To me, allyship means being a voice for inclusion in all contexts. It’s about moving from the conscious understanding of marginalisation to a commitment to supporting and empowering marginalised communities. Allyship can be visible or invisible, but it’s definitely a choice; in certain moments, hesitation can be the difference between standing next to others as opposed to standing in front of them.
Having left Mexico City to go to school in the US without speaking much English, I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. That feeling returned almost two decades later when I joined the consulting industry and realised I was something of an outsider once again. When I came to LBS, I discovered that some of my peers were feeling similarly, so it was only natural for us to want to do something about it.
My involvement in the Black in Business Club was a result of conversations with my MBA classmates. Even at the start of the programme, the club’s Co-President Cole Agbede (MBA2021) and I were discussing the fact that despite LBS being one of the most diverse environments we’d ever experienced, there was still more that could be done. There was no outlet dedicated to bringing together and empowering Black students, so we thought it was the perfect time to do something about it.
“I instantly knew LBS was where I wanted to be; I arrived at the welcome weekend breakfast and ended up sitting at a table with an engineer from Hong Kong, a researcher from Nigeria and a consultant from Lebanon”
As the SVP of Allyship for the Black in Business Club, my focus is on building relationships between the Club and external organisations to create a strong pipeline of Black students and an engaged student and alumni community. To do this, we’ll focus on cultivating partnerships with universities, employers and NGOs. This means holding speaker events for underrepresented students to introduce them to the basics of building a ‘business career’, connecting with employers’ Diversity and Inclusion Committees and cooperating with professional community groups to provide mentorship and leadership opportunities.
As of October 2020, the Club is just over a month old – and so far, it’s been like working in a startup. Because it’s so new, everyone has to get their hands dirty and pitch in to get it functioning. A lot of the work is focused on finding our identity and trying to define exactly what the Black in Business Club means. But it’s already running like a well-oiled machine. Everyone on the Executive Committee knows what they want to achieve in the next six months; we have communications going out to students every week, we’ve built partnerships with other LBS associations like the Africa Club, and are having regular conversations with LBS staff. It feels as though I’m part of something that has existed for a long time, even though it’s only been around for a few weeks.
My childhood was happy but we moved around a lot; I’d lived in Mexico, the US and the UK before I’d even turned 15. My father was an engineer for General Motors, and we went wherever his job took him. When I was seven, I even went to elementary school in California when we were living in Mexico – I was crossing the border every day. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. Now I realise it was quite unconventional, but testament to how normal it was for me to be constantly moving around.
Spending my childhood in so many different places wasn’t easy, but looking back, it definitely had its benefits. I remember my parents sitting me down and saying that in a month’s time, we needed to pack up, leave Mexico City and move to another part of the country. It was always difficult – sometimes I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to my friends. But it made me more adaptable. I quickly learned how to make new friends in different environments, which was a great skill to develop at such a young age.
“My hope would be that through its different projects, the Black in Business Club will continue to play an important role in augmenting LBS’s identity as the most diverse business school in the world”
After living in Miami for five years and in the UK for four – both for my dad’s job – I moved again, this time on my own terms, to the US. First, to Bryant University in Rhode Island and eventually transferring to Bentley University in Boston to study Managerial Economics. At Bentley, I started to explore different career paths through various internships. First in a multinational building materials company, then at a bank, and finally at a boutique consultancy. While I enjoyed each experience, I couldn’t see myself committing to any of these roles after graduating. Having been used to constant movement from school to school and city to city, I felt the need for more dynamism and variability.
I finally found the right fit while conducting a project at Deloitte’s Boston office during my final year at university. It was incredible sitting at a table next to someone who’d just flown back from a banking client in New York, someone who’d worked with a medical device client in Chicago, and a colleague across the room who was busy working on a project with a tech client in San Francisco. The possibility of performing high-impact projects for different clients in different cities with different teams immediately appealed to me.
My project led to a full-time role as a Business Technology Analyst, where I focused on technology strategy projects for financial services clients. I had an incredible experience working with a diverse set of clients, and supporting the creation of new internal offerings. However, as much as I enjoyed the project nature of consulting, I became curious as to how all functions were tied together in the wider organisation. I knew an MBA would help provide a bird’s-eye view of a business, and allow me to interact with people from different backgrounds.
My first visit to LBS was during one of the welcome weekends; I instantly knew it was where I wanted to be. I arrived at the breakfast and ended up sitting at a table with an engineer from Hong Kong, a researcher from Nigeria and a consultant from Lebanon. We casually had a coffee and shared our experiences about what interested us about LBS. Immediately afterwards, I knew I wanted more interactions like those, and that LBS was the ideal environment to have them.
I’ve never been a stranger to different countries and cultures, but the diversity of thought at LBS has exposed me to different ways of solving problems and given me a more global view of how to approach business. My study group is a great example of the bridging of perspectives of a Colombian-American, a Taiwanese, a German, a British-Nigerian, an Italian-South African and a Mexican, working together to solve problems we each have different levels of comfort with. We’ve had a lot of fun working together, and it’s this rich contrast that makes the LBS classroom such a unique and powerful learning environment.
I’d lived in the UK before, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to live in London. Back then, coming to London was always special. Waking up in this city sometimes still feels surreal; I never thought I’d be playing football in Regent’s Park or visiting friends that live next to Abbey Road Studios. I definitely feel like I’ve had the real London experience.
“I’ve never been a stranger to different countries and cultures, but the diversity of thought at LBS has exposed me to different ways of solving problems and given me a more global view of how to approach business.
The MBA has given me the opportunity to explore incredible internship opportunities. At the beginning of 2020, I had the chance to work with an angel investor at Aurelius Advisers and witnessed how someone sitting on the investment side of the table has to derive an investment thesis, and source seed-stage opportunities; it was unlike anything I’d done previously. I also spent two months at WorldRemit, a payments fintech company, where I focused on helping the team grow its footprint in Latin America.
After graduating, I’m looking to return to Deloitte, albeit with a refreshed way of approaching problems. I’ve learnt to empathise more with the challenges clients are facing because I’ve had more experience seeing how people in different functions think and behave. I’ll also be able to bring a broader industry perspective within financial services, having been exposed to disruptive business models.
Before the MBA, I’d go from client to client learning about the issues these big banks were facing. Now, I’ve not only had the chance to work in smaller up-and-coming businesses, but I’ve had more time to read up on key trends within the likes of payment and lending. I now bring a more developed point of view that can hopefully translate to better outcomes for my future clients.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), the WNBA, and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) are some of the greatest recent examples of organisations leading the way in tackling social issues. Initially, they were highly criticised for suspending the league before the outbreak of the pandemic in the US – only to be eventually viewed as visionaries. They peacefully protested racial injustice, triggered after the shooting of Jacob Blake, by coordinating a league-wide strike followed by the approval of a set of different social justice messages for their jerseys. The NBPA also drove a voting initiative that led to a record-setting 90% of eligible players registering to vote for the 2020 election campaign. All of this proves that no matter the amount of hoops to jump through (no pun intended), top-down leadership and bottom-up unity can drive systemic change. It’s a great example of maximising the use of a platform to take a stance and make an impact.
Starting the Black in Business Club wasn’t something we thought twice about; we just knew it needed to get done. In five to 10 years’ time, my hope would be that through its different projects, the Black in Business Club will continue to play an important role in augmenting LBS’s identity as the most diverse business school in the world.