We spoke to Racquell Royster, Business Excellence Specialist in the Operations division based in Austin. She shared the experience of touching lives as a high school teacher, challenges she faced before coming to Papaya, and how Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the past and present contributions of African Americans.
What do you consider most important about Black History Month?
The most important thing about Black History Month is acknowledging the historical contributions that African Americans have made to society. It’s also important to acknowledge all the current work that African Americans are doing within local and global communities to benefit future generations of African Americans. Too often our contributions are not acknowledged or overlooked.
What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
I’ve had to overcome many barriers to reach this point in my career. I found myself being the only African American and only African American woman in many of the spaces that I’ve been in. This has often put me at a disadvantage in terms of speaking up or being able to make change. Oftentimes my ideas have been dismissed, misrepresented, and devalued in comparison to the ideas of other ethnic groups. More times than not, I have been made to feel invisible.
Another barrier that I’ve also had to overcome is setting healthy boundaries within the workplace as an African American woman. There is an unspoken expectation for African American women to work twice as hard and take on more responsibilities than our counterparts and perform with maximum efficiency.
High functioning depression and burnout has been and continues to be an issue for us. I have experienced times for example, when I’ve had to “push through” as I sit in meetings while processing the grief of hearing about another African American losing their lives to police brutality or being heckled with racial slurs without consequence.
During these times I have felt the most unsupported because these are issues that have often been deemed taboo within the workplace and amongst some colleagues. I have high hopes that organizations can move towards a more positive direction for African American women.
Can you tell us about some of the achievements you are most proud of?
There are two achievements that come to mind that I am most proud of. They are completing my degrees and becoming a high school teacher.
I was a first-generation college student. I overcame many childhood challenges, and I was able to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2013. Completing an undergraduate degree was not something that I had in my life plans. I knew how much my family legacy would be impacted by doing so.
This then pushed me to further my education even more by pursuing my Master of Business Administration (Project Management Concentration) degree in 2017 from Strayer University.
Completing a business degree with no business foundation proved to be a challenge in addition to working full time while completing the degree. I was able to do both successfully. It brings me pride and joy to know that I have been such an influence for the rest of my family.
Being a high school teacher has by far been one of the biggest achievements of my life. I currently have former students all over the world whose lives were impacted by having me as an educator. Knowing that I was able to assist my students in obtaining their high school diplomas in addition to learning valuable life skills from having me as their educator gives me a sense of pride that I can’t even begin to explain.
I shared my life journey with many of my students and was able to help change the trajectory of their lives. Teaching is no 9-5 job. I entered into education with no background, no foundation, and no real sense of direction. I simply came with respect, honesty and support – which turned out to be the only thing that many of my kids needed.
Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you?
I don’t have any role models. Everyone’s journey is different. My daily goal is simply to wake up and be a better person than I was the day before.