Black History Month IPIC Member Spotlight - Simone M. L. Ndiaye
In celebration of Black History Month in February, IPIC has developed a spotlight series featuring BIPOC leaders within the IP profession. These spotlights help to highlight the significant contributions BIPOC professionals have made to the IP industry and to inspire the next generation of IP leaders.
The spotlight below features IPIC member Simone M. L. Ndiaye, Trademark Agent with Therrien Couture Joli-Coeur S.E.N.C.R.L. A Trademark Agent in Montreal, Simone has developed a solid expertise in this field, she is called upon to provide strategic advice to clients to create, protect and develop their intellectual property portfolios, more specifically, their trademarks, as well as advice on defending their trademarks. Simone represents a diverse clientele doing business in different fields and industries, in Canada, the United States and internationally. Rigorous and dynamic, Simone is a professional appreciated by her clients for her sense of organization and her ability to adapt to different situations (Therrien Couture Joli-Coeur L.L.P., 2022).
Why is equality, diversity, and inclusion important to the IP profession?
Equality, diversity, and inclusion is important to the IP profession because the IP field has an international dimension.
Everybody should have the same chances. No matter that you are black, white, woman, man, you have disabilities, you are member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, it’s a matter of respect. As a human being, we all respect to each either, so it’s first a matter of respect.
Today, the community is diverse. If you look at Montreal or Toronto for example, there is a lot of people coming from around the world. You will find lot of black people from Africa and Caribbean, so our working environment should reflect what is in the population.
On the top of that, in IP, we have clients from around the world and we are also working with people from all around the world. Sometimes, clients could expect for us to understand them to serve them. They could expect to see people that looks like them, that could work with them. The main question is: how are we representative of the public that we serve?
Inclusion is very important. You can have a very diverse people, you can have lot of black people if you want in your team but if they do not feel included, they can not make the best out of them because they will have lot of barriers to be out performance because of that.
For equity, if we have the same talent, we should have the same opportunities and we should be paid the same level of salary. They should not be a gap because this person is a black, or this person is a female or this person is from the LGBTQ2S+ community. The colour of our skin does not need to define our salary level or the job level that we should aimful.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
My career pathways in IP and my evolvement since I arrived in Quebec in the fall of 2006.
Indeed, even though I have graduate degrees, I started working in IP in 2007 at the bottom as a trademark assistant. When I started this position, I had in mind a clear vision and a clear goal: to become a registered trademark agent. Being subordinated for my entire career was out of the question! I chose to start at the bottom, but my goal was to quickly climb the ladder. I became in few years a paralegal and after a trademark agent trainee. I attempted the TM Qualifying Examinations 4 times before being successful on the 5th attempt in October 2013. After my first attempt, I failed it for 3 consecutive years for less than 10 points in the second part of the exam. I learned from my failures, and I persevered to reach my goal. I’m a registered trademark agent since February 2014.When I passed my exam, I was proud of myself because I worked very hard and deprived myself of many things to reach my goal. I said to myself: You did it. You deserved it. Today, I continue to grow and learn in IP field, and I have plans to better develop in the future.
What advice would you give to those who are just joining our association as they look to advance their careers?
Own your career. Nobody else will own your career.
Sky is the limit for everybody. You should aim for high.
The colour of your skin should not be a limit. Be ambitious.
Never limit yourself. To never limit yourself, you must be curious. Other black people are already here in place, so, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. I wish I could have somebody to guide me when I started my career, maybe I would grow faster!
Widen your network to know a little bit more people and exchange because things happen in work environment where people that look like you are the only ones who can understand.
Take opportunities to try new roles, to job shadow, to discuss with other persons to know more about IP, take calculated risks, so that you can build you knowledge.
If you have the knowledge and taking opportunities, you will also have experience, try out different jobs. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom because you will learn a lot and you will move up to the ladder. This does not mean that you are not ambitious. You must be ambitious to meet the sky. However, you need to secure your strong basis first. Be bold.
Educate yourself through classes or experiences. Think out of the box. Get into networking. Join IPIC!
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of BIPOC leaders in the IP profession?
The next generation of BIPOC leaders in the IP profession IP should hold executive positions and they should have enough influence to bring other people like them in these positions. They also have to go back to the source to meet with young people from diversity to make them aware that they can have a career in the IP field, that they have many options, that they can succeed and become leaders in their turn.
How has your background/influences brought you to this position, and what made you want to volunteer for IPIC?
It is a combination of several factors that brought me to where I am now.
My education, my professional experience, my trademark license brought me to this position. Senegal is a multicultural country and we connected with people of different cultures from a very early age. When I left Senegal, I lived in France for a few years before moving to Canada. Living abroad with different kind of people and cultures has increased my open-mindedness. My strong determination to move forward despite the obstacles and my perseverance have also contributed a lot because I really believe that sky is the limit.
And last but not least, the strong values that my parents instilled in me: honesty, respect, determination, work hard are part of me and have made me build my identity.
As a member of IPIC, I hope that I will inspire other black women and black people to work in IP and to be leaders in this field.