TBB Talks To … Author Rene Germain

Rene Germain is a careers writer, digital products manager and author of Black and Great: The Essential Workplace Toolkit published by Coronet Books.

In Black and Great ... Rene writes on topics including salary negotiation, overcoming imposter syndrome, creating your personal brand, preparing for the future of work and more. With years of experience in financial services and digital technology, Rene reflects on her own experience in the workplace. Her book is aimed at students, young professionals, and those entering the world of work, and she highlights the challenges Black people face in the workplace. She has been blogging careers advice on Blk & Great for many years, and her new book brings together the practical and encouraging advice of over twenty contributors with experience in different industries.

We spoke to Rene about her career thus far, and of course, for some advice…

Please introduce yourself

My name is Rene, I was born here in the UK but my family are from Dominica and Jamaica. I’m an author, writer and mobile app product manager.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now. 

Purposeful.

Could you tell us more about your career background and when you conceived the idea for your book, Black and Great: The Essential Workplace Toolkit

I graduated from Loughborough University in 2016 and worked in Investment banking operations, before transitioning to technology consulting and now product management.

The idea for Black and Great came to me in 2017, a year after I had graduated. It didn’t take long for me to realise based on my own experience and what I could see, that the Black workplace experience was different, often times challenging and it was something that many of us were totally unprepared for.

I started to blog about my workplace learnings to share advice to Black students that were soon to graduate or at the beginning of their careers like myself and I’d get so many messages from people wanting further advice or thanking me for writing about experiences they could relate to. As I started to look for career advice in the form of books, podcasts and other mediums to help me with my own career, I noticed what existed was totally devoid of the Black experience. The “one size fits all” career advice that white writers were sharing didn’t work for us, not considering the unique challenges we faced. I believed I could create an alternative for our community that not only provided practical career advice but also acted as a source of inspiration, showcasing the career journey of over 20 successful Black British individuals in a variety of industries.

Growing up, you have said that you didn’t see many visible Black role models in the public eye or in schools, or in other professional roles. Is there anyone that you remember being inspired by growing up?

My Uncle David stands out to me. After college, he decided not to attend university and instead purchased some books on computer programming, teaching himself how to program at home. Today he is one of the most influential technology leaders in the UK and one of the youngest. His drive, hard work and dedication to excellence are something that always inspired me. Black and Great… is aimed toward students as well as career professionals.

What do you think is lacking in schools regarding inspiring students?

Black students aren’t introduced to a wide range of role models at school, so it almost limits what they believe they can aspire to be. Showcasing Black people who have achieved success in fields such as medicine, law, technology, advertising, architecture, sport and more helps Black students see that they too can be successful in these spaces and they are not just reserved for white people. Current role models are also key, as typically when Black role models are discussed at times such as Black history month, they are always people from a long time ago and are usually African American. Unfortunately, many Black British students can’t relate to them. Whilst knowing our history and understanding our foundations is key, we also shouldn’t neglect the Black British contributions of those who are alive and present today.

You have been blogging careers advice on different mediums for some time now. What types of advice did people often request or gained the most traction?

My articles on Salary negotiation, overcoming imposter syndrome and how to make a career pivot were popular. My article on salary negotiation led to lots of messages and direct messages from people wanting me to provide further insights which are why I wrote a chapter about it in Black and Great.

You address building confidence and imposter syndrome in the book. Were there any moments leading up to the publication of the book when you had to remind yourself of your own advice?

For sure, especially as a debut writer I had so many high and low days as it got closer to my book launch. With my book being something I wrote alongside my day job, I had some insecurities about not being seen as a real writer. Also, as someone who is not an online personality or with a large following, I was concerned that my book just wouldn’t reach the intended audience. I remember thinking to myself, who other than my friends and family will purchase my book. I was beyond overjoyed when I saw that it became an amazon best seller 2 days after release.

Black and Great features letters of advice from, such as Ashley Walters and Beverley Knight, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP and Alex Boateng. Did you notice any commonalities in advice across different industries? 

Community was a common theme, the importance of finding spaces where you feel safe to be your authentic self. Building and maintaining relationships also came up often across various industries as well as prioritising our mental health.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else that you are excited about this year? 

Since the book launch, I’ve been doing lots of school talks and company workshops around some of the key themes in the book which will continue throughout the rest of the year. I’m enjoying listening to the feedback about the book to think about what I can do next to support Black students and fellow professionals.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU …

A book you have to have in your collection? Oooohh this is a tough one. A book I recently read and will go back to is called You are your best thing, a collection of essays edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown, about vulnerability, shame and resilience as a Black person.


A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? This song doesn’t define my life, but when I was writing Black and Great, the song Young, Gifted and Black, by Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths was something I leaned on with its inspiring message and what I hoped to achieve with my book.


A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? This is Us


The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? Spice Girls was the first concert I went to and it meant everything to see 5 young women each with their own identity having fun and being unapologetically themselves.


What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad and Mad would be the impact of climate change; the extreme heat and the fires led to lots of people losing their homes in some parts of Europe and their lives. Glad would be my village, my close circle of friends who are always there when I need them.


Black and Great: The Essential Workplace Toolkit is available to purchase here.

8,758FansLike
43,934FollowersFollow
19,800FollowersFollow
921SubscribersSubscribe

Latest articles

Related articles