I am more than what others think


Gillian Holte/Iowa State Daily

Andrew Whitehead_03.jpg

Andrew Whitehead

Up to this point in my life discouragement has shown its face in areas that I thought it had no business being in. Past friendships, relationships, academic advisors, and peer mentors have all given me their fair share of opposition and it’s unfortunate but it has left a mental scar that as of this point [in my life] I haven’t completely recovered from. However, through all the disbelief, dissuading, detesting, and the “do you think that’s possible for someone like you” statements, I still rise.

For the many people who have taken a stance against me, there have been a few that have had faith in me and do what I do for them. I attempt to put myself in positions in which I can encourage and assist other people because I know the impact of having one more person on your side can have.

I am involved in the National Society of Black Engineers because it was introduced to me during a time in which I had no idea of what direction I wanted to take in life: sophomore year in high school. The professional who headed our chapter at that time did everything in her power to provide us with every beneficial resource and opportunity possible for us to develop.

She saw great potential in us and wanted to make sure we saw that in ourselves as well which was key for me. I’m the President of the Iowa State chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers now in order to instill that same confidence in people as well as find ways to help them improve their skills so they can excel in their academics, professionalism, career, and life in general.

I lead by encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone. I engage in conversation, figure out what people’s strengths and weaknesses are, ask for what they wish to accomplish in terms of career and personal goals through this organization, and help them work towards those goals. I try to get people to interact with others because you never know what connections or similarities people may have that can be beneficial in the long run.

What makes my approach unique is that not only do I look for opportunities that’ll benefit an entire body of people but if I’m personally told about a difficulty an individual is having and I find someone or something that can help that individual in particular, I will immediately send you that resource.

I also attempt to check in on that individual personally to build upon our personal relationship and figure out how you’re progressing. I’d simply like to be remembered as someone who reached his own success while bringing everyone else up around with him so people know that the road to the top isn’t as lonely as people say it is.

The idea that drives me to overcome my obstacles is that I can’t allow myself to be stopped by anything because then I’m letting the doubters win. They already have left a negative mark on my mental state I can’t them have anything else of mine.

Also, as a black man, I’m expected to fail in many ways. I’m not even expected to be in the spaces that I’m in now, so I have to thrive to prove people wrong and be a good example for the people who look up to me. I can’t stand feeling like I failed someone, so my fire has to stay strong.

I like to think of myself as an extremely open-minded person, so I’m always listening to different experiences, viewpoints, and ideas no matter who they’re from.

That’s what inclusivity looks like to me; giving driven people an opportunity to lead, listen, and learn no matter what their background or position is. You never know what the impact may be.

Leading is difficult. Not everyone is going to particularly like your leading style or you as a person but you can’t let that deter you.

New leaders, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, identify what your weaknesses are and work towards breaking them down.

Also, identify the best way you lead. If you enjoy leading by action instead of vocally then focus on that. If you believe that you have great ideas but don’t know how to properly express them then speak with someone who is comfortable with being vocal and present your ideas to general members or members of leadership with that individual. There is more than one way to lead.

I am more than what others think.