Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 6: Work identities: Including fields, hierarchies and positions


A contributor’s example of Layer 6:

My earliest influence in a work environment was my father. He worked in construction and owned a small business that focused on small commercial development and housing remodels. And I worked with him. Much of this work was very hands-on and physically demanding.



All of this early experience allowed me to get exposure to and develop relationships with a variety of people of various cultural backgrounds, ages and socio-economic levels. Relating to others and being able to build relationships is a strength I recognize I have.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked for a photography company. Over the different summers and seasons, I had moved up to the role of manager of the studio and was in charge of a staff of approximately 12 people. Soon after I graduated, I was offered a full-time job with the company as a regional manager. I was 24 years old, overseeing the operations of seven photography studios at theme parks in six different states.

At the age of 28, I joined the U.S. Peace Corps, made no request as to where to go, and was assigned to the Fiji Islands as my post. For the first two years, I was placed in a small village community on an outer island that ran a small tourism operation including a small, 12-bed lodge, coastal walk and kayaking tours. I helped the community leaders and youth groups with projects related to financial management, environmental awareness, cleanup, and sexual/reproductive health.



In Fiji, I developed more awareness of my role as a facilitator of group interactions. I have a deep sense of inclusion and can be hyper-aware of how others are seemingly included in or excluded from conversations. In these community settings, training sessions and group conversations, I focused on ways to ensure more inclusiveness. As I look back on this work, I see that the role I was serving in was that of a consultant to my community, similar to the work I do now in a very different environment.

After Peace Corps, I moved to Washington, D.C., with my wife. After five months of searching, I got a job with a small management consulting company that operated exclusively as a federal government contractor. I was assigned work on different projects and contracts and, admittedly, often internally questioned what I was doing and what value I was providing. I had expressed my feelings of unhappiness privately with the HR director, perhaps foolishly and certainly with a great deal of naiveté. In the end, I was let go from the organization.



The experience of being let go from that organization brought up questions about my own sense of self-worth that I had never had to ask myself. It has helped me to better empathize and understand what people are going through when they are feeling stuck and lost in their careers.

After some searching, I eventually landed at my current place of employment, a large-size financial institution, in a talent development role in the learning and development department. Over time, the role has evolved into that of an internal organization development consultant.



Through my professional journey, I have discovered what is important to me and have been able to use those skills and values in my current role. I feel I thrive in settings that allow me to facilitate group interactions and help groups, teams and individuals develop more clarity and understanding of each other and of themselves.