During the month of July, the Credera Women’s Network (CWN) focused on the theme of authentic self. As part of this theme, the CWN hosted four micro series and a panel event to generate dialogue and share insights on this important topic. Each event featured different Credera team members, allowing them to tell their stories and journeys of becoming and being their authentic selves.
Authentic Self Micro Series #1: Allison De La Torre
During the first session, Allison De La Torre, a marketing senior specialist, shared her story about “taking leaps of faith, making lemonade (so to speak), and holding on to hope.”
Allison was a management consultant for Credera from 2016 to 2019, and while she loved Credera, she felt her heart was in event planning. She daringly pursued her new career, but it was short lived when all events were cancelled due to COVID-19 and she was laid off in March 2020.
She felt unexpected peace following her layoff and made the most of the opportunity to experience the restaurant industry. Even though some might say she “climbed down the corporate ladder,” Allison found joy in serving and interacting with guests. This helped her gain confidence in “resisting the cultural pressure to seek upward movement at a company for the sake of prestige.”
A year and a half later, Allison was ready for her next adventure, which fortunately landed her back on the Credera marketing team. Throughout all of her different professional roles, she learned to be honest with her journey and to hold on to hope as an anchor through the ups and downs.
Authentic Self Micro Series #2: Tamara Sutherland and Joshua Nelson
On July 13, CWN was joined by Credera Veteran’s Network (CVN) members, Joshua Nelson, a manager in the Management Consulting (MC) Practice, and Tamara Sutherland, a senior consultant in our MC Practice. Joshua and Tamara both shared their journeys of becoming their authentic selves from military life to civilian life.
Joshua served in the Army National Guard and was inspired to join based on his grandfather’s advice. The military taught Joshua a lot about not only life, but himself. He now lives by the adage that every moment counts and always tries to focus on others. At times he felt he didn’t do enough while in the military because he was never deployed, but now he knows his identity and who he is. “I have nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to fear, and nothing to prove,” said Joshua.
Joshua said “confident humility” describes his professional life, explaining that just because he doesn’t know it in the moment, doesn’t mean he can’t be successful at it.
Tamara joined the Navy to become the “quintessential leader” that she saw a friend turn into after their time in the military. Tamara always felt her identity was tied to being in the Navy, and after returning to civilian life and getting into a new career, she was encouraged to embrace her true authentic self. She has faced the challenge of rebranding herself but is thankful for the punctuality, humility, and honor the Navy taught her.
Authentic Self Micro Series #3: Carolina Herrera
On July 21, CWN was joined by CredColor’s Carolina Herrera, a senior designer in the Experience Design Practice. Carolina is Venezuelan-American and often struggled to find herself between these two cultures.
She is a first-generation American but moved back to Venezuela as a young child before returning to Texas in the 2000s. Carolina would grow up to spend her school summer break in Venezeula to spend time with her extended family and often felt stuck between two cultures, and never felt she fully fit in, which led her to feeling like she was having an identity crisis as a teenager. She realized she wasn’t letting her authentic self shine, instead hiding her differences so they wouldn’t stand out or draw attention from others.
After struggling to find a major that felt right, she finally found her niche with environmental design, architecture. Which led to her journey of shedding the person she thought she was suppose to be to fit in. She now fully embraces her multicultural background and enjoys sharing about it. She leans into being honest and showing her vulnerable side to others.
Authentic Self Micro Series #4: Joshua Grear and Kelsey Kah
On July 26, CWN was joined by CrederaThrive’s Joshua Grear, a principal architect in the Technology Solutions Practice and Kelsey Kah, a senior consultant in the Management Consultant Practice.
Kelsey considers herself to encapsulate everything that a consultant is: “the good and the bad,” she said. She considers herself a good person to give feedback, as she cannot tell a lie to save her life. “My face says it all, all the time—which can be problematic at times, but I am being myself,” she said.
While attending Brigham Young University (BYU), she was a member of the business school where she felt a lot of pressure to be impressive. That led to her being a “toned down” version of herself: she wasn’t telling jokes like she normally would. After college, this continued as she introduced herself with her job title or as a BYU college graduate first, instead of focusing on herself. After attending counseling, she now leads by showcasing herself first, not her job or college degree, as these two things are not her entire identity.
Joshua always felt he was open and authentic, until he went through a difficult time in his life where he began suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. He realized he wasn’t showing every part of himself. This was an eye-opening moment.
He started sharing his struggles with his small group at his church and with fellow Credera team members. Many stood up and admitted feeling similarly in the past and present, and now Joshua has had many open conversations with friends and coworkers alike on mental health topics, always reminding others that it’s OK to not be OK and that faking being OK isn’t the way to go.
Intersectional Panel on Authentic Self, Featuring: Sarah Bruner, Thad Siwinski, Joshua Grear, Shani Rainey, Jevon Jemaa
To close the authentic self theme, CWN hosted a panel moderated by Amanda Leavitt, a principal in the Management Consultant Practice. Amanda led the panel through a variety of questions on being their authentic selves.
Sarah Bruner, senior marketing manager, represented the CWN. She said Credera has allowed her to be her authentic self at work, and she was finally in a place where she was not only excelling at her job, but also enjoying it too.
Sarah has been walking through life dealing with hardships from a season of personal health issues to a parent’s cancer diagnosis. She has been able to share these things openly with many Credera team members and hasn’t felt a need to hide. Sarah said she has felt both “rewarded and surprised (in a good way)” by the reactions when sharing what she has been going through and reminded us of all that we are a person first and an employee second.
Thad Siwinksi, a senior manager in the Management Consultant Practice and founder of CVN, brought his perspective to being authentic in all the different roles he has played in his life. Whether the role is father, husband, consultant, or Navy SEAL, he brings the best version of himself to that context.
Thad said the biggest obstacle to being authentic is, in fact, himself. “In the areas where I had control, if I was able to overcome obstacles, it made me more confident. When you look back at the challenges you have overcome, you realize that you are capable of some crazy and amazing things,” he said.
During the panel, we heard from Joshua Grear again as he continued to share his mental health journey and encouraged others to do the same. Joshua once believed he was an extremely type A individual, but after going through his mental health struggles, he was diagnosed with high functioning anxiety, which masked itself as being type A.
His vulnerability to share his story has allowed many others at Credera to do the same, creating space to be their authentic selves. “When you are vulnerable it allows others to be vulnerable too,” he said. “It allows people to see you as a person and not just a consultant or employee, and we are usually harder on ourselves than we are on others.”
He reminded us to always be compassionate to others because you never know what someone else is going through. “We have a responsibility to set examples whether we are leading a team or we are the newest member,” he said. “It doesn’t matter—we are all people.”
Shani Rainey, a senior consultant in the Management Consultant Practice and one of the leadership team members for CredColor, shared how she once struggled to find who she was. She grew up in a predominately white neighborhood, and often felt that she was “too white for the Black kids and too Black for the white kids.”
She attended Rice University for her undergrad and played basketball. At Rice, she was surrounded by people who had backgrounds and experiences similar to hers, and she finally felt like she was being her authentic self and learned there is no mold she had to fit into.
As Shani started her career after college, she recalls interviewing with a partner at Credera. She always goes back to the moment when the partner told her, “Remember, you were hired for a reason. Don’t change and always be yourself.” When asked how she encourages others to be their authentic selves, Shani said, “A good friend once told me, if I treated my friends as tough and critical as I treat myself, I would probably have no friends… and remember to always give yourself grace.”
“2020 was a catalyst year for me, it helped me accept myself,” said Jevon Jemaa, an HR generalist. “It was a hard emotional journey, but also worth it because I feel I am the better version of myself because of it.” Jevon shared about becoming his authentic self after he started coming out as gay to family and friends. Jevon had known for quite a while that he was gay but struggled to be open about it with those close to him, due to fear of people not accepting him.
“The decision to come out is a really tough and personal one,” Jevon said. “It has been easy to do at Credera with a clean slate, but it can still be a tough conversation to have.”
Jevon, a true people-first individual, felt guilty when coming out to others because he felt like he had misled people. Even people feeling indifferent about Jevon coming out isn’t going to hold him back from being his true self. He says he is happier than ever now.
Amanda wrapped up the panel by asking the group one last question: “What can Credera do better to allow people to be their authentic selves?” The panel as a whole gave Credera kudos for making Credera a safe space to be themselves and reminded us to continue to be good teammates to others, continue to have events like this, and to remember we all come from different places and backgrounds.
Joshua shared one last recommendation: When on calls with your team members one on one, and you ask how they are, pause after their answer. Check in and make sure they really are doing OK.
Credera Women’s Network
The mission of the Credera Women’s Network is to build and promote a community within Credera focused on recruiting, educating, developing, supporting, and connecting the women of Credera. Find out more about CWN itself and specific CWN events.
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If you are interested in learning more about Credera, the CWN, or about mental health and illness, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to continue the conversation with you!
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