Event summary: Student Story - Diversity & Inclusion 2019

Author: Lois Arcari

Perhaps the best way that I can express the growth culture Bright provides its members is to start from the literal journey I took to the event, which in a lot of ways reflects my journey to self-acceptance as a person with a diverse identity. Growing up in backwater Wales, London seemed as exotic as any foreign country. The cliché glossy film montages of London buses and the Clash blaring seemed all too real to me. Then, as a dyspraxic person, I can summon small disasters a few inches from my own front door, losing: keys, purses, student’s cards and ID’s, Umbrellas – anything you could think of and plenty that you wouldn’t!

So from that standpoint, London seemed to trepidations. A sprawling, bustling city with plenty of places to get lost in. But I knew I couldn’t avoid the big city, especially for an event of this calibre. So I researched the event and got in contact with Danielle O’Sullivan who wrote an article about their own experience of the day to get some tips for my application.

Once accepted, my stomach flipped in a giddy mix of pride and trepidation. Once I saw the hundreds of students I would be attending with, all Bright, talented and sharp suited, stirred up some more familiar anxiety. These were exceptional students with amazing academic achievements and glittering CVs at some of the top UK companies.

What could I possibly be doing here?

This anxiety was immediately stemmed after one of the first icebreaker exercises set up by the team. We were told to find a stranger and tell each other about our proudest achievements in our lives. My partner told me about her travels across Asia and I told her about my fundraising efforts for a Sleep out for homeless people. Her immediate and sincere interest and warm and welcoming smile instantly put me at ease.

This ignited into intense interest and excitement once we’d heard the keynote speaker, Alexandra Galviz. Her speech was an impassioned call of radical vulnerability, where she opened up about how she mobilised her struggles to achieve success. It was also comforting to hear that real-world resilience and dedication can matter more than academics. Her honesty and tenacity were infectious and made the whole room Brighter. Then it was time for the skills session where we saw concrete data proving that possessing and reflecting on transferable skills was more relevant to employers than strict industry experience. It also highlighted how genuine passion for the business and, once again, personal resilience, were also key to impressing top graduate firms.

The Alumni Success stories continued these motivating messages, with Priscilla Osoba highlighting how she’d progressed into law as a BAME woman and how finding a work culture where you feel free to be yourself is so much more important than trying to fit into any one corporate mould. Zen Ng’s story had a lot of personal resonance, as he talked movingly about his experience of managing depression in his final years of university, building up resilience by focusing on his loved ones.

Our final panel sessions were just as inspiring, with stories of how the business world was changing its approach to diversity and shifting towards real inclusion, with moves such as reverse mentoring which work to make these terms more than just buzzwords in the workplace. An especially illuminating speaker was Sumaira Latif, who talked about how she empowered herself with an intersectionally diverse identity and the paths to inclusion that she carved for herself and other disabled people.

We had two networking sessions - both beautifully catered with delicious food! – Where we were encouraged to pitch ourselves to top employers and find out about their opportunities. What stood out was how genuinely interested they were in each one of us and our stories. Each brand ambassador was informative about their opportunities and a warm conversationalist, giving great insights about what their business wanted in an intern or graduate. My one wish would be that I also used these sessions to network more with the other wonderful Bright network members. You could tell everyone in that room had a story to tell, and one they’d worked hard to get written.

The first of these was followed with a session on how to expand your commercial awareness- and think beyond big headlines to the needs of the business at hand. It was a productive seminar on how to look deeper than the usual Google, and really stand out as a potential employee hooked on the needs of the business.

The Awards ceremony was inspiring and again a little daunting in the most positive way. Bright members were recognised for their social, work and athletic achievements which spanned internationally and created tangible change. It was empowering to see that each of us, whatever our own achievements, were considered to be on par with such amazing students.

As I took the train back home, anxiously hemmed in through packed carriages and trawling through my bag to double, triple, and quadruple check that I hadn’t lost anything along the way, I was buoyed by a sense of what I’d gained. An invaluable experience where I pushed myself, learnt that Inclusion really does matter in the workforce, and saw that corporate giants and amazing individuals alike considered me to be worthy of a place at the table.