Every year, ServiceNow welcomes multiple cohorts of early-in-career (EIC) co-ops and interns to help them build valuable skills with meaningful projects, mentorship, and networking opportunities. I’m fortunate to be one of those co-ops. I’m also the first person in my family to go to college.
To welcome our summer 2023 interns, I pitched the idea of facilitating a live panel event on the ServiceNow Early Careers LinkedIn page with First Generation Professionals (FGPs)—those who’ve moved from working-class roots to professional corporate careers and are the first in their families to complete higher education.
The livestreamed event allowed three ServiceNow employees to share about their humble beginnings, dealing with code-switching and imposter syndrome, carrying others through their journeys, learning how to self-advocate, finding mentors and sponsors along the way, and celebrating their proudest accomplishments.
“When you’re a first-generation [professional], it’s a lonely place,” says Yolanda I. from Mexico City. After a long career in the U.S. Army and Department of Defense, she joined ServiceNow as a senior manager on the support account services management team. “You want to make sure you pave the way for others,” she adds.
Senior Technical Trainer Andrew B., whose parents came from Trinidad, ventured into many industries before joining ServiceNow. Patience is the key to accomplishing most things in life when things don’t go your way, he says. “You gotta learn how to love to fail. Failure has so much positiveness.”
Andrew founded The Social Tea House, where he blends East Asian cultures with the sale of teas and educational materials, which he continues to work on outside of ServiceNow. “Don’t be comfortable,” he advises. “Never be comfortable. And continue to try. The more you try, the more you fail—the more you’re going to get somewhere.”
Failure can be discouraging. Sometimes we wait for a sense of motivation to get us back in the swing of things. But “motivation is overrated,” according to Yolanda. “We want to be motivated to do everything, but sometimes you’re just not going to be,” she says.
Motivation can make the things we do seem a little more exciting and worthwhile, but discipline plays a bigger role. Confidence is an important part too, as I’ve found in my experience as an FGP student. Despite having the discipline to get up and do something every day, it can be difficult to advocate for yourself.
“We want other folks to talk about us because we don’t want to feel like we’re bragging,” Andrew says. “We want others to promote us.”
“Most of us come from humble beginnings,” Yolanda adds, “but there’s a difference between self-promoting and bragging. Your hard work is only going to get you so far. You have to self-promote. You can work really hard and get overlooked for people who are self-promoting.”
It’s important to reassure ourselves that we’re in the place we are for a reason. That doesn’t mean we have to forget where we came from. Rather, we need to recognize the distance we’ve traveled to be where we are and remember the hard work it took to get here. It should be something to be proud of. We shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate our wins and demonstrate our capabilities.
“Sometimes you gotta run your own race and stay true to who you are,” says Chris R., senior manager of marketing culture and engagement. “You’ll look back 10 to 15 years later and see you were right where you were supposed to be,” he says.
Chris grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where he honed his football skills and earned a scholarship to The University of Alabama. While there, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s in sports management. “Sometimes you have to grow into that confidence and know who you are and what you are,” he adds.
Knowing who and what you are is often easier said than done. Chris reminds us that in order to be the best version of ourselves, we need to take the advice of those who’ve navigated our career path before us so that we can continue to grow and do our best work.
“People nowadays don’t like to receive feedback, or they take it as criticism,” he explains. “If you want to invest time in me, give it to me because I want to be the best version of myself. I think that’s why some people have a hard time finding sponsors or mentors—because when you do get that person, they don’t have a lot of time to invest in you. But when they do, they’re going to give you blunt, honest, unfiltered stuff that may hurt your feelings. You gotta take that and make it better and continue to be the best version of yourself.”
Mentors aren’t the only people who advise us and guide our career decisions. Many FGPs feel an obligation to give back to those who’ve helped them along the way.
“Another responsibility on top of being a husband, buying a house, and all this other stuff you want to do is [giving back to your family],” Chris says. “It’s kind of like ‘I made it,’ but I never would have made it without their sacrifices. It’s embedded [in us] that you’re supposed to take care of your family.”
“It’s also that you want to do it,” Yolanda adds. “It was my mother and father’s hard work that got me here, so you do want to pay it back to them.”
Although there’s no secret formula for navigating the challenges we face as FGPs, ServiceNow will continue to foster a culture of belonging, celebrating the diversity of our global team.
As long as we continue to share our experiences with each other and with those who have yet to understand the things we carry, we’ll be able to nurture and embrace an inclusive community that serves people from all over the world.
Join a company that celebrates diversity and creates belonging. Explore ServiceNow careers.
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