“Find something that makes all the time that you put into your job worth it,” that’s Erica Payne’s advice for navigating one’s career. “Keep your heart and ears open to new possibilities that draw you in and explore them because it might be something bigger than just a moment. Figure out who you want to be and follow that path.”
That’s what she did when she discovered her own path to DEI strategy. Erica explained that she wouldn’t have known about her passion for creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments if the opportunity hadn’t been dropped in front of her. “Honestly, I don’t know if I would have found it on my own,” she said.
It happened when she was working at Deloitte and was asked to join their DEI council “mostly because I was one of the few Black women in the office,” she said, laughing. However, she took to the work immediately. “I loved it and saw so many opportunities to improve equal opportunity and equal access across the organization.”
As she dove deeper into DEI, she discovered a desire to make impactful change, prompting her to look toward developing her own skills. She pursued an MBA at Harvard and immediately got involved with DEI before becoming the CEO and co-founder of Pareto Placements, which focused on bringing equality and equal access in the finance industry for all talented candidates.
She returned to Deloitte as a DEI strategist after graduating and has focused on helping organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, foster more inclusive cultures and serve a broader customer base.
As she looks forward in her own life, Erica reflected on the important things she learned and the significant people she becomes close to during her time at Carondelet. Being able to play basketball with her sister was significant because the two became friends on top of the relationship they already share—“That time together shaped the relationship we have today,” said Erica.
She also met her significant other at De La Salle. “We’ve been dating since high school,” she said. “He played basketball and football and went on to play football at Cornell University, so playing collegiate sports was something we both had in common. He is my support system and I am so thankful we met in high school.”