Talent in Diversity: Black History Month 2023 part 1

We’re celebrating Black History Month 2023 with PRISM, the Crick’s race equity network, by highlighting the diversity of talent we have here at Crick. Throughout October, we’re sharing interviews featuring our Crick colleagues and the work they do.

Q+A

Asha Abdo, Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator

Asha Abdo

What is your job title and what do you work on at the Crick? 

I'm the Public Engagement and Communication Coordinator. My primary focus is within the Education Team, where I assist in coordinating and facilitating science workshops in schools and at the Crick for both primary and secondary schools in across Camden. Additionally, I play a role in supporting the Work Experience scheme established by the Crick. Beyond this, I contribute to various team initiatives, ranging from event management to marketing for our exhibitions.

What drew you to work in STEM? 

What attracted me to work in STEM is the profound sense of making a meaningful contribution to the improvement of people's lives. Although I'm not a scientist, the vast impact of STEM beyond conventional research deeply resonates with me. When interacting with children, I strive to convey that STEM offers a diverse range of careers beyond research. I'm passionate about working in an environment where there is a multitude of opportunities, surrounded by individuals who are pioneers in research and innovation.

How do you feel your specific background with its specific intersectionality has influenced where you are now? 

Embracing my identity as a black woman from a Muslim heritage has profoundly shaped my journey to where I am today. The amalgamation of these diverse aspects of my identity has been both a source of strength and a driving force. It compelled me to enhance my communication skills to ensure my voice is heard and understood. Additionally, it honed my ability to connect with and empathise with others, a trait that has proven invaluable in my career. 

Interestingly, this interpersonal aptitude has often proven more beneficial than my academic accomplishments. Working at Wellcome significantly contributed to my exposure to a broad spectrum of people and diverse perspectives within a large institution. This exposure empowered me to effectively navigate different environments and foster a sense of belonging and not (always) feeling like an outsider.

Who would you say was most instrumental in helping you to achieve your career goals? Since we are Saluting Our Sisters in this year’s Black History Month, we are particularly interested to know if there are any BAME women who you consider as role models or who helped your career? 

I can't attribute my career to a single individual. I’m at the beginning my career, at this point there are various voices, ideas and opinions that have played a significant role in shaping my journey. However, someone who has consistently inspired and empowered me is Nina Simone. While our career paths differ, her resilience and the depth of her influence inspires me. Nina Simone's artistry and tenacity have always made me feel empowered and deserving. In moments of doubt or inadequacy, I turn to her music, especially 'Young, Gifted and Black,' to regain strength and confidence. Her legacy continues to uplift and guide me in my career and personal life.

Teresa Whitter, Reporting Solutions Lead

Teresa Whitter

What is your job title and what do you work on at the Crick? 

I’m known as a Reporting Solutions Lead (in the ITO Data Management & Analytics Team) and I support colleagues and develop solutions to aid in their quest to capture, store, transform, analyse, and report on their data.

What drew you to work in STEM? 

I blame my father who was always tinkering, building and repairing electronics, and I was the kid who was constantly looking over his shoulder and asking questions. So, when we got our first computer, a Commodore 64 in 1987 at age 7, I taught myself how to program in BASIC. I found it fascinating that I could ‘tell’ the computer what to do, and that fascination never faded. This led to more complex languages and other disciplines within IT. My first job at age 14 was doing some filing work at my mom’s employer, an office machines and supplies company, and my desk was right next to the workshop where the engineers made repairs. I would often abandon my duties for entire afternoons to go and watch them work (and of course annoy them with all my questions). I’m in still in touch with one of those engineers today.

How do you feel your specific background with its specific intersectionality has influenced where you are now? 

To be very honest, I think in my case it’s just down to growing up with a great support system, and of course rolling up my sleeves and doing the work required.

Who would you say was most instrumental in helping you to achieve your career goals? Since we are Saluting Our Sisters in this year’s Black History Month, we are particularly interested to know if there are any BAME women who you consider as role models or who helped your career? 

No one person specifically, but when I did take my first full-time STEM role in a bank during university breaks, I worked alongside several great women who were authentic, capable, confident, and they seemed to navigate this male-dominated field with such grace; they showed that women can be a boss without being bossy.

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