A masterclass in authenticity, storytelling and business ethics – our event with Marcell Edwards

David Carmichael, Marcell Edwards, Michael Taylor and Jenny Urwin

Marcell Edwards, talent acquisition manager at Adidas UK provided a standing-room only audience at the offices of FieldFisher with a masterclass in authenticity, storytelling and business ethics yesterday.

In a fireside chat he talked about his early life being raised in the care system after his mother was jailed. He never knew his father and was raised in a white family in Yorkshire and had to fight to survive as the target of bullying and racism.

He also developed survival strategies – switching codes – to fit in, to adapt.

It was a teacher at his school in Tadcaster that spotted his intellect and potential and raised his aspirations to apply to university. He’s since been back to thank her and inspire the kids at that school, by the way.

At Manchester Metropolitan University, and in the city itself, he felt a greater sense of belonging making friends with people who looked like him, but at the same time, he didn’t necessarily share their cultural reference points, having been raised in predominantly white town with a white mother (once she’d been released from prison).

This was a fascinating entrée to Marcell’s adult life and the profound lessons he continues to learn. 

He asked everyone there (the vast majority who were white) to close their eyes and imagine walking into a room where everyone was different to them. Then he invited reflections on how that made them feel. “Unique, nervous, anxious,” came the replies.

The difference being, of course, that most could return to a space of white privilege, of a world that has been shaped around people who are white, especially the men.

He recounted how he was never sent to meet clients in his recruitment agency job, despite being a successful recruiter, though his white colleagues would be. Shame on them, and their short sighted loss.

The most surprising thing he shared, however, was the present day advice he has to give as a mentor, coach and guide. Much as he’d love to tell people – be yourself, that doesn’t really work.

“You always want to say ‘be yourself’, but the world unfortunately isn’t like that. You cannot be your 100 per cent true self in modern day society in this country. We’re just not there yet. There’s such negative rhetoric. Instead I say ‘try to find a place where you can be psychologically safe’.”

He shared insights on his efforts to encourage allyship and better internal cultures, not just in how businesses recruit, but how they relate to people in all their diversity.

A governor of the Together Trust, an education charity in Cheadle, providing learning opportunities for people with autism and physical disabilities. It’s close to the Adidas campus in Hazel Grove, Stockport, where he works hard to recruit people to the business into a positive culture, and he says the experiences at Together Trust have enlightened him still further.

He also has his own consulting business alongside his work for Adidas in Global Talent Acquisition, where he also Chairs the ‘Unity Group’, a employee resource group (ERG) focusing on Race, Ethnicity & Culture, using those insights to consults Adidas in many areas of Diversity Equity & Inclusion not exclusive to recruitment.

It was an inspiring morning. There was a queue of people to talk to Marcell afterwards. A palpable energy in the room.

As David Bowcock, managing partner of FieldFisher’s Manchester office, said: “We were delighted to welcome Marcell Edwards to our Manchester office this morning as our latest Business Breakfast speaker. Thanks to Michael Taylor for facilitating an interesting and engaging discussion. Marcell gave us some insights into his background and his recruitment career, as well as his thoughts on EDI, allyship and how we can empower individuals and teams.”