Posted by on November 2, 2023 under Careers Advice
Throughout October, we shared the inspirational stories of Black Partners across the John Lewis Partnership. 🙌🏾
From career progression to creating an inclusive culture for us all to thrive, read more about their journey’s across JLP and the heroes that continue to inspire them today.
My Black History Hero
“I have so, so many, but I am in absolute awe of Rosa Parks. I can only imagine how tenacious and determined she must have been to say ‘no’ to giving up her seat to a white male. She was facing gender and racial prejudices and her incredibly brave act sparked the civil rights movement in the United States. I bought a book a few years ago called ‘Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black history’ for my daughter and she regularly chooses it for me to read to her in the evenings. We discuss the many different elements of bias and prejudices that these amazing Black Women have been through and the legacy they have left behind to help make the journeys that my daughter and I may pass through hopefully much easier than what they experienced.”
My Partnership Journey
“I joined the Partnership as a Section Manager Trainee 20-years ago. In that time I worked across 11 different Waitrose & Partners branches in a variety of different roles from all levels including Branch Manager. My highlight was opening Waitrose Stratford as a Deputy Branch Manager during the Olympics. This was especially momentous to me as I grew up in East London and went to secondary school in Stratford. I felt as though I was back home in my local community with an ability to be a role model as a strong Black female leader. I joined the Independent side of the Partnership 3-years ago and really enjoy having a broader perspective of the business through the lens of distinctive character.”
My inspiration for working in the Partnership
“I strongly believe that the Partnership strives to do right for all People – its Customers, Suppliers, the communities in which we trade and of course our Partners.”
“I work in Data Governance for the Data Management Office in the Partnership and I’m also a Partnership Councillor (a representative of JLPs democratic body) representing Strategy and Commercial Development. I have been a Partner for 2-years and my experience has always been a pleasure.
I love working for the Partnership, largely due to the wonderful people who I am able to work with on a day-to-day basis. I also strive for excellence to support Partners who want to go for opportunities and may need a confidence boost, ensuring they not only succeed, but thrive! Sharon as our Chairman is a big inspiration and I’d hope to have such an effect in any manner I can.
My Black history hero would have to be Laurie Cunningham. Born relatively close to me in North London, he was able to open so many doors through football that had not been open previously. He was the first Black player to play for England Under 21’s and the first player ever to play for both Real Madrid and Manchester United. He achieved things that could never have been believed previously through his hard work and determination. This example of excellence and leadership have not been lost on me and have become a part of my aims each day to do and be better.”
My Black History Hero 🙌🏾
“Sojourner Truth! Born a slave under the name Isabella Baumfree, she was due her freedom in 1827 following New York’s Gradual Emancipation Act. After learning that her “owner” was planning on keeping her enslaved, she ran away with her baby girl, but had to leave her 5-year old son behind. She remained in hiding until her freedom was official, while her son was unfortunately sold to a plantation in Alabama. She later brought a court case, being one of the first Black women to do so in America. With all the odds stacked against her, she won! In 1834 she changed her name to Sojourner and travelled the country preaching on women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Although she couldn’t read or write, her message resonated far and wide. In December 1851 she gave an epic speech known as ‘Ain’t I a Woman’, speaking on behalf of Black women that face the double discrimination of racism and sexism. She continued to fight on behalf of women and African Americans until her death in 1883.”
Your Partnership Journey 👇🏾
“I started in the Partnership in 2019 working on a new initiative as a concept designer for brands. My role in the business is essentially a guardian of the galaxy, ensuring we have the right level of branded expression on our shop floors. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a whole host of brands, curating and enhancing their visual identity. Whether it’s short term pop-ups or long term shop-in shops, my aim is to ensure brands look good in our estate, resulting in our shops looking good, at no/minimal cost. This year alone, our team have landed 210 interventions! 👏🏾
I also represent Brand and store experience as their co-forum representation (part of our democratic structure), running a newsletter that showcases all the amazing work the directorate does. Looking ahead, I am eager to further expand my horizons and explore new avenues within customer experience. My journey has instilled in me a passion for the intersection of design, data and consumer behaviour, and I am excited to continue leveraging these skills to make a significant impact within the Partnership.”
My inspiration for working in the Partnership 💚
“The people! I’m lucky to work with an amazing team of people that genuinely care about each other, our business and our customers. It means they put their heart into every single project we touch. The hope for the future is to become the ultimate destination for shoppers. I look forward to seeing how much more impact we can have in the retail landscape, pushing the boundaries of product range, our store designs and experiences we offer.”
My Partnership story so far 💚
“I joined the Partnership just over five years ago as an Internal Communications Business Partner, following a 12-year career in communications. In the last couple of years, I’ve been able to enter into a new career as Diversity and Inclusion Lead, the perfect progression for me. I’ve always had a people centred approach to delivering communications, but also in my personal life I lead a lot of community change. Through the Partnership I’ve been able to enter into a career that I’ve always wanted, which felt almost impossible to achieve. For the first time in my career, as Black woman, I’m truly myself and I have a voice, which is really important in my role.
Michelle Obama. Her elegance, grace and wisdom brings me comfort and I always feel a sense of connection whenever she speaks. Considering her status and power, she’s somehow relatable. She always inspires me.”
My Partnership Career 💚
“I started my Partnership career at John Lewis Croydon in 2017 as a Christmas temp. During the pandemic I worked at Waitrose.com and the Customer Fulfilment Centre in Coulsdon to help with customer online orders. I then moved to the Hamilton Contact Centre as a Case Manager.
In 2022 I took up a 9-month secondment with the Gazette (the Partnership’s internal publication) as a MultiMedia Reporter followed by a further 2-months as a Communications and Engagement Officer within Partner Communications.
I joined the Partnership as it has a reputation of looking after its Partners (employees). What the Partnership means to me now is being the voice of our customers so we can stay relevant and remain on the high street for years to come! I’m driven by the Partnership’s values and purpose. I feel I have a voice that is valued and I love the encouragement of diversity of those from ethnic backgrounds!
The Partnership understands that to strive ahead of the competition, we need to reflect the world we live in and I want to belong to a business that celebrates diversity of ethnic backgrounds, unapologetically.
My Black History hero is Nanny of the Maroons for her incredible leadership. She was a 18th Century leader of the Jamaican Maroons and led a community of formerly enslaved Africans called the Windward Maroons. She was also known as Queen Nanny and fought a guerrilla war against the British authorities in Jamaica for many years. Because of her leadership and determination, on 20 April 1740 she was repaid with freedom for the Maroons and 500 acres of land for her and her followers. The land today is known as Moore Town.
Queen Nanny was born in Jamaica and was the daughter of Prince Naquan known today as the Asante tribe in Ghana. In 1975, the government of Jamaica declared Queen Nanny as their only female national hero, celebrating her success as a leader. Her image is also on the Jamaican $500 note.”
“I joined the Partnership 23-years ago as a Supermarket Assistant while studying at University. The first branch I worked at was Waitrose & Partners Temple Fortune in North West London. The majority of my Partnership career has been spent working in a range of Waitrose branches across London, Essex and Surrey in various roles including Deputy Branch Manager, Store Manager & Branch Manager. I have recently secured a Regional Manager role in Waitrose looking after branches in the south-west of London.
Outside of the day job, I’m a mentor & Chair of the Unity Network Forum, one of eight internal networks that drive the diversity and inclusion strategy for the Partnership.
I continue to work for the Partnership because our purpose requires us to be uniquely different. For me it’s that point of difference that continues to inspire me today.” 👏🏾
To join my colleagues who have shared their’s this month, my Black History Hero is Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister & President of Ghana, who led the Gold Coast (Ghana’s former name) to independence in 1957. This made Ghana the first black African country south of the Sahara to achieve independence from colonial rule. Kwame Nkrumah was equally passionate about Pan-Africanism and became a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity.”
My Partnership career so far 💚
I began my Partnership journey in John Lewis & Partners Trafford as a Selling Assistant in Womenswear where I probably bought more than I sold to my customers! But, I loved the relationships I built with them and my fellow Partners. I then moved over to work in our Contact Centre in Didsbury as an After Sales Administrator in our Home Services Team before progressing into a Team Manager role.
My first team of 12 Partners will forever hold a special place in my heart as without their support, engagement and commitment I wouldn’t be the Partner I am today. I am beyond proud to be the Partnership Councillor for our Customer Care Team and to be their voice.
There is no other business like ours where there is so much power in Partner (employee) opinion. I stay in the Partnership because I believe that, as amazing as we are, we can and will be better. Our founder, John Spedan Lewis, created the Partnership for all of us and with its diverse richness, we need to continue bringing equity and inclusion to our Partners and customers.
My Black History Hero is Maya Angelou. An acclaimed poet, storyteller, activist and autobiographer. She was described as a spokesperson for all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living. My favourite poem is Still I Rise. “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise”.
“I joined the Partnership in 1989 in a part-time position. I was a cashier at Waitrose & Partners Peterborough, working Thursday evenings and Saturdays. I worked my way around different roles within the branch, before getting my first promotion into what was then an Assistant Section Manager in Norwich. I then moved to Newark in different managerial roles before moving to Canary Wharf when it opened in 2002.
In recent times, I was lucky enough to be involved in a working group that brought the Partnership’s refreshed purpose – Working in Partnership for a Happier World – to life. An opportunity presented to me via our internal news website and a chance to learn new skills outside my day-to-day role. I became a Partnership Councillor (part of our democratic body) in 2022, which is a role I find hugely interesting! It’s a great privilege and with great opportunity to influence the direction of the Partnership.
I stay working here because I love my job! I love the people I work with and I have a strong sense of belonging where my voice matters. 💚
My hero will always be my dad Robert Nkana. He grew up in a very small village in Northern Malawi, attended school there and moved to Canada where he got his Master’s in Engineering. His biggest achievement was being Secretary General for the Union of African Railways, and he was given the Africa Rail Lifetime Achievement award for everything that he did on the railways.”
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