The world is a dark place, and Felicia and Rachel intro this episode recounting their feels. The interview starts 15 minutes in, where they interview the wonderful Karen Catlin, author, coach, and advocate for inclusive tech workplaces.
Karen spent 25 years in tech as a software engineer, VP, and CEO. Then she moved into leadership coaching, speaking, and advocating for a more inclusive workplace. She’s also the force behind the incredible Better Allies, a resource we reference often!
Please note that we recorded our interview with Karen on May 15th, 2020.
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Felicia : Alright, we are alive. Hey, Rachel.
Rachel : Hey, Felicia, how are you?
Felicia : I’m well. How are you doing?
Rachel : I’m great. And I am especially great because we have an awesome guest on the podcast today and Karen, welcome.
Karen: Oh, it’s so good to be here. Thanks for having me.
Rachel : We’re going
Felicia : to have you here.
Rachel : Yeah, please go ahead, Felicia. Rachel, I have been huge fans of you and your work for a long time. And so for those of you who are listening. Our guest today is Karen. She’s an author, a coach and advocate for inclusive tech workplaces and workspaces. So thank you for joining us.
Felicia : You have had quite the journey you spent 25 years in tech as a software engineer, a VP and a CEO and then you moved into leadership coaching, speaking and advocating and our listeners might be familiar with you as the force behind better allies. So could you tell us a little bit about your journey and how you got to where you are today.
Karen: Absolutely. So as you just mentioned, I did work in tech. I have a computer science background used to write code for a living. And over time, I moved into leadership roles. And most recently, I was a vice president of engineering at Adobe and during 25 years I spent working in tech building software products. Which I absolutely loved, but during the 25 years I spent doing that, I noticed a decline happening in gender diversity. Because when I started my career, a long, long time ago, there actually used to be more women getting Computer Science degrees and there were a lot more I’d say people who look like me, you know, sitting side by side with me and my workplaces and so forth. And it did decline over time. And so while I was still at Adobe I decided that I really had a role to play for women at our company in terms of making sure that they could feel that they could grow their career at Adobe. And so I started our women’s employee resource group. I started mentoring. A lot of women and I started basically advocating for gender diversity in various leadership meetings, I was in just where it seemed appropriate I have to tell you, I love doing that work so much and not so much over time. My VP of engineering kind of work. So one of them kind of one out and about seven years ago I did a pivot with my own career so that I could start advocating for initially women. Advocating for women across tech, not just at Adobe, but across tech and doing that full time because I just love doing it. So, as you mentioned, I’m a coach. I do leadership coaching. And I also do a lot of speaking and writing about inclusive workplaces, which aren’t just inclusive of women, but people from any kind of underrepresented background, whether it’s the color of their skin their religious background.Their abilities, their age, their sexual orientation and so forth.I think we we benefit when we have all sorts of people getting together to solve problems and to work together and that’s what I love facilitating and helping make happen. Let’s stop there. Sorry, that was a
Rachel : Lot not it was absolutely perfect and you know one thing that that strikes me so much about. First of all, you know, we are longtime fans of your Twitter feed. We literally had no idea that there was a woman behind it. And I mean, I’ll tell you, Felicia, and I have had conversations where we’re like, oh my god, did you see what was on Twitter by better male allies so good. We have to share this. Who are these guys? They’re amazing. And I think that we were like, we’re happy that anyone is doing it, but I think we’re a little sad we felt a little deflated. There wasn’t anything like an actual guy.
Karen: I know. Okay, so I know it was a little deceptive on my part, I know. But recently I started it anonymously, because I just didn’t want to be associated with it. I wanted to have it be a separate kind of brand and voice. And so it was anonymous and then I adopted very quickly. This first person voice in terms of I strive to do this. I pledge to do this, you know, the next time I see an interruption in a meeting. I will redirect the conversation back to a woman or packed to the person who was interrupted or things just things like that. I was trying to imagine and channel so many of the men I had worked for and worked with and imagine what these are things that they could be doing if only they knew if only they were aware of some of the challenges we face being under represented in the workplace, if only they knew and we’re aware of it, they could do these things. So it kind of just evolved in terms of US anonymous first person and most people did think it was man behind the scenes. And I kept it anonymous and some I’ll tell you my partner Tim kept saying, Karen. Stan Stan is, don’t, don’t let people know because it’s going to lose some of maybe the allure of the magic or the mystique behind it. And so I did stay anonymous until I wrote my book, which is based on the Twitter handle and that at that point. When you write a book like it’s a lot of work. I wanted to get all the credit. I wanted, I wanted to basically own it that this had been me.
Felicia : Yeah, as you should. And I want to just say it to anyone who’s listening. So, it is now a better ally. Correct. Yes, but it started off as better male allies, and so did it start off as just purely the Twitter feed, or was the newsletter that came after the Twitter feed. What was sort of Genesis.
Karen: Yes. Yeah. And I’ll tell you that the genesis started even before Twitter. Twitter was the real kind of launch. I remember. Maybe you remember this to back in. I think it was 2015 at the Grace Hopper Celebration, there was a male allies panel. That I was there. Were there was
Felicia : There.
Karen: Yeah, so I was watching it from afar, which was frustrating, not to be in the room, but then I’ll just summarize and please finish it, you know. Hopefully I’m getting this right. But basically, there were men who really do care about this topic of gender diversity onstage in a panel. But they really kind of missed the mark in terms of what they were saying in terms of the kinds of things. They thought women should be doing, or that they should be doing for women in their tech workplaces. And heck time there was a little bit of a call it just concerned building that hey wait a second, what are the men doing at taking away valuable stage time at the Grace Hopper Celebration, which is all about women in computing and why are they taking up this valuable stage time and if these men are such great you know male allies, why aren’t their companies better at supporting gender diversity. And so a small group of women call themselves the Union of Concerned Feminists, I think, is the name created by a bingo card. Ahead of time of all the phrases. They expected these men to say on stage that would actually reveal how far they had still to go before they were true allies and true supporters of gender diversity and they handed this bingo card out to people as they walked into the panel and of course midway through the panel a woman shouts out bingo, because she got it all you so did I get the story right.
Felicia : Yep, you are on the nail you actually know more details than even I knew, and I but yeah, absolutely. I remember being there. I had the bingo card in my hand. The woman stood up, yelled out, bingo. It was a whole thing.
Rachel : So can I just interrupt because I actually did not know about this story. And so I just went on the internet and googled it. And there is a Twitter handle. So this is literally from 2015 to five years ago. Fascinating, and now we are officially following them. Both already. We’re just so you know, SEO wasn’t but you both individually were.
Karen: Yes, yeah. Okay, so this bingo card happened. And when I heard about it, I must admit I was, I don’t know why it catalyzed me in a certain way because I thought to myself, wait a second. These men are actually trying to do their best, and they just don’t get it. They just don’t know they just aren’t aware yet and to their credit they ended up holding a reverse panel. The next day, where they basically were like, okay, we clearly don’t know the issues and the topic. So we’re going to have a reverse panel, which will be the palace. But we listen to you talk. Um, so the audience came and talked and shared things and everything. Um, so, anyway. These men I think really did care and do care. Yet they just missed the mark. So I was like, You know what we need. We need an aspirational version of that bingo card. A bingo card of all the phrases that we want our male allies to be saying for us. And so I sort of reached out to a few people in the women in tech community that I knew. And so what do you think of this idea and people like, go for it. Go for it. And then I was connected with a software engineer who had been working at Google. She’s now I believe at automatically working on WordPress. And so forth, um, her name is Kate Houston. So Kate and I collaborated remotely. She I believe was based in Australia or somewhere and I’m in California. Anyway, we collaborated remotely and came up with this aspirational version of the bingo card. And then wrote about it in The Daily Beast, then another woman in tech said, hey, what you did is great, but let me make a better version of it in terms of the graphic design. So a woman named Kate Tonto took it over and made a beautiful, stunning design for it. And then we’re like, cool. What do we do now? And so I was like, I need to make a Twitter handle all it will be initially is to share the bingo squares. I’ll just share them and see where this goes. And then I started finding more material on, you know, anytime something would be shared in the media about a challenge, a cautionary tale, a situation or even research that’s being done around equality in the workplace. Anytime I’d see something like that, I think. Ooh. Here’s what an N better ally could do with that information. I’ll give you an example. You know, a few years ago and everything was coming out about Uber and Susan Fowler wrote her incredibly important memo.Soon after that it came out that well from her memo. It was like, Okay, what would what should a better ally do after reading Susan’s memo. There was a lot, but just one thing was like okay I pledge to make sure that we when we order team jackets, they will be in both men’s and Women’s sizes are unisex sizes. I can’t remember the exact tweet, just like that type of thing to raise awareness that this is something you can do as an ally in the workplace, right. And then later that year. It came out that Travis colonic who was still CEO of Uber at the time. He was using the nursing mothers room for his personal phone calls, which of course means the women can’t get in there when they need to write. So I, of course, go to Twitter and tweet and sometimes I get a little snarky as maybe, you know,
Rachel : Love. That’s what we love about Cameron. I need more of the Snark I think sometimes. Okay. I’m like the Snark
Karen: So my snarky comment. After reading about Travis colonic was, you know, I pledge not to use the nursing mothers room for my personal phone calls.Period, then, like, unlike Travis, or at Travis or whatever his Twitter. Twitter handle is on
Felicia : And then no no such waiting for Travis, I will just put it out there for
Karen: You bet you that. So this little Twitter handle others share with you. It started growing in popularity and Rachel flourished. People like you found it, you probably tag some friends and tell people to follow it. You retweeted for me. Thank you. Because of what happened then, I started getting speaking engagements.
Rachel : Oh, wow. Oh.
Karen: Anonymous Twitter handle started getting speaking engagements.
Felicia : So amazing and crazy
Rachel : And also, I wonder, did they think that you were a guy and was that
Felicia : Yeah. Yeah. Oh my god, it’s fascinating and has many surprises. Hey, it’s me.
Rachel : Polish. I have a new idea. Okay. We need to get you a new name, a new pseudonym, a male name Fred Jad Zach.
Felicia : Well, I’m really, really quick. Super side story and then I want to hear how the initial reaction went when you did get these speaking engagements. I’m just totally not related but kind of I still have an anonymous instagram handle, which is focused on posting pictures of graffiti. In the greater Boston area and people think I’m a man. And so I am not so much anymore. Cuz I’m not super active at this point because I have like five different Instagram handles and I have a million other things to do. But I would constantly get people damning me being like, Hey, bro. Let’s go hit on girls and like to drink beers and like you know get high in the woods and I’d be like, maybe later.
Karen: Oh my gosh, that’s fantastic. I love it. I love it. But, um, yeah, Fred. Yeah, we’ll just start calling Fred.
Rachel : I mean, whatever works right?
Karen: Never works. Okay, so, so I started getting oh, I’m sorry. I cut you off. Would you say
Felicia : No, no. I said, back to you. Back to you.
Karen: So speaking engagements started coming in and they would usually be a direct message saying, hey, anyone at the better allies initiative do any public speaking, because we have this event coming up. And so of course my first reaction was the better allies initiative, really, it’s like it’s just me doing a little bit of tweeting on the side. Right. So that was sort of a nice compliment and then, of course, because I want to stay anonymous, I would respond with, yes. One of our contributors does public speaking will put you in touch with her. So, and, of course, I go to my personal Twitter account DM them and say, Hey, I’m Karen I contribute to better allies. What did you have in mind? You know I love public speaking. So I started speaking about it and then inevitably when I would give a talk there would be the Q AMP. Afterwards people would always ask and someone would always ask. Hey Karen. We want more of this. Do you have a book and I for a few years? I’m like, No, I don’t have a book. I don’t have a book. I don’t have a book. And then so finally I did write my book. And so as you know I wrote the book better allies everyday actions to create inclusive engaging workplaces and I published it January 2019. So about a year and a half ago now. And certainly in 2019 I had such a great time traveling across the country as well as doing podcasts and zooming into meetings and so forth to speak about better allies. Now in 2020 and the pandemic that we’re all dealing with I’m doing everything virtually on but I still just so love speaking about this topic and getting more people to understand that being an ally and creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. It doesn’t have to be more than being, you know, taking a few of these ideas and just contributing what you can to the everyday interactions you have at work.
Rachel : I love that idea. Thank you for sharing that. And, and I wanted to talk a little bit more about that. But I also want to go back, because I’m, I’m kind of curious. Did the people who asked about speaking engagements? Did they ever say no, actually really want a male speaker.
Karen: So, so I did get some surprises and I really thought it was a guy behind it. One. And I’ll just share with you another maybe two more surprises along those lines, and then answer your question, too. I remember I was at a meetup in San Francisco. A few years ago, someone was at the same meetup and I was on Twitter, of course, as one does. At meetups and I was tweeting different things and I had wanted to meet this man who had been a really good supporter of better allies just through Twitter and I so I DM Tim and said, hey, we’re at the same event, I see you tweeting about this Meetup. Can we get together during the break? I’d love to, you know, introduce myself. And he wrote back, sure. And I’m like, Okay, I’m the one wearing the red poncho which had on it was a red poncho. And so while that might be something Amanda would wear it tends to be more of something we women might put on. And so anyway, he found we found each other during the break. And he really said I thought you were a dude like that was the first thing out of his lips. So that was just sort of funny. I’ll also share with you that I have a good friend. I’ll say her name, first name, ANNIE, ANNIE, AND I used to walk frequently on Friday mornings like and just share professional ideas and we were on a nonprofit board together anyway. At some point he has a podcast. And he said, Yeah, I’m thinking about some new guests for my podcast, there’s this person and then he, by any chance, do you know anyone who works on that better allies. Twitter handle because I’d like to invite them and I thought she was pulling my leg like I thought she knew it was me. And so I was like oh yeah I know them. You want me to introduce you. And she’s like, You do, yeah. Really. And then I realized she didn’t know and I’m like any, like, it’s me, it’s like I’m better allies, and she was floored. She had no idea. So that was just sort of fun. I’ll just, I’ll just share and she also thought it was a dude. There was one speaking engagement that I know I didn’t get because I
was a woman and they wrote back and do you have any man on the team really and and it was because they thought the message might be better perceived if it weren’t delivering it. And so it’s fine whenever.
Rachel : I think a lot. I think a lot about that. I think we think about that, too. And it comes to facilitation and speaking and who is delivering that message and how that comes across on triple OSHA can talk more about that. So it was really interesting.
Felicia : Yeah, I mean, we even we even experienced that. So as I’m sure you now. Our name is she gets out very feminine and we have discussed many, many, many times do we change it, do we update it, especially as our own business has grown and evolved over the years for the time being. It is what it is. And it’s a nod to our history where we started, which was really
funny 13 2015 when we originally got started, but when we started doing this work. We definitely had potential clients push back and say, you know, it’s, we don’t want to just talk about gender, we want to talk about racial diversity. We won’t talk about ability, we won’t talk about all these other things. And your name is so feminine and we knew that that was something that was not necessarily helping us in the very beginning, for sure. So we hear that too.
Rachel : Yeah, and that’s a perfect segue actually to finish this question that one of the questions that we had for you, which is about the switch to just having it be better allies.
Was that one of the reasons why.
Karen: I’m so here’s, here’s a funny backstory here. So when I talked back out. We worked on this bingo card Kate and I worked on and I was on a call with Kate and I was like, want to create a Twitter handle but male allies are taken already. It was already taken. And she’s like, Well, better allies are available. And so that’s how we actually came up with better allies is Kate had the foresight of naming at that. And so, actually. So the Twitter handle has always been better allies. However, I think that may be the profile name or whatever might have been better male allies, because I was emphasizing that this was, you know, aimed at men being allies for the workplace. But soon I started just paying more attention to what inclusion means and realizing yeah my primary lens because I am a woman who has worked in tech. That is the lens I approach all the stuff through but I have it so easy compared to some people who are from other underrepresented groups, as I said before you because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation abilities and so forth. So I have done my best to expand my focus and think about people from all sorts of underrepresented groups, as I do my tweeting, as I do my newsletter, as I wrote my book. But if you look at my work. It’s definitely still heavily focused on gender. But I might I strive to have that be more balanced to, as I said, be inclusive of all sorts of people.
Rachel : Thank you.
Felicia : Yeah. So I guess the next question is, really, is it still you or is there actually a team behind the initiative at this point.
Karen: So it’s, it is mostly me I have a team that helps with my newsletter. So I have an editor and someone who does the formatting and just nails this management for me and I’m just starting to work. We’ll see. I am confident, this will work out well. I’m just trying to work with the graphic designer on some of my content as well. And I’m super excited to get the first delivery of her work in the next couple of days.
Rachel : Love that.
Karen: And of course with writing a book, you have a team of people in terms of editing support and book design and proofreading and copy editing and so
Rachel : I would love to hear about the book writing process. It’s something that Felicia and I were actually talking about. Have talked about for years, you know, someday maybe we’ll write a book.
Felicia : Yet come quite just yet for us.
Karen: Do you know what your book will be about, is it she geeks out or
Rachel : Yeah, I think we’ve, you know, we’ve had a couple of ideas. You know, and what is more on the Community side, I think, and one is more on the diversity inclusion side. And I would say on the Community side, it would be through telling the stories that we had this
blog series for a little while, um, some women’s project, which is just lifting up these incredible stories of women that you’ve never heard of doing remarkable things so sort of telling those stories and I’ll let Felicia share her thoughts.
Felicia : Yeah, I mean we just we’ve had a lot of ideas, but I think that’s part of the problem is that we don’t have a single soul like thing that we can get behind. And, you know, also just growing a small business. We’re like, it’s in the ideas list that we haven’t that we never quite get time to really sit down and think about, but
Karen: I get it. I’ve been there, done that. Been there, done that, we actually. So let’s let’s maybe hear more about the process. Like, how does that work, how did it come about what it actually looks like to put in the book.
Felicia : Together. With them to learn more about that.
Karen: Sure, sure. So I took a couple of runs at writing this book before I was successful. I’ll share with you. And I’d be like, okay December’s kind of slow for my coaching business. I’m going to write all of December and I’d sit down and draft a couple chapters, and then I’d hit some you know writer’s block some wall. The holidays would come, whatever. And then I put it aside and then it’d be like, I’m going to take a two week break in the summer and just focus on that book and I’d write, and then I’d hit a wall. And so this went on for a little while. All yet in parallel. I was writing my newsletter. So I was still forming different ideas and concepts and putting together very short form versions of what I was thinking and publishing that which is actually really good discipline for helping you figure out what kind of content sticks, how you want to share things and what stories. I mean so much of writing a book, especially a nonfiction book when it comes to life when you can tell stories. And so you can’t, I don’t, I can’t just sit down and just like I’m going to write all the stories about these things that are relevant. I need to spend time thinking about that and through the course of writing my newsletter different stories would surface and percolate and I would start recording them so I tried to write the book took a couple runs was still writing my newsletter and then I was listening to a podcast and I don’t even remember whose it was, but the guest said that for them when they need to accomplish something big. They know they have to spend money. Because when they spend money on something and make an investment. They will make it happen. And I said to myself, oh, I need to do that. What I need to do is find a developmental editor.
Karen: Give her a big down payment and force myself to work with somebody who can help make this happen. So I found a great developmental editor who took my, you know, we work together on my table of Contents that I had sort of been forming she helped me reorganize it point out some things that maybe we’re missing then started editing my, my, the chapters I had written and then help me drive towards finishing the rest of the chapters. So it was a really great collaborative process. And then I decided to self publish because I wanted to get my book out quickly. Of course, I should have done it two years before I’d started it, but anyway. Once I
was getting so close. Like, I just want to get it out quickly because this content is so important and timely. And I’d heard her stories from people who’ve gone traditional publishing that it can take like two years from the time you finish your manuscript to getting it actually into bookstores, so I decided to self publish and from the time I wrote that check for the developmental editor to a time my book was available on Amazon was, I think, seven months. So it happened pretty quickly. I think yeah and and and so anyway that’s that’s a choice I made and super happy with it.
Rachel : Now, that’s excellent. I’m well and will definitely include a link to it as well. It’s such important information for people to have and I really love your point that you had mentioned earlier, it’s really to the book that it’s just people making these small changes. You know, I think we struggle with it a lot because we’ve tried to take this very large macro approach to the work and there’s so many benefits to doing both. I think looking at the work from this large macro sense where there’s this huge historical context. There’s so much in there. And then sometimes like you also just really need to be focused on the actions like what are things, what are, what things can people actually do. And so we tried to straddle both so it’s really important work for sure.
Felicia : Yeah, I want to tell you, Karen. So I think Rachel and I have both been on your newsletter very, very early on. And so I still get it whenever it comes out in my email inbox and
I used to star them because they were always just full of such good information. And then I one day realized I had this folder. That’s just got your newsletter in it and I was like, the whole thing is I have to stop storing because they’re all good, like I already know this. At this point, I’ll have to start my Gmail. But it’s such good actionable information, a lot of people struggle with. Right. Is there, like, okay, I want to show up. I want to be an ally. But what do I actually do? And that’s really great that you’re giving some really concrete tips and strategies and things that people can start doing so appreciate that. I was curious. So you mentioned, actually I think before we even started recording that you’re currently recording an audio book is that the audiobook version of the self published book or is that something totally different and new
Karen: It. So I finished recording the audio version of God Li. So, so, but this is my recording studio for what the work I did do for that. So that’s available up on Amazon. Yeah.
Rachel : Um, so let’s go back to, you know, want to make sure that our listeners really have a good understanding of what Allah’s ship really means, we think, you know, people have a vague sense of love to hear your definition of what Allah’s ship looks like.
Karen: Right, right. It’s so simple it is using your position of power or privilege to help other people when it comes right down to it, and helping means making a more equitable workplace making a place environment, a culture where everyone can really do their best work and thrive now. In my book, I do have this one chapter, though, where I explore this whole concept of being an ally OR A WHITE KNIGHT riding the horse and to save the day. And I’ll if you have I’ll spend just a minute talking about the difference here because I think it’s important. Well, it’s always fine to think like, you know, I just noticed this one person needing, you know, a little bit of support a little bit of whatever I can do. That’s great. And I don’t want to discourage anyone from taking action if they see someone who could benefit from you using your privilege to help them out. But the best thing is to make sure you’re looking for systemic change that will benefit more than just that one person. And here’s an example. An example is baby, you’re on a hiring committee talking about candidates and someone the feedback might be about, say, a man of color will call them Willie, um, you know, I don’t think Willie’s quite right. I don’t think he’s got what we need, you know, you hear that and as an ally. You may think, well hey tell you what I really believe in really I think he’s the right person. So I’ll offer to mentor Willie and make sure he is successful once he’s come right, great ally, move it sounds like right and I agree, it is good.
Yet better would be to look at changing the interview process so that you’re using more objective criteria. And maybe a rubric for actually evaluating candidates, rather than falling into a trap, which happens very, very frequently to have that culture fit the trap of. I just don’t think he’d be good here. I don’t think he’d fit in. I don’t think he’d be successful. Well, why not, you know, so that would be more of a stronger ally move is changing some systemic thing that’s in place and the interview process and changing it. So it’s more equitable for everybody who’s going to be coming through. They’re not just not just willy
Rachel : I love that. And I love that is. That’s better allies. Like, perfect.
Felicia : Has your definition and understanding even have Alisha changed over time.
Karen: Sure. And it changes and I’ll say it’s changed even frequently with this pandemic, it changes because privilege. Is something that I’m still learning about myself now privilege? Is something I think that most of us get a little defensive when it’s pointed out, because we think someone’s saying I’m privileged. It sounds like I’m some lazy person who’s had all the benefits in the world given to me. And really privilege is just a system it’s it’s a set of privileges or set of beliefs or a set of circumstances that you’re in, because you’re part of some demographic so I’m
sure. I am an underrepresented person in tech because I’m a woman, but I’m white. I have a college degree. I have a computer science degree. I have so many things that give me privilege that yeah, I worked hard for I earned in many cases, and you’re going to school, putting myself through school working hard to get that degree. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s not when someone points that out like Karen, of course, you could do that with your career because you have a computer science degree, you know, something like that. Like when they point that out. I shouldn’t get defensive about the hard work that went into there’s just, like, yeah, it gives me privilege. Absolutely. You’re right. Now, what I’ve learned in getting back to your question, foolish about what I’ve learned about being an ally is that privileges define privileges so wide, wide ranging. That’s the word I was looking for. And for example, I was talking to someone at a meetup once who was talking about the speaker who had just spoken, blah, blah, blah. And she said, you know, there are so many things that I wasn’t able to do earlier in my career because
I was supporting a sister who was living with me, who had some disabilities that prevented her from going to work. So I couldn’t afford to go on that whitewater rafting trip that was, you know, being organized for Saturday, you know, some time as a team building event. And understanding financial privilege is a whole nother level that I must admit, back when I was working on that bingo card. You know, I just that was not part of what I was thinking of it all.
And then comes the pandemic and as I started talking people and talking to coaching clients and understands like oh my gosh I have so much privilege in this pandemic, because I have a home office with a an adjustable desk with a chair that’s comfortable I have enough money on the, you know, in the bank to, you know, see me through any dips in my business on or not. And so understanding that that kind of privilege has helped me be a better ally, as I think about what I’ve been sharing in my newsletter lately. Yeah.
Felicia : I like that just recognizing the privilege and using it to leverage your work as an ally, that’s so important because I think especially when we are sometimes confronted with our privileged identities. Depending on how much work. People have done themselves, it can become almost a source of shame or you know that defensiveness. Right. I worked for this I earned this and as you said you did work for things, but that doesn’t mean that the privilege didn’t. Still, it wasn’t still a factor or may have been, you know, helpful to you in certain ways. Yeah.
Rachel : No, I totally agree, and I think it’s a nice little segue to another question that we had around Sue mentioning sort of the privilege of being able to work remotely and are having some advantages there. Given what’s happening in the world right now. I’m curious to know what challenges you see for the tech industry, particularly with regard to allyship, especially as we’re seeing more and more people working remotely.
Karen: Mm hmm. So many things. And I’ll say there are opportunities for allies that are in some ways they’re similar to what was happening before when we had in person offices and in person meetings, but there are new opportunities as well. For example, I saw research recently that said, and I think it was just in the month of April workers were surveyed and 40% for zero percent 40% said that their employer had not gotten in touch with them to ask how they were doing during the crisis. And that, you know, of course, what that means is they feel less engaged. They feel less valued and they feel like no one really cares about me. So as an ally, who’s thinking maybe about, well, do I still shy, still be networking with people. Should I still be broadening my network at my company or is this like, not the time or people all zoomed out. Yeah, sure. There’s a lot of video meetings going on. But this is also a great opportunity to reach out, potentially, to skip, skip level kind of meetings with your team if you’re in a management position and reach out to people and just ask them how they’re doing. Right. And is there anything that you as a person at the company can do to make it a little bit easier for them to get their work done and to basically deal with you know, additional caregiving responsibilities, additional anxiety and stress and so forth. So to me, that’s one thing. Another thing we’re hearing so much about mental health concerns that are caused by all this and so you know, very simple thing would be, make sure you have if your company has any kind of
forgot the term. But, Assistant. Assistant care like for employee, what are they called
Felicia : Aap oh yeah like an EP program.
Karen: A program. If you have one of those book markets, maybe share it, maybe put it in a Slack channel just like I want people to know about this resource without having to, you know, have people have to go ask about it or hunt around for it. Another simple Li move. Another thing is interruptions. I mentioned at the very beginning is just like a classic thing that happens that tends to happen more TO WOMEN THAN TWO MEN interruptions being interrupted in a meeting and so interruptions can happen very easily in zoom or whatever video technology you’re using as well as, as much as it can around a physical table. So making sure that you insist people raise their hand, whether that’s visually with you know, they want to speak. They raise their hand. So you can see them as the moderator. Or there’s maybe some video kind of conferencing support that allows you to have people raise their hand when they want to speak like an institute as a new best practice. Anyway, I’ll leave it there. I think that there are so many opportunities, but there’s just a couple
Rachel : You know, and I’m glad that you mentioned the last one because I’ve been thinking a lot about the video meetings and how they’re so different now with the chat functionality and how people can, you know, chat like Hey Karen just said something really great. That’s so great that she that she said that first before Bob did
Karen: Well, that’s a lot of snark there. But yes.
Rachel : Bob is, by the way, but
Karen: They just yeah just some some dude. Yeah, so the better allies approach would be, you know, I look to amplify people in video meetings. By using the chat function to repeat and amplify what she just said, Yeah. Well, much
Rachel : More articulate than whatever came out of my mouth. So thank you for that.
Karen: Thank you for letting me give you a suggestion.
Felicia : You gave us so many great tips. You know, we were going to wrap up with asking you, as one of our last questions for some tips. But I think we’ve already covered a ton. I have maybe what might be an unauthorized question. So I’m just gonna put it out there. I will see you can always cut this out, if we need to. But I’m curious what your thoughts are, you mentioned Uber earlier and Susan Fowler and all all the stuff around that and there are these companies out there, especially in tech that are, you know, toxic or especially given in what’s going on right now things are happening. I’m thinking of Tesla as one example where Elon Musk is literally asking his employees to break the law knowingly and I’m curious as taking this ally lens and looking at these crazy toxic companies. Do you have any thoughts on whether it is better to try and be working as an ally internally to try and change culture from within. Or is it better to leave and say, I don’t want to perpetuate this toxicity or what’s going on. Any thoughts around that. And if you want to not answer. We could also just totally cut this little bar down. No, no, I’m happy to go off script, so to speak, now that we had a script, but you know, it’s interesting. So, I believe it was last week there was an Amazon VP who resigned over how workers were being treated, especially in the Amazon warehouses and the shipping fulfillment part of their business and resigned in a very loud way I’ll call it in terms of medium post that got picked up by media and that’s definitely a good you know it’s it’s an effective approach. It’s a whistleblower approach where you’re just going outside and you know blowing the whistle about it. And it certainly worked well for Susan Fowler, to be able to write that right what she wrote that catalyzed so much attention and change. Yet there are people who are doing really good work internally. And sometimes that’s going to be the best approach to. So I think that each person has different levels of A CALL IT risk that they’re willing to take around their own career and their own reputation. And if also if they want to use that risk internally not risk, but if they want to burn up some of their credibility that they’ve earned in potentially going against the popular culture norms that are forming and calling things out, internally, that’s great too. I think it’s a very personal decision. Thank you for that.
Rachel : Lovely. I’m so looking ahead. What’s the big vision?
Karen: So you have this that is exciting. So one thing is I will work on a second edition of better allies. Probably had to have it published and I don’t have a date yet but roughly two years after the first one came out, which means I should start working on it now, but there’s been so much that’s happened in terms of things that I have collected through the newsletter that I want to just like I want to put it all in one place for people to use as the handbook that it is and so I wanted to work on that. I’ll probably also now. I think we’re going to be dealing with this pandemic and
had the impact on the workplace for a long time. Still, and so I’ll probably include a chapter about things you can be ways you can be better allies for people during a pandemic. Hopefully it’s not it’s it, hopefully it will be the only one we have to be dealing with at any rate, the other thing I’ll share with you too. I’m excited about this and totally like not formed yet as an idea, but
one thing I did earlier this year is I wrote a very short guide book called The Better Allies approach to hiring. And it expanded on the chapter that’s in better allies about the hiring process and I collected so many more best practices and created. It’s a short guide book that’s 70 pages. And I’m trying to think about what the next one should be. What if I create another domain specific or very topical that are allies approach to something and I’ll tell you, and this is makes me so happy I have been hearing from people who are healthcare professionals emergency room doctors just primary care physicians that they’ve read better allies and it’s helped them be better allies for their patients as well as the interactions, they have with other doctors that they practice with and that they’re interacting with and it makes me excited to think about maybe we need to do, the better allies approach to caregiving to health care. And I know like it would be definitely me stepping on my comfort zone. I would be having to do a lot of interviews, getting experts to provide the guidance and the insight to make it in the stories, frankly, to make it all come together, so it’d be a very different writing style for me so I haven’t committed to it yet, but it’s noodling, you know, back here in the brain.
Rachel : That would be so helpful. I mean, that’s, it’s such an industry that I know ripe for change. So
Felicia : Yeah, I say so important.
Felicia : Absolutely. We’re going to switch gears a little bit. We would love to know what your favorite way to practice self care is especially given it’s probably very top of mind.
Karen: Those days. Yes, I love getting exercise in fresh air and the fresh air has been incredibly important lately. I live in Northern California. So, even from the very start of the pandemic. We’ve had pretty nice weather. I get out every day for either a nice long walk or I’ve had access to a tennis court. So I’ve been playing tennis and bike riding to get outdoors and get some exercise so that’s been my saving grace during all of this unfortunate time. I have a partner who is more athletic than me and pushes me every day to do even more. So it’s been great.
Rachel : Oh my god. First of all, I didn’t realize you were in Northern California. I’m in Southern California, aren’t we lucky. Yes. Um, and, secondly, you’re lucky because I love, love my husband, but man getting him to exercise fertile.
Felicia : Okay, same boat same boat.
Rachel : How about
Felicia : How about a big you some treats while you exercise. This is why this pandemic is not going
Rachel : To cover 19 everything. Final question which we love to ask everyone is what are you kicking out that has nothing to do with work.
Karen: Oh, nothing to do with work. Okay, the artist Jacob color. Okay, he is in his 20s, he is amazing. He’s an amazing vocalist and has these videos of him singing that he puts together. So he’s doing multiple tracks. He has people send in snippets of them singing something that aren’t always very good and he does some sort of magic and overlays. His voice on these really actually sometimes pretty poor voices and create this amazing music. And the reason I even know about Jacob Cali right and how is my son who is a college senior poor guy missing out on his senior spring about to graduate virtually but he’s been home with us for the last two months. And this is one of his favorite artists. So I’ve been learning all about his favorite music. We’ve been doing a tiny desk concert watching NPR’s tiny desk. And watching a lot of these Jacob Collier videos so they’re geek out about that.
Rachel : I love that.
Felicia : Well, we are at the end of our time. Thank you so much for kicking out with us. Karen and sharing everything and all your knowledge, where can people find you if they want to learn more, anything else that you’d like to plug beyond the book or anything that you’ve already mentioned.
Karen: Yeah, so I have, I thank you. I’ve had so much fun. This has been a great time, just before we hopped on this recording I tweeted out like I’ve been looking forward to this all week to talk to you both. So thank
Felicia : You for that but
Karen: Yeah, I’m here it is Friday afternoon for us all. It’s just it was. It’s a good way to end my week and people can find me. I have two websites, I have better allies calm and I have Karen calm and I both of them have a contact page. You can reach me either way.
Rachel : Wonderful, thank you so much for being a part of this. It was a true pleasure and we hope that you have a wonderful rest of your day.
Karen: Thank you, you too. We’ll do this again. And if you want to talk about book authoring, let me know. We can just hop on a call sometime. I’d love to tell you more about that we
Felicia : Maybe hopefully one day take you up on that. All right, bye.