. And so having started that conversation with a team that I assembled for me remains well one of my proudest moments at NRC. Thank you for that question.  

Sophie: Yeah, that is amazingThat demonstrates so perfectly what you were just saying about, about leadership and about how it’s initiating and going out there and doing. And you saw an, a really important problem to take action on, which is creating safe spaces or implementing policies to ensure inclusivity and diversity and equity, which is so important, especially in large organizations that are recruiting people. And so you, you took that and really just went out and, and solved the problem, just like you just advised students to do. And I think that’s does so amazing. So congratulations on all of that, that work that you just mentioned, that it is truly amazing.  

Amara: Thank you, Sophie.  

Sophie: I can’t think of a better way, a better note to end the podcast off on. So I just wanted to say thank you so much for joining us. If students want to reach out to you or connect with you to learn more about you are about your career. What is the best way for them to do so?  

Amara: They can find me on LinkedIn just by typing my name, or they can also email me. You have my email address, icharama@gmail.com, and you can feel free to share, but people can, of course, find me on LinkedIn.  

Sophie: Okay, Great. And thank you so much again, Amara, it has been such a pleasure talking to you and such a, such a pleasure to have you as a guest on our podcast. We are so happy to hear about all of your your experiences and your amazing career.  

Amara: Thank you so much, Sophie, for bringing me on the show. It’s been it’s been really a pleasure just reminiscing and thinking back to my background, but my background, what did I say my background? Just thinking back to my university years and just thinking about what I’m doing now and just how amazing the whole experience has been. It’s been really a blessing. So thank you so much for giving me the platform to share these things. And I hope they get to inspire somebody up there. And yeah, just four things, if you’re listening for thing, you have to learn to think critically, write well right, okay, communicate well, good. You have to have excellent communication skills, excellent writing skills, good critical thinking skills, and of course, learn a language or two. Okay. Go and learn a foreign language. Anyone? You just never know.  

Sophie: Yes. That is that is wonderful advice. Thank you so much. 

By The Walter Center For Career Achievement
The Walter Center For Career Achievement The Walter Center For Career Achievement