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"What does it mean to be you with us?" - Fiona Brand

Solutions Marketing Senior Analyst

I’m the youngest of three children with an older brother and sister, all of us were all born in Capetown, South Africa. My parents are originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1995, when I was six, my siblings and my mom and I moved to Minnesota where my dad had continued his education a year prior.

In South Africa, my dad’s background was in social services, and my mother was a high school biology teacher. When we moved to Minnesota, my father was in school to continue his degree in social services and my mother dedicated herself to raising my siblings and I in a new country.

The three of us kids were in primary school together, and to put that in context we went from living in a radically segregated environment to going to school with White kids for the first time. You have to remember that apartheid only ended in 1994 and this was 1995, early 1996. It was a huge culture shock that was hard to navigate. Even taking the bus was strange. The food we ate and even the clothes we wore to school were different. I wore the clothes we brought with us and what my mother bought for me. After a couple years, we moved into University of Minnesota student housing.

Assimilating to American culture

The culture in America is much different from South Africa. In South Africa, everybody knows everybody in the neighborhood and the community. It was like the saying, “it takes a village.” If I was at someone’s house, those adults were also part of raising me and setting me on the right path. In the U.S., with everyone, including children, the emphasis is more on independence and individuality. As a kid, it was hard to be different. But as hard as it was for us kids, at least we had each other.

I think the assimilation to our new surroundings was hardest on my mother. She had to adjust almost overnight. She was very intentional about keeping the South African traditions we grew up with and keeping us safe. But once I walked out the door, I had to navigate American culture.

When I was younger, it was hard for me to find my place and feel accepted because I wasn’t always Black enough for the Black kids, and I wasn’t White. I was somewhere in the middle, and I didn’t always feel like I fit in.

Fiona Brand sitting on a couch

Both of my parents have been involved with social justice work for a long time (being active in anti-apartheid movement back in South Africa) and that passion runs in my veins. My mother even shared with me that back in South Africa I was the first "colored" kid to attend an all White preschool and all the White families left, but more colored families attended the school after I did. Attending school here, I'd come home and have certain conversations about how to be myself in this new world of mine. I would take the conversations we had with me to school and I felt privileged to be able to do that. 

High school was not bad. I had assimilated into the culture for the most part, but I was still trying to find my place with other kids. Acceptance was top of mind for me. To stand out was feared because you want to be accepted so badly.

At Bethel University, I lived on campus as a freshman but decided to live at home for the next three years. Bethel was very White. I learned what it was to become a changemaker. I was very active in protesting against curriculum that was not inclusive.

My major in college was Communications with an emphasis in Design and Organizational Communication. I wanted to be an event planner but when I graduated, event planning and communication had really changed. 

My first job outside of college was at a retail store in St. Paul, but I didn’t stay too long. The manager was a White lady who trained us to watch certain people in the store. She would point out certain people and I realized she meant people of color. The fact that she had the confidence to tell me, a person of color, to watch people who looked like me showed just how much entitlement and privilege she felt.

Navigating the corporate world

In 2011, I got the opportunity to work for a large corporation here in the Twin Cities. It was a great experience to learn what it meant to work in the corporate world, but it had its challenges as well. For example, White women were getting promoted after a year when I had been there longer. Every time I would meet with management, my task list would get bigger with things I had to finish before I could get a promotion. I was comfortable calling it out to management and I spoke up for myself. But after two and a half years, I decided to move on.

I made the leap to Securian in 2016. For five years I’ve worked in Solutions Marketing, marketing to financial professionals about our life insurance solutions.

Before Securian, I felt as if I was put in a box that didn’t allow me to be myself. The one thing I love here is the family-oriented culture.

Before Securian, I felt as if I was put in a box that didn’t allow me to be myself. The one thing I love here is the family-oriented culture. People really do care about each other and see each other as family. Our CEO has a great passion for DEI, and I think there’s an eagerness to learn with leadership and employees alike. And when things do come up, there’s support here.

But sometimes it feels like, it’s people like me who start those conversations because of the lack of diversity we have at the company (we are working on it.). Everybody has the opportunity to do the internal work, and it's good when leadership takes on that kind of internal work and starts those conversations.

Fiona brand 3572

If leadership reflects diversity, it will create a ripple effect throughout the company. And just being in a room with a leader that looks like you helps you feel so much more comfortable. Securian is also very active in the community and should reflect the demographics of the community and our customers as well. There is a need for diverse representation in the work I do and I think there’s work being done to expand our net, especially when it comes to recruiting. 

When it comes to DEI, people don't always know how to start the conversation or have a fear of saying the wrong thing. I say do it anyway, what's important is starting and continuing conversations. The way I was raised is these are our opportunities to learn from each other and opportunities to teach.

Securian’s Multi-cultural Network

I’ve been a member of Securian’s Multi-cultural Network (SMN) for a couple of years, and I’ve taken on some leadership roles which include the Community Outreach pillar and most recently the Communications pillar writing for the Network. Being a part of SMN helps create a sense of community, uplifting people of color. Sometimes it’s just lunch or listening sessions where associates can come and listen and hear other perspectives and take those conversations back to their team. We also facilitate events. It helps when leaders promote those events and attend themselves. We’re broadening whom we bring in and we’re always looking for opportunities to create awareness. A lot of associates have asked to be added to the distribution list so they know what’s happening and have the opportunity to be involved.

Fiona Brand sitting on a couch

When it comes to DEI, for White leaders it's theoretical, to me it's lived experience--I am DEI. For minorities, our lives depend on the DEI work we do everyday. If I don't put in this work, it will affect those that come after me and the future.

In terms of "Be You. With Us.", it means being my authentic self and having a role in cultivating a space for others to be their authentic self too. I want to leave a legacy for my daughter and her generation and say that I played a role in creating a world that allows her to be her authentic self wherever she goes. This campaign is a huge step forward for Securian. It really shows that we're living our words with action. It’s awesome that I get to do it and have a conversation with someone who looks like me. Feeling safe and comfortable having this conversation is so important, and it’s great that Securian recognizes this.

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.

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Fiona Brand is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. Her statement was given freely.

DOFU 4-2023