A few years ago I came across a magazine article that literally changed my life. I became inspired and began a journey that has challenged me in ways that I didn’t think were possible. The events that followed that day have led me to work towards fulfilling dreams that I had long forgotten.
This project is one of the results of that experience, it made me realise that you can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places as long as your mind is open and willing to grow. I want to share this with you because I believe that if you are open minded and looking for inspiration then you can find it.
The Critical Event
My search for inspiration started in 2009, some friends and I went to Washington DC to witness history. We travelled to the USA to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. We aren’t American, or politically minded but we had an unforgettable experience that inspired a strong sense of change and a desire to achieve something special. I didn’t know what that was or how it would be done, all I knew was that something needed to change in my life.
I found inspiration in the last place I would ever look: every month I received a copy of Accountancy magazine as part of my membership subscription as a chartered accountant to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. It was as interesting as you might expect a trade journal for accountants to be. Everyone I knew who received it threw it straight in the bin without even opening the packaging, this month I tried something different.
I decided to spend a couple of minutes looking for anything that would catch my eye and as I flicked through the pages I eventually stopped on an image of Obama in front of the state capitol. The article was called “It does matter if you’re Black or White”; a nod to the famous Michael Jackson Number One hit record.
The article discussed the difficulties the UK Accounting Profession was having in attracting talent from minority ethnic groups; in particular there was a shortage of senior black leaders. What really interested me was the experience of an accountant called Anton Lewis, after 10 years of working in the profession, he realised that he had met only one other black chartered accountant. Shocking.
I found myself looking at my own experience, realising that I had only met a handful of black accountants myself, some who weren’t fully qualified. It was shocking because when I was an auditor I literally visited hundreds of different organisations and met hundreds of accountants. It was shocking because my post audit work experience includes organisations like the Walt Disney Company and Channel 4, forward thinking companies with well established diversity programmes. It was shocking because this is 21st century London, the world’s capital city.
Not only was I fascinated by what I had read; I became unusually curious and driven by a desire to know more. I can’t explain why. I knew I wanted to make some kind of change and I was surprised at the impact of the article. My initial question was why are there so few black accountants?
I had no idea about what to do or how to do it. I decided to take action and pick up the phone. I contacted the Big 4 Accounting Firms, the professional bodies and anyone I could find who should have been able to answer my question. I was making these phone calls during my lunch break, at first being passed around the switchboard was discouraging but I realised that I was only scratching the surface of the problem. I wasn’t happy with the responses I was getting and no one wanted to talk to me, this made realise that this was an issue that few people really cared about.
My determination increased and I became more inspired to discover more. Even though some doors closed, others opened, I eventually became friends with Anton Lewis, now an Assistant Professor in the USA and I am now researching these issues myself for my PhD at the London School of Economics. I’ve also spoken at conferences, held workshops and seminars.
My writing here is part of a wider project that intends to help minority ethnic professionals achieve more in the workplace. I can empower minority ethnic professionals through the use of evidence-based resources. My professional experience and academic background are an ideal combination for this purpose.
During my journey I have encountered a vocabulary to describe some of the unusual and confusing experiences that minority ethnic professionals encounter at work. Just understanding this terminology has helped me to reinterpret much of my own career over the past 15 years; speaking with friends has shown me how useful this can be for others. I’ve been inspired and have found purpose in what I do everyday.
A magazine article changed my life and a similar thing could happen to you. It may not be an article; it could be a song, a conversation, literally anything. Unexpected things can have a huge impact on your life and change you for the better if you are willing.
What worked for me was to
- Look for inspiration
- Keep an open mind
- Take action
- Stay motivated
Keep your eyes and mind open and find your inspiration, if I can find it in an accounting magazine, there must be hope for you. Maybe you read a book or heard a song lyric at the right time in your life and then decided to go for it. Whatever it is, you are not alone and I would love to hear about your own experiences.
I want you to do two things:
1. Leave a comment telling me about something unexpected that inspired you to make a big change in your life.
2. Do you have a friend that is always looking for inspiration? Share this post with them.