Jay is the Director of Development and Communications for Baltimore Corps, a non-profit organization in Baltimore with a mission to enlist talented people to advance social impact in Baltimore and to build a movement dedicated to achieving equity in our communities.
His role is to support the organization’s efforts through effective communication of its work and finding resources necessary to build an effective community of change makers. He’s in a supervisory role at Baltimore Corps and previous roles and brings some insight into the Millennial generation!
Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgement, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.
In our survey, you said that “living a purposeful life” is what drives you to succeed. Tell me about this.
I see my life as just one small part of this massive universe, and my time here is limited, so I need to make sure that it is used purposefully. My faith in God plays a strong part in that. This belief has also been shaped by my cultural upbringing. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, where the culture is very communal. For example, “family” refers to people of the same town or village, not just blood relatives. Of course some of that has been impacted by partisan politics and other factors, but at its very core, Nigerian culture is more communal than individualistic. Lastly, I am the eldest of five siblings and my family is very close knit. My parents emphasized to us that we were to all look out for one another, and I’ve carried this sense of responsibility with me. It’s this combination of my Christian faith, culture, and family upbringing, that allows me to look outside of myself and strive to live on purpose.
Tell me more about your upbringing. How old were you when you came to the United States?
My father is the eldest of six siblings and he’s always looked out for others in the family and in the community. He helped some of his younger siblings pay for university in Nigeria and has helped others as he’s been able. Both in Nigeria and in the U.S., my parents opened our home to those who needed a welcoming place to stay as they established themselves in a new city, or just needed a helping hand. As you can imagine, this made privacy a luxury, but at the same time it has allowed me to really value relationships over material things. This likely had something to do with why I decided to study psychology in college, and later organizational psychology.
I was thirteen years old when I came to the United States in 1995 and started high school in Laurel, MD. While those first 13 years in Nigeria set the foundation for my life, the subsequent years here in the States have provided me with new lessons and a more global understanding of the world. It has been interesting to compare and contrast my experience with that of my youngest sibling (my sister) who has very little memory of our life in Nigeria. I would describe myself as a Nigerian person who has embraced American culture and values; I would say I have the best of both worlds.
What is your workplace culture like?
Coming from a rather traditional corporate background, I now find myself in a new role in a start-up culture where work relationships and the approach to work are uniquely different. My new workplace culture is open and people are willing to share about all aspects of life; this is an adjustment for me, coming from a place where more rigid boundaries existed. However, it’s a welcome adjustment.
The Millennial generation is creative and not afraid to define what their workplace and work style should look like. This is a different dynamic which I am adjusting to and actually enjoying.
What is it like to supervise Millennials? Where do you find challenges and successes?
Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of engaging Millennials in different capacities. I have managed a college internship program with multiple major corporations as clients and have and still supervise professional Millennial staff. The energy that Millennials bring to the table is what is most impactful to me. They are energized around what they believe is possible. While others still maintain the belief that one must continue in one career path through retirement, Millennials have many options and can bounce easily between industries and positions. This creates a lot of energy, and the ability to think outside of the box.
However, one of the challenges I have when working with Millenials is trying to instill a sense of discipline when options seem limitless. It requires one to execute in the present while remaining focused on the future; it can be difficult to strike this balance. This is an area of opportunity for me to assist them with balancing their expectations of the possible, while influencing change in a decades old system. I tend to play referee between proponents of traditional employment environments and Millennials.
Do you notice similar types of culture in the younger generation in Nigeria as you do here?
I do. Looking at my younger cousins now, I think technology has done quite a bit to remove some of those barriers I had growing up. My exposure was limited to Nigeria, and not even the whole country – it was kind of like growing up in Texas and not knowing what was going on in Chicago or New York. There weren’t too many distractions from my culture, so I kind of knew what I was growing up in. The younger generation now has social media and access to the outside world; they grow up Nigerian, but are definitely more worldly. They have easy access to international news and can connect with young people in other parts of the world without leaving the country.
Our preliminary data shows that 66% of respondents have listed “positive staff relationships” as the second most important value of organizational culture. Jay’s survey response highlights the importance of these values, stating that “good working relationships and a good relationship with a supervisor can go a long way in meeting stated objectives.” How connected are your colleagues to one another?