It’s now 19 months since I joined Brandwatch as the first ever VP of Global Community & Belonging. I was tasked with the challenge of baking inclusion best practises into every part of our business from recruitment to client relations to accessible design.
I started this job the first summer of our global pandemic, while #BlackLivesMatter was the main story trending. Now I write this reflection in a winter where things are returning to ‘normal’ in the most privileged parts of the globe, while chaos and crisis unfold in other regions.
I joined a company of about 500 employees. Following an acquisition by Cision and subsequent merger with Falcon.io, I’m now working with a global team numbering close to 1200. Such is the life of a leader in tech: just when you think you’re mastering your role, it seems to morph into a new one all together.
- Community partnerships have given us incredible ROI. We’ve hired key roles through People of Color in Tech, built up our employer brand partnering with Coding Black Females and BUILD Boston. Underrepresented candidates constantly mention in interviews that these partnerships drew them to our open roles. We hired 800% more Black employees in 2021 compared to 2020.
- Sourcing jams help us diversify our pipeline, and hiring managers are making the most of them. I love when a hiring manager tells me they are unsatisfied with the diversity of candidates currently in their pool — this prompts us to set up a sourcing jam [here’s my blog about how to run one at your company].
- The global leadership team embraced discomfort: when I arrived, navigating difficult conversations about identity was not the norm. That has changed. Now our leaders call out their lived experiences and the privileges and implicit biases inherent within them.
- Over 70% of the global team completed intensive bias & inclusion training: we have established shared language and shared meaning of the key concepts related to belonging.
- Changes in leadership, losing some allies. Organizational restructuring means departures are inevitable. I’ve lost dedicated allies in the C-Suite. That said, I’ve also gained new ones.
- We’re not narrowing our gender pay gap quick enough. Our company is not unique in this struggle, and I plan to leverage more community partnerships with communities like The Stack World to help us train and retain women in our global team.
- Diversifying senior leadership. I am the only woman of color vice president in our team and I wish that wasn’t the case. We’re challenging ourselves to invest more in recruiting underrepresented talent at the highest levels of our organization.
- Line manager turnover. As a result of organizational restructuring, and people leaving for personal reasons, I have had five different line managers in the last year and a half which is unprecedented even for tech. It has challenged me to work more closely with every chief executive, and built strong relationships with each leader.
Taking on a newly created role was always going to be a challenge. Personally, I sense a change in momentum in the tech ecosystem. Summer 2020, it was all about anti-racism. Even though the mainstream conversation has moved on, I’m grateful the stakeholders I work closely with are still very much engaged in creating systems change.
I’m constantly drawing on the tools of adaptive leadership that I learned in my Acumen Academy Fellowship to guide my actions in a world of competing priorities, ambitious targets, and unknowns.
I remain grateful to the individuals within the team who always lift me up, support me, and listen to me. And everyone in the wider tech community from peers to followers, who give me the energy to continue on this journey each day.
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[This post was first published on LinkedIn on 25th Feb 2022]