Leveraging Your Potential to Build an Inclusive Culture: Part 2
As Peter and Daphne continue this conversation around owning one’s potential, they shift their focus to what that has been like for her personally, what experiences really shaped her career, and how we can guarantee that what we are doing will create measurable impact in our lives.
Peter - A common theme that comes up in these conversations is this idea of following the impact, right! And often passion is tied [to it]. I think that this is a perfect demonstration of that. You have a lived experience, and you identified the need and the gap, and that there's an issue to be solved for here. And that was the impact you were following, and it became your passion area, and largely the rest of the career kind of figures itself out.
I think that this is a great example of once again, following the impact, and then that flourishing into what has been a successful career in this space now, but also solving really meaningful problems in our society.
Daphne - Yeah. And you know, it wasn't planned, right. Don't get me wrong, the human rights piece was always a part of my DNA and my work from... I mean, I remember singing, I was the lead face of a choir when I was 10 years old, that was saving the Rouge Valley, you know what I mean? And we saved the Rouge Valley from being infiltrated by corporate condominiums or something of the sort. So I mean, that kind of work was already a part of my life. But when I got into university, and my intention was to get into international law for that exact reason, I wanted to solve these human rights issues from a legal perspective. But then I realized how broken our systems were, and how corrupt frankly, the legal systems are across the globe.
And I really didn't see the avenue aligning with my values. I had to really dig deep and acknowledge the fact that the systems that exist are not really meant for our progress. They are really meant to maintain the status quo.
And those that are really in power set them up in a way that certain groups benefit and others don't. So when I really dug deep and I got into my international law studies, and I studied political science across the globe, and matter of fact, even Women's Studies across the globe, and different things that really helped me see that for me, and [shape] the sort of forward thinking progressive thinker that I am, didn't fit that trajectory of law. That was, to me at the time, very confining. Right. So as a result, my path was windy. It started in education, and I still feel I'm an educator, it's what I do. It just moved from young people to adults, and now, corporate teams.
Peter - I find that very interesting. I mean, it's funny to say that you're still an educator, and everybody should never stop learning, right?! In the same way that you can't impart some of the things that you've learned on others, right? So I find that an interesting way to continue to frame yourself. And this idea of a windy path. There's also a shared experience with a lot of folks. But I think that you were building towards through formal education a very clear direction, and then pivoting away from that, and having to evaluate that something was not consistent with the values that you intrinsically had, and that you were trying to cultivate moving forward. That's a big decision to make, I think that takes bravery to acknowledge that within yourself.
And in our conversations prior to sitting down for this interview, this idea of having the confidence to “move different”. It seems like it started rather early in you, kind of your journey, and I'm curious how that continued throughout the rest of it?
Daphne - No, definitely I was, I was always very creative. I remember writing poetry books as a kid. And, I was always an artist of some sort. I was either drawing or creative writing or performing. And as a result of that, I became an artist who performed hip hop music for quite some years. And that really gave me a voice, it gave me confidence to tackle things that were uncomfortable. And the confidence to just show up, you know, because when I was doing my thing, there weren't a lot of female MCs, especially not that looked like me, or that had my kind of background or history.
I was also an athlete, dedicated, dedicated athlete, and I learned so much from sport that positioned me in a way that I can... I could take those hits, you know, what I mean? I can! I was willing to be vulnerable, and still come out on top, because I knew the grit that I put in to get there. Right. So those, those two things really set me up for that, that just personal confidence to be able to be who I wanted to be and go in the direction that everyone told me not to go in, you know. “Oh my God you’d do so well as a translator or an interpreter in the government!” Or, “yeah, you can totally develop policy”. And every amazing idea that your guidance counselor and your uncle and your grandma had, you know what I mean, would try to sway me in the other direction, and I just stood firm. I'm like, "no, that's not me."
Peter - I think that's super important. Knowing and being authentic and consistent with yourself in terms of following what it is that you want to do, I think is so important. And I'm really excited when anyone brings up anything to do with athletics or sport on this podcast because I grew up with a singular passion that dominated everything else in the form of basketball. I played AAU all over, it was such an important part of my identity and from a very early age it helped build up confidence in such a significant way. You know, I work a corporate job now. I'm not a professional basketball player. But guess what, I still play multiple times a week. And every time I do like coming home and then going to work the next day, no one even knows why I'm more confident or in a better mood that day. But it's because I had a great experience, like playing well, and it builds resilience because you're overcoming adversity many, many times over and over in a condensed period of time, right? You're collaborating with people, but then there's also personal excellence, right? And it's just pick-up basketball, but it has a material impact on my ability to do my job the next day. Whether I was successful or not successful, I still think I excelled. I think it's underrated.
I don't think enough people talk about the fact that those types of diverse interests like participating in sport, have so many positive impacts on your ability to have a good professional life. I think it’s super transferable.
Daphne - Totally. There's two things that you made me think of regarding sport and how it, really, really impacted me. So one is that at 13, basketball was one of my, my main sports I'd say. I started in track and volleyball, and then I chose basketball, or maybe it chose me, I don't know. But I remember playing, and the first amazing sort of culture shock for me, was I remember playing basketball in Michigan. Yeah, I think it's Port Huron, Michigan. And I was, I don't know, 13,14. And we're there in a tournament. And after that, we went to this mall in Detroit. There were two white people in the entire mall. The entire mall! The people that worked there that were shopping were Black. And I was blown away coming from Toronto, because at that time, yes, we had a vibrant Caribbean community. But the majority of folks in Toronto were white, right? And my mother's Italian. So I grew up with a white family, as well as a St. Lucian family. So I was very comfortable in both environments.
But the shock of seeing a vibrant community, all Black, was one of the turning points for me in understanding the difference between groups that are supported and supporting each other, because there was an affluent African American community in the Detroit area for some time. And so that led me to dig even deeper and start my love affair with travel.
And I had traveled even earlier than that, because I took full advantage of my family all around the globe. So I had been to St. Lucia and Italy, before I even got to high school. But at that time, that was the moment that was like, I need to inspect the world more, you know, that just really, really lit my fire.
Peter - I think it's such a critical thing for people to experience, both just from personal travel and professional travel, I think you can talk about it at a macro level and say, going to different parts of the world and seeing how people behave, how they interact, how they speak. And experiencing culture is an eye opening and perspective changing thing. But it's also as simple as going to a different office within the same company that may be in a different state, or, you know, a different city can have a drastically different feel or vibe or way of working right, communicating. And I think when you get down to a micro level, and recognize that there's big enough differences, that you can acknowledge them in such small distances, that having both sides of the coin have the kind of travel perspective, I think is an important one. What I find interesting in all of this is that you have a successful career that you've built on a passion area, you’re focused on impact, you have this diverse lived experience that helps inform the work that you do in driving successful diversity in organizations.
And I wonder if you were to look back, let's say X number of years from now, 10, 20, 30 years from now, how would you look back? And what would the criteria be for you to call it all success?
Daphne - That I still want to do it! You know, I think about the idea that from a cultural perspective, you know, we have such histories that we examine and we look at from an anthropology perspective, we look at how we develop and why and what pushed us in one direction or the other as a species or as a particular group, and I look at what I'm doing right now and how I'm helping organizations kind of cut through the the fluffy nonsense and really just get to the bones as an integral part of actually changing the way we educate from young to old. Because you said something at the beginning about the idea that education is a lifelong process.
And to me, when you start learning as a young person, if you start on a false foundation, who knows where you're gonna end up. It really to me doesn’t look promising. So the kind of work that I'm doing really, the goal at the end of the day, is to shift culture so much that people realize they have to pull down all the facades and start anew.
You know you cannot build a new, shiny vehicle on a rusted foundation. It's just not going to work. So that's my long term vision that really, our education systems across the globe, are reformed to the max, because that's the foundation we need. We get older, but when we get older, our lessons compound. So if what we learned back then...basically, let me say this in another way. If I'm 50, and I had the right lesson at 10. At 50, I'd be so much further ahead than if I was only getting the right lesson at 50. Then I have to relearn all the stuff I learned at 10, or basically unlearn all the stuff I learned at 10. You know what I mean?
So if we just better prepared our future generations with information and skills and tools that would push them so much further ahead. I, frankly, would be out of a job. That would be my ideal scenario. You know what I mean? Because we would be getting it so early, that we would have developed these cross cultural skills, we would have cultural intelligence, it would be being fostered from such a young age.
I think what excites me is the way you articulated the fact that if that was the case, you wouldn't have a job today. Right? But you do. And what you're doing is, is what you said, is shaking down the facades and tearing down facades and having to unlearn and then learn from a new.
And it's not about public statements around sensitivity or public statements about encouragement around these spaces or anything like that. It's about actually changing ways of working and enabling processes that allow for equitable progression and taking control of people's careers. And the fact that that's what you're doing now to enable, in the future, folks just having the right lesson from the beginning right! I think that's what's most powerful about all of this, and really one of the main reasons why I really wanted to have this conversation. And I am thankful for the fact that you were willing to take a moment to talk about your journey, but also just talk about this important topic and the work that you're doing. So thank you!
Daphne - You're welcome. It was my pleasure. I mean, there's a lot of work to be done. And though, you know, I wish we were learning it earlier, the fact that we're tackling it now is instrumental to that change happening, because we, those that are in positions of leadership, that can really change policies, and learn themselves, how to be better leaders, how to be more inclusive, why it matters, you know, why the false narratives are super destructive to our success as a whole. And taking that into account when you're building businesses and really trying to be successful as a team is so important for our future. So, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
End of Part 2
You can listen to the complete podcast here!