Black C&P staff share what their heritage means to them

JodieFinal Year, First Year, Graduates, Postgraduate, Second Year

In the Careers and Placements team, we have some amazing staff members who are of Black heritage. They work incredibly hard to support you with your career journey so we quizzed some of them to find out more about their roles, what it means for them to be of Black heritage and what they most enjoy about their work.

Lucy Holder

What is your role?
I’m the Deputy Head of Placements. I oversee the three strands of the placements team to support students during their placement search and whilst on placement.

What does it mean to you to be of Black heritage?
For me, it’s about recognising, acknowledging and celebrating all parts of my Black heritage and culture, and not allowing it to be forgotten or ignored. Both sides of my family are from Barbados but many of us now live all over the world, mainly in the UK and US, and I think it’s important for generations, such as mine, who were born outside of Barbados, to make time for this. For me personally, I want to make sure family recipes for food aren’t lost and are passed down for many more generations to come in spite of where we now all live.

What do you love about working in Careers and Placements?
As a Black Aston grad myself, it has been really rewarding to be able to support other Black students and help them recognise their employability potential. Growing up in a society where the representation of success does not always look like us, can make it challenging to know what to aspire to and to have the confidence to know you can make it. I’d like to think that students can see me as a role model and know that it is possible to own your strengths, set and reach your career goals.  

Jenna Woodman

What is your role?
I am the Graduate Projects Office (GPO) Manager for Careers and Placements.

What does it mean to you to be of Black heritage?
On the 2021 census I checked the ‘Black British / Black Caribbean’ box, as I do anytime I need to report my ethnic identity. Thanks to my parents I feel that I’ve always had a strong identity, however my Black heritage became even more important when I reached adulthood, as I was conscious of how limited time with my grandparents – who were born and raised in the West Indies but moved to Europe in the 1960s – was. From shopping at Brixton market with my Nanny to every child ‘back home’ being my cousin, I love what it’s like having shared cultural references and experiences with people from the Black diaspora.

What do you love about working in Careers and Placements?
One thing I enjoy about working in Careers and Placements is being able to relate to our students and graduates (and vice versa) as well being an example to young people who look like me. One situation that stands out to me and emphasises the importance of representation is when a student was worried about his upcoming virtual interview because of his natural hair having grown out during lockdown, which I understood and reassured him about.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Whilst the experiences of Black people may be similar in many ways, they will also be varied and lived differently, so I encourage you to listen to friends’, colleagues’, family, personalities’ and strangers’ stories with an open mind.

Fatima Ahamed

What is your role?
I am the Employer Engagement Manager (Placements). I am responsible for the activity and engagement with employers to generate opportunities for undergraduate students who are seeking placements. I also lead on engagement with businesses in Financial services and the legal sector.

What does it mean to you to be of Black heritage?
For me it is about embracing the diversity within our communities and recognising that whilst there might be many beautiful similarities across the various cultures, from Africa, to the Caribbean, South America and even Australia, we are not a monolith. Everyone has their own unique story and experience to share! As a mixed-race woman of African and Asian background, I take great pride in being a Black woman and in my Nigerian background, and am grateful for the nuances that my experiences have given me!

What do you love about working in Careers and Placements?
One of the things I enjoy most in my role is working with businesses to source and create opportunities for students. I particularly enjoy working with companies who have made a concerted and genuine effort to support students from Black and Black heritage backgrounds. Working with the industries I support, I am often one of the few faces that look like me in many of the spaces I enter. At the start this was daunting, however over the years I have recognised the importance of the role I have, and speaking up and out in order to create more opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to ensure that they are entering spaces where more people look like them!

Patricia Makwembere

What is your role?
I currently work as an Flexible/Approval Placement Coordinator as part of the Careers and Placements team at Aston University. In this role, I work to support students throughout their placement journey with a specific focus on assisting students who are ‘still to be placed’ to find and secure placement opportunities.

What does it mean to you to be of Black heritage?
Black heritage for me is about actively working to uphold and push forward the progress made by those who came before me.