UL’s newly developed African-American/Black Business Resource Group launched in a big way by hosting a Black History Month Celebration at UL’s global headquarters in Northbrook, Ill. At the standing room only event, three of UL’s African-American groundbreakers spoke about their success and how they created opportunities for growth.

As Katrina Jackson, Co-Chair of the Business Resource Group, eloquently phrased it, “By recognizing and celebrating our past, we create more awareness of the accomplishments and challenges of African- Americans. Ultimately, we hope that this event will create an opportunity for open dialogue and lead to a more inclusive environment.”

Here are a few excerpts from the event to inspire you:

Karriem Shakoor, V.P and Chief Information Officer, UL, spoke of the characteristics that people leaders should possess. They include:

  1. Ability to work with people– “If I’ve done a good job at building a team and talent, there is always someone there to take over in the event of a tragedy.” To ensure the mission continues, you should be very skilled at working with people as your ability to create a team is by and far the number one skill you need as a leader. Your team makes you successful.
  2. You’ve got to have thick skin– The fact that you are a person of color does not mean that you cannot be an effective leader – this applies to anyone regardless of ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, differing abilities, religion and sexual orientation. When you choose to go into leadership, know that it will come with a lot of other people’s opinions about you– your leadership, your interactions, your qualifications, your approach. Get comfortable with people who have an opinion that doesn’t match your own.
  3. Be centered in who you are– Sometimes those perspectives have value, and they help inform how you must interact and lead. Hear everything, but be selective in what you listen to.

Read the full-text version of  Karriem Shakoor’s presentation

Chantel Carson, Manager of Learning and Development, UL University, was a natural leader from an early age, a talent not always met with applause early in her career. Her advice?

  1. Look for opportunities-An electrical engineer, Carson had advanced from a regular employee to team leader and then to a group leader over the course of her career at UL. Then a reorganization of the company occurred and Carson realized was ready for change, she wanted to teach. But, she didn’t wait around to be asked, Carson went looking for the opportunity.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone-As Carson explains, our natural tendency can be to stay where we are but change is good. Don’t be afraid to move around; you don’t have to stay in the same group or the same area. Expand and grow into new roles and responsibilities.
  3. Choose to ignore it-As a group leader Carson traveled to meet with clients. Often, she was met with surprise. Sometimes they didn’t want to go to lunch with her so she’d eat by herself while they would go out to eat. Carson wasn’t blind to their looks or their behavior, but she chose to “ignore it.” She says, “If someone has an issue with me, that’s his or her issue, not mine. People will start to respect you for that attitude.”

Read the full-text version of Chantel Carson’s presentation

Charles Lover, Area Field Services Manager, UL, did not let his past dictate his future, achieving success as the first African-American Field Services Manager.

  1. The Golden Rule-Not an outdated concept but a rule still applicable to today. Lover aims always to treat people the way he wanted to be treated, even when faced with adversity as with a former supervisor who made it his mission to get him fired. Eventually, the supervisor was fired while Lover enjoyed a 35-year career.
  2. Stay grounded in yourself-Nelson Mandela said challenges and obstacles would either make a man or break a man; your faith must be stronger than your fears. He says he overcame because his faith was stronger than his fears. Lover advised attendees to “do your work well even amid trials and tribulations.”
  3. Everyone can contribute-Lover believes it imperative to embrace our differences; doing so builds relationships instead of walls of divisions. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Read the full-text version of Charles Lover’s presentation

Attendees left the event encouraged and motivated. Ayo Dahunsi, Co-Chair of the BRG shares, “As I reflect on the accomplishments and sacrifices of Black Trailblazers, it’s a reminder that we too have the opportunity to pave the way for future generations.”

As we close the books on February 2018, Inside UL hopes you will absorb the wisdom written above.

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