Finishing university in the middle of the pandemic was one of the most daunting things which I’ve experienced. Even more so because I did not know how job searching worked and didn’t have exposure or hear much about office life growing up.
I was entering the workforce at a time when people were being made to leave their jobs, and there was a whole cohort of graduates the previous year who were also still looking for jobs. I was at the point where it felt like it would be impossible to find a job, so I was just going to settle for whatever place would accept me and bare it until I could find a job which I actually wanted.
Furthermore, I felt like I had all the odds stacked against me already. Growing up, I knew I had certain “disadvantages”: I was a person of colour, a Woman of Colour. However, I also knew I had the privilege of gaining the experience and throwing myself into everything I could such as being the president of a society, doing a study-year abroad and taking part in external programs. As a first-generation graduate, I knew I had to be proactive and do these things to make myself stand-out. Having been an introvert growing up, these were difficult for me, I had to really come out of my comfort zone but doing these things while achieving a first in my degree made me realise two things. 1, I’m not actually an introvert, and 2, I was capable of a lot more than I’d originally realised.
One of the programs which I had taken was specifically targeted towards Students of Colour. This was my first-time hearing of the Diversity and Inclusion field, and it immediately struck a chord with me. I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to be part of the effort towards making a fair and just environment in the workplace. Living in London, I always took for granted how diverse the environment I grew up in was and going on a year-abroad made me realise how much of an impact this had on me. I had friends from all different walks of life from many different cultures. I knew this was an advantage for myself and it made sense that companies should reflect this diversity. I psyched myself up for the long ride, gaining experience, maybe doing a masters, whatever it would take to get me into this field, I was prepared to do. The most important thing, networking, I had no idea where to begin with this. I didn’t know how to or who to approach. But almost like fate, I ended up meeting the right person at the right time and I boldly told her I wanted to be in the D&I field. Now, I’m an intern at The Pipeline.
Although it feels like I’d achieved my dream of working in the D&I field, I know this is only the beginning. In the 4 months that I’ve been at The Pipeline, I’ve grown and learnt so much. I’m still learning every day; not just about working in an office, but also myself, the way I work and what I’m capable of. One of the things which has encouraged me to push my boundaries is the constant support and encouragement from my colleagues at The Pipeline. When I first started working, I was intimidated as I was much younger and inexperienced than the rest of the team and so I held myself back a lot. However, in November last year, everyone in the team completed a DiSC assessment. Essentially, this is a workplace personality test which helps you understand how you work and communicate with others. My DiSC Style is “iD” which means I lie within the Influence and Dominance regions in the DiSC model. This was quite a surprise to my team but as I was reading my profile, I could understand why. Following this, my team really encouraged me to lean in to this so I can make the most out of my internship. I’m working towards a new goal now, one which my team helped me realise: general manager.
Being in an environment where I am allowed to grow and be given more responsibility even as an intern has meant I can really get stuck in and expand my skillset. I’ve been involved in running the Leading Diverse Teams programme which is the only programme we run for both men and women. I’ve gained confidence through this as I’m liaising with participants and the hosts, making sure they’ve got all the material they need and that everything runs smoothly. Furthermore, I’m being put in places where I can get the relevant experience, I need to reach my goal. For example, I’ve been given the task of chairing our bi-weekly team meetings while also gaining experience in all the different parts of the team, from research to sales and marketing.
The more I learn about the D&I field, the surer I am that this is where I want to be. The Pipeline’s Women Count 2021 found that 70% of the FTSE 350 do not have a single women executive on their company main board. There is still so much work to be done regarding diversity and inclusion. Being part of The Pipeline’s efforts to do this work is such a fulfilling experience. I’ve talked to many women who have taken part in our programmes and heard first-hand how much of a positive impact they’ve had on them. These stories are what inspire me and fuel my passion for this cause further. I am being guided by some of the most successful and experienced people I’ve ever met in my life while building a network who I know I can rely on. With their advice and encouragement, I’ve grown confident and gained direction in my career. This felt impossible a year ago.
Pargavi Arulrajh is The Pipeline’s Programme Administrator, and wrote about her reflections on her first year of working within the DEI sector for International Women’s Day 2022.