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Diversity in mentoring

Baba’s story

When he was growing up, Baba turned to his mum for inspiration. Now he’s an Analyst in Consulting with aspirations to become a mentor to others who need extra support. We speak to him about his upbringing, his passion for sport and learning to find his feet in the workplace.

Hackney beginnings

Growing up in a deprived area of Hackney, Baba gained his childhood inspiration from his mum, who worked two or three jobs to keep their heads above water. “My dad wasn’t around, and we never had financial support but I always admired the sacrifices she made to keep our family going,” he says. “In my area there were no role models in corporate or professional jobs who looked like me, so she was the main person I modelled my values on.” During his teenage years he got his first taste of mentorship, when a local teacher took an interest in his basketball skills. “I took part in a try out at a place that supports people from low socio-economic backgrounds into sports. A teacher who was volunteering there offered to coach me and used to drive me around to practices and games once I was selected. If it hadn’t been for his belief in me, I don’t think I would have gone as far as I did, or believed I could achieve amazing milestones.”



Sports and studying

After finishing school, he was offered the opportunity to play in the states as part of a college scheme but decided against it. “Instead, reviewing how far some of the previous talent went in the scheme, I thought it would yield better results for me to just focus on my studies and sports in the UK,” he says. “Where I come from the only way to make it big was in sports and music, but even so, the odds were one in a million. A lot of people strive for these types of roles, because they see people like them doing them, but others end up turning to crime to make an income. I knew I wanted to make my mum proud and pay her back for everything she’s done for me. I also knew I had to make a unique route for myself to build my own options.”

Instead of going to the states, he took A-Levels and looked at his options for university. “I failed my A-Levels in the first year which was disappointing,” he says. “I was working four shifts a week at a supermarket to help make money to support my family and neglected my studies.” Undeterred, he decided to take his exams again and passed with flying colours. He gained a place at the University of Manchester with a view to going into investment banking or consulting. Using the support of a company called upReach, which supports people from lower socio economic backgrounds to get paid internships, he applied for the Deloitte Summer Vacation Scheme, before eventually joining the graduate programme in 2021. “I chose Deloitte because it seemed like the most diverse firm for professional services. I joined Consulting and I’m now part of Deloitte Digital. I work with clients to enhance their operations through technology and improve their current systems of work. Solving problems is an amazing feeling, because you’re preventing issues before they even happen in some cases.”



Building confidence

Baba has benefited greatly from the support of his colleagues both within his team and the wider Black Network. Since joining Deloitte, he’s also found the courage to address some personal challenges he was having. “I was going through a difficult period where I was feeling very overwhelmed, so I went to the GP who referred me for an assessment for ADHD,” he says. “Coming from an African community, mental wellbeing and issues like ADHD aren’t really recognised and discussed. But when I looked back at my life, I realised being hyperactive and disorganised were issues I’d been struggling with since childhood.” He’s now open about being neurodiverse and has received the support he needs from his team. “I have felt that I’m able to talk about it and I won’t be negatively judged. I can manage my strengths and weaknesses and get the right help when I need it. In a way I think it’s good to see and process things in a different way. It means there’s more diversity of thought in our team.”



Embracing difference

As well as his struggles with ADHD, Baba says confidence didn’t come naturally when he started his role. “I did not know any professional people growing up, and when you don’t see people like yourself in those positions, it does affect your confidence,” he says. “When I started here, I was growing my hair out, and felt so uncomfortable. I contemplated cutting it off as I didn’t want anyone to look at me in a certain way or to have any unconscious bias. I told Consulting Partner, Lisa Smith, about it, and she made me feel confident to keep it natural. As a senior professional, she has her own style as well, which made me feel comfortable to be myself in the workplace,” he explains. “I think the diversity we have at Deloitte just adds more value too, because we approach things in a more open-minded way with lots of different perspectives.”



From mentee to mentor

Now that he’s settled at Deloitte, Baba has become an informal mentor to friends and family members in London, Hertfordshire and Manchester. In the future, he aspires to mentor new graduates too. “Being a role model to the younger generation is what life is about. You’re meant to gain information as you age and pass that down. Just remember how much happiness it brought you constantly looking up to your role model and trying to achieve a small fraction of what they achieved,” he says. “I still have lots of goals I want to achieve, but eventually I’d like to use my success to help others. I want people to know that it’s possible to thrive wherever you’ve come from, not just survive.” In terms of tackling some of society’s inequalities, he’s pleased to see the progress of The Black Action Plan and the work that’s being done at Deloitte to tackle unconscious bias. “As a Black person you feel you have to work twice as hard to get somewhere,” he says. “Deloitte is really taking the right steps to combat this by having a lot of initiatives in place that encourage better representation. We are also Gold sponsors for the Black Tech Fest this year. The senior leaders recognise that there is always more to do, not just at the junior level, but also at the partner level, to further the progression of individuals who are been traditionally underrepresented in those roles.”

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