For Chi Onugha, a Commercial Lawyer in Consulting QRS Legal, mentoring is a way to give back to others. After several years volunteering with the Amos Bursary, he is now a mentor at Deloitte outside of his main role, and supports the firm with our long-term diversity goals. Chi talks about his early experiences as a mentor, why it means so much to him and the future of equitable inclusion.
How did you first get involved in mentoring?
Whilst working at a previous employer, I was introduced to the Amos Bursary. It's run by a dedicated team of patrons, board members and volunteers, and their goal is to help young men of African and Caribbean descent achieve their ambitions by pairing them with a supportive mentor. In most cases, these young men have no local Black heroes or role models to support them, and that's where we step in, giving them a hand-up to show that people who look like them can go on to achieve great things. In 2015 I was introduced to Renell. At the time he was a shy teenager, but you only needed to speak to him for a short period of time to realise his potential. He has learning difficulties and autism, which compounded his anxiety - particularly when it came to public speaking. He had also been homeless for a period, which added to his challenges. I was on hand to lend an ear, share my experiences and offer some encouragement. We'd meet once every couple of months, whilst keeping in regular contact via emails. Fast forward a few years, and Renell has graduated with a 2:1 in History from Swansea University and is hoping to become a commercial solicitor. There are still many financial hurdles for him to overcome, which makes me realise how much he has been through to get where he is now. Although the formal mentorship period is over, we’re still friends and I consider him one of my Black heroes.
How does Deloitte support your voluntary work and mentoring roles?
Deloitte supports people to volunteer with charities of their choice, and you can work with non-profit organisations for 3.5 hours a month during your usual hours. As part of the commitment to supporting local communities, we run the 5 Million Futures Programme, which aims to help five million people get to where they want to be through access to education and employment. Our people are supported to volunteer so that we can work together and make positive change happen. Since joining Deloitte three and a half years ago, I’ve also become a mentor for a new joiner on my team and I offer informal coaching to one of our colleagues in Deloitte South Africa. In many ways I am very fortunate, as I have parents who were both my role models and heroes. I was also lucky enough to have a good education, all of which I think has played a part in getting me to where I am today. Not everyone is so lucky, so naturally when I get the opportunity to give something back, I jump at the chance.
How do you feel Deloitte supports diversity and inclusion?
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the global protests that ensued, my team was extremely supportive and reached out to me to see how I was doing. Deloitte is committed to increasing diversity in our teams, which has been backed up by the launch of the Black Action Plan. Historically, retention and attraction of black employees to senior positions within the firm has been a challenge and one of the reasons for this is because they don’t see people who look like them in these positions. That’s where mentoring and role models can help. It’s important for people in the firm to have access to role models who give them a positive representative of themselves in another, and promote an aspirational culture, aimed at inspiring and reinforcing self-belief. I suggested this to the People and Purpose team and have since become a Black Role Model as part of the Enabling Functions Role Model campaign, profiling my experiences across the business so that others in the firm can see how my career has progressed.
How is leadership evolving?
We have a leadership programme focussed on senior managers and directors from an ethnic minority background, which aims to build a network and facilitate the career development of those in the programme to prepare them for future leadership roles. I was part of the 2021 cohort for this programme and found it extremely useful and rewarding. As well as talking about diversity, I believe it’s important to look beyond race and gender, to consider wider issues like socioeconomic background. We need to work towards equitable inclusion, where we understand all the different dynamics that affect a person’s ability to succeed and try to develop an equal playing field for opportunities.
What have been the most positive steps forward so far?
Deloitte has recognised historic challenges with diversity and is making a big effort to put in place tangible steps to make things better. In addition to excellent mentorship programmes and the launch of the Black Action Plan, we have stopped measuring racial diversity and inclusion by purely looking at how many employees fall under the category of BAME, which groups everyone from an ethnic minority background under one hat. The challenges that different groups face are unique and I’m pleased that the firm understands and acknowledges this. We also have numerous networks across Deloitte for different groups, including the Black Network, which I am part of. It’s run by our people and puts the spotlight on key cultural topics and events as well as bringing people together and establishing a community. It’s not just for Black employees, and I would encourage everyone to join and learn more.