See It to Be It : Customer Experience Advocate (w/ Omari Aarons)

Amy C. Waninger chats with Omari Aarons, the president of the Boston chapter of NAAIA and founder and managing partner of Aarons Group, LLC, on this installment of See It to Be It.

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You can connect with Omari on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Click here to head to the NAAIA homepage.

Check out Aarons Group LLC – Omari is the founder.

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TRANSCRIPT

Amy
Hey, everybody. It’s Amy. How are ya? It’s just me solo this week. Zach is taking some time off. And I just wanted to say, you know, as we go into the end of this year, man, 2020 has been just, you know, a heck of a year. So many things that happened this year, and wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you know, be sure to take some time just to relax and just kind of close out this year with something that’s self care, that’s good for you. This is something I really struggle with. I don’t know if you’re a workaholic, but man, I feel like a workaholic sometimes, and I know my family would accuse me of that, and I decided I was going to take the last two weeks of this year off. I haven’t done that for a couple years, but I feel like I really need to this year, so I’m turning my “Out of Office” on, I am sending out that email to all my clients saying “I will not be available to you after the 18th,” and, you know, I know that’s a luxury that I have to be able to do that, but I would encourage you wherever you can [to] find some peace as we close out the year, you know, find your peace and hold on to it tight, and don’t let anybody damage it, because, you know, this has been just one rough year all the way around. I hope that you’re all staying safe. I hope that you are, you know, keeping your distance and locking down before the holidays, I hope that you’re able to see your families over the holidays in a safe way. And, you know, that’s really all I got this week, but we’re gonna TAP in with Tristan. We’re gonna hear some career tips from him, and then when we come back it’ll be my interview with Omari Aarons, and he’s a former colleague of mine at Liberty Mutual, and, you know, has some really great stuff to share about his journey in the insurance industry and as a customer experience advocate. So I will see you back here right after we TAP in with Tristan.

Tristan
What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. Since we talked about burnout on the last tip, I wanted to discuss what to do once you’ve recognized that you’re burnt out. When you’re burnt out, most people will tell you that you need to take some time off of work. While that may help a little bit, simply taking a vacation will not fix your burnout situation. At the end of the day, you will be the same person returning to the same job. To really make a difference in your situation, yes, take some time off, but you also work on changing two things: your attitude and workload. Research from the University of Bath suggests that perfectionism and burnout are closely linked. As a recovering perfectionist, I know that many of us tend to have an all or nothing mindset, which means we either complete something perfectly or we’re failures. We have to get away from that mindset. Often we throw ourselves into negative thoughts and patterns. If we can recognize those thoughts and patterns so we can work to stop them, we can shift our attitude. You also want to take some work off of your plate. Take some time to have a conversation with your boss to let them know that you’re feeling overworked. Prepare for that meeting beforehand by assessing your work and what could easily be transitioned to someone else and maybe even a potential plan for transitioning it. Decreasing your workload can help open up more time for you. After that conversation, try to be more strategic in the work opportunities you say yes to moving forward. Curing burn out requires more than just a vacation; we have to be a bit more intentional. While that can be difficult when you’re already feeling drained, it’s virtually the only way to come through on the other side. Thanks for tapping in with me this week. This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.

Amy
Omari, thank you so much for joining me today. How have you been?

Omari
I’ve been wonderful. And thank you so much for having me.

Amy
Oh, this is a treat. So for the audience, we used to work together at the same company, and so this is, like, kind of like a family reunion almost.

Omari
There we go. Which is always the best kind, right?

Amy
That is true. But Omari, can you tell us just a little bit about what it is that you do? First of all your job title, and then because job titles don’t mean anything outside of our own departments, what does that really mean?

Omari
Yeah. So I’m very proud to work for Liberty Mutual Insurance in the Boston area at our headquarters, and my direct job title is director of employee enablement strategy. And so what that means, right, like, it’s one of those titles you’re like, “That could be so many things.” What’s interesting about my role is it actually sits in our customer advocacy office, and what I do is really do the people side of our customer-centric strategy. So like many other companies, Liberty Mutual is very focused on making sure that our customers are having a great experience with us, that they’re getting a product that works for them, number one, which is, like, really important in insurance, and then two, that they feel good about the service experience that they’re having going along with that product, they feel good about our brand. And so the work I do inside of our organization is around helping people no matter where they sit in the organization, whether they are in a customer-facing role or if they’re in home office like I am or one of our campuses spread across the US, helping to think about “What does it mean to put the customer first in this job?” if I’m in finance, if I’m in product, if I’m in the customer advocacy office, if I’m in human resources. So I get to have a lot of fun with people, listening to the needs of our employees, what they need for themselves, for their own experience, and also what they are advocating for on behalf of our customer. Being so close to the customer and hearing and seeing firsthand what our customer needs as well, and then making sure that that feedback gets integrated into our products and our overall strategy on how we are living out this exceptional customer experience that we want our customers to be feeling and experiencing with us.

Amy
That’s excellent. I want to take just a moment and put a really fine point on this, because a lot of times when I’m speaking about my own work I will say “Get to know your customers.” And I don’t mean internal customers, like, you know, if you’re one of the guys that, you know, hands the papers from this person to this person, right? Yeah, not the people that you’re handing the papers to, but actually the people who trade money for the goods and services that your company provides, regardless of the role you’re in. And people say, “But, you know, I work in HR, I work in IT, I–“you know, whatever the thing is, right? “I plug in telephones, why do I need to know anything about my company’s customers?” And I always say, “Look, if you don’t understand your customer, you don’t know how to innovate within your job, because you don’t know what your ultimate goal is.

Omari
Yes. Yeah.

Amy
But also, if you look around you and there are 50 people in your department, and they all have that attitude, and you’re out there talking to customers, guess who just became the most valuable person on your team?

Omari
Yeah, it’s a real thing in so many ways. I was very fortunate. I worked at Macy’s before I came into Liberty Mutual and had a fantastic career with with Macy’s. I was there for 10 years straight out of college, and one of my bosses in HR used to say to us all the time that “Yes, we’re HR people or HR professionals, but we have to be business people too,” right? Like, “It’s just as important for us as it is for the people working in our stores, organization, or people in our buying and planning and merchandising office to know who the customer is,” because we were thinking about strategies to attract, retain, onboard, grow people’s leadership skills, and knowing what were the things–not just how to be a great leader, strong communicator, executive presence, like, all those things, you know, all of our leaders needed as well, but we also needed people to be thinking about things like empathy in a different way, to think about delivering hard messages and displaying a sense of urgency, right, for, you know, it might be just a coat to you, and we saw, you know, millions of coats a day, right, like, but to this customer, that coat might really represent something that is life-changing. It could be part of a critical moment in their experience. And it’s actually one of the things that’s been really interesting to me about insurance is that I hadn’t thought about insurance being a personal part of people’s lives in the way that we used to talk about [when I was in the] retail offices. [?]. I always jokingly used to say to people when I worked for Macy’s that “We invented Christmas,” because all the stores were decorated and everything and, like, the Believe campaign where kids would write letters to Santa [?] Make-a-Wish Foundation, and it was, you know, just such an awesome time and experience that you’re providing for people. And insurance isn’t necessarily an industry where we’re, you know, having people write to Santa Claus, but our ability across the industry to, like, really help put together people’s lives, especially when they’ve experienced something that could be really horrific and tragic. And the need to display empathy and sense of urgency here, it’s different than in the retail space, but it’s still very much present. So I’ve been enjoying the differences and the similarities between the two industries that I’ve worked in so far.

Amy
that’s fascinating. First of all, what did you major in in college to get you to this point? But second, how did you get from Macy’s, which is a retail, you know, household name, to not a role that probably when you were a kid, you said, “Oh, I’m gonna go influence customer service with an insurance carrier, right?” Like, that is, like, the most hidden, obscure sort of job in the economy, right? You’re working for an industry that people don’t think of, first of all, [in a world where?] no one probably even knows it exists. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean, the purpose of this series is to find people like you who are doing this work and saying, “I love my job, and, you know, here’s all the great things about it.” How did you get there?

Omari
Yeah, yeah. I know. I did not say I was going to come, you know, work in customer advocacy and insurance while everybody else around me wanted to be a superhero or a firefighter, right? Like, in college, my undergrad degrees are in public relations and theology, and so I had had a thought around growing up in Washington, DC. My parents were both first generation college students, the first in their families to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree, and then both of my parents also went on to grad school, as well. And so my dad went into law school, and my mom has two master’s, I think, social studies and language arts as a teacher. And so, you know, they had instilled in us that education was kind of the key, and they had been a beneficiary of [?] around coaching and bringing them through their journey and helping them, you know, really navigate through to kind of their next level of higher success. And I think growing up in the Washington, DC area, there’s a lot of political commentary about DC and things that happen there, but I think one of the things that I’ve benefited from growing up was all of the Congressmen and–I don’t know if we had any Congresswomen then, but our congressional leaders in the Senate and House all had leadership development programs, a lot of the national leadership and youth development programs were hosted in DC, and so I got to go to a lot of that stuff. And so when I went into college, I said, “How do I, like, replicate that for people that don’t grow up in cities like Washington, DC, and, like, really help particularly disadvantaged communities of color,” so kids that were like me, whose parents either didn’t go to college or were the first ones in their family to go and didn’t necessarily have all of the things handed to them to know exactly how to do things going forward. And so I was thinking I’d go into, like, some sort of counseling role to make sure I could help people. I started at Macy’s in a development program, [?] really broad exposure, and one of my rotations was in human resources, and then my career kind of took off from there in the HR space, which is really around helping people but in a different way, and then got involved in some community relations and some diversity and inclusion work and helped to start employee resource groups at my division of Macy’s. And, you know, for me, I’d say three and a half years ago I was just in a space where I was loving what I was doing–and I still love Macy’s and encourage people to shop there because my pension is still there–but I was just in need of a different experience, and I thought I could have that staying at Macy’s, but I also had a boss and a peer group that really challenged me to think about, you know, exploring some different verticals, and so I said, “Well, I’ll put some feelers out there,” and in the end, my decision was between, like, another retailer and coming here to Boston to work for Liberty Mutual. And I said, “Well, this would be different.” And the role is not in HR, it’s in the customer advocacy office, you know, so similar practices, ability to leverage my skillset, but in a broader way. And I said, “All right, let’s see how this goes.” Right? “You can go there and go there for a year, year and a half, and if you don’t like it you can go back to retail.” And it’s been exciting, it’s been challenging. I’ve had days where I want to just quit and go be a ski lift chair operator, and I’ve had other days where I feel like I’m winning, you know, at the world, and I think, you know, the normal ups and downs of any job, but what I have loved most about being in the insurance industry is that piece of understanding the importance that insurance plays in people’s lives, particularly when things go wrong, and how we’re making an investment in our communities where we live and work and play. So we’re not, like, just–you know, I think the stereotype around insurance is we’re all just kind of, like, sitting on big piles of cash and all these things, right? But I’m really glad to work for a company that has such a strong focus on service and on giving both from the internal and an external perspective. So we’re very careful with every dollar that we have, which I enjoy as a customer and also as an employee. So it’s been a really good ride. I’m glad to be here. And I enjoy being now–I used to describe myself as an HR guy, and now I’m starting to, like, say to people, “I’m an insurance professional,” right? Like, I don’t have a CPCU designation. I don’t work in claims or in the distribution or product or any of the core insurance things. [I’m excited?] to be here, [?] and then also the industry as well.

Amy
Yeah, I always remind people when I’m speaking to insurance audiences that insurance does two things – makes all economic investment possible, and it helps people on their worst day. And if we don’t sustain that industry, who’s going to do that work? I mean, it’s holy work, it truly is, because every business that’s ever been started, every home that’s ever been bought, every car that’s ever been bought, right? Everything that people need and value and that we need as a society and in our economy, if insurance doesn’t underwrite it it doesn’t happen. It’s such important work, and I’m so glad, you know, that so many good people are there and, you know, that folks like you are looking out for customers like me now that I’m, you know, out of the industry. You know, I’m still kind of in the periphery, but that’s important. And I’m wondering–I know you’re in Boston, and I’ve been to that office several times and it’s such a young, vibrant office–which is really interesting to me, because having come from the Indianapolis office of the same company… which is not as young or as vibrant, I will just say right now, the energy in the Boston headquarters, it’s palpable, right, and people are so excited to be there. It’s just a really cool place to be. But I’m wondering, and I know that you have some some skin in this game as well, you know, developing a sense of community within the insurance industry, because most of the listeners to this will be young people, and particularly, you know, young people of color. First of all, what were your perceptions about the insurance industry as a young Black man coming in? And, you know, where have you gone and how have you created community?

Omari
Yeah, definitely my perception, and I would say financial services in general is old, male, white, you know? People thinking that they were being fashion-forward because they had a blue blazer, right, but still, like, dressing up in suits every day, you know? And so it was definitely not the picture of a place that was innovative, that was fast paced, where you could have fun at work, right? Like, I think I had in my head, you know–which is reinforced by the media–like, everybody’s whispering in the hallways, you know? There’s nobody hugging and going, “Oh, my God, it’s so good to see you,” right? Like, that kind of environment, and that absolutely exists here. Absolutely exists here. And I’ll say now having friends and colleagues, even at other insurance companies, that they’re having that experience as well, right? And in banks. More and more companies are investing in talent and in the employee experience as a competitive advantage and really wanting to create workplaces where people want to work with each other and really having messages out to colleagues about being the person that you want to work with, right? So asking people about how their weekend was and how their kids are, you know, that vacation that you were talking about, you know, have you booked it yet and how was it. We have those conversations as well, and those are things that go to build trust and to build connection with one another. I would say for me, one of the things, having had the experience at Macy’s with helping to start employee resource groups, and so I helped to start our pride group in the Cincinnati area [for] three years, and then I was leaving a role where I was in the learning and development space, and we kind of looked at some of the conversations and they had conversation guys–just a phenomenal program, phenomenal book, you know, I kind of took that on as being a sponsor of some lean in circles in our organization as well from, like, a funding and administrative perspective to be able to sign off on some things. And, you know, for me, I saw the impact from having been in an ERG and having been there with the before and the after effect of when we didn’t have it to when we had it. And it’s not that people were disengaged before we had the ERG come or that they were disconnected from their experience, but being able to bring yourself to work more fully just opened up a different level of engagement that was absolutely critical and beautiful to see in terms of people walking around and having this fantastic experience in the office. So for me when I was kind of looking around at my next career options, a company having employee resource groups was an absolute, like, must have on my list. I knew I was not going to go to a company that didn’t have it and didn’t have that higher level of engagement. One company, which I interviewed with and obviously didn’t go to, I thought did a really fantastic job because they were very proactive. When they saw my resume and saw that I had employee resource groups on it, they actually offered to connect me when I went for the in person interview to leaders of their different employee resource groups. And, you know, knowing that I was an African-American candidate, they offered to connect me to the to the Black ERG. Knowing that I was gay, they offered to connect me to the LGBT one. And then they had saw some of the work that I had done with the women’s ERG, so they offered to connect me to the women’s ERG as well for me to be an ally there. And so I just had fantastic conversations there about culture. So when I came here to Liberty, that was essential for me. My direct boss, who hired me here, was fantastic. My peers were fantastic. My team was fantastic in terms of my business unit and knowing that I was moving from Ohio to Boston, and they did a wonderful job of helping to acclimate me. And what was also essential for me to ground me here was the connections that I made through our African descent ERG, the social mentions and what was happening in the city, what parts you can hang out in and where to go and events that were happening and to really kind of be my first friends where it’s like, “We can go talk about the work stuff too, right, like, if you need someone to bounce work stuff off of, but I can also just be a person while we’re out, you know, at happy hour or just out at dinner or having brunch on the weekend, just kind of shooting the breeze and talking about life and how your transition is and all of that.” And so I got both, I got both in the move here to Liberty. I count myself extremely fortunate to have both, and I would say my experience here wouldn’t be as sticky and as strong. I wouldn’t be as strong of a proponent of the Liberty Mutual brand and an advocate of “this is my workplace” if I didn’t have both, right? You know, the day job and my role there it was of course absolutely essential that I was getting good assignments and I was being coached and supported in that way, and then also the social acclamation and the culture acclamation to a new city and to a new style of working and to a new industry was, I would say, shared between my business unit and our African descent ERG.

Amy
That is such a beautiful story. I think there’s something to be said for all of those changes at once, right? City, industry, company, team, role, responsibilities, you know, the culture. And the culture of Boston is very different than the culture of the Midwest and I’m guessing very different than the culture of DC where you grew up. So, I mean, that’s a lot of change. And I want to call this out for the people who are listening who are in positions of authority or, you know, positions of great influence within their organizations. If you want great talent like Omari, you need to make a space for great people like Omari to feel welcome and to feel included on day one or even before. And I don’t want that point to get lost either, because there’s so many companies and teams and managers out there saying, “Well, we just can’t find good talent.” Well, you can’t find good talent because you’re not creating a space where they want to be. Right? And so if you want these amazing, amazing young people in your organization, roll out the red carpet.

Omari
Yeah. You know, I think there’s a fear as well about, like–as a leader, right? And so I’m 34, so I went through a lot of the leadership trainings 12 years ago in 2017, 2018–I’m sorry, 2007, 2008, 2009, and our definition of leader then was even changing, but it was still grounded in this notion of, like, “As your leader, as your manager, I’m supposed to have all the answers,” right? I’m supposed to be able to provide everything, and for me to say you need more than what I can provide is a deficit or demerit on my part, right? And I think what we’re understanding about leadership now is leadership isn’t having all the answers. Leadership is about how do I help make sure that you have what you need, even when that’s not from me, that I can find the right resources to be able to bring to you, that you have the right level of connection and understanding that that exists outside of me, right, like, at all points in time. I have three fantastic people who report to me right now who are all women, right? And I’m not a woman. And so there’s a–and I have a very strong D&I lens and like to count myself as an ally and doing the work of advancing women and helping to see around corners and spotting instances where, like, there’s some gender dynamics at play in these different pieces, but I also know, like, as they continue to advance in their career that I am responsible for helping them to grow and develop and think through the next steps, and they also need a more senior-level woman who can share, you know, kind of, like, insider baseball with them about how to navigate in the organization. And with all three of them, like, we’ve had very direct upfront conversations about that, like, there are some things that other people will be able to see that I’m not going to be able to see. Right? And it’s not because I’m a poor leader or I’m a bad person or I don’t want to see. I don’t have that lens naturally built in. I have to work at it. And so where I can help you build a team of people around you who have that lens, who can share that experience, right, like, I think helps me and my leadership style. We all grow together in that way. So I would, you know, to those same people listening, I would say, like, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, listen, like, young Black man starting in the organization. I’m not a young Black man. I don’t know necessarily what it’s like to be Black in this organization and male, right, and so you might want to connect with this person,” or “How can I help you connect with some people? What additional resources do you need so that you have that lens and perspective?” Because our shared goal is that you took this job because you want to be successful here, I hired you into this job because I want you to be successful here, right? Like, we have the same outcome, and let’s just think together and strategize together on, like, what does that look like for you? What do you need in order for that to happen? And know that it’s okay to say to that person, “I know that there’s another lens here that I don’t have. Like, how do we make sure that you are supported in this way?” And I can tell you, having been the beneficiary of that and on the receiving end of that conversation, it makes all the difference. Because I think people struggle with, “Do I bring it up? Do I say to my manager, like, I think I need this?” You know, “How are they going to take it if I say I really want to spend some more time with this person, you know, in this department? Like, I need them to be my manager, not you to be my manager.” We can step away from that fear piece of it and just be authentic and direct and honest and transparent and just say, “Hey, we both want success here. Let’s talk about making sure that you have all the lenses and all the perspectives to be able to make that happen.”

Amy
I want to switch gears just a little bit because–some congratulations are in order, I understand. So we talked a little bit about employee resource groups and how within your company, you know, employee resource groups are a great place to learn more about the culture, learn more about the industry, but you’ve just launched a group outside of your employer that serves your entire industry in the Boston area, and I was wondering if you could tell our audience a little bit about that, because some of them may not know it exists because they’re not in insurance, or they may not know it exists because it doesn’t exist in their city or because they wouldn’t necessarily be affinity members of the group. So can you tell us a little bit about NAAIA?

Omari
Absolutely, absolutely. So NAIAA, it’s the National African-American Insurance Association. It started in 1997, I want to say, in Columbus, Ohio, and the origin story for it really is there’s a guy who’s an independent agent, Mr. Jerald Tillman, who’s the NAAIA founder, who was just as he was moving about the industry wasn’t seeing a lot of people who look like him–he’s a Black man. And he was going, “There’s gotta be some Black people in insurance, right? Like, I can’t be the only one.” And so, you know, as he moved about he would meet people here and there and kind of hear stories, so there was kind of, like, an unofficial network of sorts, and so he did the work to really pull it together into being an official organization. Now 30 or just over 30 years later, NAAIA has just experienced a tremendous amount of growth, both from, like, a membership standpoint and from a corporate partner standpoint, from the impact on the industry standpoint. And so I think we now have 16 chapters spread across the United States, and Boston is our newest chapter. We’re looking to add a few more next year. So we’re the New Kids on the Block right now, but with full intent on not being the kids on the block for very long. But what NAAIA is really about is providing a place for professionals of color in the insurance industry to network together to learn and to grow. So there’s a huge focus on professional development. There’s a focus on how do we advise and counsel and do the work to make the industry better and more diverse and inclusive. One of the things I love about NAAIA and was kind of one of my first introductions to NAAIA is there’s a guy, Dr. LeRoy Nunery II.

Amy
I love Dr. Nunery, and he’s actually been a guest on this series too.

Omari
Oh, my goodness. Yes, I was gonna recommend him, so I’m glad you already connected. His report–he did a study, “The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals.” It’s a landmark, groundbreaking study that Marsh co-sponsored. And, you know, he talks about, like, insights from having interviewed hundreds of African-American insurance professionals from across different verticals within and around and associated with the insurance industry and about their experiences. And he’s been doing roadshows. We brought him to Liberty Mutual. He came and did the launch event for our NAAIA Boston chapter. Just fantastic research. So you get access to all of that through NAAIA. And so similar to, I think, the big eye, as kind of a professional development trade association for the insurance industry, NAAIA is in the space of really kind of being the big eye for African-Americans in the industry. And I’ll say, when NAAIA launched, there was not an association for any other people of color. There wasn’t a Hispanic Insurance Association or a Latino or Asian or Asian-American. And since then there have been some other organizations started, and so NAAIA really was the initial umbrella to help bring people into the fold and to have a place, just as we’ve been talking about, to share stories, to be able to build up their competence and their skill set, to take on bigger roles and responsibilities within their organizations, on how to negotiate for themselves and position themselves for these career moves. So it’s been just a wonderful organization. I’ve been very proud to be a member for two years and now to be the inaugural president of the Boston chapter.

Amy
Congratulations, Omari. That is huge and such a service to the Boston community at large, right? I mean, every insurance professional–not just Black insurance professionals, every insurance professional, you know, owes it to themselves to check out NAAIA and what they’re about and invest in themselves, in the programming and in the community there. I think it’s such an important space, and I got to meet Mr. Tillman at the same conference where I met Dr. Nunery, and I just–it was just the best day. We had so much fun. I just enjoyed talking to them so much. What amazing people they are, and just the depth of knowledge and passion for–passion for the industry, but passion for the community as well, and where those two overlap. It’s just magic. I’m so excited to see Boston added to the list of chapters, and I was thrilled when I saw that you were leading that charge. Congratulations.

Omari
They kind of twisted my arm a little bit into it.

Amy
Is that one of those things where you showed up and they’re like, “Hey, we’re glad you’re here. Can you be president?”

Omari
Yeah, yeah… Well, what was what was interesting is we had a conversation at the National Conference in 2018. And I was going, “You know, we have a number of insurance companies in and around the Boston area. Boston’s a unique city because of our reputation around race. I think a lot of people have read the records on the racial wealth gap in the city as well.” And so there’s that story about Black people in Boston that’s out there, which is absolutely true and I take none of that away from that story. There’s also a story about Black professionals who are thriving in Boston, which is a story that doesn’t get a lot of media coverage because of the gross disparities in the other story around Boston. And so we were just thinking about, like, if any city needs a chapter of NAAIA, like, Boston is absolutely a place that needs it. And what’s wonderful is that we’re joining a wonderful group of peers in the Boston area who are doing some fantastic work, both from employee resource groups that exist as a number of companies in the Boston area that are doing some diversity and inclusion work, but also thinking about the National Black MBA Association, National Association of Black Accountants. So there’s some other organizations that have, like, really big, meaningful, sustainable programs that are happening in the Boston area, and NAAIA is excited to be another solution in the city and part of that ecosystem when we’re all working together to make the city better and then also make people better and the businesses and the city better as well.

Amy
I would think–I know that there’s a Black affinity group within the Bar Association, or perhaps even a separate Black Bar Association, but I would imagine that that’s a pretty thriving community in Boston as well.

Omari
Yes, yeah. The Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association does some fantastic work. They have a gala that I’ve attended, an award ceremony, every year, and they also, along with the NAACP and with the Urban League and some other nonprofit organizations–I think, like, the United Way’s been doing some really interesting things, Big Brothers Big Sisters in eastern Massachusetts, Boys and Girls Club. So we’ve got just a wonderful ecosystem of support here, And I think we all have an interest and a willingness now to really collaborate with one another and think about the solutions that we’re offering in the space and like what we’re offering to the city of Boston and the surrounding region. So we need everything we have, and we need more than that, and we need people who are interested and willing, who have capacity to help in whatever way they can. I always give my NAAIA pitch and say it’s only $150 to become a NAAIA member. If you don’t have a NAAIA chapter where you are that’s okay, because a lot of our programming on the national scale is done virtually. So you can join webinars, you get discounts to conferences, you get to hear about different events. And so it’s been fantastic, even over the last year as I’ve traveled, being able to partner up with other NAAIA chapters, in Atlanta, in the greater Hartford, Connecticut area, in Dallas, Texas. We have a very strong NAAIA chapter there as well. And so even as I’ve been on the road, you know, for my job and personally, when I can join a NAAIA event in another city, I absolutely love to do that and hear perspectives and see programming from those folks on the ground as well.

Amy
An ever-expanding community and an ever-expanding network in an industry that so desperately needs and deserves community and network and sustainability. Omari Aarons, thank you so much for your time today. I am so grateful to you for the work that you’re doing, and I look forward to more exciting things from you and NAAIA and the industry, and just personally and professionally. I just think you’re amazing.

Omari
Well, thank you so much, Amy, I appreciate you for the work that you’re doing as well. I think conversations like this are critically important, and I think it’s the insight into our personal experiences that we’re living with every day that really help to move the needle and to change hearts and minds, which is really how we’re going to make inclusion real for people, how we start to accomplish our diversity outcomes in terms of our numbers racially, ethnically, from a gender perspective, right. And so these conversations are just absolutely critical, and people learn so much, and I enjoy having them with you. So thank you so much for inviting me here today for this family reunion, and I look forward to many more to come.

Amy
Hey, everybody. Isn’t he great? I love Omari. I had a chance to work with him just very briefly when we were at the same company, and now we both moved on to other things, and I need to have him back so I can check in with what he’s doing now running his own show. But if you enjoyed that episode, if, you know, you’re enjoying See It to Be It and you’re enjoying hearing about all the different career paths of these amazing people that I get to connect with, you know, make sure that you are engaging with us on social media, make sure you’re liking us, subscribing and giving us those six star reviews. And if you haven’t been here before, a six star review is five stars plus some words. Words really matter, and if you can just put a few words in about, you know, what you liked about the episode or what you like about the series. It’s that six star that makes a huge difference in helping people find us. Now, if you want to be an active advocate and ally and accomplice to us here at Living Corporate, what you can do is after you leave that six star review, five stars plus some words, you can actually share us on social media, you can subscribe, you can talk about us to your friends and make sure everybody knows about the good work that we’re doing here and how we’re working hard to amplify the voices of Black and brown folks in corporate America and in the workplace in general. And I’d also like to invite you if you’re listening to this and you’d like to share your career journey with our listeners, you can go to my signup page at C2Bshow.com and sign up to be a guest on See It to Be It, and let’s share your career journey. Let’s talk. You know, I’d love to talk to you about where you’ve been, where you’re going, where you find community and how others can get involved in the kind of work that you do. So I look forward to seeing you all next week. Thanks so much for being here with us. Have a good one.

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