“ Racism to me can take a lot of different forms. It’s easy to want to focus on obvious cases of discrimination but we also need to pay just as much attention to ways that prejudices both explicit and implicit can manifest themselves in the workplace, the impact that can have on employees of color, and the impact on the bottom line.”
— Romiel Noumbissi
For the second webinar of Emerging Black Leaders, LaunchSource CEO, Sasanka Atapattu, sat down with LaunchSource alum Romiel Noumbissi. Noumbissi was placed as a BDR by LaunchSource at Black Duck Software and continued there as a full Sales Rep through Synopsys’ acquisition. Now, Noumbissi is a Customer Success Manager at Experian Data Quality. His experience as a BDR taught him essential skills in understanding and communicating with prospects and customers. As a Sales Rep with more responsibility Noumbissi expanded his knowledge of the customer journey, becoming more accountable with revenue generation, and acquired tools that would later help him be successful in a customer success role.
Why is racism misunderstood?
From Noumbissi’s experience, racism is misunderstood because many people think that it’s already solved. For the people unaffected by it, this seems true because overt racism, such as hate crimes, seems less common and rare. However, there many forms that racism can take, such as structural and systemic racism which are elusive and hard to recognize. These “hidden” forms of racism are especially difficult to identify for those who are not directly affected or educated. The lack of awareness of these types of racism creates the illusion that racism is solved and in the past.
Why is understanding racism important in sales and business?
Noumbissi says one of the biggest reasons why understanding racism is important for sales is that it allows for effective communication amongst people with diverse backgrounds. Noumbissi brings up the issue of unconscious bias, and that many people of color don’t have access to the types of opportunities that he’s been fortunate to have. If companies and sales functions, especially those with global customers and prospects, don’t focus on attracting different people and educating themselves they will be unprepared, less competitive, and not as successful as they’d like to be.
What should early-career salespeople be doing today?
Romiel Noumbissi’s piece of advice for early-career individuals is to be vigilant for opportunities where changes can be made; record them, and bring them up to the senior level personnel (e.g., your manager or someone in HR) who can help turn these areas for improvement into initiatives. Another great way to effect changes internally is to join an ERG (Employee Resource Group) that matches your identity or interests. In general, Noumbissi says that early-career individuals should document learnings of all kinds and share these insights with others. This is a great way not only to stimulate personal growth but also to effect change and build your brand.
What steps can companies take to start conversations and educate their teams on D&I?
Noumbissi says that the first step is for companies to focus on truth and honestly around these issues. This can take shape as a forum or space where people can share their thoughts, experiences, and feedback candidly. The essential part of this step is to make sure everyone is involved, speaking truthfully, and keeping the conversation around D&I ongoing instead of a reaction to a negative event that quickly gets lost in the noise.
The second step is for companies to take that feedback, organize it, and turn it into action. This can either be in the form of initiatives or specific goals, but the critical point is to make sure that this is a collective activity. Too often, organizations rely on D&I or HR teams, which have limited bandwidth and budgets. By taking a collective approach, everybody is accountable and can contribute to positive change.