For Principal Olivia Anglade, bringing her “whole self” to work has been an evolution. She began her career as an Engineer Officer in the United States Army and has worked as a civil engineer, most notably in Haiti, where she worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) following the 2010 earthquake.
She now supports public and private sector clients from our Washington, D.C., office. We spoke with her recently about her military career, service as a civilian, and being a solo parent.
Here’s an excerpt from that conversation, in Olivia’s words:
My parents emigrated from Haiti as teenagers, separately, and they met in the U.S. My father served 20 years in the Navy, so I moved around a lot as a kid. I spent the formative years of my childhood in Seoul, South Korea.
September 11, 2001, was my senior year of high school. Being overseas … it was nighttime, so I went to sleep and in my mind, I thought, How are they actually going to fix that?
My class was the first, in over 20 years, where we consciously applied to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs or to the military academies knowing we were going to serve in the military when the U.S. was at war. For us, it was a conscious decision. My perspective on it was: This is why the military exists. If I'm not going to do it, who else will?
At university, I studied civil engineering and did ROTC. I served five years in the Army as an engineer officer. My soldiers were carpenters, electricians, and plumbers, and we built single story masonry and wood framed structures.
The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 was a moment in my life where my two worlds collided: I'm Haitian American and I build for a living. From 2012-2014 I worked in Haiti as a contractor with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
There is a lot of burden—mental, emotional, and physical—that we put into this idea of perception. We're trying to manage how we’re being perceived when we step into a space.
“Whole self” for me is fundamentally showing up authentically, without burden. Without having to think, What do I say? How should I look? What can I and can’t I do? I see whole self as showing up free of those worries.
In the military, the environment is fairly constrained. There are a lot of rules involved, from how to wear your uniform to even how you can interact with each other, which makes it a bit more straightforward. There's a mission—you have an explicit chain of command structure, you work together to achieve a common objective, you take care of each other because lives depend on it.
Coming to BCG and working in client services has been very different. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I would be perceived by others. At first, I would find myself just not sharing my ideas or showing my personality. This behavior has shifted and I am much more open, which has led to stronger connections.
Building connection with your teams and with your clients is incredibly important in the work that we do. I more fully recognize that now than I did early on in my career.
The murder of George Floyd was a horrifying event where the world had to pay attention. We were required to reckon with racial inequities—including impacts on the way that Black Americans move through the professional world and how we always have moved through the professional world. This idea that, your Black colleagues are not OK, even if they look OK, they are not OK.
That was a flashpoint. As a result, there has been increased dialogue about race in the workplace and racial equity commitments to close inequity gaps. The business case for diversity has been established for a while now. It is a fact. It is a given. But now, employers were forced to address racial inequity in America head on.
We haven't solved it at all. But we can at least acknowledge the importance of creating psychologically safe environments, inclusive spaces for all of us to feel welcome. If I am comfortable in the team environment that I am in, I will challenge others in a professional way. We will have thought partnership that leads to a better answer, because we've created a space where people feel comfortable to speak up.
I am a single mother by choice—a solo parent. I consciously made the decision during the pandemic to have a child without a partner. When I told my family they were quite surprised but also a thousand and ten percent supportive. They were absolutely thrilled.
I have an easy-going 13-month-old who's an absolute joy. I found that after having a child, you enter into another space with coworkers. You're now part of a group of people who you can relate and connect with in ways that I previously hadn't. It’s created another community at work.
At the end of the day, we are a people-driven business. If we don't have our people, we don’t have a company.
I have always told myself, the moment I believe that the work is more important than, or at the expense of, our people is the moment I need to leave, because then, what's the point?