Black History Month 2021

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February marks the start of Black History Month in the United States, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a tribute to the significant contributions Black men and women have made, not only to the cultural fabric of America but the world.

This year we mark BHM with a renewed vigour to ensure we make effective strides for racial equality. In honour of this month, members of Team Wood share their stories of events that have significantly impacted their life, both personally and professionally, and shaped their lived experience.

Kinda Sandy

I was born in Trinidad and moved to London as a teenager. I spent more than 10 years living there before returning to Trinidad, where I started working within the oil and gas industry for a few years. I later moved to Houston after receiving a job offer at Wood.

Picture of Kinda SandyDue to my diverse background of being mixed race of Indian and African decent, growing up in the Caribbean and spending so many years in London and Europe, I greatly value and recognise the importance of embracing the “other” – other cultures, other races, other social standings, and economic circumstances. We are all here to learn and we learn so much from each other.

To me inclusion simply means access. Does everyone have the same access to opportunities? Are the paths to these opportunities free of any systemic barriers or personal biases? When I first decided to move from the people and organisation department and into the operations arm of the business, there were people who told me this would be unlikely but there were also many others including some senior leaders who encouraged me to go for it. I did exactly that, and ever since I’ve been able to make a real impact on the business, including growing revenue and improving client relationships. Encouragement is a form of inclusion. How do we encourage others especially those who do not see themselves represented in senior management roles or who may view certain opportunities as unattainable?

Navigating race in the United States as an immigrant who is viewed as a Black woman has been life changing for me. It opened my eyes to a fraction of what African Americans and minorities are faced with. This experience has transformed me, and I am now a part of an organisation which seeks to empower young girls and minorities from underprivileged backgrounds through educational grants, mentorship programs, and other initiatives.

I promote inclusion simply through leading by example. As a manager, I am in a position to make a real impact by creating a culture of respect and openness within my team. It is important to lift each other up, show kindness, reach out to others to learn more about them and their experiences, be open but most importantly look at your own internal biases and become more aware of them to create change.

Be the change you want to see.

Maria Hawkins

I’m Maria Hawkins and I work in the Alpharetta office as a Human Resource Services Specialist. I’m a graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina with a degree in Japanese language and business administration.

The opportunity to join the Wood team a year ago was exciting as I was keen to gain more experience in the human resources field. I may be less experienced than some of my teammates, but not any less engaged or able to contribute.

I think my language background and hobbies, that include baking, sewing to upcycle clothes and making cosplay, and my passion for Japanese-pop song and dance, are what make me unique.Picture of Maria Hawkins

For me, inclusion and belonging mean that I’m able to be a part of a group or organization or in a space where I don’t have to worry about being thought of differently or not considered for an opportunity  because of prejudices.

I feel welcome at Wood thanks to my team-mates and other colleagues who have worked to make sure I feel involved. Unfortunately, I have gone through many parts of my life not feeling included or fully accepted, but my parents raised me to persevere, even in those spaces, to obtain my goals and make a space for myself. Because of that I work to be a personable colleague while also staying true to me so that I am accepted for who I am.

I try to engage with everyone I meet, and my favourite way to do this is with sweets and pastries that I cook for others to enjoy. Whenever there is a new team member, I go out of my way to help them meet everyone in our office.

I’m committed to encouraging more people to speak up against inappropriate and negative behaviors. I feel we could do even better if we stopped being afraid to stand up for one another in situations in which intolerance is amplified or emboldened.

Aside from maintaining my wellbeing through self-care, making sure that my personal aspirations are within sight is also very important to me. I often reach out to colleagues I’ve known over the years and have also spoken with my supervisors and mentors regarding my professional goals and aspirations.

Wood has shown me there really are businesses that are actively trying to achieve inclusivity in various ways. So long as there are enough good people working towards good goals, then ideal work environments are within reach.

Tyler Jones

I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana and my technical background is in environmental geochemistry with degrees from Millsaps College and Temple University.

Being born and educated in Louisiana created challenges for me and I always felt excluded in the classroom. However, hard work and dedication which was directed by my parents gave me the opportunity to obtain Bachelor of Science and Masters college degrees. I bring that dedication to my professional career and share my drive and motivation with my team daily.Picture of Tyler Jones

I’m an active member of WREN (Wood’s Race and Ethnicity Network) and inclusion at Wood starts with me. In my 18 months here, I have promoted five women within my part of the organization into leadership positions to create the team diversity needed to grow a successful business.

My drive and energy at work come from continuous development of relationships with clients and mentoring and developing staff. My key core values include my family and friendships, work ethics, and a healthy lifestyle. My family values as well as my ability to lead and interact with diverse teams while maintaining high energy and a positive attitude make me a unique individual.

I joined the business based on guidance from a college advisor. With 25 years of consulting experience, I started in the environmental remediation market then moved into the water market focusing on disaster recovery and hazard mitigation projects. I value our customers’ needs and will always focus on delivering a high-quality product at market value, which is unique to how consultants view business.

Mentoring and developing critical talent is key to me and it is how I make others feel included.  Providing growth opportunities for staff is vital to the success of our business and I promote this with my leadership team. I want a team around me that is willing to make the decisions needed to develop an efficient operation and create a culture that is driven by proactive business development.

I continue to promote strategy, growth, and business development throughout my leadership team.  If your business is not growing, it is shrinking, but you don’t realize it.

To maintain my wellbeing I start each day with a physical activity to get my brain started followed by communication with my Wood network to ensure that my team and I are connected with our local market and the “One Wood” concept. I also continue to focus on growing my career by obtaining professional certification.

Mariamawit Yirsalign

I’m an Ethiopian, born and raised in the capital, Addis Abeba. My parents are both first generation college graduates. They valued education as a precious commodity and made sure that I was afforded the best available.

I was extremely fortunate to attend a very diverse international school representing more than 40 nationalities hailing from all corners of the globe: a true macrocosm of our world. This early experience opened my understanding of our diverse world and our unique traits that shape the fabric of our lives.

I moved to San Diego to attend an undergraduate program and thought I would leave after graduation. Destiny had other plans, and this is now home to our small family.Picture of 134954

In 2007, I joined the water resources department at Wood. I have always had a special interest in clean water, water conservation and engineering, and knew that I wanted to work for an engineering firm. I have made great friends and learned a lot and I look forward to more adventures.

Each challenge offers a unique learning experience and I strive to perfect the steps to succeed so I can share the knowledge to others. Helping others is my mantra. Be it professional or personal, knowing that my support and guidance helped someone achieve or exceed a goal keeps me energised.

I own my mistakes and openly share them with those around me so my experience can help them grow. From a young age, I was reminded that honesty and respect will keep my conscious clear and my heart full. Dedication, equality and accountability are the values that also complete me.

Inclusion for me is belonging at the local and global stage. I define inclusion as the conscious decision of providing a platform for all. We all have unique skills that can complement our team or project needs and help us achieve the greater goal.

There have been countless instances where I have felt not included. However, I have used each occasion to gain more strength and not fall. It has made me a stronger individual with thicker skin.

I am lucky to be part of Wood and work with a great team of professionals that welcome my expertise and experience and maintain an inclusive environment to allow everyone the opportunity to create and deliver quality results.

I grew up in a very diverse and inclusive environment. Fostering that type of culture is second nature to me and it is not a complex idea to replicate here at Wood, as our diverse and global workforce make it easier. I have an innate ability to understand the needs of others and I find myself having frank and open discussions with my colleagues – and when needed, providing the safe space for trusted and confidential conversations.

Now more than ever, our interactions are vital to our performance and delivery. We have transitioned to a seamless remote work environment, but the lack of daily interaction and camaraderie can have a significant impact. I start each day by checking in with my team and continue to chat with them throughout the day. This has helped us maintain continuity and normalcy in our work life. I’m committed to continuing my undivided support to help us achieve our goals.

Knowing that each background and experience are the spices that flavour our personality is important. We all have distinctive talent that can be harnessed to achieve excellence. We all follow a unique path to reach that level.

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