February is Black History Month and we’re celebrating Ivey alumni who have demonstrated Black excellence in their professional and personal life. In their own words, they share who and what helped them to define Black excellence and how that influenced their career and life, as well as ways to empower Black excellence all year round. Read on to learn how Robert Ebere, EMBA ’21, exhibits Black excellence and how family members and even pen pals helped him to recognize and appreciate his core values and culture.
Get to know Robert Ebere, EMBA ’21
My name is Robert Ebere, and I'm a father to two amazing kids and a husband to my lovely wife. I currently live in Calgary, Alberta, a dual citizen of both Canada and Nigeria. Professionally, I work as an Engineering Manager in a tech firm, Caylent, leading a team of architects and engineers that supports clients on their cloud journey across various technologies.
How do you define or describe Black excellence?
First, it is important to state that excellence should always be encouraged across all human races. Specific to Black excellence, I would describe it within the context of the following four pillars:
- Personal life – Living with a sense of gratitude, integrity, empathy, and love. It’s also about creating a healthy family environment while showcasing good moral values;
- Professional life – Striving to be the best in your field, explore new terrains, and collaborate often. My advice: reinvent yourself often and prioritize continuous learning, set good examples for the next generation, and encourage diversity in the workplace;
- Society – Being intentionally present in the lives of your friends, extended family members, neighbours, and members of the community at large. Always strive to make a positive impact; and,
- Identity – Have a sense of who you are and be comfortable with yourself, irrespective of societal norms and definitions. Celebrate your culture, heritage, beliefs, tradition, and local language (if you have one).
What foundational experiences supported your Black excellence?
Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, there were two unique experiences from both my parents, which in hindsight, kicked off the spark of excellence in me. My mother, who was a teacher, had a definition of academic success that was not typical. A typical expectation, such as passing exams, was expected by default, instead she wanted you to always perform better than your previous top score. This instilled in me a culture of continuous self-improvement towards excellence.
On the other hand, my father, who worked with the postal service, provided me with the opportunity to contrast and celebrate the uniqueness of our core values and culture on the international stage. He encouraged me to connect with pen pals across several continents. The exposure from the exchange of letters gave me a sense of identity of excellence early on as I could quickly contrast various cultural lifestyles through the eyes of fellow pen pal friends.
How can business schools/institutions empower Black excellence all year round?
Schools, institutions, and industry can create Black excellence awards celebrating students, members, and employees of colour who have exemplified strong leadership traits, great character, and good academic/professional achievements. A democratic process should be prioritized when choosing the award recipients.
In addition, schools can create excellence training camps for students of colour aimed to teach and educate them on various qualities that encourage excellence. Similarly, institutions and industry can organize communities that promote and celebrate Black excellence as mainstream.