Nadine Roper On The Immigrant Experience: Drive, Resilience, and Black History

"I recall pretty early in my career not being comfortable with mediocrity or being a jack of all trades and master of none. That always drove me to excel and my strong work ethic, hard work, honesty and humility further enhanced my accomplishments."

From Jamaican Immigrant to Corporate Success: The Inspiring Story of Nadine Roper.

 How do you feel being an immigrant/child of an immigrant impacted what you saw as career possibilities?

I feel proud to be an immigrant child and to succeed in the corporate world that is still mostly while and male. I think that having the values instilled in me by my mother and refined as a Jamaican adult has helped me to succeed and thrive in my career – strong work ethic, high standards, determination mixed with a little moxy. These have driven me and helped create career opportunities for me in firms that celebrate these values. If there are hinderances to furthering my career, I can’t say unequivocally that it has been due to being an immigrant since my accent isn’t as strong (even though I readily disclose my heritage). While there are opportunities for DEI improvements in many work environments, I am not aware of any other biases that may have impacted my career.

Do you feel the Black American experience is different than the experience of Black Immigrants? 

Of course. Unlike the Black American experience, I was born in Jamaica and grew up seeing people who looked like me in positions of power, including the many leaders of the country. So, I was conditioned to believing that I could succeed in any area that I sought out without reservations. As long as I was qualified, I felt entitled to opportunities. I never felt less than but equal. For Black Americans, they have been conditioned by systemic racism to believe that they were less than and not entitled to many opportunities even if they were qualified. In my field, whenever I applied for jobs for which I was qualified, I always got a call back and got to choose from several options and negotiate terms of my employment based on my estimation of my self-worth. In my career, I have excelled by pursuing what I believed due mostly to my immigrant conditioning.

If there are any differences that I can identify that could have hindered/hinder me is my inability to relate to a part of the American culture that celebrates a sense of humor based on pop culture and bar-hopping. People often bond over their knowledge of pop culture which influences many jokes and popular references. Company relationships in America are built in bars and on golf courses. Neither of these I have mastered or internalized well so may have probably missed connections or opportunities that could have advanced or influenced my career. At this stage of my career, I am satisfied with the connections I have made.

What was the goal for you? What helped to drive you to your accomplishments?

Not sure I was intentional in my goal besides wanting to excel in everything I embarked on. Being raised by a mother who expected nothing less than the best and a high level of perfection, I was always driven by that need to be the best in everything I tackled. I recall pretty early in my career not being comfortable with mediocrity or being a jack of all trades and master of none. That always drove me to excel and my strong work ethic, hard work, honesty and humility further enhanced my accomplishments. 

Were there any rules of thumb or sayings repeated to you in your childhood that you live by to this very day? 

I went to Wolmers High School in Jamaica and our motto was “Age Quod Agis” which means “do well whatever you do”. Subconsciously or consciously, it reinforced and articulated the self-motivating drive my mother instilled.

Pick three theme songs for your life. One for childhood, one for when you just entered the working world, and what’s your current theme song?

Childhood theme song – Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. The chorus was about assurances that every little thing would be alright. Growing up, my mom became a single mother when I was 10 and I saw her struggle to raise us by herself and make ends meet. She worked hard to ensure that we had all what we needed and made tremendous sacrifices to makes us comfortable. This song helped me to reassure myself that things would in fact be alright eventually and they were.

Working world theme song – Rise Up by Andra Day and Lullaby by Tasha – two profound but varied messages that I play to myself repeatedly to motivate me to get up every time I got knocked down. Conversely, Lullaby was a keen reminder of my black girl magic and that many could not “survive a day in my shoes” but it is okay to rest and sometimes leave it to others to save the world. We all need to hear that as black girls and women – we often try to take on everything ourselves.

urrent theme song – Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony. This song is a celebration of life and living one’s life to the fullest – something I fervently believe and live. At this point in my life and career, it’s really about enjoying the life we have and those around us. 

Did you know that by being who you are and pursuing your aspirations, you would be helping to write the following chapters of Black History? How does that make you feel?

Never gave it a thought and never imagined having this level of recognition as I am just one soul in the vast sea of successful immigrants. Honored, humbled and grateful to be singled out and recognized.

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