Episode 130 – Unstoppable Adventurous and Unconventional Person with Evan Robert Brown Walker
I do mean “unconventional”. Wait until you hear Evan Robert Brown Walker’s story and adventures. Like many guests I have had the opportunity to get to know on Unstoppable Mindset, Evan grew up in a single-parent home and didn’t get to know his father until much later. Evan went to school and then to college like many of us, but then he decided to do something a bit different with his life.
Mr. Walker graduated from college with a degree in English and writing. He then decided to move totally alone to South Korea where he taught English for two years. He will tell us of his adventures in Korea and even give some sensible advice to others who may be planning to move or travel abroad.
Near the end of his time in South Korea, Evan sprained his ankle and discovered that, in fact, he had an extra bone in his foot. He dealt with that once he returned to the United States, but still, what a suddenly new fact to face in one’s life.
You will get to hear about Evan’s job stories after returning from South Korea including how he became a subject matter expert on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He now works full-time in this field.
What an inspirational and adventurous episode this is. I hope you enjoy hearing Evan’s story and that his words will inspire you as much as they did me.
About the Guest:
Evan Robert Brown Walker is on a mission to empower others, including those within underrepresented communities, to thrive.
He currently works as a Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Lumen Technologies, with 2 years of experience in a formal diversity role, and numerous years leading and operationalizing Employee Resource Groups. His expertise and passion led him to earn a Diversity & Inclusion Certificate from eCornell in 2020.
Since 2021 he has been both a member of the Thurgood Marshall Partner in Diversity Cohort and was recently promoted from advisory board to the Board of Directors for OutFront LGBTQ+ Theater in Atlanta, GA.
He is a graduate of High Point University with English major and Business-Marketing minor, and still considers teaching English in South Korea after college one of his greatest accomplishments yet.
Links for Evan:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/evan-robert-brown-walker (My LinkedIn)
http://www.epik.go.kr/index.do (English Program in Korea)
https://www.cnn.com/2013/04/10/world/asia/north-korea-threats-timeline/index.html North Korean Missile Crisis of 2013
https://www.transitionsabroad.com/ Transitions Abroad
https://www.ciee.org/ Council on International Education Exchange
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:21
Hi there, wherever you happen to be welcome once again to unstoppable mindset. We’re inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Unexpected is always fun. But we also talk about inclusion first, because it’s the only way to make sure that we deal with everyone. The problem with diversity is it has tended to leave out disabilities some may disagree. But when you hear people discuss diversity, they don’t discuss disabilities. Whether we discuss disabilities today are not is another story. But we will definitely be hitting the unexpected. Our guest today is Evan Robert Brown Walker, we’re going to call him Evan because he said I could. And Evan is an interesting individual. Evan feels that he’s on a mission to empower others, especially in unrep, or underrepresented communities. And he wants to help them thrive, which is as good as it gets. So that gets us to the unexpected, because it deals with all sorts of stuff. But Evan, welcome to unstoppable mindset. We’re really glad you’re here.
Evan Walker 02:22
You so much, Michael, I’m so happy to be here. And really looking forward to the discussion.
Michael Hingson 02:29
Let’s go ahead and start by talking a little bit about maybe you growing up and all that where you came from, and sort of all those things that helped shape you where you are.
Evan Walker 02:39
Well, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, I was raised by a single mother, who has been there with me every step of the way. And I of course I’m an only child. So I had a little miniature schnauzer growing up who I considered my brother, I have friends and you know, close people as well. But my mom and my miniature schnauzer and sparkle are miniatures nouns are really my immediate family. And then my dad, I got to know, sort of towards the tail end of my high school career, that’s when I really got to know started to get to know him. He’s based in High Point North Carolina, I ended up making a decision to go to High Point University. And so he and I became closer, develop the relationship that still lasts today. So that’s a little bit about my background.
Michael Hingson 03:43
So that’s pretty cool. So you made the decision to reach out to him, which is something that has to be a little bit of a brave step by any standard.
Evan Walker 03:54
Absolutely, absolutely. Any standard reaching out to a parent you don’t know or may not know as well as you think you do. Reaching out to them is always scary. And for me, it was a turning point. One of many turning points in my life that led me to where I am today, but also helped me become a stronger person and just understand more of my family and his roots and where he came from. It was a great, great experience.
Michael Hingson 04:27
So you have a relationship with him today, which is which is a good thing. And so you you are fortunate that you have now gotten to know both of your parents. You went to high point and what did you major in there?
Evan Walker 04:42
I majored in English writing and I minored in business marketing.
Michael Hingson 04:51
Hmm. And when you graduated, what did you do with all that? Well,
Evan Walker 04:56
inside, everyone should know that five point is the furniture Capital of the World. There’s other furniture capitals, I think, and China and Las Vegas, but my point is still consider the furniture capital of the world. So that’s a pretty interesting, interesting fact. Today, I, after I graduated, I decided I wanted to move into something to do with my major. Many of us who graduated from college, need ourselves a stray from what we were going to school for, which is pretty prominent. Not a problem at all. But at the time, I really wanted to do something tangibly connected to English. So I looked at working for a publishing house. I also read a book at the time, I was really into books around oil and gas, fossil fuels, how they make the world turn and work, in addition to the comparison with climate change, and I wanted to work for this gentleman that my father knew at the time, who was an executive at an oil company. Neither of those opportunities panned out my third backup plan. My third option was, why don’t I think about living abroad traveling abroad? I’m not quite sure what prompted me, other than it was still the great recession. So the Great Recession of Oh 708, which was catastrophic to many people. And even if it wasn’t catastrophic, everyone felt that time in some way. So I knew I didn’t want to challenge myself, or struggle finding a job. But I also
Evan Walker 06:56
reminisce peripherally from people who in college, I went abroad for study abroad to gap years after high school, and I kind of wished that I had that opportunity. So it was a mishmash between desiring to live abroad, having that job security, but also just challenging myself.
Michael Hingson 07:22
And so what did you decide to do with that? So you thought about doing something abroad? And what did you do? I made the decision,
Evan Walker 07:34
shortly, I think shortly before graduation, to move to Korea. But the decision that I had to make before I even made that decision was, if I do move to Korea, then I have to choose between teaching English being a professional. Being in the army, or military, I was not going into the military. That was just not something I wanted to do at that time. And I was not a professional who was proficient in the Korean language. So teaching English as I guess, as a native guests, English speaker, teacher was truly my my core option. And the two choices as a guest English teacher, were teaching at a private school, or public school, teaching in a private school, namely, is very different in Korea. They’re called Hogwarts, private schools in Korea, where oftentimes you’re paid more than what you are in a public school. But benefits are sometimes non existent, sometimes less, or just not as not as broad and much, much longer hours. Those
Michael Hingson 08:54
that why is that,
Evan Walker 08:56
you know, I really don’t know, I know that the education system there is considered to be one of the top in the world. And I would say, in my opinion, just me having lived there that a lot of parents and grandparents want their kids to do the best in school. So these Hawk ones are considered with the long hours of the teaching and the long hours for the students ways for them to accelerate getting their kids into the top schools and universities in the country.
Michael Hingson 09:35
So you had a choice of, or at least the potential option of teaching in a private setting or in a more public setting, which did you end up doing?
Evan Walker 09:46
I went public only because I wanted to make sure that I had enough benefits as far as health care. The pay was very good. Not as good as a hogwash to private school. But I really wanted to make sure I had those benefits that I had that structure and the benefits offered from a public school. I mean, free room and board. It doesn’t get better than that. Free Lunch, you know, so I really just loved the idea of not having to pay for an apartment, getting free lunch. And so I went with Publix.
Michael Hingson 10:31
So were in South Korea did you teach?
Evan Walker 10:40
So, Korea? In South Korea, I taught in what’s called what’s referred to there as the inland Island. I’m probably pronouncing this wrong. But the the name of the the city was young young. And the province or the state of Young Young was n was called Young saying Buck dough, which was the the eastern part of the country. Sol Sol sets the Capitol. On the western side, I was on the eastern side. Yeah, my
Michael Hingson 11:21
visit to Korea was to Seoul and two places within an hour of it. I went to speak there in 2007. Right, and I had an opportunity to be there and and also see the Korean guy dog schools, which were school, which was started by the President and others of Samsung. And so that was, it was fascinating. I never got to meet him. But we did get to visit the school and do some speaking around Seoul. So that was fun. But I never did get to tour the whole country, which I would have loved to have done. It was a wonderful country. And the people were were extremely friendly to me at least and and to my dog.
Evan Walker 12:06
Yes, it’s, it’s a country that is just like you said, just gorgeous. The country of morning, lands on Morning Calm. It’s also a country of opposites in many ways. So really, really hot, summer, sweltering hot, really, really cold winter, Siberian winds. And you know, even even some social norms and things like that. So.
Michael Hingson 12:37
So what was it like for you teaching over there? That was a major step out for you to go to a different culture a different place entirely, completely away from your comfort zone? Or what had been your comfort zone? And all that you knew? Via you did it?
Evan Walker 12:58
Yeah. Honestly, living there, there are definitely some challenges, I would say, moving there. And all the pieces of the puzzle that you have to put together before you even on the plane. That’s a part of that’s a part of the two. So thinking about what am I going to do as far as money I need to open a bank account in a country that I don’t speak the language, learning a language, sure, but it really needs to think about that. registering with the State Department, getting immunizations and so finally, you get on that plane. And for me, I look back
Evan Walker 13:41
subdivider Mom, she wasn’t there. And it really hit me like wow, you know, you are on your own. And when I sat down on the plane, it was just pure excitement. It was like, total change of emotions. But when I got there, and I experienced just the kindness of the people, you know, a neighbor who became a friend, he was working at the Korean military base in this rural town, which the town was a rural farming community that farms their major product was spicy peppers. He was living near me and helped me moved from my second my first school to my second school several hours away. He took me to dinners when I wasn’t feeling well. And so you know, those kinds of moments and those people the way they care and even this routine me. Oh,
Evan Walker 14:47
when you’re lost in the city of Seoul. Oh, let me let me help you. Let me help you find what you’re looking for. You look lost. It’s just so out. opposite from the way we interact in America. And you know, that collective family oriented culture, never eating alone. It really did leave a very good impression on me and made me cherish moment moments when, you know, maybe I was feeling most vulnerable, not knowing the language, not having a large support network of expatriates or foreigners in a small town. That was certainly a, an anchor for me. Hmm.
Michael Hingson 15:39
But you did it? Did you learn much of the language? In the time you were there?
Evan Walker 15:43
Yeah. So I would say now, I, I know literally choke off, which means a little there, I would go to the grocery store, I would know how, what past means what, you know, just survival turned it around. And so those those terms I knew I knew instinctively and instantly, Teacher Song saying them because titles in Korea mean a great deal more than they do in America. And roles and jobs, like teachers probably mean as much as doctors mean here. So you’ll have students running around stranger saying, oh, Song saying noon. It’s a form of respect to them. So I would say, you know, now, I’ve probably lost most of that. I’ve not kept it up. But even what I didn’t know, because Korean is a tonal language. Oftentimes, I wasn’t even pronouncing it in the right. So there were constant miscommunications. Oftentimes, yes means no. So they will agree. Because that’s a country of collective society of service. What can we do for you, you know, what is the service? How can we how, but at the same time, it was still very, you know, constant miscommunications, based on where I was living and the language.
Michael Hingson 17:22
Why ultimately, did you decide to move to Korea to teach what motivated you really to do that? I mean, so you decided to do it, but as you reflect back on it, what, what caused you to decide to do that that’s a big step, most people would say,
Evan Walker 17:41
it is, it is a big step. I honestly think now looking back, I wanted to experience the world. I also wanted to prove to myself, yeah, I can step outside of having my mom really support me having my dad stepping out of the shadows and saying to myself, for my own self worth, I appreciate me, and to just experience something that no one else had experienced. That I know. Up until that point, no one I knew had lived in Asia. I let alone South Korea. So it was looking back I think a test to myself
Michael Hingson 18:31
was a self imposed test.
Evan Walker 18:34
self imposed test.
Michael Hingson 18:36
So you mentioned that you move from one school to another several hours away. Why Why did you move from one school to another? What kind of prompted that?
Evan Walker 18:48
So I Well, the move was for contract. So in Korea, you really learn about flexibility, adaptability, as the best English teacher, you learn at a moment’s notice, there’s going to be a war drill, or there’s going to be, you know, a holiday tomorrow or your contract is still going to end on the same date. But we’d like to extend it or we’d like to shorten it. What do you think about that? There’s a lot of impromptu questions all the time. One because of language barrier, two, because three in school systems for the guest English teachers operate on a need to know basis. So you need to know they will tell you what usually is pretty, pretty quick, pretty last minute. I decided with that in mind to renew my contract. This felt like the story was not done for me there and I needed to move to a place that was a little bit more sort of politan I was hoping a bigger city. And that’s what I ended up moving to. The English program in Korea was actually the program that I was hired through. And I was hired before that, through the Council on Air National Education Exchange, called CI II. That is basically a recruiter for the English program in Korea, which is a government program in Korea that hires guests, English teachers, and so I knew someone about an hour away, he was the Regional Coordinator for the English program in Korea, he had sent an email to all the teachers in Gung sein buchtel, that we have a role. It’s in the Exxon. It’s the Boys High School. We’d like to take up this role, let me know. And so it wasn’t far for me. But it was closer to school, which was great. And I just wanted to stay and experience in New York City be close to her soul, and continue my learning of the code.
Michael Hingson 21:17
So you took it and there you were, how much larger was the second town or the more cosmopolitan area for you?
Evan Walker 21:24
I don’t know how much larger it was definitely I population. But it was definitely quite large. And not. There was there was a skyline. And I will also say that that city yet John was close to the mask dancing city. So Korean mass dancing is a tradition in their culture. And that city is called on dog. So yeah, Chun and on Dong, were probably about 2030 minutes apart on Dong was an even bigger city. So it was still yet started was still a farming community. But it had enough of an infrastructure socially for me to make the decision with about seven other expatriates. And a few more shops. For me to for me to enjoy. I would say yet, Shawn was about two and a half to three hours from Seoul. Yong Yong was five. So it was a great move in that way that I could still, you know, I could still make that jump in a quicker
Michael Hingson 22:45
so when I was there, I never really got to, as I say, do a lot of touring around it to be to be real cute. So did you ever find a cost go in South Korea? That is so
Evan Walker 22:57
funny that you asked. I don’t recall that. But you know, there’s a very similar chain called Home Plus believe that’s the name of the chain. And it’s basically like a Costco, you’ve got a lot of a lot of goods in bulk. And so many weekends from yet Shawn, I would take from us to on dog where the Home Plus was, and just buy tons and tons of food and things like that. There was one instance where before I was in yen chart, I actually took the bus with all the names of the buses, all the routes all the time, everything’s in Korea. So I took the bus. It was my first winter in Korea. I had some coats, but nothing I needed for sub zero temperatures Fahrenheit. So I took the bus I thought to odd Dong from Yong Yong, which was about two hours or so. What I didn’t know was I actually took the bus to Daegu, which was a while longer. And so when I got off the bus and I was realized I was not in on dawn. I was like, well, where’s the Home Plus, might as well make the best of it. So I just, you know, went shopping it some coats and hats and things like that. thermal underwear.
Michael Hingson 24:37
You found a home plus,
Evan Walker 24:39
I found a home vise you’ve got to be able to adapt, you’re gonna miss stuff. Living abroad living in a foreign country. So those kinds of lessons where you can be flexible is really, really important.
Michael Hingson 24:57
What would you advise the How to someone, if, if they’re thinking of going to a foreign country or living in a foreign country, or even just going as part of a holiday or whatever, what would you advise people?
Evan Walker 25:14
What I would advise people living in a foreign country, I would say, there are pivotal moments while you’re there. But then there’s a pivotal moment of making that decision to even go there, and live there. And I would say, for me, when I made the decision to get on that plane, it wasn’t necessarily a no return. But it was a change. And, for me, it’s a, it’s a point at which he experienced and this changed my life. It started a new one. And so with that froms challenges with all kinds of, you know, items and things in in those challenges such as language barriers, cultural, confusion, cultural and competency, which my job today is developing, and helping to empower and make people knowledgeable of cultural competency. But there’s a lot of different roads that you have to pass, once you make that decision, living abroad, living abroad as well. However long you live abroad, you have to remember and know, which I would say was not something that I was made aware of emphatically is that you will have to adjust, you will have reverse culture shock. Now, I would say certain countries, you probably have more than others. For me, being in a western culture being raised moving to an Eastern East Asia, Eastern country, the culture shock was quite great. Especially thinking about when you don’t have access to or aren’t listening to just think about music, of the current music that you listen to that. Oftentimes, unless you’re on YouTube, or your or latest app, you may miss out on that. You also may miss out on trends, and sometimes news and just feel like you’re out of place, you come back. So that’s really important. I would say just going abroad, period. Register with the State Department in case of an emergency. And just be open minded. Know that you have a bias no matter where you’re from, what your background is, when I first got out of the airport in Seoul or Inchon and I looked around at the cars, I just the first thing I noticed was every car is black, white, or gray. I was like, Oh, that was the second point when I realized the gravity of my decision, because it is a collectivist country. Everyone is thinking about each other. There’s not a lot of variations and colors and things like such a small, such a small, visually. Interesting fact, but also long standing in terms of the ramifications of that decision.
Michael Hingson 28:40
Do you regret having spent two years over there? Or were you? Do you feel that it was a valuable experience? What’s your reaction thinking back on it now? Yeah,
Evan Walker 28:53
I absolutely think it was a valuable experience. I do not regret it one bit. If I could do it over again, I would probably do some things differently. But every conversation I have meeting someone new, it usually comes up. When I’m interviewing for jobs, like the job I’m in now. It’s always a point of pride and our point of experience, something no one can ever take away from you. And I love that. So I I know the way I was challenged in many ways. I had some of the best times in my life, meeting different people from around the world in Seoul coming out, which was not necessarily the best time living there so far from home, but coming out as a gay black man over Skype to my family on my mom’s side who was who was very, very welcoming and you know, very proud of you for doing so. And my dad was too, later on.
Michael Hingson 30:02
But I was thinking that by that time, we had a lot more ability to communicate. So at least you had some opportunities to talk to people back here in the states that you wouldn’t have had 10 or 15 years before.
Evan Walker 30:19
Yeah, yeah. And, yeah, yeah, I actually, I will, because I went through a recruiter, the CIA II organization, which I think is now an NGO. They offered me the opportunity to blog about my experiences there. So I was joined by a number of bloggers, guests, English teachers, or I posted about this and that. And I was able to your point to email that blog to family and friends, they could keep up with me. There was one particular time, the summer of No, the spring of 2013, where I was getting a lot of emails because of the North Korean missile crisis. Today, it’s looked at as a pivotal point in time or a point in time where really, they had ramped up from February to May, so many different threats to South Korea and to America, which they still do today. They’re very frustrated, usually, with our annual military drills. In the spring. That year, it was so bad that they actually scrapped 1953 armistice, they told foreigners, you should probably leave because there’s going to be a war. It’s going to be violent. It was crazy. It got so bad that my mom and I started talking about escape plans or as breakout a violent war. How are you going to get home? So? Yeah, I would say definitely, you know, there were there were those times when I was especially grateful for the modern communication.
Michael Hingson 32:12
So you were over in South Korea for two years? And then you decided that that was enough for what? What was your motivation for them deciding to come back?
Evan Walker 32:24
My motivation deciding to come back was, I thought that was enough. I had need what I thought, which is definitely the case, in my eyes, lifelong friends. I had pushed myself to the limit, even from a climate, cultural norms, food perspective, housing perspective. And I wanted to start my professional career back home. Ultimately, I didn’t want to I didn’t want to push that back any longer. Some people I still know. They’re teaching all over the world backpacking thing in Korea, and that works for that. But for me, after two years, I was grateful for the experience. So many great times, challenging times. But I was ready to,
Michael Hingson 33:20
to come back. So. So you, you came back? And what were you thinking about doing with your life once you came back?
Evan Walker 33:31
So I came back, I honestly didn’t know I wanted to process what I just done. And I also went through, I think, three months of reverse culture shock, what I envisioned as the American culture that I left, what I envisioned as the culture of my community, the LGBTQ plus community, the culture of Atlanta, all of those things, as an expatriate living 1000s of miles away, in some way or another, were not what I envisioned them to be, which is just not good or bad. It’s just what happens. So I had the privilege, living over there having free room and board to save a lot of money. So I didn’t need to work. The first three or so months, that I was, and then I was lucky enough in the spring. So I got back in August. And I got a job in March of following year through British insurance company called Hiscox insurance, and I’m grateful to this day that they hired me what a great, great career there for five years, but you That’s really what I did was reflect. I had definitely some, I don’t want to say challenges. But it really was a challenge in many ways. Because my, my concern at that point was my health I had come back after spraining my ankle earlier in the year back when I was in Korea. And when I was in Korea, and I went to a doctor. The first time due to language barriers, there was no need for me to wrap my ankle that I had wrapped. Although it was a sprained ankles, of course, I needed to wrap it, then when I went to get I think it was an MRI or an x ray, they actually told me that your foot as an extra bone. And so you probably just surgery to get the bone out. So by the time I got home, you know, again, just reminiscing the good times the challenging times. And then also thinking at some point, I’m gonna have to probably get this out. So again, I was grateful to get the job several months past, but I think anyone coming back from living abroad should really, if they can take that time to just adjust.
Michael Hingson 36:29
Because it isn’t you have an extra phone in your book. Did you have an extra bone in your foot? If I could talk I’d be in great shape.
Evan Walker 36:35
I certainly did. I asserted that I had an accessory bone down there, yeah, and the foot on on the side of my ankle. And so I ended up having surgery. Later that year, after I was fired, it was a reconstructive surgery, the first of its kind that my doctor had done. The reattach the tendon, took the bone out and gave me an arch. So I likely will have to have the same things on my other foot. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Michael Hingson 37:12
So at least they diagnosed it over there. And exactly. That was an interesting experience. I bet you didn’t expect.
Evan Walker 37:23
Totally unexpected, but that’s what comes with doing things that are unconventional. And when you take risk knows, you know, you can’t foresee everything that happens, take calculated risks. I also had, you know, a finger, little system, my finger that I had to get taken out. Right before I came home, you know, there’s just things like that, coming from a Western country, any country, you live somewhere else did a climate food, you learn things more about your body and your health that you weren’t aware of. And you have to be prepared that if there’s a language barrier or any other barrier, you may not have the same access to what it is that you need to prepare or recover from any issues with your health.
Michael Hingson 38:25
You decided not to do the surgery in Korea, obviously and you came back here to do that.
Evan Walker 38:31
Yeah, and Korean has Korea is very good. You know, hospitals, let’s be clear, especially in Seoul. I just wanted to be home with family knowing I was coming home the following year. So it really just actually I think that was the same year I came home.
Michael Hingson 38:51
So what was the job the insurance company gave you.
Evan Walker 38:55
I was an underwriting assistant, which before I really read fiction, I thought it was related to Randy. So I’m like Oh, I’m back in I’m back doing something connected to my major. And it was actually a really interesting job processing job processing along the lines of commercial insurance. So cybersecurity technology errors and omissions really interesting job interesting people learns a lot. Definitely a bit of my time I work till midnight one time I was I was a workhorse at point and I work hard now and I you know work smart, collaborate all of those things but I really try just be in the present and Alan’s and integrate my work and life in a way we’re not going to burn myself out. As you as a lot have early in earlier in career people tend to disregard coming out just want to prove ourselves and things like that. Let me just work till my wit’s end. But no, I don’t do that anymore. But it was a great company still have great friends from there are my mentors from the pride resource group. Oh, keep in touch.
Michael Hingson 40:27
So when you as an underwriter, you’re here doing that work? What is it? You do? So you were talking about everything from dealing with intellectual property and cybersecurity and so on? What do you do? Or what did you
Evan Walker 40:41
so as an I was really the underwriting assistant for the underwriters. So they were, look up the risk of, you know, what’s the risk of, you know, Michael, Michael Hanson’s company having a data breach. So this is what we’ll cover, if you have a data breach, this is the amount that will pay. And so as an underwriting assistant, I would then kind of put those words together for them, but more often than not, provide them with a quote to send to you, or rather your broker, your insurance broker, and, you know, this kind of processing, getting those quotes out, getting those declines out, and canceling policies, when when that says, stay out?
Michael Hingson 41:38
Well, it clearly can be part of a fascinating process. And I recognize the value in the need of insurance and the whole concept of risk management. And I speak about risk management from another side, which is basically more on the emergency preparedness side. You’re in a room, you’re listening to me speak. Do you know where the emergency exits are not the door that you came in, but the emergency exits? And the whole concept of risk management from that standpoint, which also, very possibly could affect your insurance? How well do you make sure that people who come to your facility, know what to do in an emergency and how to well you teach people might very well affect what you have to pay in the way of insurance so that you prove that you’re being as careful as you can be?
Evan Walker 42:36
You know, Michael, you’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. The importance cannot be understated. And even terrorism, kidnap ransom, shooter, all of all of those, all of those, but I do remember from reading your book, and just looking at YouTube videos and research, that you had all of the plans from, as a survivor of 911, working in a tower, one of the towers, you had those plans in Braille, that you had, basically, were an expert as to how to evacuate before it has to be that happens. occurred.
Michael Hingson 43:26
I still remember, I still remember speaking at one organization meeting risk managers in Missouri, I think we were at Branson, but it was a meeting of risk management people from the Midwest. And after speaking, one of the people said, you know, we’ve never thought about the fact that as as a company, and that was a power company, they were one of the utilities, we have generation generating stations, and we don’t teach our people really how to get out that is if there’s a fire down in the station, how are people going to be able to get out because they can’t see due to the smoke and so on. And we actually work together to develop a mechanism by which there people were able to escape without being able to see the exits because of the smoke. So they took that sort of thing very seriously. And it is and people really need to prepare more than they do. But they put some things in place. It was really cool to hear about it later, which is just really wonderful. So you worked at the insurance company for five years, and that’s that’s a good long time for for some people but you weren’t there for five years. So what what made you leave and where did you go?
Evan Walker 44:49
Honestly, I really just wanted to lean in more to that interest that I had found and passion related to ours. City inclusion, belonging and really being able to sink my teeth into a full time diversity, inclusion and belonging role. I was working in my last job as a training coordinator there. So I had some exposure to training courses focused on women in leadership and unconscious bias. But I wanted to do more I had started, what we call it at the time, LG, our LGBT work with whom someone I now call a friend, an executive bear, but also several other employees who are based in London. And so we created this global, what I call now at my current company, employee resource group, erg. And it was very successful. I mean, senior leadership was totally engaged, the visible visibility was global. It was on the top of everyone’s minds, and honestly, bias, but I think that it gave other networks, the visibility that they needed, as well. And it put a spotlight on all the efforts that were going on related to vision and diversity. So much so that they asked me to speak to the company, out the networks.
Michael Hingson 46:27
What led you to develop the passion? Did you just start to think about it, and it kind of grew or what? I
Evan Walker 46:36
still to this day, I’m not quite sure. You know, it’s funny because my dad consulted for many years with Christ on crisis management, public relations, and inclusion and diversity. And I never thought that I would be doing the same thing as him. But in many ways, I am following in his footsteps, which was totally unintended. I think that when I was raising my hand during focus groups, for employee networks for initiatives related to inclusion, and diversity, I just was curious and wanted to help in any way. It just kind of rounds me.
Michael Hingson 47:25
So you left the company, the insurance company? And did you and your friends start your own company? Or did you go to work for someone else or what
Evan Walker 47:36
I so I got a job. About a month later, I was hired by InterContinental Hotels.This was actually the year of 2020. And it was in March. So shortly before I started that job, which was a full time diversity and inclusion role, especially sprawl. I had enrolled in a Cornell online course, certificate in diversity and inclusion. So that was a self self taught course, like we had instructors, but everything was on your own time, rather. So there was no rush for me, but I had it in the event, longer to find a job than I expected. Well, even though I found the job, and I got a job rather quickly. COVID hit, of course. And so just starting there, I was like, Oh, it was a contract, permanent position. And at the time, there were a number of other people who were permanent, I believe, who might have been let go as well. But so many companies were just scrambling as to what to do. Everyone was sent home. And so I just use that time in between jobs to complete that course, which was a very rigorous course about engagement, your own engagement, when you weren’t engaged. What did you do? Why do you feel that that was the case? And how do you make others feel engaged included? So that took me about eight months to complete by the end of it, I moved on to another company, I had extended an offer. That company was a great, great role. Great, great company. But after about two years with that company, I decided you know what? I would like to change and I feel like there’s a new environment, a new path where I can experience being a diversity and inclusion manager I had left after IHG and starting at this company eight months later, or in the fall, I was a consultant for diversity and inclusion, helping people partnering with an accessibility subject matter expert, others from different parts of the world. And it was a great, great experience for me. But every company is on their own maturity scale. As far as diversity, inclusion, equity, all of these things, I wanted to experience a company that was on a different part of the scale. And so that’s what led me to where I am now.
Michael Hingson 50:41
So where are you now?
Evan Walker 50:43
Now I am at Newman Technologies. I’m one of our global diversity and inclusion, inclusion and belonging managers, we actually are a telecommunications company, transforming as a technology company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. And just a great great company, curious, being present a lot of great values, and just putting our money where our mouth is, and our commitment as well. So I am just elated to be able to do what I do in this capacity, moving a mile a minute, but also seeing the change and being the change you want to see. That is what lumen is and I’m so happy to be along for the ride. So what is it you do? So, as a global as a Global Inclusion, belonging and diversity manager at Newman, I manage are starting to manage our communication in our partnership with the International organizations at lumen. So we have our APAC, India, EMEA. All of those organizations have what we call employee resource groups. And so the thread of that, or the holder of the thread of all of our employee resource groups, comes back to me. So I helped to oversee our disability, and abilities ERG, we have 11, employee resource groups help to see our black professionals ERG, we have a number of emojis that really help create more engagement, more of a safe space, but also just to help anyone feel included. And so that’s a part of my role. But there’s so many others, and I really just love it.
Michael Hingson 52:50
How much influence do you have in getting the company when you discover something that maybe isn’t right, from an inclusion standpoint, with one group or another? How much influence do you have in being able to change mindsets and change policy?
Evan Walker 53:12
So actually, it’s funny that you say that my boss is the chief diversity officer. So she brought all of us in to be curious, of new ideas, different diverse perspectives. And so with that, everything that I think about ideas, I’m not necessarily implementing all of them. Many of the ideas I have or perspectives or feedback related to I’m just gonna say policy, that does go back up to the C suite, just because my boss is the chief diverse diversity officer. So I often in leading taskforce related to changes in policies, how to get more employees engaged at all levels of the organization. And it all is exposed to senior leadership one way or another. So I would say it’s pretty close. Pretty well, let me
Michael Hingson 54:19
let me rephrase the question slightly. So maybe I should say how much does the chief diversity officer and the department have in the way of influence but let me give you an example. Let’s say for example, someone and I will use disabilities here. Let’s say a blind person comes along and says, I’m interested in being a part of your company or they get hired and they say, I need a screen reader software to be able to, to read what’s on my computer screen because I can’t read it otherwise. Or I go to these meetings and people are always handing out documentation at the beginning of the meetings, and then people read it and they discuss it, but nobody provides Is that in a form that I can use, much less provided in advance so that I really have access to it and can become familiar with it before the meeting, which really is the way we ought to handle documentation in general. But so someone comes to you and says, I got this problem. What? And I’ve gone to my boss, I tell you, and my boss has said, well, that’s just the way it is, we’re not going to do anything about it. That’s clearly discriminatory and non inclusive. How do you deal with that?
Evan Walker 55:36
Absolutely. So I would say, my boss would definitely be involved. So if that employee came in email, me or my boss, it would definitely get raised to the leadership level, depending on what the what the request is. In that scenario, I would say, that’s absolutely discriminatory. And we do accommodate. We are inclusive of everyone, regardless of nationality, disability, ability, race, ethnicity, religion, all of those all of those inventions. And so it would be a dress, it would be listened to, and we make the accommodation or change needed, do we? Yeah, I’ll leave it at that.
Michael Hingson 56:27
Yeah. It’s, it’s an interesting conundrum. Because it all comes down to what people consider priorities and the cost of doing business. So for example, something that a number of us face regularly is we go into meetings, documentation is handed out papers. And they’re referred to constantly during the meeting, but nobody makes them available for me to be able to access them. The other part about it is, which really is I think, the more interesting aspect of it, is that all too often we hand out documentation at meetings for people to read and the excuses. Well, we got to wait till the last minute to get the most current data. And the answer is do you really, rather than saying, we’re going to provide the documentation in advance, so you should come prepared to discuss it. So at the meeting, you really discuss not spend half of your meeting or a good portion of your meeting, just preparing by reading it. And if you then do it in advance, it’s a lot easier to make the documentation or the information accessible in a form that’s usable. But getting people to change that mindset is really hard. But really, it ought to be part of the cost of doing business to make sure that true inclusion takes place. And it is so often a difficult thing to get people to change their mindset to do that, which is what prompted the question.
Evan Walker 57:53
You’re right. Yeah, the mindset change is is difficult, I think at any company specific, typically,around arounds. This this topic in a time of transformation, a time in society where the economy is very uncertain. The times that we’re living in, and if you don’t have those infrastructure, those systems in place already to support the mindset shift. That makes it even more difficult. I think the way lumen has been committed to inclusion for many, many years, has helped where we are moving forward in our journey. We also have a new CEO, who is from Microsoft spin all over the news and LinkedIn, and she’s just wonderful. So she’s also very committed to inclusion and diversity. And I think we’re on a great, a great trajectory, a great path. But it’s not easy for anyone to change those minds. Yeah. But you do have to meet people where they are. So
Michael Hingson 59:10
you know, you absolutely do and it is a process. It’s a learning process. It’s a growing process on all sides. Well, I will tell you, this has been absolutely fun. And we’ve been doing this for about an hour now. Can you believe it? And so I think what we’ll do is we will go ahead and stop but I want to get you back on in the future because I’d love to hear how your your journey and your adventure goes. And hear more about the experiences that you have at lumen and whatever you do, because your whole adventure now dealing with inclusion and diversity and so on is a worthwhile one to continue to discuss. Thank you
Evan Walker 59:55
so much, Michael. This has been fun for me as well. I’ve really ever You’re told this story at length, except for into family and friends. So it’s been nice. Getting some of these these points out and also going down memory lane, I appreciate you taking me down that too.
Michael Hingson 1:00:15
Well, thank you for for doing it and being willing to go down memory lane. And I want to thank you for listening. And I hope that you enjoyed this. Heaven has done a great job of giving us a lot of insights and a lot of useful information. I hope you found it interesting and that you enjoyed the podcast episode today, please give us a five star rating wherever you are. And wherever you’re listening to this with whatever system, we would appreciate it. If you’d like to reach out, Evan, if people want to reach out to you, is there a way they can do that?
Evan Walker 1:00:50
Yeah, people can just reach out to me on LinkedIn. So Evan, Robert Brown Walker, my name, just type that in on LinkedIn, you’re welcome to connect with me send me a message. Also you have questions about actually going abroad and living abroad. There are a number of resources. Michael, I’m going to share those with you. Please, you know, we can we can share as far as links like the Council on International Education Exchange, and their website called transition transition abroad. For research.
Michael Hingson 1:01:25
The blog articles that you wrote when you were in Korea, are they available to the public anywhere? That would be a fun series of links are linked to those blogs to
Evan Walker 1:01:35
know. Yeah, I It’s funny, I was looking, I want to say two or three years ago, and they totally redid their site. I will check with one of their directors. But those blogs I think have since since gone. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 1:01:52
Gone to the big recycle bin in the sky. They
Evan Walker 1:01:56
recycle then. Yeah, they’ve been replaced. There’s now new bloggers? Well, it’s
Michael Hingson 1:02:01
fair to Well, again, we appreciate it. And for all of you reach out to Evan, he would love to hear from you, obviously and I would like to hear your comments as well. So feel free to email me at Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com or visit our podcast page at WWW dot Michael hingson H i n g s o n.com/podcast. We’d love to hear from you. And of course those ratings are greatly appreciated. Love to get your thoughts. And if you have people in mind or think of people who you think we ought to have an unstoppable mindset and Evan you as well. Whether it’s other people at Lumen or elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you and always are looking for podcast guests who can come on and tell stories. So we’d appreciate you letting us know about those people as well and giving us introductions.
Evan Walker 1:02:56
Michael Hingson 1:02:58
Well, thank you one last time for being here. We really appreciate you doing this. And I expect to have you back on and we can hear about more adventures.
Evan Walker 1:03:08
Oh, thank you, Michael. Pleasure, meeting you as well. And thank you again for the opportunity. Look forward to next time.
Michael Hingson 1:03:20
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.