Black History Month is a time to pay tribute to the contributions and struggles of African Americans. At 33Across we believe that Black excellence should be celebrated in February and all throughout the year. This February, we’ve created a space to share stories and honor Black history on Slack, with events such as a virtual tour of Black Broadway, and notably hosting an inclusive conversation panel of the Black Experience for 33Across employees.
The panel was moderated by Melissa Diaz – VP, Finance and consisted of a cross-section of Black employees at 33Across:
Avalon Benoit – People & Culture Specialist
Jamar Demorin – Sr. Director, Data Solutions
Charles Eggleston – Director, Yield & Operations
Khalid Barqadle – Senior Software Engineer
Here are some snippets of the conversation from the group.
When you decided to enter the tech industry, did you feel that there were any barriers in tech as being a person of color?
The biggest realization that we heard discussed was not only is there little representation from people of color in tech but none of the panelists had ever interviewed with someone that’s also Black. When deciding whether to interview or even accept a job, it’s also important to see whether there is representation in upper management. Trying to find people of color in similar positions across ad-tech to share and collaborate ideas has also been disappointing.
How does 33Across stack up in comparison to some of your past employers in terms of inclusivity and diversity?
The group agreed that having this panel to discuss experiences and inclusivity was telling on how 33Across approaches D&I. Though 33Across is not the most diverse company, the different levels of managers are open. They make space for these discussions, and if something needs to be addressed or talked about, they take the onus to initiate discussions and seek solutions.
Honestly, I’ve never been at a company where we’ve ever had these types of conversations, ever. And just being able to come together and celebrate different holidays or just Black History Month in general, is amazing.
– Jamar Demorin, Sr. Director, Data Solutions
The group also discussed code-switching, a common practice used by Black people to alter the way they speak, interact, and compose themselves with colleagues in the workplace. From my perspective, 33Across is probably the first company where I don’t feel like there’s a lot of code-switching by people of color. Maybe it’s because I’m tired from the 2020 events, but I personally don’t feel the need to code-switch.
We also discuss how many companies may mention Black History Month and even go as far to seek out people of color to see if they have anything to say but for most companies, it’s just February. This led to a discussion about how well the 2020 events were discussed at 33Across. In the midst of all that was 2020, 33Across CEO, Eric Wheeler, took the initiative to write a response and communicate it to employees. More importantly, he has remained consistent in support of the Black experience at 33Across, making sure the company is on top of DE&I initiatives and that the workplace is a safe place for all. He felt strongly about having a point of view and not remaining silent even though he was on unsteady ground.
So what suggestions would you have for your coworker to try and build that inclusivity and diversity within not only 33Across but also in the tech space? how would you want them to also approach you?
Get out the most uncomfortable question. Try phrasing it with “Hey, I’m not sure how to say this, or how to …”
Before you reach out, be honest with yourself: do you want to engage on the subject matter. Don’t engage out of a false sense of obligation.
If you want to have a deep discussion, be prepared to put in the time and not make it a superficial chat. Put some thought into how you respond so as not to shut down the conversation.
Here’s a sampling of some of the group’s suggested resources
Black History, Black Freedom & Black Love
By: Avalon Benoit | People & Culture Specialist at 33Across