As we celebrate Black History Month and unite around our stories and life experiences, we are sharing a few personal stories from colleagues in the Visa family to learn more about what has shaped them and become their everyday reality. Here, we talk to Sydney Hardwick, a UX analyst and researcher based in Austin, Texas, about what she has learned from experiencing unconscious bias in the workplace.
Q: How did you land at Visa?
I began my career at Visa as an intern in 2014. As a user experience analyst and researcher, I focus on interaction design, accessibility auditing and user research—essentially making sure our products are easy to use for everyone, everywhere.
Q: Can you share a life experience where you felt unconscious bias impacted you personally?
Before college, I had a job at a fast food restaurant. I will never forget one day when two women walked into the restaurant, and treated me like I had limited skills and aspirations. I was happy to share that I was graduating with honors and on my way to university to study engineering and technology. The look on their faces was priceless. Suddenly, in their eyes I became someone of worth and promise. That experience really impressed upon me the value of treating everyone with courtesy and dignity regardless of who they are or where they work.
Q: How do we go about addressing issues of bias or prejudice in the workplace?
Talking about bias and prejudice in the workplace is a touchy subject. I think the conversation can start with awareness; making sure that we’re mindful of our differences and what makes each of us unique. Presumably a diverse workforce creates varied ideas and viewpoints that influence a collectively well-developed end-product. By being self-aware first, we can hopefully be more conscious of bias that we may harbor within ourselves.
Q: How do you think the experience in a corporate environment might be different for black professionals?
There has been an evolution. When my grandfather began working in the automotive industry painting cars, he was perceived as only being able to do that job. However, he worked his way up to supervisor and then became a union representative. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree but with every step up, he still experienced racism and prejudice.
I have benefitted because of what black people like my grandfather had to overcome. Race and the color of my skin are immutable and yes, I would like to see more people who look like me. I don’t see many black professionals at senior levels and especially within technology. However, I’m blessed to have many highly qualified mentors of all hues and am fortunate to have respect from my peers and senior leadership.
Q: What advice do you have to young professionals of color or to anyone about to join the workforce?
I would say, have a good sense of self, be persistent in adverse times and trust the process. We also have an obligation to participate in our communities, whether on a professional or a personal level. We can’t do any of this alone. If you care about something and want to see it grow, be a part of the effort and make it succeed.