Learning How Having a Mentor Helps Young People at the Beginning of Their Professional Journey with Charlene Adamah and Graham Idehen of Colour Of Research
Diversity and inclusion are two of the hottest topics in today’s business world. But, many companies don’t go beyond just talking about them. So, it is time for us to stop talking and start acting towards making the business world equally open for everyone.
In this episode of Through Your Looking Glass, our host, Patrick Comer, chats with Charlene Adamah and Graham Idehen, the co-founders of Colour Of Research (CORe). Graham is also the Director of Customer Success at Lucid.
Charlene and Graham share the story behind Colour Of Research. They explain that Colour Of Research is an organization comprising like-minded individuals gathered around the same goal — to create more diversity.
They also touch upon their mentorship program and its impact on younger generations who are at the beginning of their professional journey. According to our guests, there’s nothing more rewarding than helping others, and so, being part of Colour Of Research involves being a team player.
Names: Charlene Adamah and Graham Idehen
What they do: Charlene is the co-founder of Colour Of Research and Graham is the co-founder of Colour Of Research and the Director of Customer Success at Lucid.
Company: Colour Of Research – CORe
Key Quote: “Getting black people, ethnic people into your organization is one thing, but creating an environment where they feel wanted and accepted and want to stay, while also feeling that they’re not going to hit a glass ceiling and there’s actually places they can get to — it’s the right thing to do.” – Charlene
- What we aim to do is make a change. Colour Of Research is especially proud of their mentorship program. The entire concept is based on connecting a mentor with a mentee, where the former shares their lived experience with the latter. The goal is to prepare younger generations entering the research industry for all sorts of challenges and obstacles that they may encounter not just at the beginning but throughout their careers. In addition, those mentor-mentee relationships often become friendships. ”I was speaking to a mentor yesterday. Even though technically the mentor and mentee shift had ended, they still speak all the time. They still connect. They’ve been with their mentee through promotions. Stories are coming through now from people who have benefited from [the program], and I’m already feeling as if that’s rewarding. In this short space of time, I feel as if we’re already making a change,” says Charlene.
- There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to help others. The core of Colour Of Research is its members — like-minded individuals who share the passion for helping others. They don’t think about self-promotion and are not solely focused on their success; they want to help as many people as possible find their true calling, be proud of themselves, and honor and celebrate their heritage and identity. Being a team player is a quality you should have if you want to be part of Colour Of Research. ”I’ve always seen myself as a team player. Charlene as well. When we work together, she’s a team player. And you want those selfless individuals to be able to look up at people and say, ‘Okay, this isn’t just my journey. We’re on this journey together. So, come along. Let’s go for a ride together, and let’s see where we get to.’ It’s not about being individualistic, making yourself successful, and saying, ‘See that’ to everybody else. It’s about what you can do — how you can build up the rest of your community and bring success to everybody around you,” says Graham.
- We talk about Black History Month, and a lot of it is centered around history. But, as Graham explains, we should also look at where we are now and what we want from the future. He mentions Pride as an excellent example of how we should always be aware of historical aspects but also celebrate the positive changes and progress we have made towards a more open and diverse world. ”When it comes to Black History Month, understanding the struggles and challenges that we’ve had is important, but so is celebrating it. I have mixed-race children, but they understand that diversity is very important. So in terms of celebrating Black History Month, I don’t celebrate the month. I make it a continual thing for my children to understand how important diversity is for us. To understand how important it is for them to feel that they’re part of a community, that they feel accepted, feel comfortable in their schools, and to be proud of who they are.”
“The moment you feel accepted and part of a community, that’s the moment that you can give everything and anything. You can really thrive and be successful.”
Colour Of Research — Like-Minded Individuals Who Have Come Together to Create Change
”A lot of conversations were happening separately, and we didn’t even realize that everybody else was having this conversation and the fact that an organization like Colour of Research was needed,” says Charlene.
”We were all just sharing our experiences. We’re on different journeys within the industry. But the thing that brought us together was the fact that we could relate to each other’s experiences and challenges, and our feelings of being isolated,” Graham adds.
“We started speaking about it even before the George Floyd incident. There was a misconception that we actually started off as a result of it, but that wasn’t the case. It was something that we were feeling before, but the timing in a sense was probably apt because it coincided with the incident,” says Charlene.
There’s Nothing Better than Having a Mentor Who Shares a Lived Experience with You
”We have a mentorship program which is, we think, so important. It’s where we are teaming up and connecting a mentor with a mentee who’s from an ethnically diverse background. You can get a lot of insights and guidance from somebody who is perhaps more senior in the industry but isn’t from a similar background.
But there’s nothing like having somebody that really understands you to be able to guide you. And those pairings have worked very well,” says Charlene.
Self Doubt and Impostor Syndrome — Two Hard-to-Avoid Obstacles
”There were times when I wanted to try something different; I wanted to try different opportunities. So I’d go to job interviews. I would do well and have a good rapport. I know you’re not perfect on every single interview, but to repeatedly get knocked down [is disillusioning].
Then you see the people that were successful, and you start to question, ‘Okay, well, they all seem to have similar faces. Do I not fit the mold?’ And that’s when the doubts creep in.
I spoke a lot about impostor syndrome — ‘Am I even good enough to be here?’ And it’s hard to overcome those doubts sometimes. You’re always going to question yourself. But I think, for me, it comes because I’ve always felt different. Now, I feel accepted,” says Graham.
Why Is Black History Month in October?
”So, in the U.S., Black History Week was created by a historian called Carter Woodson back in 1926, I think. In 1969, that week expanded and became Black History Month.
In the 1970s, there was a gentleman called Addai-Sebo, and he founded the UK version of Black History Month in 1987.
The reason that he decided to found it in October was, in part, to be a lot closer to his African roots. African leaders would generally come together, settle their differences and have discussions in October. So he wanted to relate it to that.
Additionally, it was taking the academic year into account. So every October, black kids start school, and they feel a sense of pride and identity. And that’s why he founded it in October rather than February,” explains Graham.
So Once the Talking Stops, What Are You Going to Do?
”It’s not just about checking off boxes and saying, ‘Okay, we’ve done that. What’s next?’ It’s about questioning, ‘What do you want to achieve from this? Why are you doing this? Are you doing this just to say, ‘Hey, we’re diverse,’ or are you trying to build a long-term legacy where you are building an inclusive environment where everybody can thrive?’
It’s not just talking about it. We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but what action are you going to take as a result of the discussions? And like you said, once the media is gone, what are you going to do? Are you going to carry on discussing? Are you going to push it to the side and prioritize something else?
I think these are very important things that all of us need to be focusing on because this isn’t just a topical thing. No, these are real people. These are real lives. These are real struggles that we’ve been struggling with for years,” says Graham.
“A lot of the time, people say, ‘Yeah, this really matters to us. We really care, but we don’t have the budget.’
But you also need to find the budget for team away days, you need to find budgets for drinks; you need to find budgets for a variety of things.
So when it’s important to you, you find that money. Everyone will have different levels of what they can spend — companies have different expenditures. I completely understand that.
But for some pretty large organizations, you can say that they want to be seen to be doing something but really don’t want to invest that money and time into it. And it’s quite transparent when that’s the case,” says Charlene.