Q&A: Can I Give Speeches on Social Justice When I Work in a Totally Different Field?

I have a question about presenting to groups when you work for someone else. I am scheduled to speak to some college students about professional ethics, something that is relevant to, but not at all the focus of, the work I do for someone else. When I introduce myself, should I include my place of employment, or just say I work for “an engineering company?”. My company has not explicitly approved of my unusually lefty, social-justice oriented opinions on ethics.

This is an easy one! While the engineering company is not a secret, you don’t want to look like you’re representing them — nor do you want them getting credit for your social justice work.

Start a blog or website. Write a few articles. Put up something about your speaking topics.

Call the site “Workplace Social Justice” or something.

Now you are “Yanisha Doe of WorkplaceSocialJustice.com,” and in your bio, you say something like “Yanisha Doe works as an engineer for a major regional engineering company, is a strong supporter of women in STEM, and runs WorkplaceSocialJustice.com.”

If anyone asks, you could tell them the name of the company you work for, but now you’re not giving the company undue emphasis, which really wouldn’t benefit either party. I mean, your grandpa’s name isn’t really a secret, probably, but he might not want to be in your professional bio, either.

Also see this post — Using a Stage Name to Keep It Professional. Having different personas doesn’t have to mean lying or misleading people — sometimes, that’s exactly the right way to maintain professionalism and avoid confusion.

If you wanted even another level of separation, it wouldn’t be crazy to go by “Y. [Middle Name] Doe” or some other chosen name (“Justice N. Fairness”) in your published materials. If anyone asks, “Is your name really Justice?”, you could say something like, “No, it’s Yanisha, but I try to differentiate my social justice work from my day job,” or, “No, my real name is Yanisha, but I write online under the name Justice.”

If people can handle Tracy Morgan/Tracy Jordan, and Stephen Colbert/”Stephen Colbert,” and the fact that no one knows who Dwayne Johnson is until you say “The Rock,” I’m sure they can handle however you decide to deal with your situation.

Keep up the good work!

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