Amaia Arrubarrena (00:00:01):
When we say, "Well, what does diversity actually mean?" It's difference, right? It's difference. And it's difference in all different ways. Starting from there and going, what it looks like for somebody to be successful is not exactly the same for every single person, right? What it means for somebody to be excited or dedicated or a hard worker does not present exactly the same way. There's no mold for that.
Melanie Ho (00:00:22):
I mean, I'm very worried about hybrid work backfiring. I think the challenge is that a lot of companies are patting themselves on the back for doing hybrid. They don't understand is that it'll be too easy to create a two-tiered system between people in the office and people who are not in the office.
Ginny Cheng (00:00:40):
First of all, we're all part of this future work ecosystem. I don't think we necessarily signed up for it, but now to me, the pace, how fast it's moving, it's really more like now of work.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:02):
Hi everybody. I'm Felicia.
Rachel Murray (00:01:03):
And I'm Rachel. And welcome to the SGO Podcast, the She Geeks Out Podcast.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:08):
This season is unlike any that we put out so far. What does the future of work look like when we're thinking about diversity and inclusivity and equity and what does it look like for different groups of people?
Rachel Murray (00:01:18):
We got to interview so many incredible people.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:20):
You'll also be hearing some little snippets and interjections from our facilitation team.
Rachel Murray (00:01:25):
You'll get their perspectives on what DEI really looks like in the workplace from a practical, actionable standpoint. So let's go.
Rachel Murray (00:01:36):
This week we're talking about what it looks like to put the pieces in place and create a truly inclusive culture. There's so many different facts that come together to form a company culture; from organizational values, leadership approaches, team building strategies and more. We talked with people managers about how they approach leadership, the challenges in coming together with a hybrid or remote team, as well as strategies that folks are using to combat those difficulties and how it feels when your team isn't in alignment with the values of DEI.
Rachel Murray (00:02:06):
The truth is, while we can define inclusion and belonging all day long, it might look a little different to different people. We think examples will help so we ask our facilitation team what an inclusive culture feels like to them. To start off, with some examples for my co-host, Felicia Jadczak.
Felicia Jadczak (00:02:21):
So inclusive culture is a big one because it's what I love to call a squishy definition because it can look and feel so different for many different people and different organizations. For me personally, the way that I like to think about inclusive culture is it's a culture where if I'm part of that team or that organization, at SGO for example, I feel like I can bring my fullest authentic self to work. because I think sometimes we throw this phrase around, "Bring your authentic self to work" and we don't always talk about what that actually even means. So what that means for me is that I can feel comfortable sharing as much or as little about myself as I want to. I don't feel like I'm forced into hiding anything. And I also on the flip side don't feel like I'm forced into revealing anything that I'm not comfortable with.
Felicia Jadczak (00:03:14):
I think it also speaks to not just how I feel or how others feel, but also basically all of the aspects that go into an organization. So that's everything from what are the policies that are in place to what is the language that we use, how do we assign work, who gets to be assigned to different projects, how are we interacting with each other, what are those interpersonal communications or experiences looking like. It's basically anything and everything that you can think about. And I think that's why it tends to be overwhelming or squishy because there's just so much that goes into that. But at the end of the day, for me, beyond all of the different things around policies and steps and documentation and things like that, it really comes down to how do I feel.
Felicia Jadczak (00:03:58):
For me at SGO, it's something that's really top of mind because I've worked at a number of different organizations in my past and there's been differing levels of feeling included or not, or having really healthy culture or not depending on where I was and where I was at that point in my life. But something that I'm always really conscious of is I want this to be a place where people feel welcomed, they feel like they can grow themselves, they feel like they can stretch and they can feel like they can also be real human beings. And that sounds simple or maybe stupid even, but sometimes I think when we get into this work mode, depending on industries too, but we get into this work mode and we feel like we have to fit a certain mold. I really want to think about what does it look like to be in a work mode where maybe it doesn't look like what we've seen before. And to me, that's really what inclusive culture is about.
Felicia Jadczak (00:04:51):
So I feel comfortable telling my team, "Hey, I'm taking off Tuesday morning because I have therapy." And that's not something that I'm ashamed of because it actually is really helpful for me. And that's something that I feel comfortable sharing and modeling that, and people do as well. So that to me is a hallmark of inclusive culture here. Or saying I'm getting into this really intense work meeting, but something is happening personally. And either I'm going to share that with my team so they know my head space and where I'm coming from. Or maybe I'll say, "You know what? I need five minutes" or, "I need to step away for a second because I've got to deal with something" or, "This meeting can continue, but I have to change up the timing for this going forward because I've got some stuff going on" whether or not I decide to share, but I can still have that kind of conversation with people. So it's really just about I think meeting people where they're at and being really supportive and giving people the space to show up in whatever way that feels best for them.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:05:52):
I think that it is such an interesting thought experiment, because an inclusive culture for me is a space where you are free to ask questions, make mistakes, to share pieces of yourself. So being forward with the fact that maybe you didn't sleep great the night before and you're just not feeling your best self. "Can we move a meeting?" Which I have done and it's always said, "Yes, cool, no big deal."
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:06:30):
An inclusive culture is acknowledging the fact that, "You know what? I'm going to make some spelling errors" and that's okay. I'm not getting negative feedback for not having "ownership" over my work because I made a spelling error. An inclusive culture is my supervisor encouraging me to push back because I have a different idea or sharing things when it doesn't feel right. So if something is happening and it just doesn't sit well in my gut or I need more context, that to me is inclusion. And not being afraid to share who I am, meaning I can say my fiance, and folks aren't assuming I am engaged to a man because I have been able to openly share the fact that I am engaged to a woman.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:07:17):
An inclusive culture to me means that I can have my cats just walk in front of the camera and nobody cares or bats an eye. Really, they do care because they're very excited, but they don't bat an eye and they're not looking down or think that I am less than because one of my fur babies came into the view. It feels psychologically safe. An inclusive culture to me feels psychologically safe where I can be whoever I am at any given point, and I am embraced for who I am because I contribute meaningfully and I have a positive impact. So for me, an inclusive culture is not just about like the check boxes. It truly goes hand in hand with that feeling. And if the two don't coincide for me, I wouldn't stay in an environment like that. I have to have psychological safety. I have to feel like I can show up as myself whatever that looks like on a daily basis. And it is not only embraced, but celebrated and just honored, however that looks.
Rachel Sadler (00:08:34):
To me, an inclusive culture feels welcoming of all people. It feels like a place where I can breathe and let my shoulders down. It feels safe and full of support. I can see people represented from all types of backgrounds, age groups, political affiliations, religions, countries even. I see leadership modeling behaviors of acceptance and empathy, being open when folks call them in, and excited to learn about ways to make the workplace more than just a space where folks go to earn a paycheck. And I've said before, I do not believe in work families, but I do believe in work being a place that you can enjoy showing up to because the culture is one of support, authenticity, and value of our shared humanity.
Kia Rivera (00:09:25):
To me, it's having space to feel as though I can bring my most authentic self to work, my most authentic Kia work self I would say, and who that is. Being able to laugh and joke, have conversations with folks that are meaningful, but also showcase that I'm obsessed with TikTok, and I think that that's something that SGO really emphasizes. It's part of our work and we can have fun with it too. So I love the balance of fun and work and when it comes to feeling like I'm in a space that values me, knowing that I'm an introvert and I take a second to think things over, having a multitude of ways to give feedback. So whether it be live feedback of like, "Hey, we're going to take a second and write things on a sticky note" so I can compose my thoughts, think about them, write them down, share them. Or, "Hey, this is a Google survey. If you don't want to do this right now live in this meeting, you can do it afterwards." And that really has made me feel included in a workplace.
Kia Rivera (00:10:25):
This hasn't just happened at SGO. It's happened to other places and I really enjoyed that. Or like, "Hey Kia, I feel like you've been working on this project for a long time and I really want you to take the lead in this meeting because I don't see you normally taking the lead." Really emphasizing like, "Hey, you've been doing a good job. Now you can take the lead on this" so I have the confidence and feel as though I can be a leader in a workplace that I'm not typically seen as a leader, right? So I think that those are some of the things. I think representation matters, and I think that's something I've really enjoyed about SGO, is that we are a very "diverse" team. But I like that I somewhat see myself in the team, whether it comes to race ethnicity, being mixed race, being queer, being mid-size even. I love that our team is inclusive in that ways and that I don't feel like a necessarily outsider in that space.
Kia Rivera (00:11:16):
I'm trying to think of any other ways. I think just being able to have a supervisor too that lets me talk about my fears and anxieties, whether it be the littlest things when it comes to getting feedback, but also celebrating joy and giving positive feedback and showcasing that like, "Hey, you are doing a good job. These are the X, Y, Z things I would fix for next time" and not having it feel like a catastrophe, like, "Oh, I might lose my job because I didn't do this thing." That's not what I get, especially in this workplace. This has been the most inclusive workplace. So I keep saying SGO examples, but I think those are all the things. And also having a flexible workspace and work time too, I think that that's been really helpful for me when thinking about where I want to work and if I happen to ever look for another job, that that's something I really want to keep as being able to like, as long as my work is getting done, I can kind of do what I want with my day within reason, which is really nice.
Rachel Murray (00:12:14):
After Felicia, you heard from SGO DEI facilitators, Dr. Victoria Verlezza, Rachel Sadler, and Kia Rivera. Next up we sat down with Amaia Arrubarrena. Amaia is the Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at ezCater and she told us all about how she approaches leading a team with inclusion at the forefront.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:12:32):
I've been managing people for about four years now. My team has changed a lot over the last few years because of COVID. My position has also changed, the company has changed. But I've been managing people since… I think 2018 is the right answer. I really love it. I love being a people manager. One of the reasons I wanted to manage people was to be the person I always wanted to have, and for so many different reasons. I've had phenomenal managers and I've had not so phenomenal managers in my life, in any job. Definitely not just in tech, but in any job I've ever worked. And knowing the difference of what… I mean, even just the conversation we just had, the difference a manager can make in how you feel about yourself and your experience and your energy, just there's so much that goes into that.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:13:23):
I mean, I said earlier one of the reasons I wanted to be a doctor was to help people. One of the reasons I do my job is because however I can give support, anything in the way that I think everyone should have, I'm just like, "Yeah, if someone's got to do it, let it be me. I want to do it. I want to make sure." One of the biggest challenges that I see for new managers for sure but can also continue at all levels, is how you feel successful in your role. Because when you're an IC, you are an individual contributor, when you are given something, "Here's your project. Here's your task. Here's whatever it is," it's like it's very clear when you have done something, right? Like, do this. You completed it. You did it well. "Okay, great, you're doing good at your job."
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:14:06):
Managing people is not as black and white. And we love… I mean, we know this, right? As humans, we love when things are binary. We love when it's this or that. We can categorize it. Our brains are happy and people management is not like that, right? So the way that you are deemed successful in your role, the way the success is defined for you significantly changes when you become a manager, right? And so I think one thing that I would do when I first became a manager, because you do… We are all human and we have egos, right? It's natural to be like, "Okay, but I still want to be seen as competent and good in my role." And you see this work that you used to do and now you're having to hand that off, right? You don't want to take credit for people's work, but you also want people to know what you're doing. It's just this weird space to exist in at first, and that's totally normal.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:14:58):
So for me, when I was new, something I would repeat to myself over and over again is, "My team's success is my success. My team's success is my success." And that it is not about how much work I can do, it's how I can empower and support my people in growing and doing this work, right? If you have brilliant people on your team, get out of their way. Let them be brilliant. Let them do the things that you're capable of doing. It doesn't make you look unnecessary, it makes you look like a great leader. To me, that's what a great leader does, is recognize people's strengths, give them work that allows them to flex the muscles that they have, bring the best out in them and then bring the best out in the team and just repeat that to yourself, "My team's success is my success." I think that's a big challenge for managers at first. And it can continue to be if you don't ever have that reckoning, I guess.
Felicia Jadczak (00:15:53):
What in your opinion or your experience has been a great way for you to build trust and make connections with people on your team, particularly in the last couple years when we've had the challenges of being remote and hybrid where perhaps we weren't before as a team?
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:16:09):
Yeah. Yeah. Strong communication, open communication, transparent communication. Whenever I first have someone join my team, I talk to them about my management style. I ask them what type of management style they like, what environment do they work best in, how can I best support them to be successful. And then make sure that we're on the same page about what does that mean.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:16:27):
When I say strong communication, I think we all think we're better at communicating than we actually are. And for me, communication is the end-all, be-all. So if we can have good communication, then that I think we have already solved more problems than we'll never know because we've prevented them, right? We solve them before they started. So what's important to me when I'm having conversations with my team is, "Are you hearing this the way I'm saying it?" And then when my team tells me something, I repeat back to them, "Here is what I think you said. This is what I heard. Is that right? Does that sound right to you? Does it sound right to both of us?", right? "Are we actually on the same page or do we just think we're on the same page?", right? Like, the importance of being really present and listening.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:17:10):
And then also I mentioned this a little earlier, but I really do try to check my ego in everything that I do. I know it can be hard to be transparent with things. And in a scary time, like what has happened last couple of years where we experience layoffs, things were uncertain for a really long time not just at work, but everywhere, in every aspect of our life and we can start to like, when things feel so out of control, we naturally want to control, right? "I can't control everything, but I can control this. So I'm going to hone on what I can control."
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:17:40):
We need to feel, like I say, power not in a super negative sense because again, I want to go back to, this is such a human thing and need. Knowledge is power. Information is power. And when you're afraid, when you don't know like, "Are layoffs coming again? Am I next? I want to make sure that I'm seen as vital to the company," you start wanting to hold on to things, right? You want to be the person that people have to go to ask questions. You want to be the person who's seen as the, "Oh, Amaia that decision," right? And so it can then start to feel like you want to hoard information. And I tried to be really aware of where I was at, why I was there, and check myself and check why I was doing things consistently.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:18:20):
And then be as transparent with my team as I could be and say, "Hey, I'm going to tell you everything I can tell you. If you ask me something and I can't tell you, I'll tell you I can't tell it and I'll do my best to tell you why. But for me, what's in my brain, I want in your brain," right? That is how we can be the most efficient, most successful, everyone's on the same page, we don't have any miscommunication is like, "What I've got, you've got. Tell me what questions, let's get clear. And then that way we can just hopefully continue to move forward together. And whatever that looks like and whenever that changes, we'll do that dance again,: right? That was kind of what I leaned on, just being as transparent as possible, communicating as much as possible.
Felicia Jadczak (00:19:00):
One thing that I know I've struggled with in the past as a newish middle… I don't want to call it middle-aged manager but you know what I mean, is managing people whose styles and work style and communication style and even if they're introverted versus being more extroverted is really different than me. And it sometimes can be hard to adjust to that when it's not your mode of work or what you're familiar with. Is that something that you've had experience with or any issues with or even mistakes made? And beyond that too, beyond communication or work style differences as we're seeing more and more generations come into the workforce, I'm curious if you've had experience working and managing people who are of different generations than you and how that's played out.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:19:46):
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think I want to start by saying, especially working in DEI, when we say, "Well, what does diversity actually mean?" it's difference, right? It's difference. And it's difference in all different ways. And so I think starting from there and going, what it looks like for somebody to be successful is not exactly the same for every single person, right? What it means for somebody to be excited or dedicated or a hard worker does not present exactly the same way. There's no mold for that, right?
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:20:16):
And so with that, if we believe that, which I do deeply, I hope by doing this work, then I can recognize that and go, "Okay, checking my assumptions and bias about what that looks like." And starting from, like I said, I start with the conversation with my folks the first time I bring them onto my team and I say, "Hey, tell me about you. Tell me your working style. Tell me what you need. Tell me how you like to interact." Because I am in a position of power as the manager. And I do believe with great power comes great responsibility, right? Thank you Spiderman. That will forever be. But it's true. When you are in a position of power, I do think the responsibility lies with you to be adaptable and adjustable, right? And that's also just the job of not just being in a position of power but being a manager.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:21:03):
So I think of it as a teacher, right? When you're the person who's teaching a subject, not everybody learns the same way. It's your job to be able to adapt the way you're teaching something to people's learning styles. I feel exactly the same way about management. It is my job to be able to work with you until I understand, "How do you need to hear this or how do I need to show you this for it to click for you? What do you need from me and how can I adjust myself to make sure I am giving that to you because it's my job to set you up for success."
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:21:30):
So I think it's just super important to really get to know your people, and to know yourself, right? I think actually I should have started there. I think so much of doing this work well in any capacity is knowing who you are and being very self-aware. Because if you don't know why you're doing the things you're doing, if you don't know where your motivation comes from, if you don't know where your biases are, if you don't know that, it's going to be really hard to be aware of when they are affecting your behaviors and your actions, right? So I think being really aware of who you are.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:22:02):
And then really knowing your people deeply, knowing them deeply and coming with an open mind of like, "The way you are, you are a whole wonderful person and you are brilliant and talented and gifted in all of these things, which is why you're on my team. I'm so excited to have you here. Let me not mess that up by then trying to fit you into a mold of like, 'Well, this is how I do things so that's how you should do it'." Absolutely not. "Show me how you do it because you might teach me something."
Rachel Murray (00:22:27):
Amaia, that is how I used to manage people. Yeah, when I was a first manager, I love telling the story because it's so true. I was a manager and it was like, "Well, I was promoted because I was really good at this thing and now I'm managing the people and so I'm clearly so good at this thing. Y'all should do it the same way as I'm doing it." Bad choice. So I would love to know how did you learn all of this? Did you make a lot of mistakes? Did you have a mentor? I'm just curious. Did you listen to a lot of podcasts? How did you get this? Or do you feel like this is just sort of a natural, you just came out of the womb like this?
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:23:03):
I think about this all a lot, but I also think some of it came from not having it. So being very aware of when I went through something or when I had a manager who didn't support me or who treated me a certain way or things just felt wrong or I didn't understand, really processing that and thinking about like, "Okay, what was happening here?" And then how do I not do that? The plus side of having a bad manager totally where it's like sometimes you're exposed to things and I do, I'm grateful for them because it's like, "Wow, I experienced firsthand the impact this can have on somebody."
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:23:40):
And I am so grateful for the manager I have right now. I report directly into our Chief People and Culture Officer, Janine. She is the most wonderful human. And I try to tell her regularly because of who she is as a manager, I feel empowered to be who I am as a manager because I know there are people who are going to hear this who are feeling like, "I would love to be that way and I am not in a place where I can be that way because I'm not in a system that supports that. I don't have a manager that supports that." And that's very real. That's very, very real. That's something that deeply saddens me when I think about how many people out there are affected by that, right? So not just the manager who doesn't get to be the manager they want to be, but then of course all of their reports who are then impacted by that.
Amaia Arrubarrena (00:24:23):
And so I've had incredible people to work from and learn from and then not so incredible people who I also learn from. But I try to really internalize it and think about what that means, draw from experience, be self-aware, all of those things at the same time. I think it's a combination of all of that. And just I deeply care for people. I really, really love people. That is definitely just who I've always been as a person. I really love humans. As messy as we are, I deeply care about the human experience. I know so many times people are fighting battles. We have no clue that they are. And if there is a way that I can, even in just one area of their life, help them or make it easier for them or support them or make them feel seen or valued, then I know I want to do that and this is my area that I can affect so I try to stay there. Even when I'm having the worst day, just like remember that.
Rachel Murray (00:25:25):
Here's Karina Becerra, director of customer advocacy at Podium in Utah. Karina is a longtime member of the She Geeks Out community and recently stepped into a role expanding the customer success team at Podium. She told us about modeling healthy boundaries for her team and also how she supports a team of folks who have very different backgrounds than her own.
Karina Becerra (00:25:43):
Setting the example for folks like, I have pretty good guardrails. I appreciate and love my life outside of work. I make time. And for the most part it's been a pretty hectic few weeks. So candidly, I think my husband is like, "Okay, it's getting better." But after 6:00, I'm off. I am doing whatever needs to be done. My team is still working. I have full confidence that they're doing the job that needs to be done. But if they don't see that in me, they're not going to mirror that. So, if and whenever I see somebody that's working on the weekends or answering Slack when they shouldn't be, I call them out. I'm like, "You need to log off." So to eliminate that kind of burnout, you have to really set the example.
Felicia Jadczak (00:26:26):
When you're coming in… And this is true also across the board, but with your unique situation with the very different culture in Utah, I'm curious how has that translated into how you are approaching supporting folks not just from different geographical locations but different religions, different communication styles perhaps, different stages of life. What does that look like for you when you're thinking about supporting your team going forward?
Karina Becerra (00:26:53):
Yeah, I mean I think that I've had to take a step back and really ask people instead of just assuming things about my team and the extended experiences that they've had. Thankfully, one of my biggest strengths is really sort of talking to just about anyone, about anything. And at the end of the day, all of my interactions have been super respectful. We all are human. All the things that you would expect somebody of a different background and experience are the same ones that you likely are all about; family, work-life balance. Having opportunities and concentrating on those bigger topics versus thinking about the smaller granular details is a better use of my time. If people want to fill me in on things that I don't know much about, I'm all about it and I ask a lot of questions as well. Because it is such a foreign experience to me with such a large Mormon community in the Salt Lake City, Lehigh, Utah area. So it is fun for me to ask a lot of questions as well.
Rachel Murray (00:27:58):
And how are those questions answered? How do people feel about having conversation and feedback? How does that look?
Karina Becerra (00:28:08):
I mean, I also think that there's a lot of different personalities. So some of my closest friends are the ones that have had missions in Russia and Costa Rica. So when I think about asking questions, I ask about, "Tell me about your experience doing your mission in X." And we talk about the country and we talk about exactly what they did day to day. And I think people are open to sharing a lot of things when you show curiosity and no judgment.
Rachel Murray (00:28:33):
We know true inclusion takes a whole lot more than just throwing a group of people together and hoping for the best. It takes work, communication and intention. Becca Shansky is an associate professor of psychology specializing in sex differences and brain function. Dr. Shansky runs laboratory of neuroanatomy and behavior at Northeastern University and shares with us how she intentionally brings her team together with a focus on the larger world despite the specific challenges inherent in academia.
Becca Shansky (00:29:01):
So it's always kind of a rotating cast. That's one of the good and bad things about academic life, is people kind of come and go and that's part of the process. Everyone kind of has their own role now. Definitely learning to mentor a diverse group of people has been one of the hardest things for me to try and learn how to do, because even during my training, I had an undergrad here or there, I taught people how to do stuff, but it's not really the same as overseeing all of this at the same time and trying to understand what each person, everyone has individual needs, individual learning styles, individual just other stuff going on in their lives. And so that's definitely been a challenge, but it can be quite rewarding too.
Becca Shansky (00:29:52):
So we have a lab meeting every week and we do a number of different activities. Either someone presents their new data. That's one of my favorite things because I get to learn about what we're discovering kind of in real time. And also I think communication is one of the most important skills that you can have as a scientist. You have to be able to explain your work to other people. And so this is a way for my trainees to get experience with that, to get feedback on that kind of stuff. And then we can al kind of interpret the data together and think about what next steps would be. Really this is where a lot of the invisible skills come into play. Learning how to think like a scientist and figure out what the right decisions to make are moving forward based on the data that you have. We also have what's called Journal Club where we discuss other published papers that have recently come out that are relevant. Again, lots of trainees presenting, discussing all that stuff.
Becca Shansky (00:30:53):
And we also started in 2020 having political discussions where we basically just kind of freeform talk about stuff that's going on in the world, whether it's… We've talked about gender identity issues, Black Lives Matter, just really Palestine conflict, hidden indigenous children's griefs. Pretty heavy stuff, but I think it's really important to understand that we're not just in our little Ivory Science tower, but that we're doing science to help the world and we need to understand the things that the world is going through to be more sort of present and conscious in the work that we do.
Rachel Murray (00:31:33):
It's not only employees and team members that are impacted by an organization's culture. When done right, customers and anyone who interacts with a brand… Elisa Campos-Praetor is the senior recruiter at Scott's Cheap Flights and talks a bit about her experience and the challenges of being a fully remote company.
Felicia Jadczak (00:31:49):
Have you found that your DEI work and focus on an inclusive culture has been a differentiating factor for customers?
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:31:55):
It has. It really has. I think first off, our business is in finding cheap flight deals for folks to go on these amazing trips, whether it's business or personal. And I think honestly travel is already… It's luxury, right? And so looking at it from the customer perspective, A, is everybody going to be able to even afford the cheap flights, right? Is it accessible and equitable across everybody that we want to advertise to? Probably not. And so I think that's something also very important to us that we want to focus on and think about, especially from a research perspective like target audiences, who are our main demographics for the folks that continue to respond back to us and who is that main audience.
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:32:40):
And I think our DEI efforts with what we're doing and continuously talking about, everybody on the team, showcasing who the person is in the team, like this individual happens to have whole life and showcasing that, that's another campaign that we did is trying to meet the entire team and these stories around what the role is, who they are, what they like to do in general. Those are pretty important to have because then the members, which are our customers, they get to see who we are as a team. It's not just Scott doing all the work. It's a very large diverse team that is doing all of this work for you to have a deal and be able to experience travel. But yeah, being able to showcase the people behind the magic of these deals is important, because then I think it's the same way, if I see maybe a Latinx-owned company, I feel like I want to support them because I'm like, "Hey, I'm Latinx." And so I think that's important to me.
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:33:34):
Same way with these members, right? We want them to understand that, A, in the first place we want to make travel as accessible as possible by making it as cheap as possible. We're trying to highlight these cheap deals. And then two, this is the team behind that effort, right? And so showcasing the team like, we're always getting messages from members asking for more information on who the team is, any type of employee, like branding, they want to hear about it. The success team is usually pinging us through Slack, letting us know like, "Hey, there are asking for… These are testimonials. They're asking for this information." And we listen, right? If anything, we'll produce the content and be like, "All right, here you go. You ask for all this content, here you go." And so I think it's just another really amazing thing about Scott's as a whole is that we're listening to our members.
Felicia Jadczak (00:34:23):
I love that. And I also want to take a moment to sort of, I guess shout out your careers page because it's so friendly and informative and I love to actually dig into it a little bit further because you mentioned you've been working remote for seven years and Scott's is of course 100% remote first company. And I'm actually not sure, has it always been 100% remote or did that transition at some point?
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:34:47):
No, no, no. Yeah, they've been remote for the past six years. So since the inception of Scott's Cheap Flights when Scott keys come up with the idea. And yeah, we're going on seven years of being a fully remote company.
Felicia Jadczak (00:34:59):
Wow. We definitely probably can learn a lot from you. I guess on that note then, some of the things I really loved that are highlighted on the page are the mandatory three weeks minimum vacation time, the meetups, the retreats. SGO is doing a lot of similar stuff to try and support as we are also remote, although we did not start off that way. I'm really, I guess, just curious. You probably had the luxury or the benefit of not having to scramble in early 2020 when we did make that societal shift to remote work. But on the flip side, I'm sure you were all still impacted in some ways because of just the world and everything else that's going on. And so were there any, I guess, lessons learned or tips or even topics of consideration that you all are talking about when you're thinking about how do you work with each other with that sort of inclusivity DEI lens?
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:35:51):
Yeah, that's a good question. Honestly, even being a fully remote company, we still do see the challenges across how can we be more inclusive within the company but still make it authentic and genuine where it's not just another checkbox to do like that's recommended to us. And so honestly, one thing that I've seen is having the leaders play examples of what they want the team to be like, "Hey, this is okay to take vacation. This is okay to not be online. This is okay to take some sick time. This is okay to go take care of your kid if they're not feeling well." Those examples really make a huge difference in how the team thinks and understands that, yeah, our lives are going to… Obviously, things will come up here and there and this remote company is able to support that.
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:36:39):
And also being mindful too that we're all coming from different walks of life. So you have parents, you have people that are probably taking care of parents at home. You have people that are probably in a pretty remote area in general. So resource basically, we do have some folks out in rural areas. And so it's harder to access maybe an airport or maybe their nearest store. So being mindful of where everybody is, it's the beauty of being remote. And then two, giving us a glimpse into everybody's lives, right? We're not just all in one area, say in one office, and that's the only way we think and that's all we know. And so we love hearing stories of where people are at, what they're doing.
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:37:19):
And they naturally give these stories out. Scott's really good at asking a question on a weekly basis that really carries a lot of thought and just in general creates a lot of like, "Hey, everybody wants to participate and start sharing their experience or their backgrounds." And I really love seeing that because it wasn't forced. It's just a very simple question. Then people get into the conversation and then it starts going on, right?
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:37:44):
And then to being mindful of the time zones, right? We're all across the US and acing communication is pretty important to us. So I've worked with other remote companies where they expected me to respond the minute they ping me, but then I'm like, "You're in the East Coast and I'm in Mountain time." I'm pretty sure that's not going to always be the case. And so at Scott's, I really appreciate the inclusivity of being mindful of that. We're all in different time zones. If anything, a message is not going to be responded right away for example. And being okay with that, right? Not making it seem like everything is an emergency. Because it's also another thing too where I'm like… I've worked in other remote companies that were like everything's an emergency at all points in time. And so I love that about Scott's.
Elisa Campos-Praetor (00:38:27):
And then also I love the fact that when it comes to our town halls for example, we like to celebrate everybody but also give them the space, right? We recognize the folks on the team that don't want to be the center of attention, don't enjoy being called out. And so being mindful like that, at least sending them a private message that they did a great job, right? Still doing a shout out still in the way that that individual would prefer versus just generic shout outs to everybody regardless of who they are. I think that amount of detail and mindfulness is awesome to see.
Rachel Murray (00:39:06):
While Scott's was fully remote from the start, many other organizations are still trying to manage the logistics of a hybrid team and what an equitable return to office policy might look like. This is Jason Fooks, senior director of learning and development at Essex Property and Trust.
Jason Fooks (00:39:20):
Yeah, it's still impacting us to a degree. I mean, like most companies we were… Everybody's doing it. Until we get more information, everybody's just home. We just, I want to say in the last couple of months, have reopened, if you will, our offices. Right now we're at a goal of two days a week in the office, three days at home, depending on… At least one day, but the goal is two days. Then September we're going to wrap up three days in the week. No longer will it be a five day in the office kind of week. I think we've shown that we can be successful with this kind of model.
Jason Fooks (00:39:49):
But I'll tell you what. I'm in the office today as you can probably tell, and I come in probably more than most folks. I like being in the office because I want to engage with folks. There's something you can't get, obviously as you guys know, through Zoom. I'm looking at the office here today, most people come in on Tuesday. So people are getting back into it. But one of the challenges we face, and I don't know other companies you've talked to, is the pandemic is, I want to say [inaudible 00:40:14], but maybe people look at their lives and say, "What do I want to do now? I can't go back to a five day work in the office or a three day work in the office. I want to work 100% remote. I want to move…"
Jason Fooks (00:40:24):
The Great Resignation you always hear about that, right? That really affected us to a degree as well. We've had folks who have said, "I don't want to come back to the office even one day a week." And it's like, how do you almost combat that? How do you work with that associate? Because you can't make them. Some rules for other folks, that's just means a whole mess of stuff. But in terms of how the COVID has shaped us, it's probably made us… I want to say probably we've come together a lot more because we've had to. It was sort of, I think everybody was sort of, "Everybody in the boat together. Let's figure it out and let's work together." We had a fair bit of that, but it's forced us and allowed us to seek other ways to engage folks that obviously can't just be on Zoom, that can't just be in person. There got to be a mix there as well.
Jason Fooks (00:41:03):
But we still have our challenges. We still face some serious challenges around it. Like most companies, we had a mandate with the vaccine and in that whole thing and what does that future look like. We were probably one of the last ones to actually enforce some kind of a mandate because everybody cared about their associates. I would say we care so much about them. I mean, a lot of those we understand how it can affect them and we were very careful our decision making in terms of how do we go about this. A company like Starbucks, they were so quick to adopt and put a mandate out there. I think when people saw a company like Starbucks doing it so quickly, it was like, "Well, we should do that too because they're Starbucks and they're big. And we're old, we're small, we should be able to do that." But we didn't look at that way. We were very smart in how we approached it. But again, we're still having our struggles with it. I think COVID's here to stay, I think we're all aware of that now.
Felicia Jadczak (00:41:50):
Yeah, I think it's so interesting just thinking about where are we going to be going collectively in terms of working in this new world reality that we find ourselves in. And I think especially again for a company like Essex where there are probably job functions where they just cannot be remote, right? And as much as you might be like, "Oh, we're going to do hybrid or we're going to do two days a week or three days a week," there's probably folks who are on call, there are people who have to be on site, who have to take care of the physical infrastructure. That can be challenging too because they might want more flexibility and can't get it. Or now that there are folks who are working more remote, not understanding the challenges. I think that's something to keep in mind too, which is complicated going forward.
Jason Fooks (00:42:36):
We, as you know, at Essex, we have our corporate side, which is myself, who sit routinely in an office setting. And we have our operations side, which is all of our leasing associates, all of our maintenance folks who are our community managers who work timelessly day in day out on site at properties. Being our company, when COVID hit, we couldn't have shut down. We still needed people to be physically in the offices. And that created some angst, "Hey, why do I got to go in when the corporate folks can be at home the entire time?" It was a very, very challenging time. There are probably conversation that took place that I wasn't aware of it. We have tough calls to make, right? Because for better or for worse, it creates a divide a little bit in the company, I imagine, in terms of, the corporate folks, they can sit inside at their home all day and be 100% safe. This is pre vaccine, if you will. Thinking 100% safe where I'm risking my health by having to go in and be at a property. But we don't functions on our properties.
Jason Fooks (00:43:31):
And that's the larger program of our organization, of our roughly 1,700, 1,800 employees. A good two-thirds of that is in the operation side, being customer facing, if you will. That was a huge challenge for us. I don't want to say issue, but it was a challenge in terms of how do we message that in taking everybody's feelings into account and personal situations into account. It was, again, within the HR team, we had a special designated COVID team who dealt with all the COVID issues. I would hear some periphery stuff so I recognize the challenges they face day in, day out. For two years it wore them down. For two years it was the number one topic, number one issue. We could be doing a town hall talking about our financials for the year. And without fail in the chat, somebody's talking about COVID and you had to be able to address those things and talk. You couldn't ignore things. That's the worst thing you could do, is ignore things. You can't do that. That just makes it worse.
Jason Fooks (00:44:23):
So we did struggle very much, Felicia and Rachel, early on with that balance of folks in the field who need to be in those offices talking to customers and talking to tenants in those of us, like myself, who had the ability to work at home and really shield themselves from most danger, if you will. That was a tough time for us. But we have great management, great leadership, and we have great employees more importantly that understood the challenges and were flexible and we're willing to work with us. So I got credit them for their resiliency in that aspect.
Rachel Murray (00:44:55):
Melanie Ho, author of Beyond Leaning In, shares concerns about balancing return to office and hybrid teams.
Melanie Ho (00:45:01):
I mean, I'm very worried about hybrid work backfiring. So I'm generally an advocate of flexibility in all its forms. And I think a challenge is that a lot of companies are patting themselves on the back for doing hybrid because they're thinking that… Actually, they're looking at data that tells them this will be a plus for women and people of color. And what they don't understand is that it'll be too easy to create a two-tiered system between people in the office and people who are not in the office, especially since there's a lot of research on how it's often CEOs in the C-suite who want to be in the office. So we end up with all the proximity bias and presenteeism and all of that with the people who are in the office versus outside. And I don't think there's an interrogation as to why it is that certain groups are happier remote than in the office. And that so much of it is that for folks who previously felt excluded in the office, there has been an absence of exclusion when it comes to the Zoom environment.
Melanie Ho (00:46:04):
I always think of, I was talking to this woman, Alexandra Jacobson, she runs Worked Up, which is a group to support Gen Z women who are earlier in their careers. And she tells the story of how when she was working in entertainment as an assistant, the female assistants would wait by the door if they needed something from a male executive and the male assistants would just barge in and how that was so predictable every single time. And I think now we have an environment where if you are a woman who used to feel excluded because you watch that happen, on Zoom you don't know that it's happening and so you don't feel excluded. But that doesn't mean it's still not happening, especially if there's some people in the office now who are able to do that.
Melanie Ho (00:46:47):
And so I just see a lot of challenges related to how to do hybrid work well for everybody, just in terms of how we codify all the things that used to be informal. There's research on how people rated supervisors better during the pandemic. And Peter Cappelli in his book on the Future of Work has some good observations on that where he says, "Well, is it actually that supervisors were better, or is it that some people hated their supervisors so much that they're just happy not to see them? Or that some supervisors were so bad they never checked in with their staff and in the pandemic their employers made them check in with their staff?" And so I think there's just all of these issues with how leadership and culture and work were already really messed up. The pandemic environment has just obviously skated them. And now we're going to go into a hybrid environment where it's just going to get even more complicated.
Rachel Murray (00:47:40):
Whether virtual in person or some combination of the two, we know that when a diverse group of people is working together on a problem together, that's when the magic can happen. Here's Charis Loveland, global program manager of the Digital Innovation Team at Amazon with how her team works on reducing bias and products.
Charis Loveland (00:47:58):
I personally have just really benefited from different initiatives at my different companies that have helped to put my accomplishments and achievements really front and center to help avoid bias and discrimination. So when I think about this specific issue, I think a lot about my training in design thinking. I did the high tech MBA program at Northeastern and I learned about how to approach interesting design challenges with empathy and understanding of an awareness of an audience. And so how I've always couched this idea of kind of bias and empathy is really by going back to those end users, whether that's our customers, whether that's our employees, and really trying to get to the heart at what drives people and what motivates folks. And also to introduce that idea of inclusion.
Charis Loveland (00:48:55):
So a lot of the emotional intelligence training that we do at Amazon really dives into people's different perspectives and how someone can bring something unique to the table. Maybe it's because, for instance, you are an engineer versus a designer. Those two types of people think in very different ways. And so one way to eliminate and reduce bias in a product is by getting those two people in the same room who share very different perspectives and getting them to come to some consensus on design decisions. So in a lot of our training, we talk about the benefits of diversity, inclusion and equity and how seeing things from a different perspective can not only help us to build better products, but also to help reduce some of the friction that inevitably comes up when you have people from different perspectives.
Charis Loveland (00:49:47):
So we actually do an exercise in our keynote speech at Amazon where we show… You may be familiar with these images. There's a couple images where you can see a picture of a duck, but if you look at it a different way, you can see a picture of a rabbit. And likewise, there's this second picture we also show of a woman who is kind of elderly looking down, but if you look at it from a different perspective it looks like a younger woman looking over her shoulder. And so when we show these pictures to our colleagues, we ask them who is right and who is wrong. And people start to really get this aha moment, "Oh, well, just because I saw the duck first doesn't mean that that's wrong," or the rabbit first. And understanding people's differing perspectives and that two differing perspectives can both have validity. We talk a lot about asking open-ended questions and getting really curious.
Charis Loveland (00:50:40):
My manager likes to say that if you have diversity, equity and inclusion, that's an output. So the actual input to that is this empathy that we're teaching in the emotional intelligence program. So that's one way that I like to think about bias in the workplace, is just from an educational perspective. And sometimes just introducing something, saying it in a different way. But most importantly, keeping people aware of this curiosity that we all have innately, it seems like sometimes life tries to beat that curiosity out of us.
Charis Loveland (00:51:15):
When I've seen bias in the workplace, usually it is some sort of a blind spot and some sort of, again, lack of diversity in the decision making process, right? So whenever I've observed that from the back end, I always think about, "What is it I can do to introduce more diversity and perspective into this situation?" So I've certainly had experiences at different employers where everyone was subject to group think. So in that case, one of my go-to remedies is just to bring in someone from a different team with a differing perspective. Sometimes that person identifies as male, other times that person identifies as female. But often the job role, whether it's a QA person or a design person, the way they think and the way they can articulate different concerns can often lead the group to examining other strategies that they hadn't considered before.
Rachel Murray (00:52:14):
Here's Ginny Cheng, career clarity coach and global head of talent at Oura Ring.
Felicia Jadczak (00:52:19):
Everyone's talking about the great resignation. We're talking about more than just one R. We're talking about resignation, reshuffling, relocation, reimagining. So much is happening right now and you're sort of right in the middle of it with your role and your experience. So what are your thoughts around what comes next with the future of work, given where we're at right now?
Ginny Cheng (00:52:44):
Sure. I think first of all, we're all part of this future work ecosystem. I don't think we necessarily signed up for it. But now to me, the pace, how fast it's moving, it's really more like now of work and companies and employees are both learning as we go. But I will say the companies that evolve to understand what employees need permanently is more important than ever. And I think you mentioned it, high on that list, is really the flexibility in how, when and where we work.
Ginny Cheng (00:53:17):
So the workforce, which is all of us, we once we're the complainers about life work balance, but we're finally starting to do something about it and deciding what non-negotiables are. Now as women, we still care about pay equity, but in general, many people, including me, would consider companies that offer the intrinsic values like belonging culture, flexible work, contract work, benefits that suit their life stage, moving back and forth between being an IC or people manager, four day work weeks. Wow, how would that go? Part-time job sharing, equal and generous mat and pat leave. And that's just to name a few. And even if that means getting maybe a little less pay.
Felicia Jadczak (00:54:05):
I feel like there's been this really interesting shift where in the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of organizations were like, "Yes, of course. Take time off. Do what you need to do. We're all in this together." A lot of check-ins, all that kind of stuff. And now I feel like not every company, but a lot of organizations are back to work as usual. And we forgot about the last year or two of us readjusting. And so I'm curious because we're seeing such a big trend with people saying, "Guess what? This doesn't work for me anymore. Or I need something different or I don't want to be here." What advice do you have for people who are at organizations where maybe it's not totally toxic, but it's not great? Do you feel like people should try to be addressing these issues internally before they jump ship? Or is it just like, "You know what? This is the reality. Go where you are valued"? What's your thought on that?
Ginny Cheng (00:55:02):
Yeah. You know how we say managers, or maybe just in general, people are not mind readers? So that's why we have employee surveys and people supposed to be anonymous and then we'll say these things, but they're not necessarily specific because they're anonymous. So I do think what you just said is, yes, you do want to address this reprioritization within your current situation, within your current company because maybe you never hided what's most important to you now after the pandemic. Maybe before when you weren't a mother, you were able to take on more projects that were more time sensitive. Maybe you chose that because that was part of your interest. But maybe for your current life stage it's different.
Ginny Cheng (00:55:45):
So that's why I talk about life stages a lot. I think companies just need to realize that first of all, one size doesn't fit all. And as long as they encourage that platform, our opportunity for people to talk about it, essentially the first line of conversation that's going to help you decide if this company is really going to step up for what you need is your conversation with your immediate manager.
Ginny Cheng (00:56:10):
And if all else fails or you decide there are other interesting priorities you want to explore, it's not because you don't like your current situation, you just simply maybe been there for a long time and now there's different new companies that are popping up or opportunities, or maybe again, you want to maybe think about pivoting a little bit of what you want to do, you can do that. And for many people, actually that means they might want to do more of a side project or side hustle, as some people call it. The intention isn't to add on more work or responsibility in your life, but it's more giving you the opportunity to explore what gives you the flow, what balance out your interest, and maybe what you want to do down the road.
Rachel Murray (00:56:56):
And finally, here's Belma McCaffrey, CEO and founder of Work Bigger to close us out.
Felicia Jadczak (00:57:00):
From the company angle and the workplace angle, what do you think are maybe some organizational solutions or approaches or best practices even that you've seen work to support high achievers or employees in general or these folks who are part of your community who are looking for a non-toxic, non traumatic place for their next step?
Belma McCaffrey (00:57:25):
Yeah. So the first thing I want to say is, as a company if you can find ways to really facilitate safety for your employees, it's going to go so far, right? They will have more trust in you, they'll be able to share more, they'll be able to connect more. I think that's really foundational. Really how can you facilitate more trust in your organization, facilitate more safety, I think is foundational, right? Because if people feel safe, they're going to open up more, they're going to share more, they're going to engage more. It's just like the natural next step.
Belma McCaffrey (00:58:01):
What I've also seen is just understanding the human psychology and what's happening. One very powerful workshop that we've led with organizations is a workshop on how the brain operates, right? Very similar to the Three Selves framework where we have these different parts of ourselves that tend to be triggered, understanding that our brain really operates in two ways, we're either in the away state or in fight or flight or we're in the toward state, we're in that place of possibility, right? So really what people need to lean into that place of possibility more, again is like safety, trust. You have to really understand people's needs. So I think doing that deeper work, inviting that deeper work into your organization is so important. So I really hope companies embrace that more and more and they really create safe spaces for people to share.
Belma McCaffrey (00:58:54):
And community is another one. Any workshop that I've led, one of the biggest takeaways has always been, "Oh my God, I'm not alone in this. There's other people who feel this way." And that essentially binds people together. It binds them into your organization if you're supporting that community for them. I'm excited. I want to see more companies truly prioritizing wellbeing, prioritizing inclusivity.
Belma McCaffrey (00:59:23):
The one thing I'll say, that can really only happen if leaders do the work. The leaders have to do the work. I've had companies come to me and say, "We want this for our individual contributors." And my response has been, "Well, are you doing this too? Are you also going to take this training?" Because if you don't take it, then you can't lead them through it. And it really, not to sound cliche, but it does come from the top. So I hope more leaders are embracing this work, doing the work they need to do to heal, to work on their own trauma. And then that is how we'll see more change. I really believe that. And I've seen that. I'll end it there.
Rachel Murray (01:00:09):
Thanks so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share, and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast, and by extension, this work. Make sure to tune in next week when we talk about the challenges of operating businesses that put DEI in the forefront within a larger society of white supremacy culture.
Rachel Murray (01:00:26):
If you're looking to further your own knowledge and gain support alongside other incredible people, join our free community. You'll get a welcoming built-in support system grounded in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. You'll have access to bonus episodes, additional resources, courses, webinars, coaching, and more. Check it out at shegeeksout.com/community. This episode was written, produced and edited by Vienna DeGiacomo, hosted by Felicia Jadczak and Rachel Murray. The guests featured in this episode were Amaia Arrubarrena, Karina Becerra, Dr. Becca Shansky, Elisa Campos-Praetor, Melanie Ho, Jason Fooks, Ginny Cheng, Charis Loveland, and Belma McCaffrey. Our facilitators were Dr. Victoria Verlezza, Rachel Sadler, and Kia Rivera.