EP 025: Interview Ankit Shah

In this episode Cara sits down to converse with Ankit Shah, M.Ed who, as you will soon find out, is extremely passionate about diversity and inclusion (D&I).

You can connect with Ankit on LinkedIn.

Note: This conversation was recorded months before the major inflection point on race that has occurred across the United States. For another, more recent conversation between Cara and Ankit, check out the 7/1/20 TLDC Episode: How to Have Conversations About Race at Your Workplace.

Music created by Jahzzar.

Show Transcript:

Cara North 0:00
Today, I am super excited to introduce to you all my friend Ankit Shah, who works here at The Ohio State University with me. And through our friendship, I have learned so much from him about diversity and inclusion. And I really felt that it was necessary for him to share some of his insights with you all. I really think you’ll get a lot out of the today’s episode. Ankit, thank you so much for being here.

Ankit Shah 0:26
Well, thank you for having me, Cara,

Cara North 0:27
of course. So can you share a little bit about your background?

Ankit Shah 0:31
Absolutely, absolutely. So I’ve been fortunate that in my entire career, I have been in education sector, starting with so I did my undergraduate and early child education. And after that I worked in all across k 12. So whether it’s a public private charter, and I’ve also worked in Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio. And so within those sectors, I worked with lots of underserved underrepresented populations in K 12. So I feel like that D&I has been part of my blood pretty much my entire career. And then around 2011, I went and got my first master’s degree in higher education, administration, Student Affairs. And because the university that I went to had a really good program to help me learn about different institutional types, and so I do a lot of assistantships and internships across lots of different universities. And in that time, I’ve covered so many different diverse areas where there was student success and retention, academic advising, career coaching, research and assessment, those sorts of things. And after graduation, I did my first few years in career coaching, but even in my time and career coaching, I worked at two liberal arts. I worked at a community college and now I’m going to big 10 at The Ohio State. So in these populations that I got to serve, I serve veterans to residential to students with lots of different types of disabilities. You Name it. And in that time and indecent issues types, I literally look at the lens of P 20. And I’ve been fortunate that my career has allowed me to be all these different spaces. And currently I happen to be working at Ohio State as a career consultant in the alumni Career Management Office, where I served multi generational alumni across the age across the industry. And it’s been amazing to see how now I’ve covered the entire lifespan. And the diversity equity inclusion has been part of my role the entire time and absolutely loving it. So knowing me, I’m a learner at strengths, I’m not done learning. And so I’m in my second graduate degree at Ohio State studying workforce development and education, but specializing in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. My current position has really taught me what it is to work with so many different types of people. And at the end, we’re building relationships right? But all the different identities and especially having five generations in the workplace, how do we be your authentic self? And how do we bring who we are to work is driving me to be even more D&I space as I continue to do this work.

Cara North 3:12
I love it. And I have to say, I can totally vouch for again, everything that he said he is one of the most energetic people I think I’ve ever met. And I like to think I have a lot of energy. But he definitely is beating me in that department. And one thing that I’d like to just talk about real quickly, is the way that we met. Actually, I have the Master’s in workforce development. And he reached out to me on LinkedIn and said, Hey, I see you have this degree. We work at the same institution. Can we have lunch? And exactly like he said about the relationships. That’s how we formed our relationship. And we’ve been friends ever since. And one thing that he said to me that has stuck with me, and I really want him to unpack this, especially for our listeners. He asked me one day I think we were at Danatos. Yeah, we were Danatos.. And he said, Cara, he said, Why is diversity and inclusion separate from learning and development? And I looked at him and I said, I don’t know. Like, I’ve never thought of that. But I’m so glad, again, through our friendship has really opened my eyes to a lot of these issues. So I’m curious, how do you set those parameters? How do you operationalize what diversity and inclusion is like, what does that mean to you?

Ankit Shah 4:30
Absolutely. I really appreciate this question for so many reasons, right? Having been in education sector, my entire professional career, where we do diversity, equity inclusion work in pockets, right, and we do this one program. So we have this one event and, and we kind of check it off our checkboxes. But they the way I think, diversity, equity inclusion is because it’s in everything we do. It needs to be holistically integrated in all of our operations and and how we connect with people. Right? So then it’s not this one off thing that we do. It’s continuous, right? It’s in our forefront. And how do we think about, especially now that we have these five generations in the workplace, right? So many different upbringing, so many backgrounds, so many diversity, diversity related information, continuous movement? How do we make the best of this and the current workforce, right? It’s we need to realize our constituents and who we are working with is changing. The demographics are changing, the workforce is changing. And if you really want to keep D&I at the forefront, it’s got to be in your strategic plans, which I know some of the education institutions have done, but then how do you implement it in everything you do? And that takes a lot of effort, right? And it’s very conscious. And what do you do to make that happen? is okay, how are we talking to leaders? How are leaders impacting those decision making that really see who they’re serving, but as well as who are their employees within the organization that are also being served in the D&I lens. So, in a long story short, we really need to build that in in our daily lives. And not just one program or one event, if that makes sense.

Cara North 6:22
It totally does. And I feel like this is something that a lot of companies and organizations probably give lip service to, right, they probably have a statement somewhere on a website, along with that mission value that nobody knows what their company is, a lot of times, it’s hidden in kind of a lot of the stuff that people don’t read. So if this is something that somebody wants to learn more about, especially in this learning development space, let’s say I’m a brand new instructional designer, I’ve been asked to build an E learning module about I don’t know sexual harassment. Okay, let’s roll with that because that’s right, everyone’s favorite topic, right?

Ankit Shah 7:03

Cara North 7:05
So what are some things? What are some pitfalls they might fall into if they don’t consider diversity and inclusion? Like what are some things that people need to be aware of as they’re starting to build out these learning experiences?

Ankit Shah 7:18
No, absolutely. It’s I think when we think from it, once again, let’s, to me, everything comes back to people, right? Because we have become, our technology has skyrocketed, right. And we progressed so much. But I think overall, we’re losing all the time is consistent, human touch, right? And when we’re talking about people, we’re talking about emotions, right? We’re talking about even though I know in many workplaces, we want to like, hide those emotions. That’s not talked about it right. But are we being our authentic self, when we’re talking about that? I don’t think so. So the pitfalls are few, right? So one to me is okay, if we’re not going to consider If D&I is not at the forefront, and if it’s one of the strategic plan tactic, so then are we just looking into check it off and be done? Or are we actually looking into implement it and what we do every day? Number two is think about who are your stakeholders or constituents? Right? For example, in my organization currently, you know, we serve these technically 560,000 alumni, you know, that Ohio State serves? Well, our programmatic efforts have been pretty much very similar for a long time. So if we want to engage further with these diverse demographics, right, and I’m not just talking about race and gender, right, I’m really talking about inclusivity, right? race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, ability, all of these spaces. Well, you have to go where they are. You have to understand their needs, right? So if we’re going to think, oh, if diversity and inclusion, are these three things, and we’re not consistently measuring, or assessing, what are the actual needs by doing different type of research, right? Because I think what we’re good about doing is sending out many, many surveys. And we know the razor. It’s a fatigue right now, many people are filling them out, there’s too many. So meeting people where they are. So sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone, right and ask the difficult questions in the community that you’re serving. And yes, you’re not going to hear the Sufi answers that you want to hear, right? We need to be open to constructive criticism, and go, Well, my community is not serving me this way. Because all leadership looks like this. So I don’t feel like I have a sense of belonging. Right. So when we are actually open, and we listen, actively listen, then we hear the needs of the community and then it’s Not only meeting then we are eventually hopefully empowering and supporting. And then they feel like they have a belonging within that organization. Right. So that’s our external partnerships, right? Then you look at some of the most important pieces Who are your internal constituents, right? So your own employees and organizations who are also shifting, right, especially if I go back to these five generations in the workplace, right? So how younger generations want to be engaged in their workspace versus how other generations do not or, more importantly, how are we communicating, you’re not communicating? You’re missing lots of those D&I factors, right? Because I think when we and, and this is once again, because of my own professional experiences or even personal experiences, we want to put diversity inclusion in the sort of bubble or a pocket, right? Like, I’ve done this, or I’ve checked this off or hire these, you know, diverse professionals. And now I’m done. Right So we’re there’s the pitfall right there, like, because you think it’s just one of those things you check off, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore, versus somebody who truly believes in it. It’s how do we do this every day? All the time in everything we do, whether it’s from recruiting, to our day to day practice, to how are we assessing? And how are we including?

Cara North 11:22
Now something you said was really interesting about going to where the population is, and you’re getting the real talk, right? You’re gonna get the real talk, right? How do you let’s say I want to do that, right? How do you stop from generalizing about a population? So for example, I’m a millennial. I hate when people talk about millennials, because all those stereotypes, yeah, some of them may be true, but we’re individuals and I feel like you shouldn’t be judged by the age that you are or your because everybody has different experiences. So if you get that information was released great advice. Go in and get it. How do you think Start from making generalizations about a population?

Ankit Shah 12:02
No, I think that’s a great question. And you know what, and that is something it’s not very easy to do. So I can see how people would be like, Oh, am I saying the right thing or presenting the information the way I need to. But I think if it’s all about how we are asking questions, right, are we asking open ended questions? are we creating a welcoming space? Right? So when you think about inclusivity, right, if we get anything, diversity might be a little bit challenging. Equity might be a little bit challenging, but I think we all understand inclusion, because we all want to be included. So when we are reaching out to certain populations, how do you study the population first? Right. And so whether you look at current literature in research, and and I honestly think I think it’s meeting up with individuals are open to having conversations, to share more information about their community and their cultures, right, and I’m going To say that there are certain individuals that may not be as open, right? But that’s in any community. Right? So let’s not make assumptions that everyone in, like you said, cara, like all millennials don’t want to say, x, or they’re amazing at this, right? Let’s just stop all the generalization. And let’s create an opening open and welcoming community to say, We are here to listen, you may have you know, or something along the line of like, you may have been generalized this way or intention is not to do that, right, you’re proactively voicing that you recognize that there are generalizations, right? And you are here to learn from them and actually hear their voice. Right. So to me, I’m saying for example, you know, I’m part of the Asian community, Asian male who’s a non traditional careers, right, I have my entire life. And so there’s many times where, you know, there’s these assumptions just because I’m an Asian male, I should be in my And where I should be in engineering, right? Like, there’s these assumptions or even the careers that I’m in, I’m always at the top because of how I look, or the way I’m presented,

Cara North 14:09
you are a sharp dresser. I mean, I’m just putting that out.

Ankit Shah 14:13
You know, but I think it’s, it’s all about, like, let’s stop making assumptions, right? And let’s actually ask for effective input. Now, results wise, immediately, you may not get exactly what you want, but you need to be okay with saying it’s going to take me a little bit of time to go in deeper and get to build relationships, right? Because if you want to build relationships, and anytime we’re talking about building relationships, it’s about building trust. And trust does not come easily, especially if certain communities or populations have been disrespected, or not included, or many other things that we don’t talk about, right. And so to be able to gain their trust, you got to work for it right? And so initially, you may reach out one way or two ways are three ways and you may not get the exact response you’re looking for. But that doesn’t mean you give up. Right? Because to me, I would say, you got to start looking for champions, right in those communities. And there’s always folks now, especially with our social media, and all of that there’s folks out there who are open for this, right? Like they want to talk about it. But they’re also trying to find spaces where these conversations will be welcomed, openly.

Cara North 15:25
I love that. And I think that’s really sound advice, especially if this is something that’s kind of brand new to you, just like you would network with other l&d professionals. Have you thought about trying to network with different communities that you may be impacted? I think it’s great. Now, I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here for a minute. But let’s say you work at an organization and you’re going in and you really know that this is important, something that you want to do, but you’re not at a higher level to make that call. And you have that meeting with that higher level. And they’re like, No, we don’t need that. We have it on the website, water. Some things you could do to advocate to make this happen, because I think it’s so important. And I do think that it’s something that again, unfortunately, a lot of organizations do just kind of give a boilerplate response to so if you’re wanting to kind of be that champion for D&I in your organization, you see the need, what are some things you can do to kind of get that ball rolling in your organization?

Ankit Shah 16:24
So, no, that’s a great question. And you know what I am big champion of this. And so I think, think about when you connect with that leader, and if they say, we have this, or we’re not willing to do that, and that happens in lots of different spaces. And so I think it’s, it’s thinking about what you do every day, right? And then having a positive relationship with your manager to be able to have a conversation about who are you what are your values? How do you want to contribute in your own role, right, because we also have to start thinking about right like if you’re D&I champion, like I consider myself D&I. champion in everything I do is how do I do really well in my position, right? And then how do I help move the metrics that are needed in my organization? And if D&I can bring in and improving those metrics, in a way to engage further, or whatever your metrics might be, then you are telling your leaders of this organization, I’m not only doing this work, because I believe in our these our core values, but look how I’m helping you elevate your organization, right? I am growing your constituents, I am helping meet the metrics. So let’s be honest, when you do those kind of things, it’s hard for them to say no, because at the end, they’re making more profit. Right? There’s profit margins are growing, and you’re improving the organization at large. So I think it’s really understanding your role. And how do you within your role, stretch in a way where it’s going to allow you to be your authentic self, right, but you’re also going above and beyond your role, right? That’s step one. And then I would say, once you kind of get a buy in, you know, from your supervisor from your organization and you do some good work, right, you got to see, you got to let them see some good results, right? So once they see that, then you start looking at within the community, to see what other sort of D&I efforts are happening. They may not be at the level that you’re wanting to, for how do you tap into those communities? Right? So you got to start right at where you are, number one, and then slowly start, like expanding a little bit. And obviously asking with permission, depending on your organization, right? We all have to do those things, whether we want to or not, no, but I would say like look it within your organization, right? So for example, at Ohio State, they have these. They’re called employee resource groups, right? I’m part of one that helps all young professionals at Ohio State and under professional development chair in every professional development event that I’ve helped lead. I’ve taught everything from D&I space, right? Because I have the board who believes in those efforts. So how do we be inclusive in everything we do, and serve the entire university in a way that’s meaningful for them, right? So I literally put my D&I lens and everything I do. And so then it became conscious, a natural part of my identity. And then my supervisor, and my organization’s Cesar is, or he just does this every day. And he tries to, you know, make this kind of impact every day. And that’s just who he is. So then they start realizing, I see that he is making some positive parties improving organization, and then he also trying to improve the university mission, right. And so that’s one way but I’d say start where you are, and then slowly expand, right based on what’s available to you. And then there’s always always professional associations, right. So sometimes we all have to go outside of your organization, right? Because if that need is not there, within, then you got to look where there is right and then build your champions. Connect with them. champions and see how you can integrate within afterwards.

Cara North 20:03
Man, such great advice. I mean, I was just my head’s been spinning, thinking about it. And one thing you said really had my ears perk up, you talked about engagement. And I think that’s something that really relates to the learning development audience. As many of you know, I present on learner engagement. I think it’s so critical that we do it. Right. And I also don’t think it is a coincidence. It’s called engagement. Because when I think of engagement, obviously I think of, well, first of all, Beyonce put a ring on it. But second, I mean, if you think about it, giving somebody an engagement ring, so to speak, is a commitment. It’s a promise, it is telling them that you value them and their time and you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Now, obviously, we don’t want to do that with our learners, right. But that commitment and the promise so I feel like if you’re giving them and building out this learning experience, right Right. And it’s something that is really important to the company or it’s really going to help that person grow into the professional they want to be, you got to do it, right. And I think engagement is so critical. And what I love about what you just said through the D&I lens is, you cannot engage people, if you’re not hitting the right audience, if they do not see themselves in what you’re building, that learner experience will fail every single time.

Ankit Shah 21:28
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so yeah, so we, you know, to me, create, it’s a mission within yourself, right. So to me being like, inclusion is huge part of my identity, and everything I do. It’s professional, but it’s also personal too, right? So to me, what, how am I supporting communities? How am I empowering others? How am I engaging in a way that I’m also thinking about other people’s perspectives and their experiences, right? So when you try to put yourself in other people’s shoes, Right and see how can we perceive something based on their experiences, then you just get a different mindset, right? And I really think about like, it’s, it’s not something we do every day. And I’m not perfect at it either. But man i do i try every day, my best to think about other people’s point of view, right? And if I’m working with whomever, in whatever organization, how am I thinking about their experience, their background, their abilities, right? So when we do end up collaborating in some capacity, then we’re literally coming to that mutual collaboration, because I care about that other person and their background and who they are and who they serve.

Cara North 22:38
You hit the nail on the head, I think that is not a buzzword, but I think it is the absolute baseline for any professional is to have empathy. I’d never think it’s going to steer you wrong in your career, having that empathy that Ankit just spoke about. I think it’s so critical. All right, again, it’s given us a lot of great information. So I’m curious Are some people. You’ve given us a lot of great information? So if people want to learn more about diversity inclusion, what are some of your go to resources? Do you have specific people that you’d like to follow? Like, where can people get plugged into the good information coming out about this? So they can add it to their reading list and all of that?

Ankit Shah 23:21
No, absolutely. So there are few spaces that I go to, on a regular basis right to gain further knowledge, because I’m also learners, my top strand can’t get enough of it. And so how can I continue to engage in that space? So, I have specifically decided that within my own organization, there are certain spaces so for example, recently, I joined within my own unit, which is Office of advancement at university to have advancement inclusion Council, right. And so, we’re this council who continuously means to say how do we want to create an inclusive environment in office of advancement And what sort of metrics are we looking at it from university perspective? A low behold, joining one Council has given me so many voices in so many spaces, because of being on the council. Now I’m also part of this large university wide group called diversity advocates. And they go out and it’s literally all colleges and all units come together. And our Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of diversity inclusion, Ohio State, Dr. James Moore, will leave those straight and talks about Okay, how are we going to deal with the campaign that’s coming up and challenges that are coming? So to me D&I fleet, please, no, it’s not just this one topic, right? It’s literally everything we do, and how we operate, and how we connect and how we build relationships, all these things. So I’m part of that group. I’m part of the diversity or advancement inclusion Council. And then I’ve also recently looked out to Association, right, because I believe in continuous learning, so Even though I’m in grad school, and I’m working full time, but it’s not for me to how do I get further knowledge from other peers outside of my organization is also important. So recently as Cara has informed me the CEO at CEO a TD has allowed me to become an I’ve been a member, but I’m officially a member now. And they have this special interest group. And so one is just learning about how do we become more inclusive within that, and she’s gonna help me champion some efforts, diversity inclusion that way. And then, I’ve also learned about another professional association which is called for Rocco human resource Association on central Ohio. And they have a diversity inclusion committee, and they actually lead once a year Diversity Inclusion Conference, right. And then on university itself, there is a national diversity conference once a year that I have submitted proposals to I’m hoping you know, knock on wood. Here’s something in the near future. But literally, I hunt all the time. Like I’m looking all the time. I’m like, What do I do? Oh, and through that Also, please don’t kill me guys. I want to learn about Central. Let’s see, can I get this right central Ohio diversity consortium? Oh, cool. And I actually talked to the President and they’re going to get involved with the city. And there’s the Ohio diversity. No, I’m sorry, City of Ohio diversity group, like you literally name it. I’m all over it. Like, I’m like, Where can I go? How can I engage? And why all of this is because I seriously can’t get enough of it. Right? Because I’m saying how can I build this culture, right culture of learning, number one, and number two, how do I engage with others who don’t have to have the exact same perspective or knowledge or experiences but we understand each other right? We believe in same kind of efforts that are need to be made across the your own organization across the city across across the state, right? So and then worse, if we develop a consistent message, hopefully then you’ll get to the right audiences and connect more authentically and develop even further relationships.

Cara North 27:11
Good advice, look in your local, wherever you live at, that might be a great place to start. And if not, then connect to him. I know he will help you in any way. One other question. This one’s outside of the scope of diversity and inclusion. One of the things that I get asked about all the time is, should I go back to school and get a master’s degree to do something in the learning and development space? And depending on the day, I might change my answer, or maybe not. But like we said in the beginning, Ankit and I are in the same master’s program. I graduated in 2015. He’s currently in it. One thing that I like to tell people that I learned in the workforce development program here is I like to say that I am school In the dark art of job and task analysis, and that’s something that I really dived into in my Human Resource Development classes here, being able to really take a job function or a task and break it down into measurable criteria of what success looks like. And that has really helped me brainstorm and think about how I build my learning experiences and how I build my assessments and how I know what needs to be included in this version versus something that’s kind of nice to know. So that’s been one of my biggest takeaways so far. I know what you’re a year in now, is that right?

Ankit Shah 28:36
My second semester.

Cara North 28:39
Second semester. All right. I thought you were further along than that. Um, what have you What have you learned in the l&d space in the in this degree so far?

Ankit Shah 28:47
Oh, my gosh, I have loved every minute of my classes, but I’m also you know, education geek, so, but you know, to me, I took so my first semester I took the Human Resource Development class, and Just an education, teaching and learning. And even then I said, you know, what, we, in workforce in general, we need to wake up, right? Because whether we want to or not, is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. So technology being number one like and, you know, how are we staying current and relevant with how the technology is progressing and disrupting the workforce? Right. And so, for me, even those two classes, even though you know, we may not have gone exactly in the direction that I thought we would. But what I took away from was, is, well, if you want to be part of this workforce, and you put in, you know, artificial intelligence, right, that is disrupting it, what do you need to do to continuously learn, because whether we like it or not, learning is the new thing. You know, and I just happen to love it. So it’s cool. It’s not it’s not a big deal. But like, if you want to keep yourself relevant in an organization or in your industry, man, you better keep your skills up to date. You Right. And so and to even further the conversation where she said, do we need to get, you know, another degree, right? I and I use also, I also used to be a grad school advisor.

Cara North 30:13
What haven’t you done?

Ankit Shah 30:15
And so, you know, I will always say to me, if you’re going to pursue another degree, please, please, please do your research and really know why, you know, and to me like the reason why I’m pursuing this because first of all, it aligns really well with my current job because we’re studying more, first of all for alumni. And then for me knowing what I want to do next, I was also thinking and just aligned really well. Then I connected with Cara for an informational interview to learn about the program. Does it fit with my values and goals? Go sit in on classes, do not ever make a decision about going to get another degree just because you feel like it. You know? So I would say actively research and know what you want. And then more importantly, what do you want to do after you get that degree? Right? So now with learning shifting in so many ways, if you like, you know what, I don’t have time to go back and do this whole degree, no big deal. We support higher ed work in higher ed not saying don’t do degree, right, right. But now you can go get certifications, you can do you know, short classes or even certain type of classes on Coursera, edX, right? Udemy, you name it. There’s so many ways you can learn. So here’s what organizations are looking for, from what I’m studying and what I have seen done employee relations, career development, right is, how are you going to come into an organization and keep yourself up to date, right? No employer has time to sit down with you and go do this and do this and do this. Nobody has time to hold hands, right? Doesn’t mean that they’re not willing to support you and guide you and mentor you. But you also have to take active role in your own career. Right. So if you think getting additional foundation through getting another degree, if it’s the right thing for you then do it. But don’t do it just because you don’t know what to do. And now a degree is another thing you need to do. That is not a reason to to a graduate degree, right? There’s other ways to gain skillsets on the job, whether it’s through these other platforms are going to get a certification, or maybe taking just one class and not a whole degree. So you got to figure out what is right for you. But man, you better do your research.

Cara North 32:30
I agree. Great advice. As always, again, I don’t know what this man hasn’t gotten he, he’s just dove into a little bit of everything. I love it. So if you’re like me, and this maybe is the first time you’re hearing about diversity and inclusion in the way that he has said it, I do think he said it very eloquently. But again, it’s a lot to unpack. I’ll roll out with this and end our conversation with us if you’ll let me. Sure. He told me a story that I think really solidifies the importance of this from when he was in school. And I don’t know if he’d be kind enough to share the story. But for me, this is like the vision and also your future TEDx talk will be be about this, but I want him to share the story about what he experienced when he came to the United States. And I really think this sums up for me what diversity and inclusion is all about.

Ankit Shah 33:25
Sure, sure. I’m happy to share. So Well, thank you, Cara, for letting me share this story. So what I had moved to United States back in 1996, and did not speak one word of English. And I was thrown into middle school, and some urging from Cleveland, Ohio, and, you know, suburbia of Cleveland. And so predominantly, you know, I would say why school, middle school and my parents who did not understand and still to this point, don’t understand that how we connect identities with colors. Right? And so I was informed that as, and I learned this a little bit later. So my parents bought me a purple backpack for school and didn’t think one word of it, right? They’re just like it’s a backpack and it’s a color. What’s a big deal? Right? I did not know. And you all know how difficult medicals middle school can be a moment. Right? And then you add cultural barrier, right language barrier, and then these other sort of what do we want to call it, like these rules that are hidden that you don’t know about cultural norms, cultural norms, right. And so I did not know as a male in this population that I was with or the community that I was with carrying a purple backpack that means you’re part of the LGBT community, right? And I had no idea at that point what LGBT even was or didn’t have any exposure. So kids in middle school, just laugh at me, and would point at me and I’m like, Why are they laughing at me? And so then I learned from friends friend in my language because it’s another Indian kid in that school said, Do you realize that you are worrying? Or you have a purple backpack? And I’m like, and like, what is that? What’s the big deal? And so there’s just like, do you not know? And I’m like, No, what is it? Like? a purple is typically for girls and boys have blue block data. And I’m like, but why? And so they’re like, we don’t know. That’s just what it is. So you should change your backpack. And that just made me realize I’m like, wait a minute. So just another quick plug for my dad. His favorite color is pink. Always has been he grew up in India, civil engineer by profession smart guy, right. And I had to educate him later by the way, you can wear pink. He’s like, why? So we were just going, and nobody could fully Tell me. Like, why are we connecting people’s sexuality and identity with the color? Like, it makes no sense, right? And now I know that colors are a little bit more trendy. And guys can wear different things. But even in that time, and I still think even to this point, depending on what organization you’re in, or what role you’re in, there’s still a little bit of that in some spaces, right? It’s sort of hidden and whatever, but it still exists. And what I learned from that I was just like, wow, carrying a backpack made me part of the LGBT community. And it didn’t make any sense. And I had to change who I was I can fit within versus being myself, right. And so even then, I feel bad now for my father, who had to educate like when you go to work, you can have a pink handkerchief or you can have this and he’s just like, that’s my favorite color. And so and you know, and Now I think it would be okay. But even back in that time, I’m just like, I don’t know how that works. And to me, I’m like, you know what, whether I like pink, purple, whatever other code and I also happen to be colorblind. So that doesn’t help, you know. So, you know, when they were telling me I had purple, I thought it was blue, whatever. Let’s put that aside, right. That’s a different issue from time. But how? That simple example just tells you how we make assumptions all the time, or we assume that that person, especially if they’re from different background experiences, already should know what is to be Norman culture.

Cara North 37:38
please encourage him. I do think that that would be a great TEDx talk the purple backpack, I can just see it. You need to make that part of your brand on kit. Thank you so much for being part of our podcast today. Where can people find you if they want to connect with you online?

Ankit Shah 37:52
No, absolutely. I’m on LinkedIn. But please connect me via email if you want to chat further. So my email is S H A H dot 1349 at OSU dot edu. I truly appreciate it opportunity to have this conversation. So thank you, Cara.

Cara North 38:09
We have a lot of great things to unpack in this episode. But challenge to you, if you’re listening is really think about what are kind of those norms and those unspoken rules. One thing you said in the story is, I don’t know why it’s that way. But that’s the way it is. I feel like that is such a deterrent to so many things in our organizations, right? We don’t know why that’s just the way it is. It’s always been that way. We’ve always done it that way. How many times have we heard that and how many times has that really ruined our innovation and really progressing in our building our learning experiences, I know I’ve dealt with it. I’m sure you all have to, but really challenge the status quo and really start to look at what your organization really is composed of. And again, if you don’t know how to get started, he is really energetic. He was bouncing up and down. The entire time about about this topic, please connect with Anca he’s more than happy to point you in the right direction. So again, thank you so much for listening to the instructional redesign podcast. Have a great day.

Joseph Suarez 39:10
Hey listeners, it’s Joe Suarez. We hope you enjoyed today’s conversation between Cara and Ankit… I wanted to point out that this episode was recorded months before the outbreak of COVID-19, the major inflection point on race that has occurred across the United States. For another, more timely conversation between Cara and Ankit, check out the July 1st 2020 TLDC episode: How to Have Conversations About Race at Your Workplace. You can find a link within the show notes of this episode on our website instructionalredesign.com