Trailblazers x uOttawa: Nathan Hall, BScSoc '07, on building anti-racist workplaces where everyone belongs

Posted on Wednesday, February 16, 2022

When Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore, BScSoc, and Merryl-Royce Ndema-Moussa, BSc, published their children’s book, Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada, the uOttawa alumni brought to light 40 stories of Canada’s Black history that have for too long remained undertold.This February, we’ve teamed up with Ridley-Padmore and Ndema-Moussa to celebrate Black History Month and create new portraits and poems of four Black uOttawa alumni who have made a significant mark on the University.

Meet Nathan Hall:

Nathan’s roots are strong, 

dating generations back.  

His father is Jamaican,  

and his mom is Nova Scotian Black. 

illustration of Nathan Hall wearing glasses

 

But even though he knew his roots 

a place of belonging was hard to find, 

’cause Nathan grew up in spaces,  

that weren’t designed with him in mind.  

 

When he began his working life  

this affected his self-esteem.  

Nathan had to push much harder 

to prove his value to the team.  

 

At first, this ethic served him well,  

but Nathan finally withdrew.  

He had grown tired of not feeling worthy.  

He needed something new.  

 

So Nathan launched a business of his own. 

It had a clear directive:  

He’d strive to make employers   

more inclusive and reflective.  

 

From assessing and consulting,  

to all the workshops that he’s run.  

His aim is building workplaces  

that work for everyone. 

 

Nathan helps create the culture  

he’s wanted for himself all along.  

’cause everyone deserves to feel seen,  

be celebrated, and belong.

portrait of Nathan Hall

Nathan Hall, BSocSc '07, has been chasing a feeling of belonging for as long as he can remember.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Hall learned early on that a personal sense of identity only goes so far when people make assumptions based on how you look or your family’s background. Hall’s father immigrated to Canada from Jamaica; his mother was born in the Maritimes and is of Afro Nova Scotian and Guyanese descent.  

“When you’re born [in Canada] you hear you’re not really Jamaican, but you’re never considered Canadian, no matter how many generations you’ve been here. I’ve still been told to go back to where I came from,” says Hall. “This is the backdrop of my life that has driven my work.”  

Graduating from uOttawa with a degree in sociology, our third trailblazer also faced questions of belonging in the workplace.  Imposter syndrome and self-doubt ran rampant. Hall says he commonly found himself the only person of colour in the boardroom and felt the need to work twice as hard to prove himself. These personal experiences both prepared him for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship and fuelled his desire to create more inclusive work environments where everyone could belong.  

Today, Hall lives in Ottawa and is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, and self-proclaimed “fun parent” to his four-year-old son. He’s also the CEO of two successful companies: a video marketing agency called Simple Story, and Culture Check.  

Culture Check’s work is two-fold. For the 80% of racialized professionals who expect to experience racism on the job, the company supports them by validating their experience and helping to build their confidence and careers.  

By collating their real-life experiences into case studies and insights, Culture Check provides training to organizations and leaders on how to recognize and shut down racism in their own work environments.  

Clearly, the company’s mission is resonating: in 2021, Culture Check connected with 7,000 people through training and check-ins with racialized professionals.  

“Each of those people is going to talk to someone else. They’re not just customers or clients, they’re people who are managing people, who are neighbours and community members,” says Hall. “We’ve planted so many seeds, something’s gotta grow.” 

For Hall, the real impact of Culture Check’s work is felt when he hears from other professionals of colour: “When they say, ‘thank you so much, I’ve never felt so seen at work before.’ [...] This is the ultimate end — making sure this population of people is experiencing that change.”

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