How ERGs and extracurriculars drive my career development

March 25 / Global

By Camiel Irving, Head of Marketplace

Participating in ERGs plays a huge role in my professional development, and it’s a habit that I’ve been building since I was very young. 

In many Black American church communities, there’s a tradition called Easter Parts. Every year from age 4 until about 12, I had to stand in front of hundreds of people and deliver a poem or speech that celebrated the holiday. At the time, I had no idea that I was training to deliver presentations to CEOs. 

Fast forward to my time as the VP of Programming for my sorority chapter, I pitched a big idea to invest our entire budget into a new fundraising event. The board voted down my idea and shared all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. Instead of letting it deter me, I reworked my proposal, presented to the board again, and we ultimately threw a modified event. I didn’t know that I was learning to collaborate and incorporate client feedback into a pitch. 

The work I was doing outside of school was preparing me to be successful in the future.

Some of us forget that we interviewed for jobs right out of college, and we didn’t rely on years of experience or promotions. We relied heavily on extracurricular activities to demonstrate our skills. 

Now that many of us are years into our careers, I’ve observed people getting frustrated because their current scope doesn’t give them a chance to build the skills they need to get to the next level. But I’m here to share a secret: extracurricular activities didn’t stop in college and their worth is even more impactful now.

Each of us should have a development plan that lays out the roles we want in our careers and the experiences, relationships, and formal training we need to get there. 

Your plan will involve your daily work tasks. But I’m living proof that that’s only part of your experience. Extracurriculars, like Employee Resource Groups (ERG), can be hugely important as a way to advance your career and make a real difference in the lives of others.

I’m active in the Black at Uber ERG, and my work is connected to my personal mission and it has also become a huge part of my development plan, supporting my development in 3 ways:

I find projects that match the skills I want to build, or I pitch my own, and you can too.

I meet mentors, make peer connections, and find sponsorship that can connect me to new experiences and advocate for me when it’s time to level up.

Working in an ERG can be a safe space to learn new things in a community of people where you can fail fast with little risk. You can then take these skills into your day job.

Through my professional career, my work in ERGs has complimented my day job to build the total picture of my experiences, and that continues today. So much so that I want everyone to get the same value. You might be asking, “What does this even look like at a huge company like Uber?” 

Last year, I launched a program called “Black at Uber professional networks” or “pro-networks.” Pro-networks are a structure within our ERG that connects members who do similar jobs. My vision is that pro-networks make it even easier for Black at Uber members and allies to make the ERG a part of their development plans. 

At the same time, the act of building it is stretching me as a leader. I hope to lead a large business at Uber one day, and one skill that will help get me there is the ability to transform an organization and get people bought into new ways of doing things. I’d love to share this experience one day to discover a new business solution at Uber or to find new roads to progress my career. 

As you’re reviewing your development plan, where can extracurricular activities, like ERG involvement, help fill in the gaps? Getting involved with your local communities can give you the chance to build the skills you may not get in your current role, and meet people who can help get you to the next level. 

I hope you’ll consider jumping into an extracurricular activity to drive your growth. 

If you’re interested in joining us, explore our open roles →