Thursday, April 23, 2009

Readjusting My Swag For Corporate BLACKAmerica

by today’s Urban Chameleon contributor

So, when I joined Corporate America, I knew that I would have to adjust my swag, put my head down and learn the ropes— having participated in too many all white environments I knew the process all to well. So, the first couple of weeks you make sure you're ass is up in there on time (15 mins early), you look good, you're responsive and on point. You are friendly to everyone but you are really just scoping out which secretary is the one with the know how. And then you make sure you become friends with her. As an Urban Chameleon Black woman, you find common ground with all the white boys on the trading floor so you make sure you catch those ESPN high lights, you fill in your brackets, you join the office pool ... hell, you might even go out to a game with them and look interested as you sip on that warm beer and watch the ballgame in the hot ass sun. The point is that you get it--you get the game. And since you made a conscious decision to play in the big leagues you show up on time and in uniform and you play.

But the minute you hit it out of the park ... once, twice ... and then a third time. Basically once you've proven to yourself and to others that this J-O-B is nothing but that, a job, that you know and you can do well. Well, once you get to that point, it's a whole 'nother kinda game. You just as quickly flip it right back. That's right, you ladies all remember the first time, things were slow in the office, you got everything on your plate signed, sealed and delivered and you just swung around to that one secretary "friend's" desk and said: "hey girl, imma go get my nails done real quick. If Bob is looking for me, holla at me on my cell." That's right. Once we know we got this, then we make corporate America fit into our lives, not the other way around. And sure, we push the envelope and hell we might even rustle some feathers but the white boys know our value by then so they can't really say nothing.

So that's the place I was at when I left the big Wall Street firm to join a Black-owned Wall street firm. And can I just tell you that despite my "I got this, don't come for me" attitude with the ol' boys club this sista was absolutely not flexing it the way she needed to be. The thing is that I didn't realize it till I got to Black corporate America. My first business trip basically says it all.

I was attending a conference with a senior banker and the CEO and we made plans to meet in the hotel lobby at 5pm. So, knowing that I have a CPT issue, I was so on top of making sure that I was there on time (5mins early). So, I headed down right on time and sat down. And I waited, and waited. And at 5:15pm I called up to the senior manager's room. Don't you know that homeboy was all as nonchalant as ever like: "Oh, I'll be down soon." Same deal with the CEO. So already I was like, wait a minute. Why was I even trippin'. I'm acting like I had an appointment with Drew and Bob! Dammit, I am acting like a damn house negro ... all trained and ish! I was a little upset that I had apparently lost the CP swag. Anyhow but that wasn't even it. Just the next day we are headed back from a conference event and my senior banker is like: "Do you remember that Spa we passed on the way to dinner yesterday? Well, I plan to head up in there real quick and catch a 1 hour massage. Go on 'head to the next session if you'd like (wow not even stressing me and my game) put I gotta work out these knots."

WHAT!!! Now yall I am use to hustling my way into the same situation. I mean I have definitely been "out to lunch" meaning I was at the little express Thai massage spot working out that shoulder that I then soaked in a Jacuzzi for 20min before actually picking up lunch. But, DAMN! All bold, all out there all working the clients but still finding time to workout the knots. And honestly, that's why you gotta love Urban Chameleon Black people. Because we will close a $500,000,000 deal and head to acupuncture before that closing dinner! And the thing is that at all levels, the true Urban Chameleon is always trying to flex that inner chameleon--doing it in style then flippin' it. The great thing is when you come across another UC when you least expect it and they flip it on you before you are even prepared for the flip. And that’s the point when you just have to chuckle because you are totally feelin' their game. So could image what alternative I was left with when the senior banker flipped his Urban Chameleoness on me? Shoot, don't even play, I walked right up in that spa too and got my massage on. When in Rome ...., right?

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