Navigating the Workplace as People of Color and Their Allies

Navigating the Workplace as People of Color and their Allies

Are you an ally, mentor or advocate for people of color in the workplace? Are you a person of color trying to gain a sense of belonging in your office? If so, you can benefit from the knowledge and resources below:

The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Hart, explores ways that people of color can advocate for themselves to invest in their career and ways that White allies, mentors, advocates etc. can support the people of color within their organization. 

  • This post focuses on the topic of race and I realize the intersectionality of a person's identity goes beyond race. It is my intention to highlight the topics in the book so my focus will be on race. 

I will be exploring themes discussed in the book and specific UC Berkeley tools that can help you advance in your career

Advocating for yourself

You have to vocalize your wants! Let your supervisor, manager know that you want to advance in your career and are interested in developing your skills. What does that mean? It means sit down and create a “purpose statement.” What are your short term and long term goals? The author of The Memo, Minda Hart’s purpose statement is “I want to help catalyze equity for people of color in the workplace.” In order to accomplish this you should create a weaknesses and strengths list. Pick two weaknesses and work on them by investing your time in professional development.  

Professional Development

You want to invest in your professional development? Great! Here are resources at Berkeley that are free: 

Minda Hart also mentions other resources that you might find helpful:

  • Hiring an executive coach

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Attending conferences

What if you want to develop your leadership skills? Speak up! Take the lead on a project at work or volunteer to speak at the next presentation. You can pick up a million books on developing your leadership skills but you need to actually find the space and time to put it into practice.

Practice your leadership skills by becoming involved in a staff organization or community of practice


What if your one weakness is relationship building (i.e. networking)? The place you can start is by creating workplace alliances. It is crucial for people of color to join affinity groups that help them develop their sense of belonging. Belonging entails being involved and invested in the organization’s mission and purpose. 

There is a world outside of UC Berkeley! You can take a friend to a Meetup group if you don’t feel comfortable networking on your own at the moment. On campus events are also a place to practice your relationship-building skills. 

Mentor, Advocate, Ally, Which one are YOU?

I challenge you to seek a mentor (advocate, ally, friend etc.) who will support your career goals. 

  • Ally: Now, if you state “I support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace” then you might call yourself an ally. Awesome! People of color need you but without actionable steps your “support” does not make for quantifiable change. Will you vocalize your “support” for a person of color when a promotion comes up? 

  • Advocate: Now the main difference between an ally and an advocate is the actionable steps an advocate has taken to put their words of support into action.  Think about retaining and advancing people of color in the workplace. Do not OVERLOOK the staff in your office. You want to create a pipeline for people of color? It starts by retaining the talent that you have. Would a person of color tell a friend to work in the office? If the answer is no then you have a lot of work to do. 

  • Mentor: Can you be an ally, advocate and a mentor? Absolutely! A person of color can come to you for your mentorship. Essentially you provide guidance, support and advice. You can’t find a mentor in your office? Explore the mentorship program at UC Berkeley.

Invisible at Work?

As a first generation working class woman of color I have felt invisible in the workplace and so have many others. As Minda Hart says “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” If there are no people of color in leadership positions then how can other people of color progress in their career? This is where you advocate for yourself and build on your leadership skills, build your network and be present, be seen and be heard! 

I challenge you to provide me with a list of people of color in leadership positions on campus so I can highlight their contributions and WE can be seen on this campus. Please email me at and I will compile a short description of the key players on campus and feature it on this platform.

My name is Jessica De Anda and I am a Student Experience Specialist in the Evening and Weekend MBA Program Office. You can connect with me on Linkedin or via my email at

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