Why losing a job led to helping others find theirs

October 20, 2021

In this episode, Indeed CEO Chris Hyams catches up with Astou N’Diaye, an International Insights & Content Manager on Indeed’s Social Impact team.

Born in France to Senegalese parents, Astou spent 20 years in the airline industry. She started off as part of the cabin crew, and eventually became the head of the marketing department at City Jet. Astou’s personal mission at Indeed is to help people with barriers find jobs — something she became quite familiar with after losing her job during the pandemic.

- Hello, and welcome everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. And welcome to the next episode of "Here To Help". Our mission at Indeed is to help people get jobs. This is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night. And what powers that mission is our people. "Here To Help" originally started as a look at how Indeed has been navigating the impact of COVID 19, but through these weekly conversations, it has really evolved into a look at how people's experiences and stories inspire them to want to help others. Today is October 11th. We are on day 587 of global work from home. And at Indeed one of our five core values is inclusion and belonging. In the US we recognize Black History Month in February, but in Europe, October is Black History Month, where it's a celebration of the continued achievements and contribution of black people of African and Caribbean descent to the wellbeing of Europe and the world. It's also an opportunity to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture in their own way, in their own words. Today, my guest is Astou N'Diaye, International Insights and Content Manager on the Social Impact Team here at Indeed and based in Dublin. Astou, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Hi Chris, thank you for having me.

- Well, let's start where we always start these conversations. How are you doing today?

- I'm doing, I think pretty good. A bit nervous, obviously. I can see the numbers of participants, so, I'm like, "Okay, this is real, this is happening." And the way I feel it's today didn't start really well, I got locked out of my house, so, I had to call the locksmith to help me to get back in. But anyway, it went fine. And I still feel a bit nervous about what happened this morning. I couldn't believe that it happened to me, but I feel good. And, but I'm happy. I feel good. Sun is shining here today in Dublin, so I feel good.

- That's great. Well, we were talking before the recording here and I always feel like a little catastrophe before a big event always distracts me. So, it was probably a good omen, I think. But let's dive right in and talk a little bit about your job at Indeed. Tell me how do you help people get jobs every day?

- So basically, as you said, I'm Insights and Contact Manager for EMEA. And basically I like to define what I do as an advocate of job-seekers facing barriers. So, understanding the barriers that job seekers are facing and working with different stakeholder within Indeed, and also external audience to create that awareness about job seekers having difficulties to find job and how to come over, those situations for them. So this is what my job is. I feel like my job is more of a call out for me really, because it's something that resonated personally. And what I do with within the team, it's really focusing on those issues that makes the experience of job seekers to find job with difficult. And that's what my job is. It's actually focusing on these and trying to help as many people as we can.

- So you're based in Dublin, but you grew up in the suburbs of Paris. Your parents are from Senegal. Can you talk a little bit about your experience growing up in such a multicultural way.

- As you said, I was born in France and my parents are from Senegal, and being born in France, it was like, when I was at home, it felt like I was in Africa, but then the minute I'll pass the door, it was Europe. It was like a melting pot of culture. People from all over the world that I grew up with, different religions, different color, different ethnies and that was a very good and a rich experience for me because I learned so much about myself and a lot about the world. So it was something that makes me who I am today.

- So you were the first in your family to go to university. What were your thoughts at that point about what your career might look like?

- To be honest, I didn't think I knew that I had to educate myself and go to college because it was really important for my dad because my dad sacrificed a lot for my brother and my sister and I. And, they didn't have the opportunity to go to college themselves, so I had... Because my life was easier, because I was born in Europe, it was easier for me then to achieve those things. And I wanted to do it for my parents to be proud of me, but knowing like what I wanted to do was really... I didn't know what I could achieve then, you know. I knew that I had to be educated, but to do what really? I knew I wanted to do something, but what exactly, it wasn't really clear. I just knew that I wanted to help people. I wanted to share. I wanted to do something that was relevant and make people happy or feeling better. That's what I knew then.

- So you ended up then working at City Jet, which is an airline, and how did that come together? And what was the experience like?

- Basically, I was working at the beginning of my career for the French Education and I was helping kids who had like learning difficulties and I loved what I was doing, but at some stage I had kind of an introspection in terms of this is not what I want to do. What's available to me and I had the opportunity of... I mean, it wasn't an opportunity, because I didn't know what it was, what I wanted to do. I had a friend of mine that said, "Astou, you like traveling, you like people, why wouldn't you become, would you become an air hostess?" And I was like, "Do you know what, why not?" So I did that and I applied for City Jet and I remember actually when I had my interview, it was in a hotel, in the Marriott Hotel in Charlotte Dougla. And I remember getting ready. It was the first time that I was wearing a suit as well. And I had makeup and everything done. And then I drove my car and I went to the car park of the hotel, and all of a sudden, I just couldn't get out of the car because I never been to a place like that before. And I was thinking, "Oh my God, I don't belong. This is not for me, this is too much. I cannot be a cabin crew and being like in the air with all the pilots and fancy people on board." But anyway, I did got good out of the car, went to reception, talk to the reception to ask where I had to go. And I remember how difficult it was for me just to do that simple execution. I was mortified because I felt that I didn't belong, that everybody was looking at me, that everybody could see me and notice by difference, but anyway, I did. One of the interviewer was like two hours late. And I remember been sitting in the lobby and waiting and waiting and I didn't move. I didn't go to the toilet. I didn't ask for a glass of water because I was petrified to do anything wrong, but anyway, I did. And I had my interview. And they were really nice to me actually, because I think it's because they made me wait for two hours so they kind of... My interview wasn't as hard as I thought that it would be. But at the end I got the job. They gave me the opportunity and I left for Dublin two weeks later. But I remember it was my first interview actually ever. And I realize now how unprepared I was, because I knew nothing about the type of aircraft and the routes that they were operating, but they so something anyway and they gave me the opportunity. And then from there, my life changed and I flew to Dublin. I had to check on the map where was Dublin? I mean, I knew where Island was, but I was thinking, is it on the coast? Is it in the west? And because I had no idea so I had to look on the map and say, "Oh, this is where I'm going to live. So that's fine." But so that's the story about how I started in City Jet.

- So far you spent a lot of time there and what we'll get to the more parts of the story, but for many of those years you worked as a cabin crew. What was that experience like?

- There was something so different from what I could have experienced in my life, because first of all, it was about me being in front of all those people. And City Jet at the time like the Dublin to London City route, for example, it's a really business a route, so you have like, it's really business travel passengers kind of audience. And I remember doing the demo, you know the demo like emergency exits and everything. And I had all those white male and with the newspaper looking at me and I was like, "God, what am I doing here?" But I learned by being a cabin crew that you have such a small amount of time to make an impression on people. And like the communication is verbal and nonverbal. And I had like lovely experiences, but I learned a lot about myself in terms of the image that I reflect towards other people. And that kind of give me strength for to do the job. And then the more I was doing it, the better I was at it. And then I learned so much about me in terms of being in this environment and when the doors are closed and you're in the air, it's you, it's yourself, the passengers and the flight deck, so if something happens, you need to be in charge. And I think I felt stronger that I thought that it would be... So it was a lovely experience. And I learned a lot about myself and about people in general.

- So you had a big decision at one point and you moved to the head office in Dublin. What was the... What was that experience like when you first showed up and what unfolded from there?

- I think for me, like I remember being... I was flying at the time and I had the CEO of City Jet on the plane and, I'm the kind of person, if I like you, I show you I like you. You know, I'm always myself. And I had him a couple of times on my flight and we chatted and then I would be... I would actually behave exactly the same if he was there, or if he wasn't, I will always be myself 100%. But after that conversation I had with him, he just said to me asking, "I think you done flying, I can see that you can do other things. And I would like you to join the commercial team." And then he gave me the opportunity to go on the ground, because it's a big deal for cabin crew, like switching from flying to working on the ground. And he gave me the opportunity to join the e-commerce team. And this is where everything started for me in terms of my path within marketing. It was the opportunity that he gave me. He saw something in me that he thought that would be beneficial for the company. And I took the opportunity and I went for it.

- Like pretty much everyone else, your life was definitely impacted by the pandemic. And you had at that point, reached a role of head of marketing and that role was made redundant. What was that like after all of this time being with this one company and what did you go through?

- When the pandemic happened and I've been made redundant, I spent 20 years basically building my career to that point. And overnight everything was gone. I moved to Dublin for the job. So everybody that I knew was in the airline industry, and overnight my friends, my job, everything was gone, my inspiration for the future. And it was terrifying. I was in a place that I don't remember that I have been before because I had dreams. I wanted to achieve certain things and everything was gone overnight. So it was really difficult. I felt lost. I felt like working for me it's kind of an etic. And I felt like I lost my superpower. Like everything that I worked so hard, everything that had been true on a vessel was just for nothing. So, it was really difficult for me and for so many people. I mean, I know I'm not the only one that had a difficult time during COVID. And I think everybody in some shape or form had like a tough time, but for me my world kind of went upside down, and I had my daughter, she was two at the time. And I was thinking of saying to myself, "What kind of example am I going to be for her?" Because I'm home and I'm not working. I don't know what I'm going to do. So, yeah. So that was my experience.

- It is really profound. And it's something that maybe when people show up at work every day we're not thinking about, but that sense of purpose and that sense of identity that so many of us get from work, and obviously life is a lot bigger and family and other things, but are foundational. But I always think about that in terms of the work that we do here that you know a job is a source of economic opportunity, but it really is also a source of dignity. It's a source of identity. It's a source of pride. And so, I'd love to hear a little bit about it. So, you'd been working for 20 years and suddenly you were a job seeker for the first time in Ireland. And obviously for our work, this inspiration, that early experience that you had sitting in the car, waiting to get in, these experiences obviously shape, I think probably how you show up at Indeed, but can you talk through what that experience was like of being a job seeker again?

- I mean, the first word that comes to my mind is like loneliness. I remember that, it was COVID and I just remember it is something that comes to my mind. I was with my daughter at the playground and I met this lovely lady. She was with a child. And you know, I just decided just to go with just myself and because our children were playing with each other. And she was telling me that she was a homemaker and that she was thinking about when everything resumes that she would go back and find a job. And she asked me how I was. And I told her, "Listen, I just lost my job. I've been working for the same company for 15 years." And then she said to me, "Oh, were you a made? Were you a cleaner?" And I remember feeling like I wasn't upset because I knew she didn't say that to be mean or anything. She's just like the image that she had in front of her was this black woman and she must have been doing those type of job, which is nothing wrong with that because my own mother was a cleaning lady. But when she said that it was really hard for me because this is everything that I've been trying to fight against, you know? About having a certain vision about people just because of the way they look. And I remember, I didn't tell her then I was working for... That I was the head of marketing for the company, because I just felt I didn't want her to feel bad either, but at the same time, she kind of offended me. Not offended me, but what offended me is the fact that she didn't ask me what was my job? I told her I lost my job. I was working for this company, but she didn't ask me what I was doing or... You know, she just assumed for me. And then I think that that was really hard during COVID when I lost my job, because I just felt that that's it, like my superpower is gone and then just people would see me as just nothing. Not nothing but something that without substance or... And as I said, working in cleaning houses or anything like that, it's can... I remember my mom, when she got that job, she was really proud because she never worked before. It was an opportunity. And then I just felt that, I thought of her really strongly at that moment but I just felt like you see, this kind of narrative that... It's not right, you know. You need to let people do whatever they want to do, or express themselves with their own word and not putting the words in my mouth, you know. So anyway, I'm going about that to you, I'm just thinking about it and I can feel the heat coming up there, but it was... COVID was really hard because I felt sense of... I always had that drive and all of a sudden it was gone. And I could see in the mirror, with this lady, is it what the world is going to, this is how the word is seeing me without giving me a chance? So it was really difficult. And I had like a really difficult time, but you know I had like my husband, my family, my friends, always having like the good word to help me to see things positively and to do everything that I always have done up to today, just fight and try and try and try again. So it was really hard because I've been applying for lot of jobs. And it was not what I expected because I talked, "Listen, okay, I have some education, I have a degree, I have a masters, I speak languages, and listen, it's going to be fine, I'm going to find a job." But then rejections. Interviews that are going well but you feel that there is something that is not right. For example, when people commenting on your accent or... Okay, I have a French accent. Apparently I have an Irish tweng sometimes, really sometimes, come on, sometimes. And then I think for me going within the job market and try to find a job was really hard because it wasn't what I expected. It was harder than I thought that it will be. And I've been faced by pains in terms of what does it take? What would it take for me to find a job? What is it? Is it me? Is it the way I look? Is it my name? Is it my accent? Is it my level of English? What is it? Why can I not, actually succeed in terms of like the interview process. So, there is one thing though, just to tell you, like in the kind of shape that my head was, I was talking to my husband and I said, "Do you know what? I think let's redo my CV but I'm going to add your name, because my husband is Irish. Let's hide your name at the end of mine. I'm going to be asked in N'Diaye O'Callahan, just maybe that might help. And, now looking back, I just realized how desperate I was because I felt that me being Astou N'Diaye, being French, my parents born in Senegal, it wasn't enough. I needed something to kind of balance it out. And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm like, "Why? Never!" I would never ever do that again, because I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud of my name. And what, if it's an issue for some people, you know, tough luck! I think because of my own experience, I feel so connected with job seekers facing barriers, because I think that it was difficult, but there is like so many people that have it even, you know, more like difficult for them. Because for me it was, my barriers where a long time on employment, because it was more than six months. The fact that English wasn't my mother tongue, or the fact that I was coming from a specific industry. But I'm thinking about lone parents, people that have digital literacy or people that don't have a car or minders for the children. I'm thinking about all of those people. And my experience made me really aware and tuned in about what it's like to be in this situation. And even in a worst situation, because I need to be honest, my husband was working. I didn't have to worry too much about like paying bills and everything, but there is... This is the reality for some people. And I feel like, the orange chair that we have at Indeed, I feel that I'm sitting permanently within that chair all the time. I'm all the time thinking about what it is like for people that are in this situation, who are actually struggling. So, my experience it's... When I say advocate, I just feel that it's my job to present their voice in meetings or everything that we do. I'm always thinking about the question, I'm always questioning myself, but what it is like? What kind of experience is it like for certain people who are going through this? So it's definitely something that is important to me. And even though I shared a lot about my experience, the difficulty of having a job. People are in Indeed, are working and they're within a job, but maybe sometimes I'm thinking, I never want to forget what it is like to be without a job when I'm actually working. Because I think it is our day to day. And sometimes we kind of forget that we actually we lucky and obviously something that people deserves. But what about, can we remember the first time that you had to go for a job interview when you had nothing lined up behind, or you didn't have a job at all? You were actually real job seekers. And that's what we're trying to do within the Social Impact Team, is to remember that we're privileged to work and to do the job that we do, but focusing on the people that are not like us today.

- Now, the great thing is the story does have a happy ending 'cause we're having this conversation today. So obviously you landed at Indeed. So, you tell me a little bit about what it was about Indeed that got you interested in the opportunity here? And what is your experience been like since you got here?

- It was... I don't know how to... I can just thinking about it. I can feel it in my body, like how the happiness, because when I saw the job spec about my job, my current job, I remember feeling that the job was written for me, because the way it was written, it was about competencies. It was like the skills. It was about my experience. And when I read it, I was like, "This job has been written for me." Because the purpose of helping job seekers facing barriers to get job, the tonal voice, Indeed Missions altogether, like helping people. And I was like, "This is what I want to do." For me it was a no brainer. I just wanted to have that job so bad. And I remember reaching out to the recruiter, my recruiter, Dara, and even the way he speaking to me, the way he was telling me about the job and I could feel the company culture already. And I've done my research, obviously, because I think that's what happens in COVID kind of was... It was for me really negative like a lot of fall out to people, but it was positive as well because it gave me the opportunity to take control. Because during my all experience, my work experience, it was people suggesting things to me. Why don't you do that? Or stop flying and come to the office. But for the first time I was like, "You know what? I want to do what I believe I can do and what means to me." And I always wanted to help people. I always wanted to do something that matter. And when I read the job spec, I just knew that was it. I know it can seem a bit cliche to say that, but I really felt so strongly about it. So strongly about Indeed Missions. And looking at doing my research, seeing people like Laphon, Davis and what DSG Team is doing altogether. I was like, "I want to be part of that". And long story short, I applied. And the minute I had my first interview with my manager, Evah Collen, I just knew that she loved my experience. She respected it, but the climax, like the atmosphere within the interview was just so sane. So honest and respectful that... I really did a good interview because it was set up in a way that I could be myself and that's all she wanted to hear. It was about my experience. If I could do the job or not. And that was really powerful, and then I had done the same second interview with like other people in my team like Ayman and Abby Carlton. And every single step, I just felt the same because I think there is something about people in Social and Impact. I mean, everyone at Indeed is that, they're so empathetic and respectful and curious about knowing who you are, and that your experience is part of who you are. And it's actually something positive. And that Indeed is actually interested of hiring people that are coming from all over the world. And it doesn't matter your race, your religion, the way you look like you, the way you feel about yourself. And I knew that straight away. And so it's been an amazing, amazing experience that changed my life. It actually did. I remember when I got the call, when Dara called me to say, "Astou, you got the job". I cried. I cried. I was just so happy because I could just see everything that happened. Being not in vain, that I basically build myself up to be where I am today. So, it's been amazing, an amazing experience, and I'm really truly happy to do something that matters. Something that in the morning I can... I'm happy to say, I'm helping people that were in my situation. I'm helping people that even are in a worse situation than I was. So, it's calling more than a job for me.

- So after spending 20 years working for City Jet, now you're working for a company headquartered in the US, what is the difference in work culture?

- I definitely think that it makes a difference. Like, just to give an example, when I joined City Jet within the... in the office and being part of management, I was the only black person there, at a management level not as a cabin crew. And all my life when I'm thinking about it, I always have been the only black kid in the school, or I always have been minority but really in the sense of like, I was always the only one or another person. And then when I joined Indeed, I remember being on my first meeting, the zoom meeting, because I know I haven't met anyone personally I never been to the office yet because I've been working from home. And I remember like the zoom, my screen, And I see, my team, I see Abby Carlton. First of all, she's a female. And she is at the management, you know high management level. And then I see Lenny Hesmal that I work with. And when I saw Lenniya, it was the first time in my life that I had another black person at a management level. And even more than I was. And it just felt so good because it never happened to me. I'm not saying that it's not possible in Europe. I haven't experienced it, but I know that working for an American company. When I saw that screen with all the different people, different background in my team, I just felt like I belonged. I felt this is how the word should be. Like, everyone is represented. And I just didn't feel alone. So I think to answer your question, I think that the American culture like from an... It's slightly different, that's completely personal, but that's my feeling about it. So for me, it was definitely... And that's why I think I went for Indeed, because I knew that they were like maybe American company might be more progressive than that sense.

- So October is Black History Month in Europe. Can you talk a little bit about what that celebration means to you?

- For me, it just means like, there is so many things that would like to say, but the first thing that I'm thinking about is my mom and dad, my parents. Like the sacrifices that they've done for me, because I like to think about people in my family. For example, I have a cousin that exactly has the same age as me and we are really similar in some ways, and really different lifestyle, because I had the chance to live in Europe. And so for me, it's all about understanding the potential, the opportunities that my parent had and gave it to us. And trying to live a life, a better life for their children. So for me this month it's all about being empathic towards my parents history and my people from my family, people that fought for human rights. It's all about, I'm thinking about everybody that is actually different, or feel different, or everybody does having a hard time. It's for me the celebration of difference differences, but more importantly about acceptance, about who you are. And I don't think that I always felt like that in my life, but today I just feel so in tune about my ethnicity, my skin color, who I am, my experience. And I think in Europe, for example, where I grew up, it was a lot of, you know, there is a lot of African people like you know, that are from the immigration, that are from a different culture background. And I'm thinking about all those people thinking, "You know what? It's not because you different, it's not because you were not born in the country that you actually living, working, that you feel that it's like home." It's a celebration of... It's basically love and understanding and acceptance. That's how I feel about it really. But also, I'm thinking about my daughter, my three year old. I'm thinking about my legacy from my parents and the legacy from me to her because she's three. And I remember during COVID, I just didn't know what kind of future I was going to offer her. And the fact that I got the job, she's in a better place. I mean, for me, but also my parents, because I'm able to help them and help my extended family. So, this is how I feel. I'm just like really grateful. That's what this month is about really.

- Thank you for sharing that. I guess, as you reflect back on your experiences in your career, and especially your experiences as a job seeker, what at Indeed can we do to help make things better for people when they're looking for jobs?

- I think that we actually starting doing it because I just feel so powerful. Like all deep within the Social Impact Team, for example, like the amount of knowledge that we have within, you know, this area. Like the people I'm working with are just amazing and everything they do is trying to help job seekers to find a job. And that behind the products are in the marketing or the sales team, there is like actually real people that actually cares about people that are in difficult situation, looking for a job. And obviously there is always room for improvement for anything in life. But the fact that doing the first step and trying to make a difference and we are doing it because I'm witnessing it. I just feel that all we can do is like keep going and trying every day, trying to improve ourselves, trying to be more empathetic. And so I don't have a specific thing in mind because I just think that it's a general kind of energy in terms of improving things. And I know that within my team, like the Social Impact Team, like everything we do, everything, every thought it's towards job seekers facing barriers. And I think this we are doing maybe is the beginning, but we were getting there. And I know that with time we will help as many people as we can.

- So you mentioned, when you were talking about Black History Month, this idea of it being to you a celebration of your parents' legacy, and you talked about your daughter, what do you hope your legacy for your daughter will be?

- For me, I just would like her to have a different experience than I had. Being comfortable in her own skin, about who she is, about what she looks like, about where she lives. I just, my legacy to her is about, you know, be yourself, don't be afraid of being anybody else. And doesn't matter what the world tells you, because realistically, I know that things are getting better and better but as we're not there, we are not there yet. And I just hope that by the time that she's an adult, if she's looking for a job, she won't have to go through the same kind of scenario that I go in my head when I'm talking to someone about... Is this person going to like me? Not about liking me, but like who I am and who I represent? Is it going to be an issue? I just would like for her, just to be able to be judged on her competencies and not about what she looks like or what she sounds like or what she feels like. So that's what I would like to give to her. And funny enough, I'm just thinking of her, like I had she tries to start to swim on Sunday, and is the second Sunday that she's done that swimming lessons and she hasn't done very well in the sense that she didn't engage. But last Sunday she actually did, because we know we talked about being brave and trying, and she made me so proud, because she had only three and she was at the swimming pool. And she tried and that's my legacy to her. It's like, even if it's hard, if it's uncomfortable, if it's difficult, just try. And she's only three and she tried. And honestly, I was just so proud of her. And I'm thinking, this is something that we would like to push in terms of how I'm educating her is just, don't give up. If things are difficult, just keep on going, things are going to be okay.

- As we wrap up, I guess I'd like to just ask, looking back over the past 20 months and everything that you've been through and everything that the world has been through with this pandemic, what in that experience has given you some optimism for the future?

- Like the whole, for me, looking back, everything has been kind of buildup. And even when things get difficult, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That's what I learned. Even when things are really difficult and you feel like, "I'm never going to, I'm never going to find a job or never going to do something that I really want to do." And things get tough, but things get better. You know, with time, with a certain number a number of effort, or reaching for help or finding the resources that you need. Things get better and it's not going to be as dark forever, you know? And I'm optimistic. I think that because of my life experience, I always have people in my life that always helped me to see things that I couldn't see even about myself or even about the world. And I think that there is a good people in the world, you know, there is. And even when things are difficult, you know there is like, there is an answer for almost everything. And, but sometime, because it can take a certain number of... A time before things get better, it needs to get worse, but I'm really optimistic. And I just think that with like a lot of effort, love, compassion, empathy towards each other, things are going to be okay. I mean, I know it's a bit, but that's really what I'm thinking. So, there you go.

- Well, Astou thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing your experience and your story and your inspiration. And thank you for everything that you do every day to help people get jobs.

- Thank you very much, Chris, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.