I am Syreata Sterling; truly belonging at Virgin Media

Syreata Sterling

Operational Improvement Manager

September 25, 2019

Of course, my inclusion story started well before my time at Telewest and Virgin Media, but it’s a great place to start. In 2019, I am Syreata Sterling, an Operational Improvement Manager, and married mummy of three.

In 2002, I was a happy-go-lucky 19 year old party girl whose only previous work experience was temping at Zurich Commercial and bar work, so when my agency called to ask whether I wanted a data entry role with Telewest, I jumped at the chance.

The heavily branded office in the Mailbox Birmingham, with all its swanky bars and eateries, blew me away and I was excited by the (albeit temporary) opportunity.

It was pretty standard data entry work, a large stack of cheques (no Apple pay back then!) would be delivered and it was our job to get these keyed to Cablemaster (if you know, you know) in minimum time with maximum accuracy. Now I was fairly content for around 6 months, and then insatiable curiosity set in…I wanted more and I possessed a quiet confidence that if I was prepared to work hard and build great rapport, more is exactly what I would get.

Within the next 6 months I held a full time Payment Processing Representative role and was keen to learn more about our systems, processes, and people. My inspiration was a true gent named Eddie Saunders whose Colgate white teeth against his dark brown skin and well-tailored suits were his trademark as much as being a great leader. Eddie was our HoD and being honest he was the epitome of success in my eyes.

I remember feeling so proud of him (sounds crazy saying that aloud, he was a complete stranger!) but in my working life he was the most successful / senior black person I’d encountered in the workplace…now, isn’t it wild to think that some 17 years later he is, still, the most senior black person I’ve encountered in the workplace.

Now, we can look away and pretend that didn’t actually occur or that it doesn’t matter, or we can ask questions and have discussions as to why that age old myth that people from diverse backgrounds don’t want / aren’t suitably qualified or talented doesn’t really hold water when you take stock of a plethora of studies on the matter. Diversity sparks creativity #fact.

Ethnicity aside, I am someone in the business who has been recognised, who has received several promotions and investment in terms of training and qualification, has received accolades such as a hat trick of Sparkle wins (thus far, wink) and the Ultimate Voice Rep of the year, oh and also Best VMB Voice Rep too!

There are no violins required here.

I feel empowered that Virgin Media accepts me whilst recognising my talent, appreciates me as I am and embraces my differences and my flaws, but do we all feel the love? Or do we resort to a “Windows 10 office edition” of ourselves to feel accepted or be recognised? I suspect that is sometimes the case.

Which leads me to the point of sharing my story with you, it’s so important that we as colleagues feel that our inclusion strategy & approach to talent and leadership transcends those inclusion topics featured in the tabloids, it’s so much more than ethnicity, gender or religion. Try age, family structure, ability, socioeconomic status, sexual preference, background or appearance. It’s using language, which is free from stereotypes, unconscious bias or discriminatory views.

Put simply, it doesn’t exclude any player on the Virgin Media team deliberately or inadvertently.

For those reasons (and so many others) I sincerely hope that we as a community can truly embrace this Inclusion Week in the way its intended, it’s about a real sense of belong-ing, it’s about having the discussions that might make us cringe ever so slightly but are worth having to ensure our very individual yet collective voice is heard.

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