I have a new job: chief diversity officer for Siemens AG.
This is probably the first time in my working life where the content of the job is closest to the things I have passion for and love to do. For example:
- It’s people-focused.
- It’s about creating a new way of looking at things.
- It has a global scope.
- It’s about building networks and communities.
- It brings people together who, in their normal workday, would not have any connection with each other.
Briefly, diversity is about inclusion in the workplace; it’s about creating a work environment where anyone, regardless of background, gender, age or sexual orientation, can contribute and excel.
But, this isn’t a blog about diversity. It’s about what it feels like to do a job that has, at its core, an element that is very different than a lot of corporate-type jobs. All of my prior jobs were jobs that most folks had some understanding of. It was easy to explain what I actually did for work: chief financial officer, chief executive officer, programmer, consultant and especially, my college jobs, short-order cook and janitor. It’s much harder to explain what a chief diversity officer does.
After nearly 30 years of working, I am in a job that I can’t easily explain. This feels a little weird. But while it feels weird, it’s also feels completely right.
I will try to explain what I mean by comparing my new job to volunteer work I did when I was 14.
When I was a teenager I would volunteer for a couple of weeks at a summer day camp for handicapped children. My sister, Missy, was profoundly retarded and had cerebral palsy. Missy went to a day camp near our home and I helped out, together with my mother. I would play games or do small art projects with the kids. My training was having Missy as my sister and I was under the close supervision of the camp leaders, who were special education teachers. Here’s what I noticed—the special education teachers who worked with folks like Missy were extraordinary people. They were patient and kind; they were funny and dedicated. Special education teachers make very little money. Most of them work two jobs to make ends meet. I slowly began to understand that work could also mean doing something you had a passion for, something that you believed in and felt you had to do.
That’s what my new job is for me. It’s something I have a passion for and while I may not be able to easily explain what I do—like I could when I was a janitor or a programmer—I am excited about this new challenge. Although I knew almost nothing about work when I was 14, I had already learned this very important lesson, and it’s comforting to me that this lesson is part of the fabric of my new work, more than 30 years later.