17 and a Half Questions with Eva Washington

20 Apr, 2021

We ask inspiring people 17 and a half questions. This week we have Eva Washington, Operations Manager at the Black Solicitors Network in the UK. Her work promotes equal opportunities and anti-racism. She shares the personal thoughts and experiences that have shaped her path

1. What I like about my job

I like working for a cause that I’m passionate about, with people that inspire me and reflect my own values and beliefs.  The work I do day-to-day is always really diverse, I get to contribute a lot of my own ideas and manage services/initiatives and I enjoy the responsibility.  Through this, I get to meet lots of interesting and experienced people both within BSN and outside with our partner and client facing work.

2. What sometimes frustrates me

As a not-for-profit, we have to adapt as we grow, which can leave us wishing we could do more.  This means I’m always thinking about what could be done to improve the operation.  BSN has been able to make significant progress since 1995 and I have personally seen fantastic growth in the 2 years I have been with BSN, so it’s impressive that we have achieved so much with the resources we have.

3. My secret dream job

Whenever people asked what job I wanted, I would say ‘solicitor’, but didn’t ever actually have the confidence to follow this path or believe it could be possible for me.  When I was at university, I knew I would love to work in diversity and inclusion work or anti-racism work in some way, which I am doing now!  I’d love to go into consultancy one day.

I’d secretly love to have a fashion line or do some styling work as I’m obsessed with fabrics, textures, colours and embellishment.  I love mixing textures and doodling eveningwear designs.  During lockdown, I bought a sewing machine to start making my own clothes and began selling them on Depop, which I still do in my spare time, it’s fun!  Hopefully, I’ll take some sewing lessons in 2021 and improve my skills so that I can make some of my more complex designs.

4. Best strategy to survive a really bad day at the office

Good food makes a bad workday bearable.  I never start the day without breakfast and I love cooking – I always feel better after a good, home-cooked meal.  Getting to the gym in the week also helps and I’m looking forward to them re-opening in the UK.

I try to focus on the bigger picture.  On days when you’ve made mistakes, you will have also done some things well, so it’s important to focus on the positives, accept the negatives and try to improve for next time.

5. How I get into the flow

Being in a job I love and doing work I care about means I can easily get in the zone for work.  It’s much harder when you’re doing a job you don’t enjoy.  I also listen to music when I can.

6. Biggest success so far

I’m still young, but my undergraduate dissertation was a huge achievement.  I never thought I’d finish university due to some difficult personal circumstances, but I was determined to finish my degree and get a first.  At the end of 2018, I wrote on a piece of paper that my goal was to get the highest grade in my cohort for the dissertation module.  I didn’t achieve the highest grade, but I did achieve the second highest grade at 85% and won an award for it.  Whenever I think back to this time, I remember that at one point during my first year, I was aiming for a pass and couldn’t see myself achieving anything higher.  Before that, I didn’t even think university was an option for me.  So, to have graduated from the University of Manchester with a first was a dream come true and I will always be proud of that.

7.  Biggest defeat

My defeats in life have been due to circumstances I’ve had almost no control over. Whilst they did set me back a few years, I accepted these defeats, made plans to get back on track, set goals and tried again.  I’ve had so many setbacks from a young age that I began expecting them.  Once I pushed back on that feeling and starting having a positive mindset, things started to change.

I’m a big believer in people trying to reach their goals at any stage of life – seeing people retrain in the later stages of their working life is great and there should be no shame in being older than you think you should be.  People used to call me a grandma for re-starting university at the mere age of 20 instead of 18 – it’s ridiculous!

8. Worst buzzword

I hate most jargon!  I like to speak plainly.  I’m glad the use of ‘BAME’ (Black and Asian Minority Ethnic) is being reconsidered – I think it’s fine to use in some instances, but each group of people has their own unique experiences of racism, stereotyping and microaggressions which should be researched and addressed individually.

9.  Best reward after a hard week at work

Takeaway stone baked pizza – artichokes, spinach and salami is the one.

10. Home office or in-house

Best of both.  I used to like working in the office as it always made me feel active and I liked getting out in the fresh air.  I used to think I was making the most out my days but in reality, you can get way more done working at home.  I can cook a fresh lunch, pop out to the post office or even book a doctor’s appointment.  I do miss the interaction in the office, getting out of the house and the samosas at my favourite city café, but I’d say that my quality of life has improved since working from home. 

11. Most important traits a colleague/business partner must have

I enjoy working with people that inspire me, as I like to learn as much as I can from the people around me.  I like people who are prepared to muck in with you and who will be diligent.  I also care a lot about responsible business choices and for me, knowing that my values are aligned with my colleagues at BSN in relation to anti-racism and diversity has a tangible, positive impact on me.

12. My creative hack

It’s important to take creative inspiration from all areas of life as you never know where your next idea will come from.  

For my work, Canva is great.  I’m glad to see that over the past year, some of the imagery available has become more diverse.

13. First website to check in the morning

LinkedIn – it’s important for me to see what topics are being spoken about.  I follow lots of people who inspire me and who offer really valuable insights into their careers and their views on current topics. 

14. Favorite digital tool

Trello was useful for when I was self-employed. 

15. The book or series from which I have learned the most for my (work) life

The work I read at university for a ‘Decolonising’ module had a huge impact on my life [Editor’s note: a university module which aims to unpack and challenge the cultural baggage of colonialism in a given subject].  This was probably the first time I actually began to believe that I could succeed despite my background.  The module leader encouraged us to use as many different sources as possible, including podcasts, blogs and video content: they are accessible and will mean that you have a broad range of perspectives not limited to only those who can be published authors.  Being critical and open-minded is always key.

16. A series, book or podcast I can recommend to anyone

The Toya Talks and Black Women Working podcasts.  Both are designed for Black women – but anyone can listen and will learn a great deal.

17. Most prominent follower on a social media channel?

On LinkedIn I’m connected with lots of incredible trailblazers in D&I through BSN.  Being connected with the BSN Directors such as Paulette Mastin (chair) and Cordella Bart-Stewart OBE (co-founder) means that I see a lot of great content from their connections.

17 and a half: What has always...

… kept me going: The idea that I can build the life I want.  There are always setbacks and it’s not easy, but I can do it.

Curaze

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