What Do Diversity and Inclusion Look Like in a Distributed Workforce?
Somewhere over Central America, Stephen Lavergne remembers looking out an airplane window and asking himself, “How could anybody not love this?”
For two years, he and his wife had immersed themselves in the culture of Nicaragua. Occasionally embarking on long journeys back to the United States for business was a small price to pay for expanding their worldview.
While Lavergne and his family now reside in the United States, he hasn’t forgotten the lessons he learned abroad. As Director of Global Talent for data integration company Fivetran, he applies that knowledge to help the company attract and retain talent of all backgrounds and walks of life.
“The experience changed my life,” Lavergne said. “Part of the problem people have is that they don’t understand that there’s more to the world than just living in their city. They get stuck in a rut. Now, I have a whole different perspective on other people and on inclusion. I want everybody to have a fair shot.”
Lavergne’s approach to D&I centers around forming deeper connections with people, a tactic he said Fivetran has also leaned into. The company is home a few employee resource groups (ERGs) that respectively create safe spaces for Black employees, those who identify as women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In Fivetran’s core values, there’s an inclusion value that states, “We seek out teammates who share our values and drive, not people who are exactly like us.”
The more dialogue we have and the more we break down barriers and understand each other, the more we can move the needle forward.”
Outside the office, Lavergne said Fivetran partners with organizations in order to raise awareness and create a more equitable industry. It’s also continuing to host events and summits virtually while exploring new means to reach diverse talent. Additionally, the company provides corporate matching for anyone who would like to make a donation to a cause they support.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can get more creative in getting in front of people,” Lavergne said. “We are intentionally trying to stay connected during this time and draw people in to learn about our culture.”
To Lavergne, building connections and keeping difficult conversations alive, even in a socially distanced world, is key to bringing about change.
“We’re all in this together,” Lavergne said. “The more dialogue we have and the more we break down barriers and understand each other, the more we can move the needle forward.”
Why is D&I important?
Everybody wants to belong. Diversity and inclusion initiatives give everybody the opportunity for greatness and to be a part of something special. Whenever you start picking and choosing who you let in, you’re letting your company down and you’re letting society down. If we open up and give everybody the same chance, the world could be a much better place. We can do great things whenever there is more diversity of thought around the table.
What are some challenges Fivetran has had in recruiting a diverse workforce?
Fivetran did a great job hiring and filling our offices. We grew fast with great products and great people. But in hiring so quickly, we didn’t really look at diversity as closely as we should have. For example, we have an office in Oakland, but if you look at all the Oakland demographics, it is not very favorable when it comes to populations of people of color. So we need to start sourcing candidates in other places and try to get them to relocate. We’ve got to really put ourselves out there in other communities and get more people to understand what it’s like to work for Fivetran.
I’ve spoken to leadership about doing a historically Black college and university tour — it’d be great if we could attract students from those schools. The beauty of Fivetran is that we’re open to new ideas. I’ve never been told “no” one time whenever I've had an idea around diversity.
Fivetran has partnerships with community organizations. Why is that important?
I think it’s important to partner with other organizations because it gets you involved in a pool of people that you’re typically not reaching. We’re really involved with groups like Blavity and AfroTech. These partnerships add more touchpoints and visibility for us and for our partners. When it comes to diversity, none of us have figured this out — it’s an ongoing conversation. The more that you can partner with people on this topic, the better.
Tell us a little more about the inclusion summits that Fivetran hosts.
We’ve really embraced our inclusion summits and want to take them even further over the course of the next few years. We’ve had panelists talk about topics like being African American in the workplace and the struggles that we have had in moving up the ranks.
Over time, we’re going to change topics and touch on a lot of different things. We have one panel coming up next month where we’re going to be talking about working in a remote environment. We’ve got a panel of about four speakers from all different walks of life who can add some insight into the common pitfalls and do’s and don’ts of working remotely.
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How has working remotely affected Fivetran’s diversity and inclusion plans?
As far as our inclusion summits go, we can’t meet in person but that’s the cool thing about technology — we’ve got video conferencing now. As long as COVID-19 is still going on, we’re not going to be in the office but we are definitely going to keep doing the summits. Our goal is to do one each quarter.
We recently launched an ERG for Black employees, which along with our other groups, is going to be more important now that we’re working from home. With all of the unrest going on, we felt it was important to launch a safe space. And it’s not just for Black employees — I think part of what we’ve struggled with as a country is not having enough allies. We’ve had a lot of people raising their hands and wanting to be a part of this.
Fivetran has offices in Denver, Oakland, London, Munich, Dublin, Sydney, Bengaluru, India and Russia. What special considerations does a global company need to have for D&I?
It’s important to hold inclusion events all around the globe because every office needs to be inclusive and have that sense of belonging. We’re still learning, but our message stays the same everywhere. When we talk about D&I, we talk about it as a whole team. Some of those conversations might look a little different in some places because they are not dealing with the same kind of issues we’re dealing with.
I would love to continue to educate people on other cultures because I think the more you know about the world, the more understanding you are. When I talk to people from different countries, I get really excited because I learn things I didn’t already know. If people do that more, I think they’ll find other cultures aren’t as foreign as they seem.
Every office needs to be inclusive and have that sense of belonging. We’re still learning, but our message stays the same everywhere.”
Do you have any advice for others trying to expand their D&I work?
Have dialogue around these issues and engage with people who are currently doing D&I work or who’ve done it successfully in the past. I’ve done that myself — I’ve seen people on LinkedIn who have been doing this kind of work for years. I’ll send them a connection and say, “Hey, I’d love to pick your brain on this issue.” A lot of people are open to helping out because we’re all in this together. The more dialogue we have and the more we break down barriers and understand other cultures, the more we can move the needle forward.