Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) continues to be a much-discussed topic in the workplace, but you might be wondering what is currently working to increase diversity in white-majority companies? And, what is the experience of employees of color in these spaces?
Presence’s Recruiting Manager, Caroline Hill-Thomas, and Director of Technology, Salesforce, Sara Chieco, recently attended Dreamin’ in Color, a conference that addressed these questions. Dreamin’ in Color is:
“a conference geared toward current or aspiring Black Salesforce professionals to discuss how to succeed, overcome obstacles and grow thriving careers and businesses in the Salesforce ecosystem.” -Dreamin’ in Color website
On June 30 and July 1, 2022, Dreamin’ in Color gathered over 300 people with the goal of building community among Black Salesforce professionals and increasing diversity in the Salesforce ecosystem. Tiffany Spencer, Founder of Tech Forward, VP of Salesforce Partnerships for Bitwise Industries, and CEO of Esor Consulting Group, and the talented seven-member Conference Planning Team organized the conference. Presence, Salesforce.com, and over 25 other organizations sponsored the inaugural year of this two-day event. Previous Salesforce community-organized events, often labeled with the moniker ‘Dreamin’,’ were geographically-based, but Dreamin’ in Color is the first of its kind focused on the Black Salesforce community.
Dreamin’ in Color covered career development, DEI, leadership, entrepreneurship and Salesforce-specific topics in over 50 sessions. Caroline and Sara appreciated the rich conversations that the speakers brought to the conference, including leaders in the space such as Elizabeth Knott, Deloitte consultant and founder of Black CRM Tech, and Ally Legend Siegel, former Senior Director, Equality Engagement for Salesforce and current Vice President, Global Head of D&I - Talent for the Expedia Group.
The Salesforce ecosystem, and the tech community more broadly, has been traditionally dominated by white males, and only 7% of tech workers are Black. Many of Dreamin’ in Color’s sessions focused on recognizing Black employees’ experience in majority white organizations, and promoting wellbeing and healing from the trauma of being part of a non-dominant group in these spaces.
The conference also provided a wealth of insight into growing a career in Salesforce, which supported the many early-career and career-transitioning attendees. Community and mentorship are vital in increasing the diversity of the space and promoting inclusion. Caroline and Sara hosted a career mentoring session that provided information to new recruits to the Salesforce space. They discussed common career paths, explained how a consultancy works, and provided background on Presence.
Community was a core guiding principle for the conference, inspired by the third principle of Kwanzaa, Ujima. The Dreamin’ in Color website explains: “ujima means: to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.”
Caroline reflected on power of community at the event:
“I think a lot of people came [to Dreamin’ in Color] feeling ‘I did all of the certifications, how am I going to work my way up?’. You can really do it, but sometimes you need guidance, a bit of a roadmap, and a village to push you along– that's a big part of African American culture. Sometimes you have to really lean into your village in order to be successful...We are not always afforded open information that many others can get, so we have to provide it to one another."
The topic of identity resonated with Sara from the sessions she attended.
Tiffany Spencer reflected on this theme in a recent Salesforce interview:
“My idea when I came out of college is that as long as I did a good job, people would recognize that. And as I went into the workforce, I realized that wasn't the only thing people were looking at. They were looking at that I was young, that I was African American, that I was a woman, that I went to an HBCU...What I found is that it came with a bit of a culture that I kind of didn't fit in, there were all these outside factors that gave people their impression of me that was outside of my work, things that I didn't know were there, was a hard pill for me to swallow."
Caroline and Sara thoroughly enjoyed the conference and look forward to future gatherings. “It was authentically Black,” Caroline said. “Everyone seemed happy to be there and I really enjoyed that.”
Presence’s Sponsorship of Dreamin’ in Color is just one aspect of its commitment to DEI. Caroline described Presence’s three-part philosophy to DEI:
By hiring diverse employees, Presence encourages diversity of thought, which helps us make better products.
Diversity is not just about increasing entry-level opportunities. We hire experienced leaders to grow and lead in their disciplines.
Presence focuses on inclusion and belonging. Employees don’t need to fit in our culture. Instead, we want them to co-create our culture.
During the hiring process, Presence tries to “hire in” rather than “hire out.” We do not simply evaluate candidates based on their background and experience for a role. Instead, we are interested in whether they have drive and willingness to learn, even if they don’t have the specific qualifications described in our job posting. Presence believes that it is our responsibility to dig deeper with each candidate rather than look for reasons to reject candidates.
Presence continues to grow its DEI practice. Sara serves on Salesforce’s Ecosystem Equality Partner Advisory Board to advocate for a more diverse Salesforce partner ecosystem. Presence’s parent company, Work & Co, recently held a training for all employees about inclusion and the changes in inclusion led by Timothy Bardlavens, a Design Leader, Cultural Strategist, and specialist in dismantling and rebuilding organizational cultures built on systems of oppression. The session focused on ways of incorporating inclusive practices into design and technology consulting engagements, particularly when it comes to user experience design, usability, and user testing.
If you are interested in learning more about Presence or are considering a career with our organization, check out open jobs here.