Celebrating Black History Month

History & Origin

Black History Month is a celebration and annual commemoration of the history, achievements & contributions of Black people in US history. It was originally introduced by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. The origins of the event were initially introduced as ‘Negro History Week’; but it was later decided that it wasn’t long enough. Civil right movements & the Black power movements pushed the event to become the Black History month in 1969. Since 1976, every U.S President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Find out more here 

Bringing Black History Month to the UK

A visit to America from Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo was enough to found a UK’s version of Black History Month in 1987. Akyaaba chose October to celebrate Black History month (in contrast to Americans celebrating in February). He did so to since  as a way to connect to his roots, since October was traditionally when African Chiefs & leaders gathered to settle their differences.

Find out more here 

In addition to this, October also aligns with the start of the academic year. Many have thought that the decision for Akyaaba was to also give black children a sense of pride and identity.

Find out more here 

Celebrating black British culture and identity

Black culture has contributed significantly to British history, its influence can be traced back to c.125 – 300. Black History Month gives us an opportunity to salute those who have made considerable contributions to the development of our society but who often go without the recognition they deserve. We aim to celebrate black British culture by highlighting some of these hidden stories and by giving a nod to our understated heroes.

We would like to lead this initiative with, John Edmonstone, a Taxidermist who taught students, including the likes of Charles Darwin, at Edinburgh University in the 19th century. Edmonton was born into slavery in Guyana and later travelled to Britain where he gained his freedom and qualified as a Taxidermist. John Edmonton’s accounts of his homeland is thought to have inspired Darwin’s exploration of the tropics. Darwin’s travels across the Galapagos islands allowed him to discover the 12 distinct species of Finches that are differentiated by their beaks. This ultimately led to the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Thus his input should not be omitted from our history.

Find out more here

Trailblazers of today

In this issue, we wanted to highlight the efforts of people who currently support and contribute to the black community. It’s an inclusive look at people who are making a difference within our generation.

Recognising current achievements and celebrating those who have broken barriers and forged a way for those behind them 

‘The Receipts Podcast’ is a light-hearted British podcast headed by three women of colour, Tolly Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez. The podcast launched on the Apple Podcast and the Soundcloud in October 2016 and has seen success through its rising popularity (topped the Apple Podcast chart in 2018). The ladies of the podcast are known for their frank and honest dialogue where they tackle issues such as Colourism in the workplace, cultural appropriation and topics of a lighter nature, such as ‘how to deal with first dates’.

The accelerated uptake of the podcast by the public demonstrates the extent to which conversations within the black community are equally as engaging as those that take place in mainstream media and broadcasting. Representation within the Arts industry is extremely important today, particularly across media platforms.Telling the stories of people of colour as well as sharing their perspectives in this way ensures that the media we consume and interact with is relatable and diverse. The Receipts Podcast exemplifies a group of trailblazers who have taken the initiative to tap into a once closed space by capitalising on the booming podcast industry, providing an assurance that the voices of black women are heard and their opinions are valid. Ultimately serving the black community and the wider British community alike by providing representation and diverse perspectives.

The Receipts can also boast of its success through its recent exclusivity contract with Spotify in June 2019, their partnerships with name brands such as MAC Cosmetics and collaborations with celebrities including Regina King and Boderick Hunter.

Check them out here

Rising stars

Shining a light on upcoming game changers who are making large strides in their respective fields. 

Timothy Armoo is a graduate from the University of Warwick and co-founder and CEO of Fanbytes. Fanbytes is a creative marketing agency that supports brands in advertising to Gen Z and Millenials on social media. The enterprise has allowed brands to partner with Snapchat to reach their audiences directly resulting in a 93% ad-completion rate – outperforming traditional ads by 4:1.The agency is founded on the principle of non-disruptive forms of advertising, infusing advertising with entertainment to drive emotional engagement: Advertainment. Fanbytes has helped brands such as Apple Music, Boohoo and Deliveroo. 

I wanted to build a new advertising offering for the 21st century that would help brands collaborate with online stars and personalities. 

Timothy Armoo, Interview with The Telegraph – 14/11/2016

Timothy Armoo built the start-up as a student in 2015 and is a great example of how we can be successful in changing times, such as the rampant digital revolution that we are currently experiencing. Armoo is cognisant of the inversion brought to social interactions by the surge of social media and demonstrates his creativity and innovation through a model of effective solutioning and problem solving when faced with such changing circumstances as those brought on by the digital age.

Find out more here

Making an impact

Stormzy Cambridge Scholarship Programme

Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper and singer. In 2014, he garnered attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats.

Stormzy started a scholarship programme to help black students read at the University of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge has long been revered as one of the best institutes of learning in the UK & worldwide. The aim of the scholarship is to assist black youths to attend the university without fiscal worry. Stormzy initially founded the scholarship programme to combat a longstanding underrepresentation of black students in the UK’s best Universities. Despite a more proportional spread of academic results in secondary schools and sixth forms, there has bit little to no change in uptake of black students in the UK’s top school. Stormzy initiated the Stormzy Scholarship programme to close this gap and offer more University places to black students.

University of Cambridge’s Outline of the scholarship

The scholarships, which are non-repayable, will cover the full cost of tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant which will significantly reduce the need for awardees to take out government or commercial loans. This support will be available to recipients for up to four years of undergraduate study. For 2019-20 the total award to each student for the year will be worth £18,000. Receipt of this award will not affect eligibility for a Cambridge Bursary.

A statement from Stormzy says everything

 There are so many young black kids all over the country who have the level of academic excellence to study at a university such as Cambridge – however we are still under represented at leading universities. We, as a minority, have so many examples of black students who have excelled at every level of education throughout the years. I hope this scholarship serves as a small reminder that if young black students wish to study at one of the best universities in the world, then the opportunity is yours for the taking – and if funding is one of the barriers, then we can work towards breaking that barrier down.

 Find out more here

Sopra Steria’s Race, Religion and Belief Network

Sopra Steria has introduced a Race, Religion and Belief Network! The Network was launched this October and we had our first meeting to establish and introduce the chair of the Network, Mo Ahmed, & the networks purpose in general. The Race, Religion and Belief Network has introduced a community for people to connect with other members of the business across the UK. The Network is a place for people of all beliefs and backgrounds to collaborate and work together to make Sopra Steria a more inclusive place to work.

We have our first event coming up in celebration of Black History month! We’re having a networking and mixer in London. There will be speakers who talk on topics on the theme of Black History Month & an introduction talk from the chair of the Race, Religion and Belief network as well.

An invite will be sent to all members of the Race & Religion network prior to the event. Being part of the Race & Religion Network is not required to attend the event; but we would like to have you. If you want to join, send an email to inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

The first event for the Race & Religion network will take place on 29th October in the Holborn office (1&2 Hatton Garden). We’ll have the Chair Mo Ahmed say some words alongside a few other speakers. We’d love to see you there or hopefully organise any other events in the office as well. If you have any questions or queries, please forward them to the inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

Co-authored by Ali-Hamzah Ahmed and Naomi Kilonda

Not Just IT

Words and pictures are not enough to describe today, I have been privileged to witness something very special indeed.

Our journey today has felt like a week of experiences in one day, in a good way. First we visited a school sponsored by Sopra Steria, the Bhuvana Krishna matriculation hr sec school in Chennai, where we were greeted by the school elders and a marching band.

Here I cut the ribbon to their new computer room, with 40 computers provided by Sopra Steria, and met some of the students who then had lunch with us. It was a wonderful experience seeing first hand the difference that the Sopra Steria CSR programme makes here in India and not just with IT. The programme also sponsors the schools and Sopra Steria staff volunteer to work at these schools, where they:

  • Mentor the kids through their education
  • Support the families and communities
  • Run summer camps
  • Organise sports days
  • Run arts and crafts workshops
  • Provide guidance on life after school
  • Provide female guidance on life as a woman in India.

Sopra Steria didn’t even start helping this school with IT equipment until later. Not Just IT.

After lunch we were shown around the Sopra Steria Campus; set in 27 acres of landscaped gardens, before meeting the scholars and alumni from the schools in Chennai. Some of the proud parents were also there. One girl was studying two degree courses through Sopra Steria, and was looking to become a chartered accountant in the public sector.

Lastly, we visited the Punjab association destitute home for children; an orphanage, where we were met by 200 children of all ages from 5 to 18. We were then honoured by the lighting of candles as a symbolisation in readiness for Diwali, where Ganesh was surrounded by rings and rows of candles. After this ceremony a bell rang and all the children ran off. They came running back to the dining room with their plates where we helped serve them their dinner, which was provided by Sopra Steria. The children in the home were incredibly sweet, wanting to engage with us and to see photos of my home in Tockenham and the countryside of the UK.

This home really was a home; it felt just like a big family. All the kids were smiling and saying positive things about Sopra Steria and the home. One girl we met earlier at the scholars’ event was now studying to be a lawyer and is in the 2nd year of her course. She is a bright student who was originally a resident at the home.

Authored by John Gough.

An early start for an experience of a lifetime

Wednesday Kim and I had an early start; our taxi took us to the airport at 5am so we were both up at 4am – 11.30pm UK time!

We arrived at the hotel just in time to join the Sopra Steria Community Day in Pune a Share & Support Day in the Sheraton Hotel Pune, the ceremonies started with the lighting of a Deepam, which signifies the removal darkness from the mind and heart of a person. An oil Deepam signifies the light of knowledge, which dispels the darkness of ignorance. It shines itself and causes the objects around it, to shine due to its reflection by giving knowledge, wisdom and intelligence.

After introduction from Gayathri the programme began which included a quiz competition between 8 Sopra Steria supported schools and amazing cultural performances by primary school children and scholars and Sopra Steria staff and even hotel staff. Apart from representatives of schools, children, scholars, we as representatives of 6 countries across Europe also joined in the celebrations with a sing along to Head Shoulders, knees and toes, in each of our native languages, which had everyone on their feet dancing to the same song.

Anil Gokarn was the environment speaker – founder of ProEarth Ecosystems in who process 3.5 tons per day of organic waste processing across 40 odd locations in areas of Pune. His talk and video  on  environmental issues, and particularly climate change, was well received and certainly brought home how this is a global problem that everyone needs to be involved with, seeing so many of the young generations in the room.

The dancing, singing, and guitar playing was of the highest standard and again brought tears to my eyes watching such beautiful performances. Something Kim and I would not have missed for the world. It was amazing to know these young students and scholars had put so much into not only their own educations, but outside of study preparing for this day.

After the event, we had Indian buffet and were able to speak with all of the scholars, students and teachers. The day for me was special, these kids are following their dreams and knowing that Sopra Steria is there helping making the journey even better with the support and encouragement of the SSIF was an honour to see. 

Proof of this was shown in one of the posters at the event of the 660 beneficiaries of the scholarships.

  • 422 completed courses
  • 245 engineering courses completed
  • 5 medicine completed
  • 410 other courses completed
  • With 238 still benefitting from the programme 

Dreams can happen

By John Gough

Discovering the benefits of giving

Hello. My name is Kim Slocombe and I am a Project Finance Analyst (PFA) in the Finance department.  I have worked for the company via a number of takeovers, starting with F.I., through Xansa, Steria and now Sopra Steria, for the last 26 years.

Three years ago in January, I felt that my children were all grown up and I was not needed as much for them so I decided to start some volunteering work. I was at a fundraising event for Launchpad, which is a Prevention of Homelessness charity in Reading, UK and enquired about volunteering for them. I was accepted and have been spending 3 hours a week helping in their Education, Training and Employment Hub (ETE). 

Launchpad deal with clients who are homeless, in threat of homelessness and, those with housing problems in general.  They offer support; guidance and temporary accommodation to help people get started again.  In the ETE Hub, I help clients write their CVs and apply for work, whilst helping them with basic computer skills so they can continue on their own. 

We also offer skills training courses for computing and keyboard, Construction certificate course practice and Health and Hygiene Food courses. It has been a time of great satisfaction for me and given me a chance to try something new whilst being of some use. It is for my work with Launchpad that I was nominated and won the Sopra Steria “Volunteer of the Year” award. 

I feel very humbled and grateful that my meagre efforts have been recognised in such a fantastic way.  The prize trip to India promises to be a whirlwind tour of the fabulous work done by the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF).

It will be a chance to see for myself what the SSIF, led by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR, do for the children of India. There are projects happening in Noida, Pune and Chennai, which help put around 70,000 children through school and university each year. That we as a company help so many disadvantaged children and families is just an amazing feat. The hard work and care shown by Gayathri and her team should be an inspiration to us all.  I hope to see on my trip how all the projects are helping the children get an education and a chance to elevate their living standards for themselves and their families in the very hard world that they live in.  I have heard of the elation with which Gayathri is received when she visits the schools and pupils her team helps and hope to witness the eagerness to learn, happiness and enthusiasm that going to school gives them.  I suspect this trip is going to be a wonderful experience that opens my eyes to a way of life very different from my own.

By Kim Slocombe

My thoughts on the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the volunteering work we do to make a difference

This year I was lucky enough to be nominated for an award for my voluntary work and was selected as one of the Sopra Steria Volunteers of the Year for 2018 where I won an all-expenses-paid trip to India, to see the amazing work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF), I leave for this exciting trip in a weeks’ time.

Over the nearly 2 weeks I am there, I will visit the international award-winning Community programmes run by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR for Sopra Steria India. Every year, Gayathri’s programme supports around 70,000 children through school, while also providing free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, and a huge number of other educational and social initiatives.

She also runs the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme, where we fund the full university education and living costs for a number of the brightest students from schools we support. So far more than 500 pupils through higher education programmes thanks to the Sopra Steria scholarship programme.

My volunteering

I volunteer every week at the Great Western Hospital Falcon Ward in Swindon, visiting patients on the major stroke unit, providing much needed company for individuals who may have had no visitors, as well as helping with feeding for patients who have little or no mobility.

I was inspired to volunteer after I had fought a very personal battle caring for my sister with Motor Neurone Disease. It was whilst visiting her in the hospital that that I picked up a leaflet asking for volunteers, that was over 4 years ago now. I absolutely love doing it!

I know some of the patients I see have not had a visitor all day, very often I spend time with each person chatting and putting the world to rights, chatting about travel, gardening or cooking before helping the nurses with their feeding and making cups of tea. Just simple things that I know make a difference, being the major stroke unit there are many patients there who struggle with communications and that takes time, time that the nurses don’t always have.

In addition to my work at the hospital which I am still doing and I also volunteer for a local group called “The Achievers” (Adult LD Group) this is a voluntary group in Swindon that gives adults with Learning difficulties a social context in which to interact with other adults and care receivers. We once a month arrange a social get together for the ‘members’ this varies from a meal at a local pub, cinema or theatre visits, day trips to local amenities e.g. Longleat or a canal boat trip. The members of the group have many varied disabilities from eating and drinking difficulties, communication and hearing difficulties, autism, complex physical needs, long term health conditions, behaviour that challenges others, sensory disability & mental health illness. This is a lovely group currently there are about 40 members in the Swindon area and we have just had a summer picnic and walk and are planning a Christmas meal and a trip to the panto in January, I give my time on this the day trips are usually at the weekends and evening functions I do after work.


By John Gough

Corporate Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme Bronze Award – setting our course for excellence in Armed Forces community engagement

At the end of July Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced the opening of a new Office for Veterans’ Affairs, a hub established to coordinate and drive Government policy on veterans’ mental and physical health, education and employment.

While this is clearly an excellent development, at Sopra Steria we believe that responsibility for helping veterans to access rewarding and gainful employment extends beyond the UK Government and into the private sector. There are initiatives that industry can drive to support the effectiveness of this new office, leveraging technology to bring together the veteran community. 

The Armed Forces community possesses a wealth of qualities that enrich business. In our organisation we have often found that veterans come to us having held posts of phenomenal responsibility, sometimes having managed teams that are much larger and more complex than those that they’ll encounter in the corporate world.

To engage and retain such outstanding individuals, it is important that businesses bear in mind that many veterans and other members of the Armed Forces community (including spouses of serving members, reservists and cadet instructors) have differing professional and personal development needs from their counterparts. The Armed Forces are unique; our conventions and turns of phrase often baffle the uninitiated! Leaving the familial military environment and entering the commercial sphere can be a big step, even for a community known for its grit and agility.

It is for this reason that I and other business leaders at Sopra Steria signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in 2013. Our public commitment signals to veterans that we value the contribution that they can bring to our organisation and offer practical help and support to facilitate their introduction to a domain less familiar. I am delighted that we have now been awarded Bronze status under the Employer Recognition Scheme; an important step that sets out our intention to structure and professionalise our approach to Armed Forces community engagement. Bronze Award is a stepping stone on our journey to best practice, a destination that will rank us employer of choice for these talented people. We will focus new energy on this in the coming months, with the aim to digitally-enable this powerful community.

Vern Davis – Managing Director for Aerospace, Defence and Security

The Armed Forces community and the corporate world; transferable skills to add business value

This weekend, more than 300 events were held across the UK to mark Armed Forces Day.

As an Armed Forces Corporate Covenant signatory Sopra Steria encouraged employees to support their local events, in order to acknowledge the community who protect our nation with honour and courage.

The Armed Forces community – including not only veterans, but reservists, cadet instructors and spouses of serving members – plays a vital role in the fabric of Sopra Steria UK. This is not an accident; the Armed Forces equip individuals with exceptional training, resourcefulness and transferable skills, all of which can enhance an organisation’s effectiveness.

However, the civilian workplace can sometimes be a worrying prospect for a member of the Armed Forces community – particularly new veterans who may be struggling to adapt to their new way of life. A Sopra Steria employee recounts: ‘I thought leaving the military after 25 years and moving into the corporate world would be extremely daunting.’ Happily the employee in question grew to recognise that the skills he gained were extremely valuable to the business: ‘They helped me to see that skills and experience I had gained over the years were transferable, which immediately put my mind at ease, making my transition into the civilian world so much easier.’

This is sadly not the case for all veterans, as outlined by the charity Veterans Work following a recent report: ‘Across the country, three in ten businesses admit they have not even considered employing veterans. While the majority claim to be more open minded, 60 per cent of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry specific experience. There are roughly 700,000 veterans currently in employment, over half find themselves in routine, low-skilled or low-paid jobs. It is an alarming waste of talent.’ In this company we recognise the potential in Service veterans, even if they often don’t recognise it themselves.

It is in the interest of businesses like ours to facilitate such transitions by creating welcoming and supportive working environments, underpinned by core values; this resonated with me when I joined Sopra Steria as an Armed Forces veteran. We have more work to do as part of our pro-active Armed Forces Engagement Initiative, but I’m proud to lead a team that includes many members of the Armed Forces community who are thriving and fulfilled in their careers.

Vern Davis, Head of Aerospace, Defence & Security