Samantha Jayne Nelson, Marsh

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What is your role?
Risk Engineer Energy

Samantha's Story
I was brought up in the North East of England in a time way before the wonders of the internet.

Everyone around me, parents, educators, peers seemed to believe than I was male but this was not how I felt. However, with little access to information which would allow me to develop an understanding of myself, I tried to fit in and meet the expectations of society.

I ended up following a traditionally male dominated engineering path leading me to career in the offshore oil and gas industry. I became so good at playing the part that had been assigned to me by others that, over a period of time, I became an Offshore Installation Manager, the highest position attainable in the offshore environment.

However I was not being authentic. Ultimately my true self surfaced and with support I transitioned and brought my whole true self to the fore.

Unshackled from the traditional expectations and the internal pressures of not feeling whole, I spread my wings a few years ago and  transferred my skill set to the London insurance industry.  I was enticed by the promise of global travel offered by my current Global Risk Engineering role at Marsh.

After hiding my true identity for so long I took the chance to travel, meet people, experience other cultures whilst offering clients the benefits of my engineering knowledge.   Feeling valued as my true self is liberating.

What factors allow you to bring your full self to work? 
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?
Visible, diversity and inclusion strategies and clearly stated corporate values with environmental indicators such as lanyards, ally flags, active colleague resource groups and a genuine culture of open honest communication all help create an environment where people can bring the best of themselves to work.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
There is always room for further developments, we are all continually learning. A lot of tremendous work ongoing all the time which is highly visible at such times as the annual Dive In festival.  This supportive, collaborative environment should not be confined to a single week of the year. Perhaps we could look towards further improving interconnections between companies via Link to allow shared learnings of best practice on a more regular basis.

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience?
Having been hidden for so long, the thought of being my self was a dream which I thought was unattainable for a long while,   I lived a fractured life, almost two discrete lives, my work mask and my personal face.  I was never bringing all my passion and energy to my workplace.

Over a period of time this creates mental health issues which can impact upon performance.  With the help of allies I overcame this fracture.  I found the strength to overcome the programming of my upbringing, realising being me was not unacceptable. I learnt to value myself and by doing so, everything seemed to fall into place. 

I now find myself more involved, engaged and productive.

Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
People from minorities have fought personal battles and overcome obstacles which, whether they realise it or not, have given them strength, problem solving skills and perspective.  When these characteristics are truly included within company business the diversity of thought vastly improves outcomes, positively impact the bottom line in addition to helping people develop a feeling of belonging which assists recruitment and retention.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
If it is a safe environment then there is nothing more important than being yourself.

If you feel it is an uncomfortable environment then ask yourself is this your fear creating this belief or is the place you find yourself truly unaccepting? If it is the place then seek advice from organisations such as Link that can help both you and your company.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop listening to the little voice in your heads which says "You Can’t" that was planted by others.  They were well-meaning but no one can know you like you will know yourself.

Communicate more openly and search out authenticity, friendship, support.

Most importantly don’t worry so much, things will turn out just fine, believe in yourself.

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
Role model is strange term, I think of historical people such a Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi as role models: people who truly had a major positive impact upon humanity.

I'm just me, in my life my largest battle was finding the strength to be myself.  If being visible, sharing my story and living every day authentically can help others overcome obstacles either real or perceived then I would be overjoyed.

I always stated that if I could help just one person believe in themselves and realise their own value then my years of struggle would have been worth it.  I guess this resonates as, by doing this, I have been fortunate to have been invited to present at various event and recognised as a Diversity Champion.

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I am authentic, visible, vocal and always have time to listen to others. I don’t have the answers but I am willing to both share and learn.

My passion is to help others be the best versions of themselves they can possible be.

Being involved with developing PRIDE@Marsh in conjunction with the Committee, Community members and Allies assisted by the Marsh D&I team has been extremely satisfying and together we have brought some wonderful ideas to life. Marsh has certainly been fabulously supportive of the positive momentum that has been built.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Harness your passion using it for the benefit of others by first listening, then considering before inspiring positive action. It’s the three ’E’s Engage, Educate, Empower.

But most of all BE YOURSELF

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I’m visible and engaged every day, living my truth and trying to bring positivity and acceptance to the world.

I am very lucky that I get travel the global visiting places and cultures where perhaps rights and openness aren’t as advanced as they are here.  I also speak at numerous events, so perhaps just by being there and sharing, I may change one person’s opinion or help one person find their strength.

How do you improve the world if not via small steps, positively impacting one person at a time?
Small maybe, but huge strides from where I started: that scared little trans*girl who hid herself from the world because of the fear instilled into her.

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
Gandhi and Martin Luther King for the impact they made and teaching me Love and Fairness can overcome.

David Bowie for teaching me that change is creative and being different is a positive.

These days of multimedia have brought so many voices, ideas and ideals into our living rooms that we must be careful not to end up imitating projected ‘Role Models’.   To be true, constantly question yourself, your world and your own conscious.

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
I was finding my feet in the London Insurance market and was invited along to a Link networking event, new to the environment I was keen to engage and found myself feeling very comfortable in an inclusive environment with diverse representation. I enjoyed many positive interactions and made some wonderful new friends. 

How has the Link network helped you?
Having arrived as the ‘NEW’ Girl in London, Link helped me connect and develop relationships in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment with people who were looking to improve both themselves and their workplace

For me, involvement with Link has been educational, enjoyable, social and has driven me on to further challenge myself and others to ensure we always consider different perspectives.

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Continue to be open and accepting whilst challenging where required.

Further grow areas out with London as has been successfully done with Link Up North.  (Although Leeds isn’t truly North, not to a Newcastle girl).

Help develop interconnections between companies and other advocacy groups to allow shared learnings and continual development of best practice.