AMERICA’S BLACK BRAIN DRAIN: WHY AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS ARE MOVING ABROAD — AND STAYING THERE. It was 2013, and Najoh Tita-Reid, then an executive at pharmaceutical giant Merck, was in the midst of the interview process for a job that would send her on her first international assignment. During a break in the conversation, “a white gentleman pulled me aside,” she says, and told her that all of the white men up for the role were “selling that they’d conquered the moon”—while she was focused on explaining what she saw as the weak spots in her résumé. If Tita-Reid wanted the position, he said, she would need to turn everything she had into an asset.
So she went back into the interview and laid out her biggest selling point: She was the best person for the job because she was a Black woman in the United States. She was used to being the only person in the room who looked like her. The “cultural competency” the hiring managers were looking for was not a skill she’d had to learn for work; it was something she’d had to master to just get by in her everyday life. “I can get the nuances of every culture because this is what you have to do as an African-American,” she told them. “You have to shape-shift to survive.” She sold it, she says, “and it was all true.”