Komi, Assistant General Manager, has spent 4 years with PetSmart and speaks to the importance of building an inclusive culture.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, please visit our new Belonging Fetch Page.
PetSmart’s Belonging Program leads with the phrase, “I Belong.” What does that mean for you?
Komi: The way I practice living is influenced by these values: love, kindness, learning, service. I was born and raised in New Zealand. My father is Samoan. My mum is Russian. These elements are at the core of me, but don’t reflect everything about me. I made a value judgment to accept employment at PetSmart. I was actively seeking an opportunity that reflected the values that are important to me. I belong here at PetSmart because I chose to become a part of an organization allied to like-minded values.
What message would you share with your peers about how to build a culture of true inclusion at PetSmart?
Komi: All of us at the core are somebody to someone. All of us are different in many ways and alike in many ways. What defines us as individuals extends beyond race and gender. Our uniqueness includes age, personality, education, tenure at PetSmart, geographic origin, sexual orientation, lifestyle, household composition. These are the layers of who we are. That is why diversity includes everyone.
Albert Schweitzer wrote, “We are all human beings together … and we must strive to concede to each other what moral capacity we have.” In my opinion, a commitment to diversity is a commitment to each individual.
Finding my way to increasing my experiences with, and capacity for, being human has allowed me to discover more about myself. Helping others and being helped by others; many of those moments have allowed me to hang in there, to hold on to misunderstandings until I get it. Being in a relationship with misunderstandings is tough. It’s important to talk about our worries. To open up about our frustrations and anxieties. To seek out mental health resources. Having a healthy awareness of our own character, purpose for living, and feelings; that type of healthy awareness can be the catalyst for discovering meaning in life.
Can you share an experience when you felt a sense of belonging at PetSmart?
Komi: At my first Family Day as a PetSmart associate, I brought my youngest daughter with me to the event. The venue was busy and with my youngest daughter in tow, I was seeking out a spot where we could stage our belongings and enjoy the activities. I recall the awkward feeling of looking around and not knowing people, and not feeling bold enough to invite myself into areas taken by other families. I will never forget the smile and kindness shown to me and my daughter by another PetSmart associate and his family. They asked us to join them. They invited me to be a part of their family and enjoy the events with them that day. This associate, his wife, and their grandchildren validated to me that I was a part of an organization that strives to be human beings together. Job titles were not a barrier to inclusiveness.
What advice do you have for your peers who want to have conversations about inclusion with their teams but don’t know where to start?
Komi: Start by saying you want to have a conversation about inclusion but aren’t sure how to begin it. State how you feel and what you want to achieve through conversation.
What more would you like to see from PetSmart? How can we help support you and your teams?
Komi: I would like to build on the idea of dialogue. I believe that we can enhance the value of understanding and empathy for another’s experience through listening. I think the more we are able to hear of and understand the experience of another, the more likely we are to grow our ability to concede to each other what moral capacity we have. The spark of that feeling has potential to ignite and spread. I would like us to create space and time for peers to talk about their experiences relative to what is taking place in our communities.
Is there anything else you'd like to share? What’s on your heart and mind?
Komi: I believe that love = wanting good for others. I believe that we all know what it feels like to want good for someone else and what it feels like to receive actions of good intent from others. That is a common feeling that we all can relate to. Despite the conditions that swirl around us, when you look at another, know that they have experienced what it feels like to give and receive love. Let that knowledge increase our capacity to be human beings together.