Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.
Name: Berthine Crèvecoeur West
Company: Westbridge Solutions
Where to Find You:
How did you get started in diversity, equity, and inclusion work?
My story began with what could have been considered a failure. I got laid off from my first and only job here in Atlanta, Georgia, just when I learned that my husband and I were expecting our baby. Needless to say, I was at a loss as to what I was going to do next. After one day of mourning a job I, admittedly, never enjoyed, I decided the next day to create what would become the foundation of my company and our signature training platforms. I performed a SWOT analysis on myself, not only to discover my strengths and weaknesses, but to also create a rubric that would empower me to do not only what I was great at, but what I also enjoyed doing! Oftentimes, in life, the two are not aligned and it requires a degree of intentionality and clarity on our parts to make them so.
After this analysis, I realized that I could use my multilingual skills (I am a speaker of four languages), as well as the knowledge that I had amassed while working in the corporate, legal, and financial sectors. I knew that entrepreneurship was the right and only path for me to achieve my goals and empower others to achieve theirs, as well.
So, I sought training to become a professional Interpreter. After I received my certificate, I then completed my National Certification and became the first Nationally Certified Healthcare Interpreter for Haitian Creole in the state of Georgia. My work as an Interpreter took me to various parts of the state and country. I saw the need for culturally competent and inclusive professional development within the many sectors I was fortunate enough to serve. It was then that I decided to educate myself and prepare myself to pivot toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. The rest, as they say, is HER-story.
As a professional trainer, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing companies today?
As a professional trainer, the biggest problem I have encountered is two-fold. The first is performative allyship. Too often organizations seek to have DEI trainer speak to a group and think that is all that is required. The diversity box can be checked off and then the work is done. That is actually not training. While there is a place and a space for seminars about diversity, it should not be confused with actual training. Training requires assessments, theoretical methodologies, processes, and practical applications.
The next challenge is employee engagement and executive commitment. While organizations are well-intended with respect to wanting to create inclusive and equitable workplaces, effective and successful training programs require commitment at the executive level. As a professional trainer, when speaking to the C-suite, it is imperative for me to impart upon them that DEI training is good for business and show them the potential return on investment this presents for their organization. Even a highly effective DEI program will face challenges when employees are made to attend. With committed executives spearheading this training, engagement can be fostered prior to launching the program. When programs are customized to suit an organization’s needs, as well as to energize and empower employees, employees naturally feel engaged and valued by their organizations. This will not only align them with the vision and mission of their organizations, but they will feel empowered to show up as their authentic selves.
You recently launched Global Fluency Magazine. What made you decide to branch out to this new medium?
I decided to launch Global Fluency Magazine because I wanted to create a space that allowed me to amplify other voices apart from my own. I wanted to invite different individuals from all over the world to come join the conversation, to share differing perspectives, and to explore current events with a DEI lens. There is an African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Global Fluency Magazine was built upon us all traveling on the road of our shared human experience… together.
In addition to your new magazine, you’re also an author and podcast host on top of your day-to-day work. How do you make mental health and self-care a priority?
It is a lot to do, but I make certain to use time-blocking strategies. For instance, I reserve Mondays as my administrative days and Thursdays as my podcasting days. Evenings and Sundays are reserved for my family. I have also adopted Warren Buffet’s strategy of using the power of saying “No.” I preserve and maintain my mental health by choosing clients to whom I know I can bring value, but who will also not undervalue me. I have also set boundaries with regard to the amount of time I invest in meetings and respect others’ time, as well. Time is a rare and valuable commodity.
Lastly, I take days off from work and when I do, I make sure that I have fun! I believe in “working smart” and being agile. As the comedian Ricky Gervais says, “The Reward is the hard work!” Because I so love what I do, it’s important that I am at my best, so I’m around to do it. That is also why I believe in going to the beach, laughing out loud, giving hugs to my loved ones, and enjoying life.
What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
The best career advice that I have received was from a colleague and sales consultant, who was providing some constructive criticism about my company’s website. When she saw the “Meet Our CEO” page, she said to me “That’s a nice picture. But it doesn’t look like you and how I know you at all.” She was absolutely right!
The image was your typical conservative image of me in a suit. It was fine, but there was nothing about my personality in that picture. I could not empower others if I did not empower myself and give myself permission to show up as my authentic self. So now, not only does my online presence reflect my personality, but it allows both clients and potential clients to feel empowered by the Westbridge Solutions brand and all that it represents. Show up boldly and authentically in your business, in your role, in your life and be intentional about it. Best advice ever!
If we were literally “around the table” right now, what food would you have brought to share and why?
If we were around the table right now, I’d bring a charcuterie plate. I can literally live off meats, cheeses, fruit, and nuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s literally something on those platters for everyone! The perfect, inclusive dish!
Interested in building a relationship and joining us around the table? Let’s connect.