Life at DHG Podcast Series

Episode 61: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

Samantha Reeves is the Director of Talent Acquisition at DHG, and she has 20 years of experience working with global corporations. Her passion lies in the attraction, engagement and retention of talent in the multi-generational and geographically dispersed workforce.

Episode 61 Transcript:

AH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG Podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison your host and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us – our flexibility, careers and of course, stories about our people.

At DHG, we’re currently celebrating Native American Heritage Month and as part of our inclusion and diversity efforts, we are recognizing Native Americans within our firm. Samantha Reeves, our Director of Talent Acquisition, has Native American lineage and is joining us today to not only share her personal story but also to highlight DHG’s efforts to recruit diverse talents to our team.

Welcome, Samantha.

SR: Hey there, how are you?

AH: Good. So for those of you listening today, we’re recording this a day before Native American Heritage Month. It is Halloween and we were just getting a laugh about Halloween costumes, and I commented that I’m glad this is a podcast because if you all could see me right now, you would see a crazy looking person with black lipstick. I’m a witch today and always.

So, Samantha, let’s get down to Native American Heritage Month. You and I had a few moments to catch up prior to recording, and you have such an interesting background. You grew up outside of Montreal, which is interesting to me, but on the U.S. side. You speak French but were raised with strong Italian influence and the cherry on top – we are celebrating Native American Heritage Month and you have Native American lineage.  That is a lot of influence in one person. So, tell me more.

SR: Exactly. Well, so let me tell you a little bit about how I was raised. For me, as a kid, I was always raised Italian; I never questioned it as my family was clearly very heavily focused on Italian American traditions. Your traditional Sunday pasta dinners and cooking Italian cuisine and doing all those kinds of things, and it was clear we’re very proud of that.

But it wasn’t really until my 20’s that I even thought to explore or consider that there was another side, right? It just wasn’t even discussed. So unfortunately it was a little too late as a number of those who could have shared some of the rich history had already passed, but I learned that there is a good bit of Native American history or Native American in my genetic history – Cherokee Indian. Clearly, not what you would expect to see it geographically up in the northeast.

AH: Right.

SR: So I always joke, someone was where they didn’t belong perhaps? But it was very interesting as I learned and when I got into my 20’s decided to pursue exploring what that history really was.

AH: So what led you to learn more and explore that lineage?

SR: Well, it’s interesting because it wasn’t until I was in college. I was studying abroad in the UK and it led me to question my own background. Interestingly enough, it was really my first exposure to true international nationalities.

When people would ask me, “Where are you from or what’s your nationality?” I was very quick to answer Italian. They laughed, and they would always correct me and say, “No, no, no. You’re American,” which clearly was true but then what was my defense of American, right? So I knew the Italian side but they kept kind of asking, they were like, “Okay, your father’s Italian, what’s your mother?” I said, “Oh well, I guess I didn’t ask.” I mean, how embarrassing is that?

So I decided I would pursue more of that, and I started to ask more questions and investigate a little bit further. What I learned was pretty interesting. I found as I started to ask different family members, there’s a lot of stereotypes, a lack of pride in sharing the heritage, not just with my own family but with others. I have no problem sharing that pride. I think it’s a really interesting story and I think many of my own family members downplayed it in fear of judgment.

AH: Yeah, wow.

SR: Or just general stereotypes. So I can deliver it and making sure that even my child understands, you know, everyone has a story and there’s quite the makeup that we all have.

AH: Absolutely. So you mentioned pride, why does make you proud to have Native American as part of your heritage?

SR: One of my favorite stories and I don’t know if you’ve heard of the story of Sacagawea? But she is the woman that is commemorated on the gold one dollar coin and a lot of people don’t know the story, and this is one of the things that I love to tell. One because she is a woman, she’s a Native American woman. It is often a story that’s overlooked. She was the only woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition.

She was selected specifically because she spoke the language, and she was critical for their success because her presence on the expedition really confirmed the peacefulness of their journey, which otherwise would have been viewed as a conquering of the land. She left her family behind to do it, and I was always interested to hear that as a sign of gratitude, it was said that Lewis; I think it was Lewis had actually adopted and cared for her children upon her death.

AH: Wow.

SR: And I always like to say that we all as women should recognize the important contributions we bring to any expedition, right? We have all of these challenges ahead of us and this is one of the earliest stories that just proves that.

AH: That’s fabulous, what a great story. I don’t think I was familiar with that one. So moving onto your current role here at DHG as Director of Talent Acquisition, why is diversity a key priority for us with recruiting, and what do we do in to ensure that we do have a pipeline of diverse candidates?

SR: It’s such a great question. As I mentioned earlier, it is always important to represent the markets that we reside in and never assume one story. While many parties define diversity differently when I think of it, it includes diversity of thought, diversity of experience and ethnicities, and we work hard to ensure here at DHG all hiring managers are educated and trained on the importance of recognizing the potential for things like an unconscious bias. Because there is truly a hazard if you have teams and offices that all look alike, think alike and operate in the same way.

I have been working really hard and continuing to work with each of the recruiters both on the campus and the experience higher side to develop their ability to recognize opportunities for bias so that they can continue to educate and influence hiring managers not to miss out on great talent and to truly mix the diversity of thought, background, and ethnicity.

AH: Very cool, very good. So you mentioned earlier that you have an eight year old son. Well, you didn’t mention that he was eight, you mentioned your son but I happen to know he is eight. Do you think that when he begins to interview for his first job, or maybe his first job out of college or as a career milestone, do you think that recruiting for diversity will look different than it does today? Do you think that we would have arrived at a place that we recruit solely based on talent without any other factors at play?

SR: Well, I sure hope so. I think certainly you have these things that the world is going to look very different in several years and the languages are going to be richer and more spread out. I think — I was telling someone the other day we can all learn from the purity and innocence of our children that they don’t see differences like we do as adults. They don’t make judgments like we do as adults, and I can only hope that by the time he goes off to get a job and mom is not with him anymore, that we are focusing on the right things, right? Who is the best human for the job, regardless of what their background, history and story is? Are they qualified for the job and how do we make this whole issue of bias or discrimination a true thing of the past?

AH: Well, we can hope right?

SR: Exactly.

AH: I mean, think of how different the world is today than it was just 10 years ago. So 10 years from now it’s probably going to look a lot different.

SR: That’s right.

AH: Well, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing a bit about your story with us.

SR: Sure, I really appreciate it. This is awesome, thanks.

AH: Yes, and we will be celebrating Native American Heritage Month all month long. Thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our life beyond numbers.

Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.