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"What does it mean to be you with us?" – Chidi Ohammah

Project and Program Management Consultant

My adult life began at an early age. I was born to a family of seven as the first of five children in Lagos, Nigeria. When I was nine years old, I lost my dad. That changed everything for me and my family. My mother was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of five children alone and as the eldest, I had to grow up very quickly. Not only to set the right example for my siblings, but also to support my mother. That has shaped my outlook on life.

It was very tough, but I finished high school and then went on to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria, where I studied Industrial Microbiology. I veered off into the management sciences after graduation and began my career working at a glass factory in Nigeria as a Human Resources Officer. Then I worked with the British Council. First, as an Administrative Officer, and later as a Human Resources Operations Manager. After a four-year stint at the British Council, I relocated to the U.S.

Chidi Ohammah in native clothing

Salads & Deceptive Sunlight

When I came to the U.S. six years ago, the key barriers I faced were mostly cultural and weather-related. From a cultural standpoint, I struggled with understanding why anyone would have salad for lunch. In Nigeria, we had solid food. I don’t think anybody would appreciate you giving them salad for lunch.

From a weather standpoint, I was coming from a country that is predominantly warm all year-round, to cold Minnesota which gets multiple subzero temperatures during the winter. It was a struggle learning to dissociate the relationship between sunlight and heat. Sometimes in Minnesota, when it is sunny, it is still extremely cold. I’ve given it a term: “deceptive sun.” Where I came from, sunlight is always associated with heat or hot weather. One morning, I saw the bright sunlight and opened the door wearing only a singlet (one layer of outerwear) and it was so cold! I learned from that experience.


Working at Securian Financial

Once in the U.S., I transitioned from human resources to project management, first by taking the Project Management Professional exam and becoming a certified project manager. This certification opened me up to valuable opportunities. Through a program called Barriers to Entry, I started work as a project manager. This prepared me for the role of an Enterprise Initiatives Consultant which I now have here at Securian Financial. In this role, I am assigned to enterprise-wide programs and projects as either a program manager, project manager or change manager. My role is focused on executing the strategic priorities of the organization. I have been in this role for one year and seven months.

What I like most about my job is that no two days are the same and that challenges you to think. I have the ability and opportunity to create something out of ideas or from scratch and the ability to pull resources together to bring that idea to life. I enjoy the daily interactions with the many smart people on my teams. I’m also a member of Securian’s Multicultural Network and Securian Sound, a choir. I love to sing. Singing and directing choirs influenced my life positively. It taught me self-discipline, responsibility and accountability.

Chidi Ohammah, striking a pose

Everyone here at Securian is friendly and wants you to succeed. I mean everyone! I’ve been very lucky to have good managers and I am blessed to have one here too. That’s important to me. When I think about a job the first thought isn't about money. I look at the managers, the culture and then the money. Even working remotely, I have experienced the camaraderie that exists between my teammates. The online interactions I have with my colleagues continue to give me a good impression of Securian as an organization. One other thing I like about working at Securian is the investment in the development of its employees. From challenging opportunities to training, Securian ensures that its employees are gaining critical skills to continue to add value to the organization. Everyone has access to growth if they want it. Everyone is accommodating here. When they don’t understand they ask clarifying questions, that, in my opinion, builds trust.

The value of a diverse workforce

The value of having a diverse workforce cannot be over-emphasized. I like to talk about how Christianity came to Africa to signify or demonstrate the value of a diverse workforce. When the Irish priests and religious people came to evangelize Africa, they did not achieve much success initially until they began to incorporate some of the indigenes of Africa into their way of life. Nigerians taught them different ways of doing things and the missionaries learned the Indigenous language.

There was a blending of cultures. This made the missionaries culturally intelligent and brought them a step closer to influencing their host communities to accept Christianity. Eventually, it was the diversity of the workforce they built that made it easier for Christianity to spread in Africa.

In my opinion, diversity means providing a level-playing field for everyone irrespective of tribe, creed or tongue, in order to grow, succeed and reach their potential. In terms of diversity at Securian, there are not a lot of people here who look like me and I would like to see more. When you are the only person of color in your workgroup it can be intimidating. When the murder of George Floyd happened, it made me think about what it means to be a person of color in the United States. You have to constantly watch your back. You try to be very careful because you might not get the same kind of treatment as another person would get. That is something I think about now.

Any organization that is serious about achieving long-term financial or business success must consider having a diverse workforce as a requirement and not an option. Securian Financial understands this and is making intentional efforts at building a diverse workforce. But a diverse workforce takes time. It’s a work in progress.

Chidi Ohammah in native clothing

Bringing your best self to work, and not trying to be like another person, with the assurance that you will be accepted for who you are.

The Securian outreach program, “Be You. With Us.” promotes a welcoming work environment, bringing your best self to work, and not trying to be like another person, with the assurance that you will be accepted for who you are. When I come to the office, I wear my traditional Nigerian clothing and people love it. On the first day, it was a little odd because I didn’t know how people would take it, but it was well received. Some people have said, “You should make one for me.” So, I haven’t held back. I like wearing my cultural outfit. No one tries to discourage me and so I am comfortable being who I am when I come to work.

Be you. With us.

At Securian Financial, we want all our associates – current and future – to bring us their ideas, their passion and their most authentic selves.

Build your career here!

Meet our colleagues

As our organization works to create a culture of inclusivity and belonging we’ve launched a series of stories sharing what it means to be you with us at Securian.

Read more stories

Chidi Ohammah is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. His statement was given freely.

DOFU 4-2023