Vera Richa ’06: Working for Diversity and InclusionQ: Thanks for talking with us today, Vera! You’re working as a Diversity and Inclusion Analyst, which sounds fascinating, and you graduated from RPS almost ten years ago now… could you tell us a little about your journey?
A: I don’t feel like it’s been 10 years… I’m still trying to wrap my head around that! I have been back to campus a few times recently. My brothers Tony Richa ‘07 and Georges Richa ’10 graduated a few years after me, so that helped me stay in touch. And now I have a cousin, Jamie Chedid ‘17, who’s a junior there.
Ten years later, I still really miss Rutgers Prep. I started there as a sophomore after having been a student at a school that was focused on the health field. I knew that I wanted to consider a wider range of possibilities and be exposed to a diverse student body, and so I came to Rutgers Prep. The school is on a mission to make sure that it reflects the full range of human diversity in as many ways as possible, and I never once felt like that I didn’t fit in or belong. No matter what I cared about, I knew that Rutgers Prep would support me in that.
For me, the diversity of Rutgers University was a big part of the draw to attend there. Once I arrived, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself, and I guess RPS set me up for that, too… at Rutgers Prep I’d been surrounded by smart people who really valued education, so I knew that I wanted to keep those values. When I started college, I had a goal of being “successful,” but I wasn’t really clear about what that meant for me. I was interested in marketing because it dealt with the psychology of the consumer, which I think actually started with my favorite class at Rutgers Prep – psychology! Ultimately, I chose to pursue a degree in Finance in order to challenge myself and learn more about the financial industry.
Immediately after graduating from Rutgers University, I worked at Goldman Sachs for almost two years, specifically focusing on foreign exchange deals, where I did well, but ultimately felt like it wasn’t really me.
When a family friend, who ran a small consulting firm, needed help with recruitment and marketing, I tried my hand at that, which was interesting, but not entirely challenging enough for me. I enjoyed the work, but I realized I missed the structure of a large firm, particularly an investment bank.
Meanwhile, my twin (Eva Richa ‘06) was in a rotational program at Barclays that offered more structure and some interesting opportunities, so I then came back into the corporate environment, still seeking my ideal fit. For almost three years, I worked in change management supporting finance. I led projects that enhanced reports and systems used by all finance teams at Barclays. While the team and stakeholders I worked with were great, I found little fulfillment in the content of the work. I ultimately decided that my next move was going to need to be more in the arena of people-skills, towards an area where I could really feel like I was making a difference.
Thankfully, Barclays encourages internal mobility and with the support of my manager, I was able to transition into a role in Human Resources. Since June 1, I have assumed the role of Diversity & Inclusion analyst supporting the global firm. I spend my time thinking about how to support employee network groups in their work, and working to help make sure everyone can be their full selves at work. I still get to use the mathematical and analytical skills I developed in my previous work, which I realize now that I love to do. I help make sure that our Diversity Dashboard is reflective of our current reality, and that we’re on target to meet our goals with regards to recruitment, retention and development of women, particularly in senior roles.
Some of my work includes connecting new military veteran hires with senior military veteran employees already at the firm in a mentoring program, revitalizing a campaign to show folks how they can be allies to the LGBTQ community, and this year we’re also rolling out our “He-for-She” campaign to align with the UN’s campaign.
What draws me most to this role is being able to feel that I’m helping people move towards a work environment in which they can truly be themselves.
Q: That sounds so great; it’s wonderful to see people find work that really aligns with their values. Do you have any advice you’d like to share with current Argonauts?
Trust your instincts. Advice only goes so far… no one else truly knows your heart and your dreams. Don’t worry too much about other people’s expectations or about making money; if you do something you really love, you’ll excel at it, and the money will follow. Know who you are and you’ll be successful on your terms! And if you don’t know what your dreams are yet, that’s totally fine… just expose yourself to as many possible career paths as you can, and you’ll figure it out. If it takes you a little longer, so be it; we are all on our own timelines. And finally? Don’t sweat the small stuff!