We Are All Connected with Maria Putnam

We Are All Connected with Maria Putnam

In today's episode, we have the pleasure of hearing from Maria Putnum, a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Originally from Colombia, Maria's educational journey took her to Switzerland, France, and the United States, where she gained perspectives on human connection. Through her travels, she realized that no matter where we come from or what language we speak, we all have something in common - we are all connected. Maria's program for diversity, equity, and inclusion is a testament to her commitment to celebrating the beauty of people from all walks of life. Join us as we learn from Maria's inspiring story.

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wearesiamo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wearesiamo/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreSiamo

Website: https://www.wearesiamo.com/



 Alex Cullimore: Hello, Cristina.

Cristina Amigoni: Hello. It's been a while. Also, something I keep saying every time we have a podcast recording.

Alex Cullimore: To listeners, it doesn't feel like it's a while because we keep releasing them. But for us, there's some gaps between these episodes. Look behind the curtains. We just had a fantastic conversation but Maria Putnam.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, we did. Love Maria.

Alex Cullimore: Maria is on the podcast today talking about some DEI. Yeah, she's great. The energy she brings to her work and their excitement for it just bleeds through on the microphone. It's inspiring to see somebody with that much connection and joy for what they do and something that makes such a positive impact. It's a pleasure to be around.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, truly is, and just her very wide and global perspective for the way she approaches everything, how it's not just solve this one thing, and then move to the next. But it's how does it all connect? Constantly connecting all the dots. There's treasures of quotes that she's provided in the podcast from just like looking at somebody with an open heart and kind eyes. Even just that, just so many. Such a great way to be part of life and change the world.

Alex Cullimore: She has some good reminders that we have to enjoy what we do in life. Just bring some joy to what you do. There’s no reason not to.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Yes. Enjoy the episode, enjoy life.

Alex Cullimore: Joy for us. Go enjoy.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, enjoy.

Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives,

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, coworkers, or even ourselves.

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.

Alex Cullimore: This is Alex Cullimore. Let's dive in.

Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”

Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. Today, we're joined with our guest, Maria Putnam. Welcome to the podcast, Maria.

Maria Putnam: Thank you so much, Alex.

Cristina Amigoni: Great to have you.

Maria Putnam: Thank you. It's really good, Cristina. Thank you so much.

Alex Cullimore: So, you may recognize Maria's voice from one of our brief interviews we got to do at the local TEDx event we were at. We're excited to have you on for a full episode, Maria. So, to give everybody a little background on you, what's your story? What brought you here?

Maria Putnam: Love that question. Thank you for that. My story, well, Colombia is my home country. Love it. A lot of cities. So, I have a big family, very family oriented. I left actually, Colombia when I was in high school. In high school, I had the opportunity to attend International School. So, I live in Switzerland, and then I live in France. And then I actually finished high school here in the States. That's how I came to United States because I finished in Houston, Texas. Then, went back to Columbia, and then came back here to do all my education, my college, and then my master’s, and then all the certifications in education. So, that's my story. Love my country. Love people from around the world. That's about me. 

Cristina Amigoni: That's great. Actually, I had no idea that you had gone to school in Switzerland and France and all around. That's really cool.

Maria Putnam: Yes. Clearly, it was one of the best experiences I have is to go to school with people from around the world, and really helped you. I wish everybody had that opportunity to just be – to study with people from everywhere.

Cristina Amigoni: We could definitely do a whole podcast episode on just that. What did you like the most? Because I also, I grew up in Italy. I came to the US actually as an exchange student in high school. And then I came to the US for college. So, I kind of did the reverse, most of my school in Italy, and then and here. But I also worked in Switzerland with kids from all over the world for six summers. So, all of that experience, and I've gone to a million camps everywhere around Europe, and so that experience is definitely one that I want my kids to have, because just having that completely different setting while they're in school, I think it's very formative.

Maria Putnam: Absolutely. It is. Really helped us to be more aware and to grow up with a much bigger perspective of what is the world about. I say that in the best and most kind way, because being in the United States, especially I've been in Denver for three years, and being in the United States, it's interesting how we see that United States. It's a beautiful country, but it's one more country of many, many countries. The reason why I'm saying that is because when we were going to school, we pretty much have a catalog, to what school we're going to go to what country. I remember when I choose United States, was one of the countries who was the catalog of the school that they have the partnership with. So yeah, perspective.

Alex Cullimore: So, what would you say is some of the best perspective gain that you got after leaving Columbia?

Maria Putnam: That we are all connected, no matter where we are. We all have things in common. No matter what language we speak, no matter what country we live we come from. We all have something in common. You find beautiful people everywhere.

Cristina Amigoni: I love that definition. It's so true. That's one of the things that I've been wanting my kids to understand. Because they do have that fear, which is totally understandable of when we travel, or if we go and live somewhere else, is they're not going to do the language. So, they're immediately, how do I communicate? I'm like, “Oh, you’ll communicate.” Language is not a barrier for communication.

Maria Putnam: Yes. Absolutely right. I had the opportunity six years ago, to go to Cape Town, and I was asked to lead a meeting. We’re supposed to have someone already scheduled to do the translation and that person didn't show up. I have to come up with a presentation, and to deliver up meeting, pretty much, to lead the meeting without speaking the language. I have to say that it's so handy in our lives, to have the opportunity, to have awareness and to think on our feet. I remember, I asked for markers, and I started doing graphics and people is like, “Okay. Yes. No. Yes.” So, it was more of like a body language. So, it's exactly what you were saying, Cristina is beyond to speak in the language.

Alex Cullimore: I think, Christina, you just recently shared this quote, or maybe I just happen to read it in one of our communication posts. But I think it's George Bernard Shaw or something. But it’s the quote that, “The biggest mistake in communication is assuming that it's happened.” I think that kind of – we assume, even when we speak the same language, that we're actually saying the same things, but there's so much more that goes into actually communicating what we mean. So, you're going to love that experience of, hey, there was no common language in the first place. But we still had to go get to that communication, connection. So, there are different ways to do that. It's a cool experience that you kind of had to jump in and not be able to use what we usually lean on, even though that doesn't always deliver the connection we're looking for.

Maria Putnam: Ye, absolutely. I mean, it was a decision that I made in seconds. In my mind, I remember like, “Oh, well, okay. Do you have paper? Do you have markers? Let's do this.” I mean, it's like, okay. So, I pretty much communicate with my body language. Let's do our circles. So, I started doing graphics, and explaining and getting the concept down to graphics in seconds. I have to do that in order, and I say, so I give them a sign, “Did you understand? Do this. Do you understand the ideas?” It was amazing. But yes, confirm that not has to do also with connecting with people in a very genuine way, tracing places, being able to be at the same ground, at the same level, never putting ourselves above of anything. Become, actually I love the way that the name of your podcast, became human. That human side is what really connects us all and I treasure that experience in my heart. Because something really clicked inside me that I will never forget is that we are all so human and connected. And we just need to find ways to do that more often. Sometimes we keep – if I don't speak English, if I don't speak Japanese, if I don't speak Chinese, if I don't speak – so I start putting those barriers. It's not that. I think that it's just taking all that and let's meet at the human level.

Cristina Amigoni: It's beautiful. Beautifully said, so true. So, how do you bring this connection and these perspectives in your day-to-day life now?

Maria Putnam: In my work, actually, I am very fortunate to lead a wonderful program for diversity, equity, and inclusion. So, I connect with people from around the world, because we actually have designed a curriculum to certify leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion. So, they can apply DEI in their work places. Part of the program that they do is they have to work directly with advisors. I'm working directly with people and helping them to apply the DEI, in areas where need to be applied, and developed. That is part of the program that is called, they have to do the project for chain, and it's based on them identifying a gap, where they want to make that chain happen. So, that's the best part. That's how I apply more work. All my experience, all my knowledge. I have a big background in education. So, that's how.

Alex Cullimore: That's awesome. There's a lot of talk about DEI and people tend to start to lose momentum. They'll say it's important, they don't necessarily know how to apply it. But I love that idea of having like advisors. If it's not too much information to share, what kind of stuff do you do to help advise and bring people through that change?

Maria Putnam: Well, the beginning of the project, they need to come up with – the first part, they have to identify this where there is a gap. So, let's say there is no awareness of DEI. We come up with – we brainstorm ideas and let's put one specific DEI committee. I have a DEI committee. So, what did you need? What are the needs of the committee? We're going to work and they do the whole project. The student do the whole proposal. Actually, interesting enough, when they finish, sometimes, they go and launch it, and they have sometimes, not everybody sees how important it is, or they understand pretty much what is DEI committee about for example. So, that's the time also where they reach out to me and they say, “Well, HR is not really collaborating. I don't know.” So, it's really good for me to jump in and say, “Well, let's figure out how.” Really, opportunities where they asked me to go and talk to their teams and I'm happy to do that when I can do that. I’m happy to support whatever needs to be done for them to get result. Everybody agreed. Not too long ago, I did that for one of my students, and the CEO of the company, actually was in the meeting. Two days after, I got an email from the CEO, they want 20 of the people from the company to get certified. Because in my experience, I think that when you invest in the people who are already invested in your company, that's the best way to do it, rather than perhaps bring in someone from outside to do DEI, especially when they have to do with the culture of the company. But when you educate your people, you have that.

Cristina Amigoni: That's a great way. That's a really insightful piece that you brought together, which is if you involve the people that are invested in the company already, then there's buy in and they understand the culture, and they understand how to integrate what's happening internally with what needs to change, as opposed to just coming from the outside with, “Here's a bunch of information on DEI. Good luck.”

Maria Putnam: Yes. Or to buy a really expensive software, because a lot of companies are doing that. They buy a very expensive software. And when you talk to those employees, they said, “Yeah, we did everything. Yeah, we took a class.” DEI is not just a check the box. DEI is deeper than that. So yes, you’re doing what you need to do in the corporate, but you're not really making a difference and that's a huge difference. Doing what you need to do doesn't mean that you're making a difference. DEI, from my perspective, start with ourselves with that intention to, even the curiosity. There is people who, just to be curious, and they say, “Oh.” I am hosting, for example, some meetings monthly to three organizations right now. It’s just a DEI conversation. So, everybody is welcome at the level that they are. I mean, it's like, there is no requirement that you have to be at any specific level of DEI. Something that I've been finding out in those meetings, very interesting enough, is that people start asking questions, and then realizing, you know what, I really want to learn more about this. Actually, I really want to learn more about this. Yesterday, I had done a meeting and one of the students, one of the persons who attend the meeting, he's actually an HR director, and we're talking about accommodations for disabilities. I talk about some of the laws that are in place. At the end of the conversation, you know what, I think I'd rather be certified. I think I need to. So, finally clicks on him that he needs to know more about it. But that's a whole different that when you just take that step for me like, yes, then you want to do it. The design of the institute, for example, the program that we offer, that's something that I want to be away from is that everybody have to, because I have been in the other side, when the boss request, there’s a requirement, and when it's a requirement for you to attend a meeting. Is a requirement to get certified. The motivation is gone. You do things that you have to do to cope your job, but not something that you decide to do. So, I love when that happened. “I'm going to do it. Oh, I would like to do it.” That make a whole different experience, and the result is different.

Cristina Amigoni: The difference from I have to do it to I want to do it is huge. Otherwise, you're just checking boxes.

Maria Putnam: Yes. And that is nothing that really sink on you. There is nothing that you – because actually, in anything that we learn in our lives, that is a part in our brains, where we make a decision to know what to do with what we learn. Because there is something that really sink and say, “What do I do with this?” And it's beautiful, when that happen. If we allow that to happen.

Cristina Amigoni: It is beautiful.

Alex Cullimore: Yes, makes me think about like the kind of two tracks that we can go on in our brains. We can either go on the, “Hey, I'm just going to get through this.” And there's so many things in life that we do to have to get through like grocery shopping, doing laundry.

Cristina Amigoni: Washing the dishes.

Alex Cullimore: Put it on autopilot, get the box checked. But when we commit to that on something like DEI or anything, that's a much larger mindset investment, that commitment internally is so much more important to this. What am I going to do with this? How am I going to use it? We've seen this with a few companies that love things like frameworks, love things like, “Hey, what if we had just a framework for conflict or something?” Yes, that might be helpful to get you to think about conflict. But how many times when you're in the middle of it, you’re going to suddenly whip out a chart and be like, “Hey, by the way, where are we on this? And what are we what are we doing?” Until you actually internalize, how am I going to use this, it just becomes something that is – unless you treat it like the springboard that it is to get you to think about this, and to get you to conceptualize it, and really put it in your body, it's hard to make that something that becomes a reality.

Maria Putnam: Yes, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. I think that there is a mental process. There is a subconscious mind and then the conscious mind. I think in the first time that we talk about that you guys actually invited me to talk this short talk, and we're talking about intention. I think that that's where the intention takes place. There goes, there is an intention there, that we have an intention of making this move or that move. Sometimes, it's very unconscious. But conscious than then you make an intention is more conscious. Then, there is a power that happened with DEI, specifically, and that is the reflection part. When you reflect on something, there is so many pieces that takes place, and then you make a decision, and it's just a matter of seconds. It doesn't take like hours. No, it's just a matter of seconds. But when you have the information that is already there, it's much better. You will make an informed decision. You will make a better decision for yourself and for others. That's all.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's so true. The intention. I love the difference between unconscious and conscious intention. Because the unconscious intention is really the autopilot. It's like, this is what I know. I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going to do. I'm just going to act without really – I'm going to react instead of respond and I'm just going to keep going. Sure, that’s my intention. I'm like, “But is it? Is it an intention? The definition of intention, something that's conscious that you actually decide to do?”

Maria Putnam: Yeah, I think that's what really makes a difference. In education, I usually talk very – I talk a lot about how important it is to make educated decisions. When you're educated, you make better decisions. Like you say, Cristina, the subconscious mind, accumulate so much stuff. And then, in DEI, we talk about unconscious bias, for example, and people sometimes, I don't have – I'm not racist. I don't have a problem. Why do I have to feel like –I know. There is so much stuff. So, I start giving examples. When you were five years old, the TV was on. There are things that – I mean, we accumulate all the time, things, all the time. All the time. The media is cold. Brands. I mean, we accumulate everything. It's amazing. This is accumulating a community. So, we have a lot there. The key of that is when we are conscious that we have that subconscious mind, and then how we are using that information to the conscious mind, and what we are doing with that? So, is that process, and we are conscious about the process and what we have, and where are we going to have, that make a big difference. That's all.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Reminds me of my kids, I have two sons. So, even simple things going to target and looking for a toy or, walking around, and how they skip the “girls’ aisles” and I'm doing quotes for people not looking at the video. Because they're “girls’ aisles.” It's dolls and it's whatever society has determined that it should be girls play. I am making a conscious effort to try and break that even when they say it. And they say, like, “No, not this aisle. That's just for girls.” And I'm like, “Well, is it just for girls? Why did toys have to be for boy or girls? Where's the division?” But because I also grew up with a bias, I have a hard time figuring out like, how do I help him break your bias that I even have?

Maria Putnam: Yeah, that is such a beautiful, to put it so well. Love it. That's our responsibility and that's beautiful, because yes, we're going to teach the generations, the younger generation or kids, or students, or any younger generation to be more aware, to don't have those bias, and how we unlearn what we already learned.

Cristina Amigoni: How do I unlearn that?

Maria Putnam: Okay. Well, we are all in the same pile. It's a very human side, doing this very – and it's really – it's beautiful when we realize that, hey, yes, I have bias. What can I do with that? First thing is that to recognize I have bias too. What I'm going to do with that? Is to be proactive. Every single time that one bias come, oops, okay, what can I do with it? Maybe the first time we don't do anything, it will just come automatically. It's absolutely a subconscious thing is we act, we react sometimes. We think about it. It’s only the act, we sometimes just think about it. But the more we do become conscious and I say, okay, now when a change that. I need to change that. The more we recognize it, the better off we are, because we can become better and better and better. And then they lose the power. And it's gone. We're like, okay, cool. Then, the next part, and I always talk about this is make sure to do something to congratulate yourself in anything that you achieve. Because that's a message for the subconscious mind to say, “Yes, you can do it and that was a great job.”

Cristina Amigoni: I love that.

Alex Cullimore: That's a really good point. That is, I think, sometimes missing. People get so worried about getting it right, and then they mostly just focus on the times when they think they got it wrong. And then when they do it okay, or they think that they did okay, they could have skipped that over. Okay, well, that was one time. But what's next? Or they just keep looking out for the gaps. But I love that idea of that celebration. Go reinforce to the subconscious. This is what we were looking for. Good job. You did it. Let's keep that train going. 

Maria Putnam: Yes, I think that is very important. And that is something that we are missing a lot, is to make sure that every single time that we achieve something no matter how little it is, we say, “Good job.” Train ourselves like this kid, “Good job.” As you know, my background is in education and one of the things that I always think about is when we learn, we're kids. The best way to learn is by playing. What happened when we played? We really get into whatever we like. We just enjoy. We get engaged. Time goes so fast. And like, “Oh.” And then you learn and you want to come back there. We forget that as an adult. So, like, “I’m going to this, that, that, that.” No, no, no, no, stop that train. Let's have fun. Let's do whatever we do in place, have fun with this. I think that we tend to be very hard on ourselves. I don't know. As part of our program mission, I guess, I don't know. But it's like, do it everything right first. No, we don't do everything right. You have to be an adult. Yeah, be responsible. But you know that we had fun with whatever you do. Have fun. Being an adult is doesn't mean being stressed out. Being so like a square mindset, being like – this stereotype of being an adult, you have to have a straight face. You can't love your – no, no, no, no. It's just changing the whole dynamic and going back to yes, how we talk to ourselves. I mean, what is the conversation that we have with ourselves? If we are more conscious about that, and we treat ourselves good, we're going to feel better about everything. We're going to treat everybody better.

Cristina Amigoni: It's true. Yes.

Alex Cullimore: That's a good point. We do tend to create this fake spectrum of fun to adults. But those do exist in opposition of each other. We can’t have overlap. And if you're going to fun, you're not being adult enough. If you're going to adult, you're definitely have to cut out all the fun, and why do we take out all these rewards that help us just, A, cope and just enjoy life. You only once, anyway. Why are we so determined to not enjoy life?

Maria Putnam: Exactly, exactly. And that goes to the idea of performing, to perform, perform, perform. Yes, I think that it's so important in DEI. One of the things that I do when I do DEI groups, we start always playing and that really changed the mindset. DEI is a topic that people feel a little bit or a lot stressed out. They feel a little bit like, “Oh, I don't know if I'm going to be put on the spot. I don't know if I know enough. I don't know.” They judge themselves. They go through this list or whatever. I feel that tense in the atmosphere. I feel that. One of the things that I do I always start by playing a game. That changed the whole dynamic of the meeting. Because people engage and have fun in a day, and I say, “How was your DEI experience?” “Oh, I love it. Oh, that was so cool. Oh, that was so much fun.” That's it. Just tell me like, okay, please go around the room and introduce yourself. Tell us what do you do? What is your position? Everybody's like, “Oh, jeez.” Especially if you have a boss around like, “Oh, my gosh, no.” So, people suffer. You don’t want people to suffer in meetings, especially when you can attempt to – when there is a special topic, when there is something that everybody already feels stressed out. So, playing. Let's don't forget to play.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's a great way to start anything, pretty much meetings, sessions, trainings, anything. Especially when they're going to be uncomfortable, there is a bias to what's going to happen in the room already. So, breaking that and making it different from the beginning. So, that it's not so serious. It's not so – let's just feed the bias.

Maria Putnam: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I think that's a very good way to learn anything and to be effective in whatever we do with ourselves, as well– I mean, to laugh more often. Just to laugh. We sometimes get so serious. How many times we laugh in our data? Sometimes, when I talk to people. I like to laugh. I like to see my friends and laugh. So, DEI, it's a beautiful way for people to kind of, “Okay, do you know what? Everything is just fine. So, let us have fun learning and unlearning.” And recognizing it. Because the only way to grow is to recognize something. I have experienced when I was like, seven years ago, someone in a group said, “Well, I don't have – do I have to feel guilty about being white?” This is what I thought, they say, “Well, do I have to feel guilty about being white?” The next comment that that person made was, I was glad that the book that we were reading was written for a white woman. So, when you really see someone with kind eyes and you hear someone with your heart, there was nothing wrong with what she said. That is a child here who's feeling that perhaps there is people against of her belief systems. So, she's afraid there is fear. And when you see someone with that, you change your whole perspective. You don't react. You go around and say, “Wow, just tell me so what do you think? What was your feeling when you read the book? Why did you say that?” So, people can tell you more. That was so nice, because did you come back to being defensive? Wow, wow, wow. The people react. Reaction usually, always when people react in my experience is because there is so much fear on being hurt. Why? Because they have already been hurt. So, it is so much in DEI. I have to tell you, I love what I do. I really do.

Cristina Amigoni: It comes through.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, it comes across.

Maria Putnam: Right now, we are organizing our DEI conference is the first one in Colorado, and it’s so exciting to think about who are those peoples who are making, or have been making a difference in DEI. Think about what people really wanted to hear when they go to a DEI conference. It's so beautiful working in the agenda, and that is something that we are doing right now with the committee. But it's putting ourselves in everybody's shoes, like, okay, if I go to a conference, as a DEI practitioner, someone who's trying to break the ground in my company, what are my expectations? What I want to get out of the conference? If I am overseen, if I am a CEO, of the company, what I am looking for in a conference? If I just like the topic, what I'm going for? What I want to hear. So, this has been such an interesting process, and we are working in that right now. You guys are invited. That's something that – is thinking about DEI in a different perspective with all kind of audience.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. We would love to be there. For sure.

Alex Cullimore: Absolutely.

Cristina Amigoni: That was my first thought, is like, where do I sign up? I want to go.

Maria Putnam: Yes, I will send you the link. It's going to be in August 16th. Yes, it's going to be there. But this is all about. DEI is a very wide, deep topic. You can study, you can do a whole PhD, you can study for years, and you will always feel like, there is so much to learn still. I'm hosting, the people who graduate from the program, create a network. So, we are meeting once a month, and we keep learning. We are coming up with what is going on right now, in DEI. I always said, the more I know, the more I know that I need to know more. So, there is so much to learn. There is so much to learn. Laws, they change all the time. There is so much history, and we are not talking about only United States. There is so much history in DEI. So, I think that it's a beautiful journey, and I think that everybody should just always learn anything that they can. DEI is one of them. But DEI is about human rights. That's all. We are humans. We have human rights. Learn about what are the rights. That's it. I had honestly, in the beginning, when she started, like, “Well, I thought DEI was only for African Americans because that people really have it hard.” I’m like, “But I’m Maria. Oh, I didn't know these.” I didn't know. And she actually said, a high executive in a big company who actually hired people around the world and it was beautiful how she connect with – “Oh, wow, I didn't know this and I didn't know that.” So, it's like, it's a human right to learn. Let's put it that way.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. It is a human right to learn.

Alex Cullimore: I think that's the right expectation too, because you have to continually learn and DEI is a topic and it's kind of a subsection. But the influence is run in every arena of what we do. It runs in every piece of what we do. We can focus on it and understand it better, and it still applies in every space, not just in the DEI committee at the company. Not just in the – the whole point is that it becomes an infusion. It becomes something that is learned and more ingrained and how we act more than what we do on a committee level. It's interesting to see people go through that learning process and have to like start to integrate that, start to see that in a wider lens.

Maria Putnam: Yes. Alex, actually, you brought something very – yes, absolutely. It’s not only in the corporate. Corporate just one place. DEI is everywhere. DEI is huge in education. What is going on in education right now? Are we really – what is the difference about equity and equality? Especially everywhere, in all these skills. Have you ever really looked closer to a curriculum with the lens of equity? So, who are designing the curriculum for the kids? What do we need the kids to learn? I mean, we have kids. What do I want my kids to learn? Only one side, designed by who? Who put this curriculum together? There is some questions in DEI, everywhere. Absolutely. I mean, that is one thing that actually I play with my – when I do groups in DEI, is let's talk about names. Do you like your name? And when you ask that question to people, do you have no idea how much information you can get about the DEI, just by asking, do you like your name? I think that that is so much in all the areas, and as education, as law, as politics, as religions, in all the areas, it’s not only corporate. Not at all. Corporate is just only one tiny part. That's it. But no, it’s huge. It’s a system. 

Cristina Amigoni: It’s a system for changing mindsets, and the mindsets are everywhere.

Maria Putnam: Yes. Absolutely. And then we go back in history, when you learn about the history of colonization in the Western, and then you learn, “Oh, wow, we're doing the same thing now. Oh, wow. That's not new. Nothing that will happen is new.” Really? No. We just changed the words, but it's the same. Are we doing the same? Why? Because we haven't changed it. Why we haven't changed it Because we haven't been coached. Why we haven't coached? Because there is institutions. Why is institution? Blah, blah, blah, and we just go, and go, and go, and go. Well, it's much better to have people ignorant. Oh, my gosh, it’s best business. It’s the best business model, the more ignorant people is, the better off for people to just lay out whatever they need to lay out. But the more we know, that's why education is a power. We question ourselves, become just so powerful.

Alex Cullimore: That's one thing I really like about your design and your curriculum, how you ask people to go and find the gap first, because that's such an important part in DEI and life in general, is looking around the table and seeing what's not there. Who's not represented, but what ideas aren't there. When you look at a curriculum, who’s not part of writing this curriculum? It’s not to blame the people that put it together. But it's to identify what these spaces are that need to be influencing, to be brought out a little bit more. Where are we not looking more than what do we already have? Or what should we do? And that's such an important and difficult thing to start to master. So, to look for the spaces between. Look for the people who are quiet. Look for the people who like aren't speaking up, and that's something that happens in all kinds of meetings, and that's just – I love that mindset, change, of looking for what's not there, looking for what needs to be added more than what already exists.

Maria Putnam: Yes, absolutely. I think that you put it really nice, Alex. I really appreciate that, because it’s not looking for the problem that you have, it’s looking for where you can bring a solution. I mean, as a boss, if you have someone say, “Well, this doesn't work, and this doesn't work, doesn't work.” Okay. Give me a solution. What are you going to do? But if someone comes, “Hey, this is not working, but I actually think about this idea. What do you think about it?” Oh, I love it. Great. Cool. What do you need? You have my support. But if you come with a bunch of problems, no. It's just changing that mindset. Changing that mindset or being part of the solution, become part of that change. Be the change. Be that agent of change, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. As a mom, a small business. Some people say, “But Maria, but I am the owner of the company.” Perfect. Perfect, you can make –you don't have employees. Fine. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Yes, lets bring education.

Cristina Amigoni: Very true.

Maria Putnam: Education. Actually, Mandela used to say, “Education is the most powerful weapon.” I think so. I think that's why education in some third world countries, it's not something that people everybody can access to. It's very hard to get educated in third world countries. Only people who have financially is well off, they can afford good education. Not even think about leaving the country and studying overseas. Not everybody can afford that. They have to survive. There is a whole thing that there is a whole lack of resources. But more than that, is the structure of the systems. That's why there is a really good documentary that is called Quite the Blurred we're talking about, and that actually, this guy did a really amazing job going through a lot of countries and finding what is working and what is not working. The reason why I liked that documentary, is because he actually highlighted countries where education is free. It's a really good education. For example, Germany, New Zealand, and he actually made a comparison how much kids here are getting that in United States where they can actually get for – I mean, I have met people, 40 years old and they still paying student loans. Easy. That's normal here. The guy may go, he says, why do they have the information, that there is other countries where they can study, and they can go for free? And there is a lot of countries actually who have a partnership with the United States, where you just have to take a test. You need to take a test and to get into the educational system. That's all. But do we have that information in high schools? No. Who is doing – I mean, usually, the person who's handling, advising in high school is the person who does everything, and counseling, so there is no resources. They don't have the resources. They don't prioritize that position. That position should be a main position. Because the kids in high school, they don't know. They don't want to hear their parents. They get into a point or whatever their parents say, I don't want to hear it. So, it’s cool still really playing a very important role in those kids’ life. In that position of counseling, or the position of career advancing, or whatever they call it, for going to college is huge. But these kids don't get that information. However, some of the high schools that you have a table during lunch, they say join the army. We need to invest more in what our kids are getting. They don't know. No, everybody have mom and dad who went to college, and the conversation around the table is about education, or is about how you guys can – I mean, what is your future? How can I help you? People struggle sometimes. They have two jobs, three jobs. Parents, they do the best, but – and they don't even have it, they’re just working. So, it's cool, still, I think it’s cool. They’re still playing a big role, especially in high school kids, and that's where I think we can make a difference. I was part of the educational system, formal education for many years. I think that I started with the superintendent all down, we need to hire the right leaders. Those leaders, when the budget comes to schools, they say, we need that position, and someone who really can guide our students to the next step, not to give a bunch of links for them to apply. But to say, here you are, but here are your options. Spend 20 minutes with every kid who's going to graduate and give them the right resources, that will make a difference. That's gold. That will make – I mean, that will change whole generation if they do that. So, I feel very strongly about that. Because I see the other side. I see where there is lack of information, when there is – the kids are lost. The kids are lots in high school, many of them, especially the less resources your parents have, the more lost you are. We, as a society, we need to support more. The next generations, they are the future. We are talking about DEI, and I'm going to tell you something. DEI, generation, millennials. The Generation Y, and Generation Z. They got it. Those kids are more open-minded. Those kids have more sense of equity. So, we have gold there. How are we going to utilize the next generations? We need to do a much better job.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, a huge, a really important point that any direction towards education helps the entire system. You benefit education. You benefit people's ability to get to information, to get to opportunities, that just cascades for the rest of life. Spending all this time in the corporate world like trying to bootstrap these other people who didn't learn it when they were in school. Didn't learn things when they were younger. I mean, it's absolutely possible, but it takes a lot more work than helping create that mindset in the first place. And then just being able to use that, right out the gate.

Maria Putnam: Yeah, sometimes, we ended up in corporations. What it is, is that group of 80% of broken kids. That's all. People who hate their jobs. They hate what they do. Why? We can do a better job. We can do a better job, believe me. So, that's in my heart.

Cristina Amigoni: That's very crucial. So, we have a couple of last questions for you, Maria. The first one, is what's your definition of authenticity?

Maria Putnam: Being able to be the best that we can be and be authentic. Being authentic and being okay when we’ve been who we are. Taking the time to learn who we are and being okay with that. Embracing that person that we have worked so hard to be, and we don't even know who that person is.

Cristina Amigoni: Setting the intention to find out who we are and being okay with it.

Maria Putnam: Yeah.

Cristina Amigoni: I love that.

Alex Cullimore: Maria, you have so much hope, and so much enjoyment in what you do and bringing that to the world. So, to share that, where can people find you? Where can people get in touch with you?

Maria Putnam: Well, I have a website. It’s www.leaddei.com. They also can find me in LinkedIn, and I will invite everybody to join us for the conference. Anybody can join us for the conference, really. We will make – the tickets for the conference are completely affordable. If they cannot, they can reach out, we will help. We want them to be there.

Cristina Amigoni: We’ll make sure to put the conference link in the show notes. Well, thank you, Maria.

Maria Putnam: Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Cullimore: Maria, thank you so much and thank you everybody for listening.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast wearesiamo.com, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.