Why Learning The Value Of Your Voice Makes You A Future Leader

It’s been a while. My monthly blog commitment has kinda failed but I’m going to get back on it. Where have I been? Well, basically… sometimes, life. Life just happens and it has to come first but it has been eventful.

I’ve been working in tech for just over 5 months (21 weeks to be exact) and it does feel like a whirlwind. When I first started my journey into tech, I was full of excitement; ready to code, share what I was learning with others and develop my career. Don’t get me wrong, I still am all of these things but working in tech has allowed me to unlock other gifts that I never knew I had. It was the gift of being vocal. You’re probably thinking, “really?” How corny but it’s true!

Like many people, I’ve had a fear of speaking my mind or speaking my truth. I always worry that speaking out will effect others in a negative way especially if I’m on the receiving end of something that is hurtful or unconsciously hurtful. I’ve been thinking a lot about where it all stems from. The therapist in me believes everything stems from childhood and I think being bullied in high school definitely instilled a fear of speaking up and speaking out. I still struggle with it to be honest but I have found that speaking my mind about things can help others, inspire others and also helps me. You never know speaking your truth can help others and make a difference.

So how did I know my voice can make a difference? I’ve had many moments of this actually now that I think back on it all. It’s pretty mad actually. I didn’t think I was doing anything special to be honest but it made an impact.

The first moment was back in April (or May, don’t remember!) where we had a visit to our office from our Senior Leadership team. To be honest, I didn’t know what Senior Leadership really meant or who they were but everyone was talking about it. At some point during the day, a stand-up was hosted where everyone on the floor came together to hear what the Senior Leadership have been up to and what the purpose of their visit was. Fast forward a little bit, we took part in an activity using an app to rate out of 10 how much we enjoy working here. I was sharing my phone with my friend, she gave it an 8/10 and I gave it a 4/10 and we decided to send a median response of 6/10 through the app. We were given an opportunity to share why that was. I put my hand up and shared that I felt alone in a room full of people being that I’m the only black person on the floor and there’s a lot of us here. I think I said a little more but I genuinely don’t remember what it was but deep down, I was disappointed by it.

With that, I’ve had opportunities to talk about this to many people of senior roles about the changes I would like to see, what we can do to increase the number of black representation within the organisation and try and help make a change for the next generation. Do you want to know why this was an pinnacle moment for me? It’s because the person I shared my experiences to was the CTO of our organisation (I didn’t find that out until last month, I think! Haha! But in my defence, the organisation I work for is huge, I’ve met a lot of people and I was new!)

Jennifer Opal, YouTuber and motivational speaker, Nissy Tee, and Team F on the Aleto Leadership Foundation sponsored by BT Group
Myself, YouTuber and motivational speaker, Nissy Tee, and Team F on the Aleto Leadership Foundation sponsored by BT Group

From that moment, I was surrounded by positive people speaking positivity and encouragement into me about my story and the change my story can bring to others. One of these people told me to applying for the Aleto Leadership Program which is a program dedicated to uplifting the leader potential of young people with mentoring, workshops, talks and so much more. I was blessed enough to be accepted on the program which allowed me to see my potential. I came into the program feeling like I didn’t deserve to be here, feeling like I didn’t believe in myself enough in order to be on a Leadership Program. Why be on a Leadership Program if you don’t believe you are a leader? I learnt there was more to it than that. I was there because I had the potential to be a leader, it was down to me to choose whether to believe it or not. I now believe that I am. It may come across as arrogant to some or self-absorbed but I feel that by believing that I am a leader is how I can now step into things that I have always wanted to do and impacts I have always wanted to make.


To add to this, I also gave a talk at Coding Black Females where I shared my “The Ups And Downs Of My Journey Into Software Engineering” which was nerve-wracking deep down but I spoke my truth. I feel like I messed up at times but I can be my own worst critic, I guess. Through it all, I’ve learnt from it and will learn how to be better for next time while still be true to who I am. I was grateful for the kind words and encouragement I received from everyone that attended and it truly warmed my heart. A lovely young woman said to me she travelled from Brighton to hear me talk. I will never forget that. I was so humbled by her and I’m sure I will hear a talk from her in the future.

On my short journey into tech and even before, every step I have taken starts with me. I have to make that decision to step into the unknown and it is uncomfortable at times but that’s what comes with being a leader. You are experiencing and delivering new things every day not just to the world but within yourself.

Jennifer Opal speaking at Coding Black Females in London
Speaking at Coding Black Females in London

My story makes me unique and my voice allows me to use my story to make an impact and hopefully a change in the world while embracing my blackness and my Congolese heritage along the way. I am a leader. It can be scary, it can be uncomfortable, I will definitely mess up but I can only hope I continue to inspire. You don’t need a stage to inspire people. You are already inspiring people around you and you probably don’t even know it. I hope that with me sharing my truth, it will encourage you to be vocal, to step into your purpose and walk with pride in your hearts and minds because that’s what a leader is. You.

By

Jennifer Opal

May 8, 2019

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