I’ve been fortunate to participate in a number of diversity-focused programs and events, both inside my company and externally, for several years. Starting with a single LGBT recruiting conference in 2008, by 2015 I have become a regular in diversity conferences and classes around the country.
My focus, though, has shifted over the last year or so… I’m less and less quietly taking notes and absorbing everything I can from presenters, and instead have been sharing more and more of my own expertise.
From LGBT recruiting and development conferences, to offsite meetings bringing together teammates who work on diversity issues, to training programs offered by Ivy League universities, I’ve been increasing my exposure to the world of professional diversity for years. But as I starting coming back to the same events and programs multiple years in a row, I noticed that I was bringing home less and less new knowledge each year. I still found lots of value in the networking, in the team building, and in what became annual reunions, but some of the sessions just weren’t adding new ideas and tactics to my skill set.
At first I was a bit cynical, assuming that the conferences and seminars just weren’t as good as they used to be. But over time, I came to realize that it was because I was developing some genuine expertise in this field.
That’s not hubris; I know full well that I’ve only developed this expertise because of the remarkable opportunities my employer has provided me. But without question, many years with our Employee Networks and the last few years in Human Resources have helped me grow and develop as an HR and Diversity & Inclusion practitioner.
This year has really demonstrated that evolution: for the first time, I attended a few of my regular events and found myself speaking up, sharing my opinions and explaining how we do things at my company. People were genuinely interested in learning from my experience, and I was actually invited to be a presenter or facilitator at a couple of events.
October 2015 had me teaching a room full of diversity and inclusion professionals (some of whom were Chief Diversity Officers at their organization!) about Employee Resource Groups, and co-presenting a workshop at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit. After both events, I got terrific feedback from audience members, and many have subsequently followed up to ask additional questions or get my advice on things they’re working on.
As I look ahead to 2016, I’ve already booked a couple of speaking engagements in the first few months of the year. More on those later, but it’s astounding to realize that I’m starting to be in demand at conferences and other educational events.
I may be gradually getting over my “just Kevin” hang up.