SurveyMonkey’s First Chief Diversity & Social Impact Officer (w/ Antoine Andrews)

Zach sits down with Antoine Andrews, SurveyMonkey’s first Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer, to talk about his perspective on the state of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the inauguration, his journey, and excitement about SurveyMonkey.

Connect with Antoine on LinkedIn and Twitter.

TRANSCRIPT

Zach
What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate, and look, I am very excited about today’s guest. I’m excited about today’s episode. I’m just excited about today. I’m thankful that we have new leadership in the White House, though I’m under no illusion that the realities of white supremacy continue to be a blight on all things equity and inclusion. And I also realize that for us to continue to create a more equitable and just world we’re going to need to continue to agitate systems and hold leaders accountable. And again, I’m excited because the person who I spoke to today spoke into me about that. Antoine Andrews, who is the first chief diversity and social impact officer at SurveyMonkey, came on the show. We talked about the fact that he’s taking on this new role, what it means to him, what it means for him, and why he’s excited about SurveyMonkey. So I want to shout him out, thank him in advance, and then I also want to thank Emory, my little baby girl. She’s almost 10 months old, y’all, and she was a guest on the show as well. You’ll hear some of her contributions. But before we get into the conversation I have with Antoine, let’s tap in with Tristan.

Tristan
What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week, I want to discuss how to set yourself up for a raise or promotion so you can be where the money resides, where the money resides, where the money resides, where the money resides, okay?Many of us arrive at our end of the year reviews with our fingers crossed, hoping that we received that raise or promotion. The majority of us end up disappointed either because we got that standard industry 2% raise or worse, none at all. That’s never a fun space to be in, but there are few steps you can take to increase your chances of landing a higher raise or that promotion you were seeking. Many of the things we are going to discuss were inspired by a thread I found on Twitter by Simone B. (@simonembanna). Let’s dive into them. It starts at the beginning of the year when you’re setting your goals with your boss. Take some to identify the intersection of what the company wants and what you provide. Where those two things overlap is what you can do for the company — your unique value proposition, if you will. All of your goals should be derived from this area as they will serve the dual purpose of meeting the company’s goals and meeting some of your own professional goals. When setting these goals, you want to focus on things relevant to your personal and professional goals, things that are impactful to the company, and finally, things that can be measured or quantified. Use the acronym RIM to remember where you should be focusing. Relevant, Impactful, and Measurable. Many professionals make the mistake of waiting until their performance review to discuss a raise or promotion. These are conversations that should be happening all year-round during your one-on-ones with your boss. Take the time to ask them, “Am I on track to receive a raise?” Or “Am I on track to receive a promotion?” And “If not, what do I need to change?” Lastly, you want to make sure you gather receipts. Keep emails from internal and external stakeholders who are singing your praises for the work you’ve done. Simone mentioned even creating a survey to send out to people you’ve worked with to measure your performance against company goals and promotional criteria. This is actually a tactic I’ve successfully used in several jobs! Ensure that you share this information with your boss, both in your one-on-ones and during your performance review. If you follow these tips, you will set yourself on the right track to get where the money resides, whether that’s a raise or promotion. Make sure to follow Simone (@simonembanna) on Twitter because she is continually dropping gems. Thanks for tapping in with me today! Don’t forget; I’m now taking submissions from you all on career questions, issues, concerns, or advice you think may help others! So make sure to submit yours at bit.ly/tapintristan. This tip is brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @layfieldresume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.

Zach
Antoine, welcome to the show man.

Antoine
Thank you, man.

Zach
Hey, now, look, I know it’s a loaded question. How are you feeling?

Antoine
Zach, you know, I’m doing okay. I’m doing okay. And I think that’s a balance for me of, you know, everything that’s going on if I look at the full spectrum of life, work, politics, race, my family, myself, I’m doing okay. I’m doing well.

Zach
I mean, you know, I feel like we–I feel like as Black people, we have to celebrate because racism is over again. You know, what I’m saying? Racism is over again. You know, we got the instigator of all things white supremacy out the office, we got a really nice white guy back in the office–with a Black and brown woman this time as vice president. So I just feel like, you know, that ceiling that was there four years ag and that was broken and came back, it’s gone again. So I’m–personally I feel great.

Antoine
Yeah, well, Netflix will not be calling you to do a standup show, but I’m glad you’re feeling good. I’m so glad you’re feeling good, and I’m disappointed you won’t get your Netflix special.

Zach
Look, we’re in January, and, you know, it’s a new year, you talk about the totality of just, like, the emotional spectrum, and I know that we all suffered losses of various degrees. Sadly, many of us lost our lives. 300,000 or 400,000 people, you know, have passed away related to COVID-19. Let me ask you this. What did the tragedies of last year bring into focus for you as you prepare for this year?

Antoine
Yeah. And that’s, you know, that’s a big question. But for me, it’s a timeline of things that if I think about it–so just just bear with me for a minute. If I think about all of last year, you know, it started in January, and I remember where I was sitting when I heard Kobe Bryant had passed. I remember that January day. My son has sent me a text like, “Hey, Kobe died,” and we know a young man named Kobe. I was like, “What Kobe?” He’s like, “Bryant.” I remember how hard that hit me. I had people reaching out to me. And I wasn’t a huge Kobe fan. That was the start of the year. That was the start of the year for me. And then we move to the pandemic and I was in New York, had a chance to spend time, my birthday in March, with my parents, and ended up staying two months in New Jersey during a pandemic with my parents. It was the first time in my adult life that I had spent extended time living with my parents, which was a new thing for me. And then, you know, work and all, George Floyd and all of that. So if I think about 2020, what it prepared me for was understanding and embracing what’s important to me, my family and understanding the three identities that I’ve used in my adult life, that I held close to me–being a Black man, being a Black executive, and being a diversity professional. And 2020 was the first time in my career that I was unable, Zach, really to reconcile all three of those because the George Floyd murder–it rocked me to my core. Until this day, I still not have not watched the 46 second video. I have not watched all of it. And so I think it prepared me for how to be able to move through my identities, hold them core to who I am, and really, really try to make sure I balance the spectrum of my full life. And I think that’s preparing me for this new role. But I think that’s for me, as I head into 2021 and the rest of, you know, the years ahead. Those are the things that I’m holding close to me. And that’s what 2020 did for me.

Zach
You know, so much of what you said resonates with me, right? So I remember where I was when I heard about the Kobe Bryant news. I was actually at the baby shower for my daughter. Right? So we’re over here celebrating life, and here I am thinking–and to your point, I wasn’t a huge Kobe Bryant fan. I respected the legacy and the hustle and, like, what he taught me, honestly from afar, and I think that many Black men resonate with this is, like, Kobe wasn’t afraid to fail, and that’s a superpower into itself when you think about Black men and the legacy of you know, Black Americans and Black folks across the world. So they had to see someone on this stage–and yes, Kobe came from privilege and, you know, you know, he had an international background, blah, blah, but still he was a Black man, and he would just be like, “I’m not afraid to fail. He pulled up. He’d pump three times and shoot it from 40. He didn’t care.

Antoine
Exactly. He wasn’t afraid to not have people–he didn’t care if people liked him or not. He didn’t. He wanted to be great and he did not care where you were, if you weren’t in his corner, and that fueled him. So yeah, I think you’re right. It resonated with a lot of us. And I didn’t know it was gonna bother me as much as it did.

Zach
Yeah. And so to your point, right, I guess because I also–I mean, it really became just an incredibly devastating precursor for the rest of the year. Like, here’s this figure–there’s certain people you just don’t think are gonna die. You know, frankly, a couple years ago, I felt similarly about Princ. “Prince wants to live forever, he looks great. He just gonna sit in his palace, and he’s gonna, you know, do what he does. He’ll show up to tributes, and he just gonna be 150 years old,” you know? And so there’s those types of individuals who you just think are always gonna be here, and then suddenly they’re just gone. And so it was interesting that the dichotomy of being in a place of celebrating the prospect of new life, and then being hit with that news in the middle of me opening up these baby gifts. Right? And then to your point, right, like, continuing forward, you know, my daughter was born, Emory. Emory was born, in the middle of a pandemic, and then, you know, George Floyd is murdered. Now, Antoine, you may not know this, but my dad and my family–I have four brothers and sisters who live in Minnesota. My dad lived 20 minutes away from the man who murdered George Floyd.

Antoine
Really?

Zach
Yeah. So all these people–I mean, it was tons of folks just protesting in that area. Different types of protests, right, because it’s Minnesota, right, white suburbia, so the vibe and the methodologies are a little different. But still, like, we talked about just how close it was to home and then crazy that–Antoine, I was only one degree separated from George Floyd because he and I were in the same ministries together when he lived in Houston. So it rocked me to my core too, and I have yet to watch that video as well. I just can’t. I can’t watch it. But it’s–you know, I think between, you know, Kobe and George Floyd, not to mention the countless other Black and brown folks who were who were murdered by police, including several Black trans women who were murdered by police, and then COVID-19, it’s like, for me, what I took away was just, like, the fragility of life, right? And like, how, you know, there’s no day promised. There’s a terrifying reality to that, but I’m excited about what it did for me, what it fueled for me. When I think about 2021, like, I’m excited about, like, moving forward more courageously, because, you know, we just have no guarantees in this life. So, you know, I believe we should live as intentionally as courageously as possible, and I think if 2020 didn’t wake that up for you, I mean, I don’t know what a stronger wake up call could be. You know?

Antoine
Yeah, I hear you, I think. And it’s interesting to hear your six degrees of separation, because I think it’s–we all have those moments, and, you know, that’s–for me, I think about the South Carolina Mother Emmanuel church shooting, I went to high school with one of the women that passed away. I mean, really different. Never forget when, you know, everyone came back. It was interesting how we’re connected in so many different ways. But we have those moments of it, and it makes you think and really have those deep thoughts around it. So I get that. How’s your dad? How was your dad doing during all of that?

Zach
So, you know, I get a lot of things from my dad, but I did not get–he’s unflappable in certain ways. He’s so hyper-focused on his family and his kids, he was more so concerned about making sure that my siblings didn’t try to go out there and protest and get themselves hurt, because he already had kind of peeped game about people infiltrating the protests and other things going on to undermine the initiative of the authentic protesters. And so he was just focused on talking to them, keeping them safe. The reality is that both my father and I have had our own experiences with police brutality. Several years ago, we had guns pulled our heads in Minnesota. So that shook him back then. But I think, because that shook him so much, I think that’s–I don’t want to say strengthen, it’s a complicated word, but I’ll say that it’s given him a certain level of armor that he’s mentally now prepared for things around him because he experienced violence so intimately, you know?

Antoine
Isn’t that something, what we’ve got to be prepared for? So that’s an interesting thing, right? He’s unflappable. The harshness of racism had made him a stronger man and not–you know, I’m not saying that he wouldn’t have been anyway, but the things that we leverage as Black men to be stronger is interesting if you break it down.

Zach
You’re not wrong, you’re not wrong. And actually, that leads me into this next question. You know, we connected offline, qnd I shared with you how rare it is for me to have Black men, especially Black DEI-type leaders–I can actually name them. I looked because I was like, “You know what, let me just make sure.” So, you know, we have a leader from Zillow. We have Chris Moreland, formerly of Vizient. And then we have, like, Michael C. Bush from A Great Place to Work, right? And we had Chris Michel from Bloomberg. But again, I’m naming four people. We got, like, 300, almost 350 podcast episodes. And like, you know, there’s some entrepreneurs sprinkled in there too, but when I think about, like–and I say this not to, like, throw shade on entrepreneurs–what I mean is when I think about people who’ve gone up or navigated either straight vertically or positive, like, zigzag corporate guys, it’s rare for me to get those folks on this platform, especially if they’re in the DEI space. We talked a little bit about how these spaces can kind of wear you down over time or compromise you if you let it. I’m curious how you’ve been able to maintain authenticity, or maybe a better way to say it is to make sure that you return back to yourself consistently in your career.

Antoine
Yeah, and I think for me, one of the things has been my authenticity, meaning who I am as a person, as a leader, has been a core component of just how I show up. But I will say over the past five to seven years, I’ve leaned more into, you know, my background, my experiences as a Black man growing up in the inner city, growing up in a housing project, all of those things, and sharing that more, which I think has freed me up to be able to continue to lean into what I listen to, how I show up, what I wear. I’m a huge sneakerhead, all those things. But I will say my current job working at Year Up and working with young adults who are 18 to 25 has really helped me sharpen that, because as you know, one thing about working with young people is that they smell a fraud right away.

Zach
Quick quick.

Antoine
Really quick, and I needed to make sure that one I showed up as myself, and two, I wasn’t trying to elevate or show up in a way like “Look what I’ve done,” and that’s helped me. It’s helped me with my voice. It’s helped me really show up in a way to lead in folks that look like me, folks that don’t, in all of the communities and all of the leaders I engage with. I think people appreciate that. And so for me, I think over time I’ve been able to hold on to that, because that’s what I live when I’m not working, and the dual consciousness, the double life, all of those things, it starts to wear on you over time. Now I will say, you know, I don’t tell everybody my entire thing. One of the things I talk about is the authenticity ratio. And for me, I’m closer to, you know, 70 to 80% of the full person I am at work than I’ve ever been. So I think for me, it helps me, frees me up to think about more of how to be successful in my job, how to push leaders, but I think over the past five to seven years, that’s what, you know, just being able to kind of know, like, “This is who I am. Let’s not worry about that, and let’s just show up in a way that it’s easy for us.”

Zach
You know, there’s so much that you said there. One thing that stuck out to me is about sniffing out fraudulent behavior or fraudulent vibes–or steezos depending on your vernacular–you know, I can tell you there’s nothing more, like, a turnoff in this space than, like–you know, you meet–what I’ve learned from my own generation and certainly Gen Z is, you know, this whole idea of like, “Hey, I worked at Dell,” or “I worked at Xerox,” or, like, you know, name-dropping brands and stuff like that, like, you know, “Hey, I was such and such as Starbucks.” Like, people don’t really care about that. Like, they really want to understand and know how much you care, and then, like, where your heart and your values are, right? Like, I’ve seen more and more folks who don’t have this like really pristine or, like, highbrow, corporatized background–they may have been, like, a local organizer or something. I think you see that in the political end as well, Cori Bush, and, like, other people who are–I think the overall ethos and just, like, the attitudes are shifting away from ties to large capitalistic systems and more in getting back to service-oriented values and, like, brands, right? So it’s like, you know, that’s what we really want to see. You know, to that end, I really want to–I mean, we try to keep it 100 on Living Corporate, you know? I’m gonna be honest, you know, like, we haven’t really had to, like, hold back. I’m really proud about that, to be honest with you. I’m thankful, like–not that we just be going crazy, you know, but there’s certain things in language that we use that I just don’t think, you know, folks really be using in other spaces. So let me keep going. Between ongoing videos capturing police brutality, MAGA culture not going anywhere–despite racism going away like I said earlier–attempted insurrection and raising political tensions with an entirely democratic government… I don’t know if corporate America is responding to this moment with the gravitas it deserves. Like, I’m not sure. We’ll talk about SurveyMonkey, because that’s a bit of an exception, but I’m not sure if, like, the DEI space, if executive leaders–I don’t know if we’re ready for this, if we really appreciate what’s happening right now. Do you think I’m tripping?

Antoine
I don’t think you’re tripping. I want to go back to something you said a little earlier about community, corporate. There’s a saying that I picked up, and we say it at Year Up and I’m going to use it overall, but it’s one of the things. “We don’t care how much you know until we know how much you care.” And I think that’s a great point about this work as well. If we’re in historic times, and I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t–I’m not sure if everyone knows how much and what level to match the time that we’re in, and so I think everyone is trying to figure it out. I think we’ll watch, you know, President Biden, and Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, to see if they’re ready for it all, because everyone’s expecting–and this is where I think we all fall off–we’re expecting, to your point earlier, to go from zero to 100 in maybe 100 days. Like, “Everything will be fixed in 100 days,” that’s going to be tough. And so I think corporate America has a voice. You know, corporate America has made commitments, big companies have made a commitment, but I think the rubber is gonna hit the road three, four or five years from now to see and be able to answer your question of, “Did we step up to the plate? Did we meet it with the gravitas that it needs?” I don’t know. It’s hard to say right now. I do think people are trying to figure it out, but I think we’re gonna have to really make sure that we hold folks accountable, and I mean everybody. Folks in the White House and Democrats, whoever, we’re gonna have to hold folks accountable to make sure that we are striving for the results that we all want to see. And it’s not just numbers, it’s those lived experiences. Like you said, you know, the police brutality and how you’re engaging, we want to see that change as well. So you’re not tripping, you’re not tripping. The moment is big. The moment is big. And are we ready–you know, thinking about Kobe Bryant, are we ready to be ready to take that shot? And we got to hit it. We got to hit the shot.

Zach
Yeah, no, I mean, 100%. And look, you know, Emory has taken a nap and we’re in the living room, so I’m not gonna play the sound effect live, but Sound Man, give me some air horns right here. You know, elephant in the room… monkey in the room? Congratulations, man, on being SurveyMonkey’s first chief diversity and social impact officer. I recognize that this is not–you know what they be saying, “You’re not new to this, you’re true to this.” You’ve been in this for a second. But I also recognize, based on just the conversation we’ve been having, you know, on and offline is that you’re always growing and you recognize shifts and how landscapes continue to change. I’m curious, what makes this opportunity with SurveyMonkey different for you?

Antoine
Yeah. I think the combination of internal focused on our culture, talent, and the external piece of really being able, whether it’s product, helping create voice around the work, talking to folks like you, it’s critical. I think that’s the biggest piece. The other piece is that it brings Diversity, Equity and Inclusion together with social impact, which is important. Being able to have that spectrum for me made it very appealing. And, you know, I’m not gonna lie, the reporting structure, working directly with Zander, is important. But Zander is important. I had a great opportunity to spend a lot of time talking Zander hearing his messages, as you know. I listened to videos on YouTube. I watched videos to see how comfortable he was and what he wanted to do, and that made a huge difference for me. And so the platform that SurveyMonkey’s had, it’s in the feedback business, and so we will use the data that’s out there to really be able to tell stories, amplify voices, individual voices. And the funniest thing is I always said, like, “I’m a curious person, borderline nosy,” and so to power the curious just aligns with me. My mom says I’m nosy because she always says “The first thing you ask when you get on the phone with me is not “How are you doing?” It’s, like, “What are you doing?” And so I think that for me the power of the curious is really a huge component. It’s a part of who I am as a person. So, you know, inquiry is how I lead, and SurveyMonkey is an inquiry- type organization.

Zach
You know, to your point around Zander, we had him on Living Corporate–because we got it like that, ow–and we talked about–I asked him, “Talk to me about how do we know this isn’t just, like, the flavor of the month, something fleeting?” Like, you know, “This is pressing right now because of George Floyd and Trump being in office,” but talk to me about what this looks like, you know, in the future.” And he said, “Well, look, I mean…” I’ll never forget how he–and I’m not gonna repeat it verbatim, but all of our content is transcribed so, you know, you can search yourself, but, you know, Zander says something along the lines of “Look, I’m the CEO. As long as I’m here, this is gonna be important, and if you’re not prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, you’re not gonna be here.” And it was this very matter of fact way he said it that stuck with me. And I said, “Well, okay. That’s different.” You know, I was kind of expecting, like, this, you know…

Antoine
I know. Writtten response…

Zach
Yeah. You know, “We value diversity of thought,” and blah, blah, blah, blah. He didn’t say none of that. And so to that end, you know, the other thing that you just said about the power of the curious and then also just the culture of SurveyMonkey being focused on feedback, the other thing is, like, how do you manage and deal with, you know, fragility? And like, how do you wrestle with your own fragility and, like, getting tough feedback? And you said, “Well, we’re a feedback organization, right?” So, like, this idea of, like, if you can’t handle someone giving you tough feedback, you probably shouldn’t work here. Right? Like, you have to deal with that here if you want to do that. And I do think, you know, when you think about organizations, like, one of the biggest barriers to true equity is authentic dialogue and solutioning and giving feedback, because we’re constantly–I mean, I really want to get your opinion on this. How have you managed the–I’ma say fragility, but I also mean egos of, like, your white stakeholders as you do this DEI work? Like, I’m curious about that.

Antoine
And I think I gotta look at it throughout my entire career. I think I tried to manage to them early in my career more than I should. And what I mean by that is I think I was more concerned about how they reacted to, you know, feedback, or talking about increasing diversity early in my career. And as I started to take on more of a leadership role, I realized that that was not about me, it was about them. It wasn’t about the work, it was about them. And I always listen to a lot of sports radio, and one of the sportscasters always talks about “a me problem or you problem.” And for me, I started to identify “Well, that really sounds and feels like a you problem.” So I’m not gonna own your stuff. And so I think right now the comfort level that people have, and the discomfort level that people have, around talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, race, racism, white fragility, white privilege, all of those words, it’s more centered around what they need to do, and I can’t help them with that. I had a conversation with a leader, and I realized there was some things he needed to figure out, and I remember saying to him, “I think you’re going to need to address those things and then come back to me and we can talk. I can’t help you understand why you are reacting to things that aren’t really directed towards you, and you’re centering yourself, you know, centering whiteness and all of those things.” So right now, I think we all have to do an internal search on where we are in this country, in this world, in our lives, around understanding the role we’ve played in the lack of equity, racism, all of those things. And that’s that internal work that everyone has to do. The book “Me and White Supremacy,” I don’t know if you’ve read that, is amazing. It’s an amazing book. And what I love about it is that you got to spend the time. You got to take your time in those 28 days to ask yourself tough questions and really be able to process why you feel that way. And if you can’t do that, we’re going to have an issue when it comes time to talk about behavior, leadership style, all of those things. So for me, this internal work, I believe that there’s a mindset shift to drive behavioral change that’s important around all of this work, and people have to want to do it in order to get there. So for me, I think I’ve grown in my career, I think I’ve grown in my confidence level as a leader, but I’ve also learned not to pick up and hold other people’s stuff.

Zach
That’s such a profound answer, the top of it where you rejected responsibility for things that you can’t control. I think that–I’ll speak for myself, but I think there’s this tension and pressure that I’ve had in my career when I’m consulting and I am having conversations with leaders where when there is a response that’s odd to me or, to your point, your language, is basically them centering themselves or centering whiteness and not necessarily discussing the matter at hand, where I then respond and internalize and say, “Okay, well, how do I coach them and help them fix that?” as opposed to calling out the reality of “Hey, you know, that’s something that you need to shift and change.” And so it’s interesting, you know, we talked about Biden’s first 100 days. You know, I don’t want you to give any sauce away, or too much anyway, but let’s talk about, you know, your first 100 days coming brand new into SurveyMonkey. What’s going to be your focus?

Antoine
Yeah, I think it’s five things, and so I’ll try to explain them and then focus on them and explain them for you at the same time. The first thing is I got to prepare myself for this role. And also, we got to make sure SurveyMonkey is prepared. It’s a new role for SurveyMonkey. It’s a new role for me. And in that preparation is just, you know, sitting back–I have a week break from when I end working with Year Up to when I join SurveyMonkey, and I’m gonna spend some time just rethinking and going through my career and things I thought I did well, things I could have done differently, and all of my roles in going into this role with a new view on what success could look like, how I’ll show up different, how I’ll show up the same. And then I think the other piece is when I land in SurveyMonkey in early February, it’s helping the organization, the leaders, the people that I’ll be working with know what this role is about and how this role will engage with the leaders and the teams overall. So that’s the first one, really preparing myself and SurveyMonkey. The second one is really understanding the work that’s been done before me, you know? SurveyMonkey has done a lot of great work prior to me arriving there. So I need to understand that. But there are a lot of people that have been doing good work. I need to understand the investments that were made from the leadership team, the current team that I’ll be joining, employee resource group leaders, all of those things. So really understanding the landscape and appreciating the landscape. Third one is establishing relationships, both internally and externally. This is a part of that, you know, like you said, you and I connected offline, which was great work. We’re on this conversation today. But understanding relationships, and this is, you know, not only leadership, not only employee resource groups. I know in organizations there are influencers who may be at a more junior level, but they’re influencers. [?]. How do I make sure I know who those folks are? So establishing key relationships, building my team is critical. You said keeping it 100, and that’s gonna be critical. But building a new team is going to be critical for me and making sure that we have the right skills and abilities to be able to drive for that. And you gotta have quick wins. You’re watching this play out right now. Everyone’s talking about what President Biden has to do. The first thing they’re outlining is how do you get to 100 million people vaccinated. So looking for quick wins, but also identifying those risks that will impact the agenda going forward. So, like, those are my five key components right now for me. And this is the best time to be joining an organization. Everybody’s talking about their first 100 whatever. And you get to learn a lot of, like, what leaders are going to be thinking about and doing and who’s going to do it wrong. And so I’m excited to be doing it, but I’m also excited to watch so many important leaders talk about their first 100 days.

Zach
You know, when we talk about, you know, your strategy and your plan, you know, it’s interesting, you made mention of relationships. I’m curious about, you know, when we think about, like, the chief diversity officer role, or whatever that title is, but essentially, like, diversity role, what relationships do you believe typically go under-indexed?

Antoine
That’s a great question, and maybe I’ll speak to it from my role. I think a lot of times the product business side goes under-indexed because people, you know–teams are already moving forward, you’re coming into the equation late, and being able to find a way to influence change overall. So I think that’s one of them, and I do think Employee Resource Groups are under-indexed, not through the lens of, you know, helping create inclusions. They have a talent pool. They have access to so much internally and externally. How do you leverage those to be able to create a pipeline, not only for the now but for the future? So you had that, like, right off, right? Those are the two for me that I think are critical and under-indexed for a specific reason overall.

Zach
I agree. You know, when you think about products and you think about–like, I think historically if you think about diversity and inclusion, that work, it’s seen as frosting and seen as icing. Now, the reality is that despite all of the rhetoric and the increased public focus, plenty of organizations still see it as icing. And so, like, the question I’m always challenged and, like, frustrated by is why that D&I office, role, team, whatever, what have you, is not positioned in a way that is a revenue generator, right? That is not seen as wholly an expense or as a truly recognized and appreciated investment that’s, like, really tied to real dollars, even if those dollars aren’t immediate. Like, I’m consistently curious about that. Because we see, especially in tech, right, all these articles come out about, like, you know, AI, and how it–you know, we found out that these autonomous cars can’t see Black folks. We found out–it’s crazy stuff they find out that they quote unquote “discover,” you know, years or several quarters after the fact. You know, after they got a couple of dead bodies. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” You know? So the question I always have there is like, “Man, why are y’all not figuring out–I mean, y’all a bunch of smart folks up there, why aren’t y’all figuring out ways to integrate your D&I folks into the product research team or the development team or something? Y’all got to integrate them somehow.” And then to your second point around employee resource groups, man, I continue to say, you know, the same, that, like, those groups are pools of talent, right? You think about like, first of all, you know, again, we live in a capitalistic society, the goal is always to get the most labor for the least amount of cost. And you have these folks–now I’m speaking very pessimistically, but you have these folks who out of the passion of their hearts are engaged in these spaces–a couple of organizations will pay a little, some little stipend for people who participate, but largely it’s volunteers who are really willing to do whatever. If they had direction, and investment and sponsorship, and so even if an organization wants to put a few dollars in, it’s still going to be exponentially cheaper than you hiring some external place and whatever, whatever, whatever. And so I constantly question, and I’m disappointed, frankly, by the lack of strategic integration that many employee resource groups have in terms of “Okay, well, how are they integrating into your talent management strategy, how they integrate into your products, strategy and marketing plans, how they integrate–” Like, there’s so many different ways that you can plug those people in. And if you tie it back to, like, overall talent strategy, you then are creating avenues and mechanisms for retention, right, which is a huge issue in tech, as we know. And so I agree with you, but it’s interesting that despite the lack of investment that these organizations will have, if you ask executives about their diversity and inclusion, what’s the first thing they bring up?

Antoine
Employee resource groups.

Zach
That’s the first thing they bring up, knowing they ain’t put a dime in that thing.

Antoine
I think it’s the–because we know it’s how people get engaged. So if you think and go back to your earlier point about community engagement, employee resource groups, those leaders are more like–they’re community leaders, they’re community leaders. And so I think, to your point, the ability for folks to develop their skills at a place where I think is low risk, you have the support, people are going to provide guidance for you. It’s not your day job. You can hone in on opportunities overall. So I think making sure we’re setting them up for success, and what I mean by that is, if we’re looking to grow our talent pipeline or increase our representation, employee resource groups help with that. They shouldn’t be held accountable because they’re not making the decisions around them.

Zach
They ain’t got the power.

Antoine
Antoine: Right. And so I think, but how do we use them to help us change our philosophy, get access to talent? “Hey, do you know Zach Nunn?” And like, “Yeah, we do.” “Can you make the connection for–” That kind of piece, it expands our access. And to your point, from a consumer perspective, there’s so many organizations that I’ve worked with that we’ve leveraged our employee resource groups to make sure we understand just the communities we’re looking at. At Nike, we did a huge [?] of that, working with our Black employee network when it came around Black History Month, [?] and all of those things from that perspective. So critical. You know, I think there are a lot of other under-indexed functions overall. You know, I think one part is I’m looking forward to being able to work with Becky, the head CHRO at SurveyMonkey, people leader, to be able to drive and embed the work overall in how she sees her talent. So it’s an exciting opportunity from that perspective.

Zach

Alright, let’s talk a little bit about the state of diversity, equity and inclusion work in this corporatized context. I think now more than ever, people are skeptical about the actual function of this space. And to be clear, I’m part of those people, Antoine, and what I mean by that is, you know, there’s critiques out there that, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is about, like, kind of, like, reaffirming the status quo, or mitigating litigious risk, or all various and extended ways to say protecting the company rather than really, like, advocating for true disruption or change or impact. And I’m curious, you know, as you come into this organization that, of course, has had leadership, it has had leadership, but it hasn’t had a chief diversity officer before, what does it look like for you to mitigate some of those frustrations or points of skepticism?

Antoine

Yeah, I think the biggest piece is that, you know, this work, diversity, everyone has a perspective on what we should do, how we should do it, how we should change, how quickly we should do it, which I think complicates the function and the role automatically, right? So not everyone knows. “I’ve read an article. I know how. We should do it this way.” So I think that’s the the complication. And overall, the other piece is that I always have a question of, “What would you want us to do?” meaning in the function, and a lot of times it’s like, “Let’s fix that right now,” and understanding that not everything, you know–you can’t just fix everything right now, there are some things–you heard me talk about quick wins–that you’re going to need some time to understand. It’s just that it’s the nature of where we are in this country. I think, in order to have sustainable change, people have to change how they view the work. Because for me, if the leaders don’t see their behavior, they’ll change something today and, you know, 10 months down the road or a year later and we’re back in the same view. And I think that’s what we’re all thinking about right now. That’s why the skepticism comes in. That’s why your whack opening around trying to be funny… No, I’m just kidding, but [?] we know for a fact that if you just sit back and wait things will shift back into the order we want to do. And so in order not to have that done, I believe it’s how do we all look for–not a savior function, but how do we agitate at all of the fringe areas, along with the D&I function, to drive change? And that to me, that piece is where sometimes the frustration sits in, because it’s like we expect you or that function to do it, and the function needs support. It needs support from everyone going, and I think that’s one of the things I’ve tried to do is make sure–you’ve heard me talk about building a team much broader, looking at influencers, because sometimes I may say something and people may be skeptical about it, but if an influencer says something at an employee resource group meeting or at some type of function… so yeah, you’re right. And it connects to it in that way. The skepticism is always going to be there. It is. And I think it’s important for me and for all CEOs and social impact office to keep moving ahead, taking that feedback and reassessing and say if there was something I could have done differently. But without the skepticism, I don’t think we would be successful in these roles at all.

Zach
I mean, I appreciate you calling my intro whack. It was supposed to be because I’m an alchemist like that. But no, so I have reactions. I agree with what you’re saying, you know? You’re using language that resonates with me.

Antoine
What makes you skeptical about it? You know, what makes you skeptical about the function and the progress of the function?

Zach
I think, to make a long answer less long. I’ve yet to see an office really do some of the things that you said, collectively mobilize to create agitation across an enterprise, you know? Like, I’ve yet to see, you know–you think about, and what I’m still really passionate about and continuing, like, really passionate to learn is, like, studying civil rights movements, like, not even the 60s, but actually, like, the 40s, and thinking about, like, grassroots movements and how pods of resistance were created for structural change and to, like, really mobilize people. I’ve yet to see those types of principles applied in the corporate context. I think I’ve yet to see, again, like, just all the words that you use, like, I just haven’t seen that. What I often see, first of all, I don’t often see people that look like Antoine Andrews. But on top of that, what I have yet to see are folks who are even using pointed, honest language. I don’t see a lot of offices really decentering whiteness and centering those who have been harmed and continue to be harmed. And I’ve yet to really see, like, a strategic integration across, like, delivering value and tying it to dollars, which would ensure that office stays relevant and has actual institutional power. Right? And to me, they often seem set up as fixtures. Now, this is not a messy podcast. Like, New York radio and New Jersey radio, you know, they’ll give you the smoke. Like, this is not that type of platform. But trust me, Antoine, I do have the smoke in my holster, but I just am professional, so I’m not gonna air it out. But there are people out there who sit in these roles and they’re kind of, like, career pivots, right? They’re not necessarily there for the people. And so when I hear–and why I’m excited about talking to Zander, talking to Katie, talking to you about this work, is because there is something unique about the way that this organization, SurveyMonkey, is tackling it. But that’s my–am I being fair?

Antoine
There’s not a blanket statement you can make that says, you know, that’s what the functions are. They’re individuals, there’s companies, but, you know, I do know my peers in many organizations are pushing hard, pushing really hard and have been pushing, you know, I think water uphill for some time. And if I go back to my point, like, the landscape has shifted, and so if we we measure everyone through what it was versus where we are now, I think that’s that’s a bit unfair. And I agree, I think voices now are going to matter. How do we center those that have been under-resourced, under-indexed, and their voices haven’t been centered? How do we change that going forward? That is going to be the charge for every function that has a chief or has a diversity, equity or social impact in their title, in their function, is how do we shift the conversation to talk about “What can we do?” to “What do we need to do?” I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Ted Childs, who used to be the chief diversity officer well before chief diversity officers ever existed at IBM. And I remember maybe three or four years ago him talking about comparing this work to the auto industry. He’s talking about “What are our zeros?” He really said, you know, “The auto industry talks about zero accidents, zero emissions, all of those things. In a diversity, inclusion, social impact space, what are going to be our zeros?” And right now, I think that’s what we’re trying to establish. We don’t want to minimize bias and the impact of it, we want it to be zeroed out. We don’t want racism to be less, we want it to be gone. And we know that’s going to be a path, but if we state it, it gives us an opportunity to kind of move towards that and know what we’re going towards–not an easy task, not an easy task, but it’s one that we all have to sign up for in this new landscape, in this new footing that we’re sitting in that you hear in the inauguration speech of the President of the United States talking about racial issues and the 400 years that we’ve experienced them. It really is putting a stake in the ground, and that’s important. That’s important. So I think we’re on a new path, we’re on a new chart, and I do believe there’s still going to be skepticism, but you need skepticism in order to have success.

Zach
No, you’re 100% right. And to your point about perhaps being a little unfair, you’re right, I’m open to the reality that I might be being a little unfair. I’ll challenge you back and say I think light attracts light. So the fact that you have a network of folks that, you know, are doing the right thing, don’t surprise me, Antoine, because, you know, you come across as a very stand up dude. So, you know, you’re probably not gonna attract people who are out here moving raggley, right? So I’m confident that you could probably point me to some folks out there, and of course, look, you know, my commentary isn’t for everybody, but I think that what I’ve continued to observe, you know, there’s some patterns that I’m seeing, and I salute those folks who are doing those right things, and you’re right, look, the landscape has not only changed for what D&I needs to be, but the landscape has changed for executives who have historically underfunded, under-supported, under-utilized–like, I think it’s often forgotten that those offices are not, like, beholden to themselves, right? They move as much as, you know, typically the CEO or the board or whatever the case allows them to move, right? Like, there’s only so much they can do irrespective of what their title says. You know, formal power. Like, even talking about influencers, formal power and informal influence and power are two separate things, and they’re not always one to one. Antoine, you know, we recorded this a day after the inauguration. You know, like you said, it’s a great time to be joining organizations. Talk to me a little bit more about why you believe SurveyMonkey is a great place to work and, you know, what you’re just most excited about in your first couple weeks.

Antoine
Yeah, I will say this. Looking at the inauguration, to your point, we’re a day after–the excitement of seeing–and I’m gonna be honest, the centering of Black women, and we know the role Black women had in the election was amazing, but just watching that, it was just unbelievable. From Amanda Gorman and really laying–you’re talking about dropping the mic? That young sister just–

Zach
She bodied that.

Antoine
I had to watch it, like, three times last night just to hear it and watch. And her intonation, like, all of those things, like, she–

Zach
She’s a virtuoso. She knows exactly what she’s doing with that thing.

Antoine
Yeah. You know, I was like, “Put that over a beat.”

Zach
“As we grieved, we grew”? Come on, man.

Antoine
I think for me, from SurveyMonkey’s perspective, it’s the ability to have access to information that doesn’t just center around corporate America, you know? The surveys that we can create to help organizations better understand that diversity, equity and inclusion and measure those efforts, looking at both belonging indexes. So SurveyMonkey, we are positioned very well to not only show up as an organization but help be a part of the conversation that’s much broader and much bigger. One of the things–if I had my camera on you would see a picture of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston, and I always say, like, “Always looking for an organization, a leader, to be able to punch above its weight,” and I believe SurveyMonkey has the ability to really be able to do that. And so I’m excited about that culture-wise. From the board to the senior leaders to everyone I’ve come in contact with right now. One is they’re always on their word. If they say, “I’m going to get back to you tomorrow,” they do. Committed and curious to wanting to know “How do we get better and authentic?” Like, my conversations with each person didn’t feel canned. It didn’t feel like in a corporate language. We just had conversations, and I’m excited about that. I’m excited about that because having the ability to just be allows you to be successful. We talked about Kobe. I’m a big sports fan. I talk about sports. Ehen you can just play and not worry about if the coach is going to take you out for making mistakes, more than likely you’re going to be pretty successful because you’re just flowing.

Zach
Man, this has been dope. Antoine, man, I appreciate you. Look, you know you’re a friend of the show. Salute to SurveyMonkey. Zander, we see you. Katie, we see you. SurveyMonkey team, we see y’all. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Until next time. We’ll catch you soon, man. Thank you.

And we’re back. Look, I just want to shout out Antoine again. Thank you for being on the show. Shout out to the entire SurveyMonkey team. Shout out to Zander, shout out to Shonnah Hughes. Appreciate y’all. I want to remind everybody that for systems to change, it’s going to take a combination of strategic internal efforts and external forces pressing up and creating pressure and accountability for those systems,. There’s going to need to be some level of coordination for there to be true change. When you think back about last year and all of the Black Lives Matter protests, that’s really frankly why so much stuff started mobilizing and moving in these corporations. It wouldn’t have happened without them. And as much as you might like to think those things are separate and distinct, they’re not, and the role of a diversity, equity and inclusion office, or a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional is going to be someone who’s able to mobilize and galvanize at the grassroots level and connect the dots across various in-person and digital communities, right? So local communities, global communities, glocal communities, it’s going to be important that they’re able to think strategically and logistically about how all those things come together to affect change. What I’m excited about is I really truly believe that Antoine gets that and that SurveyMonkey gets that. Now, before I let y’all go, I want to remind y’all that Living Corporate is not just a single podcast. We’re an entire network of digital media. We have web shows, we have blogs, we have one-off webinars, we have all types of content. And this is not the Zach Nunn Show, right? So I want to shout out Nubianna Aben, Mike Yates, Tiffany Tate, Tristan Layfield, Aaron DiCaprio, Neil Edwards of The Leadership Range, Sheneisha White, Brandon Gordon, Amy C. Waninger. I want to shout out Madison Butler. I want to shout out the team, because we’re a collective, and we’re building something that is really meant to live beyond any one of us, certainly beyond me, and I can’t thank you all enough. If you’re asking yourself, “Man, how can I support you? How can I support Living Corporate, Zach? I really love your voice. You sound great,” I would say first of all, thank you very much, I appreciate that, and then I would say the way that you can support Living Corporate–two ways. First way is to tell your friends about us. This is a crazy year. White supremacy is going to be the buzzword of the year. So whether you like it or you don’t, white supremacy is going to be a word that you’ll hear a lot if you’re having any conversations about current events, social injustice, diversity, equity, inclusion, lived experience, politics, life. That term and those words are going to continue to come up. So it’s actually going to be easier than ever to insert Living Corporate into a conversation. Just let people know, “Hey, you know what? There’s this platform you might want to check out, Living Corporate,” and then take your phone, press Share, and just flip this to ’em. That’s one great way. The second way is you can give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. Easy, free, takes you, like, what, 13, 14 seconds? If you want to write us a review that would be great. Easy love for us, and it really lets people know about the show. Living Corporate, this podcast is our flagship show, and so the more people know about this, it kind of, like, permeates out to all the other things that we got going on. With all that being said, this has been Zach. You’ve been listening to the Living Corporate podcast, where we center and amplify the voices of Black and brown folks at work. Take care of yourselves. Peace.

Support Our Mission of Amplifying Underrepresented Voices...

Living Corporate’s mission is singular in purpose, but diversified in approach. From our podcasting, to live events around the US, to our giveaways. 

Through Our Podcasts

Our podcast garners over 10K downloads a week and reaches black and brown executives, millennials, college students, creatives and influencers. 

Through Our Visual Media

We host a variety live, interactive web series for Black and brown early, mid, and late careerists that have a global reach. 

Through Our Resources

We connect our audience with valuable resources from resume services, certification prep materials, conference,  attendance sponsorship, and Living Corporate merchandise. Join our newsletter to learn more.

Donation

$
Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: $10.00 One Time

0


Join Our Community



You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Living Corporate will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.