Part of our Corporate Circles: Inclusive Conversation Series
As we cautiously begin to ease out of the pandemic, now is the perfect time to address the kind of inequities that many of our teams face every day.
To kick off our Corporate Circles: Inclusive Conversation series of interactive virtual roundtables, I'm thrilled to welcome authors and nFormation founders Rha Goddess and Deepa Purushothaman to lead us through a conversation on how we can redefine power for women of color at work.
Below is an article originally published on CDW’s blog. Visit the CDW company page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Meet Cecelia Myers! As the Vice President of Digital, Cecelia is committed to building a team central to CDW’s digital transformation. With responsibilities ranging from Product Management of CDW.com and Rubi to increasing engagement with digital experiences, she’s proud to work alongside her curious and passionate team, who bring a product mindset and approach to the wider CDW teams.
How it started
Growing up in Goshen, Indiana, as an only child, Cecelia’s first job was as a lifeguard, which she did for multiple summers. During her first job, she learned how to stay focused while being extremely bored — and vowed to ensure her career path didn’t require that skill. “I can safely say it does not. I am never, ever bored,” said Cecelia.
From there, Cecelia attended Indiana University for her undergraduate degree in English Literature, which she swears is unfairly branded as useless. “Quick information synthesis and constructing an argument are underrated corporate superpowers that the humanities does a great job preparing people for.” After graduating, she pursued her Master’s of Engineering, Product Design and Development at Northwestern University. She married her high school sweetheart, who also grew up in Goshen, and has two adorable children, Ben and Phoebe, and an elderly dachshund, Oscar.
Cecelia started her journey with CDW in 2019 leading Product and Design in the eCommerce team. The team has since evolved to become the Digital team and she feels confident that she joined CDW at the right time. “I had the luck of coming to CDW right as we started transforming and investing in our customer-facing digital experience in a big way. It’s been so exciting to watch the strategy grow and give our customers and sellers new ways to communicate and collaborate,” she said.
How it’s going
Since Cecelia joined CDW in 2019, her team has grown exponentially. At the same time, the digital experience has become integral to CDW’s approach to its customers. “The passion and excitement of the Digital, Design and Tech teams is channeled into creating things that are really impactful for our customers and sellers, and I feel lucky to work with and lead such an amazing team,” said Cecelia.
In her professional life, Cecelia is proud to have built and to lead a team where people treat each other with kindness as they push hard to do better things together. She feels that collaboration and camaraderie create a culture where respectful debate and a focus on constant improvement are energizing versus wearing a team down. “I emphatically believe that you can push each other to be better without being combative.”
Personally, she’s devoted time to working with Lymphoma Research Foundation to support their outstanding work in lymphoma research and patient support. While at CDW, Cecelia was diagnosed with lymphoma and continued working through treatment. “Supporting those who find themselves in this situation is something I feel lucky to do, whether through working with LRF, in CDW BRGs or in being a peer buddy for professionals dealing with treatment,” said Cecelia.
Looking to the future, Cecelia is excited to help customers of all kinds achieve more with CDW’s leading-edge digital experience. “We are at a moment where technology will let us do more than ever before, and being at such a fascinating juncture is so energizing,” she said.
Most of us never had the chance to find pleasure in the learning process. But being a student again, as an adult, can actually be fun. With that in mind, we've decided to optimize the PowerUp experience by making it engaging and, most importantly, worthwhile.
Every time you take a new course on PowerUp, you will encounter a dynamic experience with different mediums, approaches, and pathways. On one hand, our original content focuses on developing skills and is organized to take you on a learning journey. On the other hand, you will come across a well-defined structure that is consistent throughout all courses on the platform. This combination of impactful content and cohesive structure makes learning and studying a pleasant experience, not a taxing one. When we learn, our brains appreciate impactful narratives and familiar structures so that we can recognize and navigate the content more easily.
The big secret to becoming a lifelong learner and, most importantly, enjoying the process, is creating pleasurable and rewarding connections during your moments of study. With that said, we've prepared seven tips to help you get the most out of this journey; and hopefully, help you fall in love with studying and become a lifelong learner. After all, learning has no end date. Even after diplomas – from basic education, college, masters, or PhDs — an open attitude toward knowledge is key. So let's dive in!
7 ways to maximize your learning on PowerUp
1. The journey starts with you: Setting the environment
The first thing to do before sitting in front of your screen is to set up a study environment that makes you comfortable. It doesn't have to be anything major. Think of things that you enjoy, such as a cup of tea or coffee, slippers on your feet, incense, or instrumental music. Minute adjustments can make a significant impact in creating a better learning environment. By including this step before taking a course, you are teaching your brain and body to associate learning with feelings of pleasure and ease. The more you do this, the more fear and procrastination give way to eagerness and satisfaction of learning.
2. Pay attention to the course overview
All PowerUp courses start with an Overview page. Look at all of its parts (modules, lessons, assessments, takeaways, resources) and try to make sense of the course structure. What is implied by the way modules are divided? And the lessons within each of them? Try to identify the general messages covered in each of them. The Course Overview and introduction video are like a movie trailer. They give you clues on what’s coming next and why. Although it may seem like a spoiler, this part has a fundamental function in attracting your attention and giving insight into the journey to come. So take some time to watch and think about it.
3. Writing to remember: Take notes
Most of the things we listen to aren’t stored in our long-term memory. As the saying goes: If you don't use it, you lose it. Taking notes is crucial to help our brain remember important stuff. It’s also a good way to start putting what you’ve learned into practice — and it will help you organize your thoughts so you can more easily locate them in the future. Try to make connections to your reality and think critically about what you watched or read.
Good note-taking doesn’t mean writing down everything you hear. Copying down information doesn’t engage your brain and is not a strong strategy for learning and retaining concepts. So write notes in your own words. Or try to do it from memory. If you are taking notes digitally, you can use apps like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Docs to make it easier. And make sure to keep them organized using bullet points, folders, highlighting, or any other strategy.
4. Finding your flow: How to take the course
Now that you’ve set up your learning environment, understand the course structure, and are ready to take notes, it's time to start taking the course. You don't have to take lessons according to our proposed order. It's up to you. Just pay attention to the content map in the course overview. You can decide if the lessons are independent or ordered sequentially. This can change from course to course, depending on the subject.
We strongly recommend that you do not leave the lesson texts and assessments to the end. As you finish each lesson, read the corresponding lesson texts and answer the Knowledge Checks. These steps are designed to reinforce your learning process.
Some lesson texts also link to resources at the end. Resources can have different purposes. Some present more in-depth content on a subject addressed in the video lesson. Others have a more practical dimension, presenting tools, templates for implementing actions, lists, and prompts. Take a look before moving on to the next lesson and assess whether it's the right time to break the course flow to delve into a specific topic or if it's something you can return to later.
5. Keep track of your time
There is no rule or limit for course completion time. Although all PowerUp courses have the same structure, with very similar lengths, the time dedicated to completing a course can vary significantly from person to person. And don't be fooled by the idea that the faster, the better.
The biggest challenge is being attentive as you take the course. With your full attention, the more time you dedicate, the more effective and intellectual your involvement with the content will be. Don't hesitate to watch a lesson video twice if you feel the need, or reread a text, take a detour to research something relevant on the topic, or access interesting references suggested in the video or text lessons.
As long as you stay focused and know how to measure your limits — of time and energy — everything will be fine, no matter how long it takes you to finish.
This is not to say drop out of the course for weeks, as this will hinder your learning. Other than that, take your time. And enjoy.
6. Assessments: Testing your learnings
Many of us get the chills when we hear the word ‘assessment.’ Memories of school days can be traumatic. But don’t worry. The assessments prepared by our team were designed to function as an evaluation instrument through which you can understand your level of knowledge acquisition. Knowledge Checks and Module Quizzes occur at the end of each lesson and each module, respectively. Try to answer without looking back at the lesson. Trust your memory and your ability to understand complex subjects. If you get them wrong, you might want to review and go over the basic concepts to improve your understanding. If you took notes, it might be enough to go over them. If not, go back to the lesson and clarify any questions.
The Final Assessment is more in-depth. If you feel unsure about it, do a brief review before starting. And remember: assessments are a tool for you to evaluate your performance. Don't be too hard on yourself if you didn't pass on the first try. Take the opportunity to understand what you can improve on and expand your learning.
Another form of self-assessment that is of enormous importance within the learning structure of the courses is the Reflection Questions. The idea here is to encourage you to reflect and take notes on applying what you learned — either in your personal life or your organization. We have prepared brief comments to help you bridge the gaps along with the questions. Every question has space for notes, where you can write down your thoughts and ideas at the end of the course. This is another opportunity to use your notes.
7. Make the most of what PowerUp has to offer
In addition to course materials, our platform has a number of features to empower you through DEIB knowledge and skills. You can follow the latest news related to DEIB in the News tab. Our team expertly curates these titles to keep you up-to-date on what has happened in the DEIB world.
The PowerUp calendar is another feature that can be very useful, especially to guide your organization's DEIB programming. You can access the calendar through the Resources Menu and find a complete list of dates related to DEIB globally, access definitions, general information, and related resources. On the PowerUp homepage, you will also find a carousel dedicated to upcoming events and calendar highlights, so you know what's coming up.
Apart from the course resources, we offer you a vast set of resources covering different subjects ranging from reports to templates and short videos called Quick Takes, among others. You can use the search bar and find the ones that most interest you. Many were made in connection with the PowerUp Calendar and courses, bringing essential ideas and information for your DEIB programming.
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We hope you now have a good idea of what awaits you on PowerUp. Now, you can navigate through the platform, take the course of your choice, and make the most of it. Are you ready to become a lifelong learner?
Meet Meta’s Krista Rae Szaflaraski (Manager, Global People with Disabilities Recruiting Programs, based in Austin, Texas) and Maria Achieng Onyango (Director, Global DEI Recruiting Enablement & Programs, based in London, UK). Krista Rae and Maria are passionate about disability awareness and champions of inclusivity at Meta.
As women with ADHD diagnoses, they’ve both been through the - often challenging - process of getting diagnosed as adults and learning to navigate their careers through a new lens. But beyond their diagnoses, they have also tackled the nuances of their various identities — from being women to mothers to immigrants, and more.
“I was diagnosed at 33,” Maria shares, reflecting on the moment that transformed both her view of herself and the world. “I don't think it's that late in life, but for a diagnosis like ADHD, it is later than most people are diagnosed. And it certainly came at a time when more women were being diagnosed.
I think back to me as an eight-year-old in Kenya, and I just don't think it was on the radar. And then as a 12-year-old in an all-girls secondary school that was very, very focused on academia, the conversations around mental health and neurodiversity just didn't happen.”
Krista also received her ADHD diagnosis as an adult.
“When I went through my diagnosis, they had to call my mother and have her on the line because they explained they don't have an adult version of the ADHD test,” she shared. “A lot of times, these tests have been focused on what you're like as a child, and having my mom there was just fascinating.”
Both women agree on how difficult it was to navigate their career growth while managing the symptoms of ADHD — this is known as masking: hiding symptoms and acting in a “socially acceptable” way to fit in and form better connections with others. And even when they were able to do so, the emotional and psychological costs of trying to conform often came at a high price.
“I had my son when I was 22, and I just focused on him,” says Maria. “I knew that I was the least organized person in the world. I knew I had to get my act together. I knew I was still growing up.”
Maria shares how, in caring for her son, she ended up neglecting many of her own needs, including missing every single dentist appointment over four years.
“My son, on the other hand, has been to every single appointment every six months since he was three years old. So even in that context, it's absolutely possible for people with ADHD to focus on the most important things and to prioritize, but often at the expense of the basic things that you should be doing for yourself.”
Viewing disability through an intersectional lens
As a biracial woman, Maria also explored how her multiple identities coexist, and what that might mean for others.
“I think generally in the UK, young Black kids are more likely to be seen as disruptive rather than people thinking, ‘Oh, there might be something else going on here’,” she comments. “So gender, race, and then also presenting with other mental health issues can kind of lead to adults crossing ADHD off the list, particularly if you're masking.
If you are academically able (for example, if you’re able to crush your natural instinct for an hour and get through a lesson) there's a lot that goes on behind that mask.” — a lot that others might not recognize. The ability to mask neurodiverse conditions may delay or sabotage diagnosis. In turn, internalized conditions including anxiety or depression, might develop as a consequence of undiagnosed, untreated, and hidden neurodiverse conditions.
Maria also believes that many medical systems lack an intersectional lens during the process of diagnosis.
“There is a failure of healthcare provision for people that don't fit the mold,” she explains. “The current DSM-5 criteria for ADHD was built with a 12-year-old Caucasian boy in mind, right? That's what it's describing. So I think medical professionals are more likely to diagnose women and Black women with more stereotypical: diagnoses like depression.”
The DSM-5, the medical diagnostic criteria for ADHD, was first developed in 1980, when the ratio of boys to girls diagnoses was 25:1. And, the symptom threshold or “cutoff” for a diagnosis of ADHD was based on field trials that included more boys than girls.
Today, Maria looks back at many of her childhood systems and recognizes the presence of ADHD. But, her doctors never could.
“Despite me having a lot of contact with psychotherapists and psychiatrists, none of them ever thought that there might be an underlying cause [for my issues], and it was never understood why medication for depression didn't necessarily work,” she says. “I was in front of the medical community pretty regularly from the age of 10 to probably about 22, and yet it was never picked up.”
The journey to acceptance
After getting her diagnosis, Maria’s next step was to figure out how this was going to impact her work life.
“I spoke to my diagnosing psychiatrist about the pros and cons of being open with Meta about it,” she says. After much thought, she decided to talk to the human resources department as well as her manager at the time.
Their response was a welcome relief.
“I sent this long email saying I don't need any accommodations because the way that we work here at Meta is already quite good. We document everything and meetings are recorded. But the team came back and still wanted to offer accommodations,” Maria explains with a smile.
Her manager allowed her to open up to the rest of the team at her own pace, and she was inundated by supportive feedback. To this, Krista remarks, “Fun fact, Maria is my manager. Her openness allowed me to learn more and start opening up and talking about my diagnosis. It was really nice to see not just senior leadership living with ADHD, but also another woman talking about it. I know that [Maria’s openness] has made a huge impression on a lot of folks.”
3 ways to apply an intersectional lens on disability
Maria leaves us with a few suggestions on how we can implement an intersectional lens when viewing disability and, in turn, better support all employees in the workplace.
Understand that your teams represent various identities: “I would encourage folks to look at their pillars. It could be ethnicity, gender, LGBTQIA+, etc. And even within those groups, you have people that have such different experiences from each other. For example, within the Disability@ group here at Meta, we have a separate ADHD group because we have very specific things that we talk about. Being given that space and that allowance to have those conversations and to know that the organization understands that you might have more than one thing going on at any given time is really, really key.”
Encourage involvement in more than one employee resource group: “Make sure that you are making provisions for employee resource groups so that employees can be part of more than one in a very meaningful way. I'm a member of Black@, Disability@, Women@, and ADHD@, and they all work together.”
Allow voices of color to be heard across intersections: “Voices of color within the neurodivergent community have not always held a microphone. So, I think we have this responsibility as the ones building those communities to make sure that we include the perspectives of different voices to be able to bring that intersectionality of why your lived experience is different than my lived experience.”