June 10, 2021

Creating spaces to bring your whole self to work | DEI at Abcam

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.

Extroverts are often described as the life of the party. Their outgoing, vibrant nature draws people to them, and they thrive off the interaction. Danielle Norby is an extrovert. She says she gets her energy from working with people and collaborating across the business. She also admits to being ever curious about knowing more about people.

“Some might call it nosey, but I think curious is a nicer way to put it. I see the benefits of knowing the full person. Not just the work person, but the whole person. It always helps in the long run. Being your whole self at work is very important to me.”

It makes sense then that Danielle has found her calling at Abcam as the VP of People Experience.

Finding herself with Abcam

Danielle joined Abcam as an HR Business Partner more than 13 years ago. Her role involved enabling the UK laboratory teams to grow and achieve their plans, including the necessary recruitment, retention, and professional development of people within those teams. As she progressed through the HR ranks, her role evolved to helping the business make people-centered decisions and creating policies that helped the business succeed through the success of their people.

Her new role as VP of People Experience is still very new, and she says at times she still feels a little unsteady and unsure, but what sets Abcam apart from other employers is…

“…the way people have backed me, and really given me the confidence to go for it. To try new things and think more creatively.”


Helping others find themselves

One of the first programs Danielle helped establish when she first joined Abcam back in 2008, was a development fund to help employees get further qualifications outside of their day-to-day roles in areas they were passionate about. Originally it was just a UK initiative, but now the fund helps team members around the globe get degrees, MBAs, or make a career change.

“I started a colleague on a path to a Ph.D. and it was an awesome impact to have. I find it quite exciting. At the time it involved a lot of paperwork, forms and negotiation, but many years later seeing him get his Ph.D. made it all worth it.”

By focusing on the person reaching their potential and developing the career they want, Abcam retains its highly skilled people, creating balance between people’s aspirations and business needs. Danielle says she wouldn’t be able to develop and enact initiatives like this if Abcam didn’t also give her the flexibility and autonomy to develop these policies quickly.

Coaching as a key driver to success

As Danielle’s career progressed, and she took on more leadership responsibilities, her extroverted personality sought an outlet to talk through new situations and challenges. Coaching gave her the resilience, self-awareness, and reflection skills to thrive in each of her progressive roles.

“I would go away and read articles or watch TED talks, but it was coaching conversations that made the most impact on me. Having someone to talk freely and independently to was so helpful.”

More than just receiving coaching, Danielle has taken on the role of coach herself. Within her journey to build her coaching skills, she’s been focusing on a ‘here and now approach’.

“We reflect on what is going on for you right now in that moment, acknowledging those experiences and how they influence how you show up in that moment.”

Danielle says these coaching skills have been invaluable as she works with teams and people leaders to help them develop their best selves in the workplace.


Creating a supportive and inclusive workplace

Even before her big promotion to VP, Danielle was already leading Abcam’s inclusion strategies, and this included the establishment of seven employee resource groups. Creating inclusion hubs like the LGBTQ+ support group ARC (Abcam’s Rainbow Community) and the multicultural support group HOPE (Helping Our People Excel) are just some examples. Danielle was able to guide the existing energy and passion within Abcam in a consistent and organized way, focusing on the needs of each respective community and the business impact they needed to achieve.

“Each group has its own unique personality and faces its own individual challenges. But the people are very passionate about their topics and communities, and I have worked with them to get what they wanted off the ground.”

For Danielle, creating a culture where everyone can bring their whole self to work is very important. Abcam is the most inclusive place she’d ever worked.

“I feel I can really be myself here”

But she knows this isn’t something to be taken for granted as Abcam continues to grow. Danielle continues to develop the formal plans and initiatives but ensures the ‘bringing your whole self to work’ remains at the heart of the strategy. The only thing that is changing is the way they go about it.


Danielle’s final advice for trust and intuition

No matter if you’re an extrovert like Danielle, an introvert, or somewhere in between, Danielle insists on the importance of trusting in your own skills, trusting in the advice of people around you, and trusting your intuition.

“I’ve always gone for it. I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had people who back and believe in me, but once you get an opportunity, it’s important to take it. Don’t be scared of being scared. I haven’t always had all the answers along the way, but the backing of the people around me at Abcam has been really important to me. It motivates me to do anything I can to achieve and give it my all.”

Want more articles like this sent to your inbox every month?

Just let us know what kind of support you’re looking for so we can sign you up to receive the right newsletter for you.

Stay in touch with our ‘Women at work’ newsletter

Enter your details to sign up to our newsletter for the women in our community. Every month you’ll be sent our latest news, advice, inspiration and resources for supporting your career.

Looking for HR and DEI updates?

Check out our monthly newsletter for HR professionals.

About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.