See It to Be It : DEI Consultant (w/ Kirstyne Lange)

Amy C. Waninger speaks with Kirstyne Lange, the CEO of KAL Consulting, LLC, on this entry of See It to Be It. Kirstyne has dedicated her life to diversity, equity and inclusion – as a long-term resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she prides herself on her work creating and continuing important dialogues and policies of inclusion in education, government and law enforcement. 

You can connect with Kirstyne on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

TRANSCRIPT

Amy [00:10]: Hey everybody, this is See It To Be It, the Saturday podcast from Living Corporate. Now you all know Living Corporate is a digital media network that centers and amplifies black and brown people at work and for those of you who have never been part of this show before, my name is Amy Wanninger, Im the host of See It To Be It. Now, when I was growing up in rural Southern Indiana, I didnt know people who went to college or who worked in professional roles because those people didnt come back to where I lived, they were off doing other things and I didnt know what their jobs looked like or how to break into them. But this show isnt about me, its about the guests. Every Saturday Im going to bring you career stories from everyday role models in jobs that you may have never heard of and more importantly, the folks I interview share their perspectives as black and brown professionals in jobs and environments, where they may be the only. 

My guest on todays show is Kirstyne Lange. Kirstyne works with small local governments, schools, and police departments to help build more equitable and just cultures and programs to their organizations. Im really excited about you hearing from Kirstyne and the work that shes doing in places where its very sorely needed in the Bay Area but before we get to that interview, were going to tap in with Tristan for some career advice.

Tristan [01:33]: Whats going on Living Corporate, its Tristan and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week, lets discuss setting your performance management goals. Many of us are either currently working through or will be working through setting 2021 performance management goals with our direct managers. So I figured it would be a good time to discuss goal setting. During my time as a middle manager, I often saw my employees have no idea what goals they wanted to set, and if they did have an idea, their goals werent well thought out. So I wanted to provide you with another goal setting philosophy you can follow to ensure they benefit both you and the company. The acronym were going to use today is RIM, inspired by a thread written by @simoneembana on Twitter. You mightve heard me mentioned it in a previous tip. The R stands for relevant; we want your goals at work to be relevant to both your personal and professional goals. Yes, your goals need to be relevant to what the company is looking for, but you also want to make sure youre always getting something out of the deal. Maybe your company will pay for a certification that will not only help them out, but will also raise your value on the market when you start looking for a new role. Maybe you can gain more exposure to leaders in different parts of the business by participating on a different project team, ultimately helping make the case for that promotion you want. 

The I stands for impactful; you want the goal to be impactful for the business. Take the time to understand the overall team, department and company goals, to better understand how your goals will have a direct impact. Will it create efficiencies and increase productivity? Will it help streamline compliance, eliminating fines the company has received, or will your actions help increase enrollment or sales? Ultimately, you just want to identify how your goals will help the company. The M stands for measurable; lets be real, in business if you cant quantify the impact, then its like it never existed. Ensure that there is either a method in place to capture the data and metrics or create one. If you need to create one, speak with your boss on what metrics they believe are most important to capture and the most efficient and effective ways to do so. Your job is to find goals at the intersection of what the company needs and what you provide. Thats what you can do for the company. 

Once you find goals that meet these criteria, ensure that you document everything pertaining to that goal. You have to have receipts to back up your claims of accomplishment. Be sure youre also having consistent conversations with your manager about your goals. Yes, you want to talk about the progress, but also talk about the pitfalls because sometimes goals need to be adjusted and thats okay. Thanks for tapping in with me today. Dont forget, Im now taking submissions from you all on career questions, issues, concerns, or advice you think maybe help others. So make sure to submit yours at bit.ly/tapintristan. This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at Layfield resume or connect with me. Tristan Layfield on LinkedIn.

Amy [05:03]:  My guest today on the show is Kirstyne Lange. Kirstyne has dedicated her life to diversity, equity and inclusion as a long-term resident of the San Francisco Bay area, Kirstyne prides herself on her work, creating and continuing important dialogues and policies of inclusion in education, government, and law enforcement. She is a member of the intersectional anti-racism team at her Alma Mater Mills College and runs KAL consulting her inclusivity consulting firm for the North Bay area. Kirstyne, welcome to the show. 

Kirstyne [05:34]:  Thank you so much for having me. 

Amy [05:37]:  I am so excited to meet you and learn about your work. So I would imagine Im just going to dive right in to this, the fact that youre doing dialogues and policies in law enforcement, education and government in 2020, 2021 Im betting, youre busy and Im betting the work is rewarding. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Kirstyne [06:02]: It is both rewarding and difficult and part of what Ive tried to balance is as folks have approached me for consulting and input and intel is really being strategic around what initiatives feel really good and closely aligned with my passions and the work that Im capable of doing and what is coming off as super performative. As we saw the wake of the world and the rise of people through the George Floyd murder and Breonna Taylor murder and just the visceral response of this is enough. A lot of organizations wanted to make sure that they were doing the right thing, even if they were perceived super positive or indifferent to those who work with them. So the work with law enforcement has definitely been ongoing particularly in my community, living in Sonoma County, there are both challenges with the County Sheriffs department and with the smaller citywide police departments as well and its truly centered around how they policed the BiPAP community members in addition to how they responded to protestors this summer, the commission on human rights in Sonoma County pulled together a, I want to say like 80 page document documenting all of the incidents of human rights violations that took place and here we are now February 3rd of 2021, mind you, the report was done in September and the community city councils are just now starting to explore the conversation from that report. So they in themselves are finding them in a situation to continue to push back, acknowledging the wrongs and the harm done at the hands of the police and law enforcement at large in the community.

Amy [07:55]: This runs so deep in our nation. I mean, from the very formation of police forces and prior to. Where do you even begin to untangle all of that as youre doing work with these units? And I realize thats like a huge question but it seems like a very salient one.

Kirstyne [08:15]: Yes and a lot of the work that Ive been doing hasnt necessarily stemmed from a business. Its more of just my own personal knack for activism. As I should backpedal with context, I grew up in San Diego and I lived in a community that was heavily policed. I attended a high school with 3000 students and we had a gate to enter, we went through a detector, we had to wear name badges, and we had nine police and security officers on campus. So my understanding of systems of policing it stems from a very early age and so coming into another community and recognizing those similar challenges, but like deeply rooted challenges has continued to feed on my passion to make sure that anywhere you live we should be able to trust our police officers. We should be able to trust the response that were going to get should we choose and need to engage and personally, that has not been my experience and watching and hearing based on my volunteer work and the folks that Im connected to the continued cycle of toxic behavior continued and then erased and skirted to the side is just, its an unacceptable.

Even just this last December, Im sure you saw the outrage on social media, a blogger influencer was on a Michael store and accused a Latinex couple of following her, attempting to kidnap her children and all of those claims were unfounded. She smeared this familys name, the police officers smeared the familys name on social media and to this date, were now in February have not apologized and we have not acknowledged that that was a false police report that was filed and this woman has moved on. Shes relaunched her blog and her social media and her millions of followers who have still have this misconception of this couple who have teenage children who were being attacked by their peers on social media. Again, participating in the wrong, doing the harm and the toxicity that we are still trying to dismantle at large, its a huge issue and this community is just a microcosm of what we see in the world.

Amy [10:35]: Yes and I would imagine too, in education, youre fighting a lot of those same battles because as you mentioned educational institutions are heavily policed depending on whos in those school walls and theres plenty of evidence that black students are funneled out of class to detention, to detention centers. And so theres a real linkage in those structures of oppression and how they feed one another.\

Kirstyne [11:10]: There is and in my own experience growing up. I mean, I think the saving grace I had, I was an honor student, I had a 4.0, and I was a leader in student government. So although I may have ditched a class here or there, or showed up to school without my badge, or was late in the hallways after the bell, I too didnt receive the same scrutiny as my peers did. I wasnt hauled off on the golf cart into detention and I did have some punishment sometimes let me not be completely dismissive of that, but the ways in which it came down, the hammer wasnt laid on to me, it was like, hey, you need to come to Saturday school. It was very conversational as a professional exchange. It was, these are the consequences for your actions. Whereas I watched my peers be dragged by their backpacks and thrown into a room with forty other kids that were late, they called them sweeps and that experience really triggered a curiosity into me of how systems of education worked and it really broadened my horizons when I studied public policy in college and went on to support some of the work of non-profits in the Oakland that were exploring these systems that were not set up to serve black and brown students and they were really rooted in punishing the schools in the district. As you know, schools get funding, public schools get funding based on students being in school and at the time, OUSD did not have a system in place to track students when they matriculated to other schools or if they were in the juvenile detention system or in foster care and moving throughout the district.

So you had schools at the time in 2008, through 2013, slated to close, lose funding and programming because they couldnt track where the students went and the student may have just moved to a different high school within the same district. So another school and the district as a whole could have still benefited, but there wasnt an administrative role established to monitor the attendance records and to aggregate the data that was being input into a empty folder, if you will, to track what was happening and that was my senior thesis project, exploring that and I worked with an organization that proposed legislation and lobbied for funding and a position to be created to track that. From there, although I went on to work into private independent schools, which have a very different funnel to entry I had this lens in my mind of what is the access look like and what is the trajectory of the student going to look like in this type of environment compared to what we know to be true about a public school setting and especially very urban cities and metropolitan areas.

Amy [13:58]:  Thats fascinating. So you went into private, Im guessing charter schools?

Kirstyne [14:05]: Private, independent schools. So not necessarily affiliation with any religion at all.

Amy [14:10]: Okay and then what led you to the work that youre doing today as an independent consultant, having your own firm, because as someone who has my own independent consultancy that is no small step. That is a huge leap of faith and youve got to have some real fire in your belly and under your butt to step out on your own. So what led you to this work in this way?

Kirstyne [14:37]: Most particularly related to my experience and that of the students I was working with, although I was hired in various capacities to support development and admissions traditionally, those are my related titles, being an outspoken black woman on these campuses, I then always was the person of like, well, what did the kids tell you? Because naturally people recognize that I had a knack for developing relationships and being an ally to students. So I became, I guess you could call it the student whisperer, if you would, on campuses and really, as I accepted that was the role, although it was extremely uncomfortable for me early on in my career, I recognized the power of navigating the systems for the betterment of the student experience and often to advocate for some of the challenges that I was experiencing as a professional on these campuses. I worked at a couple of schools up and down Northern and Southern California and I have to say each experience was very different, but one thing remains true, students of color definitely, there are some significant barriers to entry into the private, independent school system.

The awareness, the access, it all encompasses in how they are able to even recognize that this is an opportunity and an option for high school in their communities. In addition to the fact that how youre perceived as a good fit, which is like cringe language and recruiting as a whole, but schools use it to assign whether kids and families are mission appropriate, air quotes there, to be able to withstand a successful tenure in the institution and as a professional you are often sometimes tokenized. I, in some places was a response higher both to an initiative of like were going to do diversity and also an outcry of racial incident took place and students wanting and commanding to see people that look like them on campus and navigating all of those very complex and unique experiences was hard and it was heavy and it took a huge toll and in my last position, I had to really step back and think about the hardships I was experiencing and the challenges and impacts that was taking on my health. 

Once I recognized that those werent worth my long-term wellbeing and the quality of life, in addition to recognizing that the institution had no intentions of making the change, that they continue to pander conversation and listening circles for I felt it was best to step out on my own and work with folks who want to have a conversation and be selective about the business conversations that I entertain and be intentional about leading leaders of organizations and companies alike through this work so that it can create a better sense of belonging and success for all of their employees but particularly for those who are often most marginalized, which are their employees of color, theyre often mostly those on the lower end of the pay scale and how do we really create opportunities for long-term growth instead of a high cycle of, I would call it lack of retention because folks dont see themselves there long-term, its a stepping stone to the next thing.

Amy [18:22]: Yes and I see that in a variety of industries in the work that I do. In the insurance industry, its the call center and the claims desk, black women can get in there, but they cant get out, cant move up from there. In a lot of tech firms, its call centers and  the narrative among management then becomes, oh, well, those people, in air quotes, those people arent reliable, those people dont want to move up, theyre not interested in. And its like, no, you have essentially put an invisible fence around this set of desks and anybody who tries to cross it gets zapped and theyve seen enough people do that, that theyve decided its just not worth it and theyre going to go somewhere else and try it, you know? So its sad to me that it happens in so many places. I mean, just in every place basically that Ive been, or that I know people where theyre working or theyve been for any time but I think in education, especially, there are so many studies that show that children need to see themselves represented in their teachers and their administrators. They need to learn from people who look like them. 

Kirstyne [19:46]: Yes, and it was so heartbreaking to be in a place that onboarded, I want to say in a cohort of ten, five of us were black. So it was definitely very strategic, but throughout the next year and a half, I was the only one left from that group that came on board. Those in the classroom faced much different ridicule because again, and youre talking private school kids, who theyd only seen black folks and brown folks as either the Spanish language teacher or the janitor, the help. So you have the front office lady, thats the role they saw that in. So to see a teacher and to respect them in this academic setting that did not exist and so as soon as a teacher of color, especially is disciplining a white student, then its, oh, shes angry, shes a mean teacher and to watch institutions run with those narratives, I call it the Wolf pack effect. So one kid says it, they all jump in and now its a thing. So now you have a teacher now on a performance plan and being scrutinized for things that are not even related to the content that theyre trying to convey in the classroom.

Amy [20:55]: Just for classroom management and the absurdity of that is that as you stated before, if they were in an urban classroom and they were a white teacher with a room full of black kids, those kids would be dragged out by their backpacks or their hair.

Kirstyne [21:11]: Yes. 

Amy [21:15]: Its just maddening the two systems that we have in every aspect of American life and how they work so differently for different people. Let me ask you Kirstyne because, gosh, I can talk to you all day, but Im really curious about the work that you do. Do you work exclusively with folks in the Bay Area, or do you work nationally? How do you find or attract clients?

Kirstyne [21:44]: Right now, thankfully its all been word of mouth and so I have a set of clients that are in Southern California and another set of clients that are in Northern California. Im not resistant to folks out of state, but right now, because of we want to work and we need training and we need conversation, my plate is pretty full at this point, but what Im looking to understand is how that work can grow and to expand across state lines. Ive had done a few speaking engagements at companies and for other initiatives that I think would be great opportunities to pursue further. Right now Ive worked with a mix of engineering firms or educational entities, small cohorts within County departments and a couple of local non-profits and so ideally small because it is just me and I feel like I can make a greater impact that way. In five years, if I have a team of three or four, maybe five people, sure, lets bring in the big dogs and work with a company with thousands of folks. But right now, really doing some intentional work and because these organizations are small Im enjoying the reward of single change and the continued investment in the conversation and in the work. 

So my services vary between a series of trainings with management levels down or reverse up, however, it works best for that community and offering coaching for the leaders in the organization to be intentional about their role to invoke this change. Ive had to have a very open heart getting into this because for a lot of white leaders, it is difficult to help them move through wanting to be perfect at getting racism and dismantling it the right way and there isnt a right way. You just have to do it and model it, and people will follow you because you also sign their pay check. So theyre going to believe that youre doing the right thing and I definitely curate spaces for my folks of color and particularly black women who have experienced challenges in the workplace and most of those not necessarily formal services, but doing informal zoom groups kind of like sister circles, if you will and helping other women, if they need to create exit plans. So that if the environments too toxic and intolerant that they have a safe way to exit the company, because no matter how toxic it is, youll still be painted as angry. Youll still be painted as somebody who is disgruntled and didnt enjoy the work and yet you need to cleanly exit so that you can begin your next journey without the baggage.

Amy [24:48]: Yes, it occurs to me that a lot of these employer, employee relationships for black women in particular, are very akin to abusive marriages or abusive romantic relationships where youre told that it is not them, its you, youre the problem and no one will love you like we do and there are so many parallels I see and its so unfortunate. For people who have been in abusive family relationships in the past, those workplaces can be just orders of magnitude more traumatic, because not only are you living with the trauma of the workplace, but youre getting triggered based on all of this other stuff that youre bringing with you every day from your past or your present. Kirstyne, Im curious, as an entrepreneur I would ordinarily, if I were talking to a white dude from the Bay Area, Id be like, oh, community in the Bay Area for an entrepreneur, but youre not the typical Bay Area entrepreneur. Where do you go for community? Where do you find support so that youre not feeling all alone in this world?

Kirstyne [26:05]: Yes, great question. Thankfully, Im a Capricorn and I believe in the stars and signs. So let me just put that out there, but I have a strong cohort of friends. My core group of friends have been there since I was five. So theyve been through all of the walks of life and then Ive adopted a few folks along the way and definitely team no new friends.

Amy [26:29]:  Darn it, because I was going to put my application in.

Kirstyne [26:33]: I mean, we can discuss, but it might take you a year or two.

Amy [26:39]: Sure, its a long-term courting process. All right, fine. Im sorry. I didnt mean to interrupt, please go ahead. 

Kirstyne [26:46]: No, youre fine. Its one of those things, like I invest in my friendships, just the way that I invest in my work and so friends are also family for me and so thankfully, I can put out a message to a few of them and they know, or they know when Im radio silent, like, okay, whats going on? Like, hey, how are you doing? How are you handling things that are taking place? And its super helpful because none of them live in the community that I directly live in. So its really nice to be able to have a moment to just like say what it is and nobody that can add onto the fire of experiences. Locally, I do have friends that I can share in the challenges with, but I definitely dont go into the depth that I can vulnerably engage in with my rocks.

Amy [27:36]: Awesome. Im so glad to hear that you have that sounding board and that place where you can be you and kind of just shake it off and shake off the being on, of doing this work because there is a lot of being on. Especially, when youre going into these patriarchal white spaces, trying to dismantle their patriarchal white supremacist history and functioning and structure. I cant even imagine how much you need to be able to let that go come Friday at five. For the people who are listening, who would like to engage you in their places of business, maybe they work for a small local government office or a small police force or an educational institution that really wants to dig into how to be an anti-racist organization, how to undo the racism inherent in their policies, practices and procedures, how can folks reach you or learn more about your work?

Kirstyne [28:53]: They can certainly reach me by visiting my website and thats kirstynelange.com spelled in all of my name letters correctly, no fancy terms there.

Amy [29:04]: Okay, so people cant see that, so lets spell it.

Kirstyne [29:05]: Oh yeah, thats right. So kirstynelange.com and the fastest way to probably reach me, more ready steady engagement is on social media @klconsult_ on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Amy [29:28]: Wonderful and we will make sure that all those links are in the show notes. So if somebody was driving and they couldnt write it down, theyll know where to find you. Kirstyne, I want to thank you so much for your vulnerability, for your honesty, for your candor today. Thank you so much for being a guest on See It To Be It.

Kirstyne [29:44]:  Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

Amy [29:48]: And I wish you every success in your journey, goodness knows we need you in every school, in every municipality, in every police department in this country. So I hope that you grow that team. I hope that youre able to have the impact in time that you want to have at scale and thank you so much for your work. 

Kirstyne [30:08]: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, appreciate the opportunity to share.



Amy [30:16]: Isnt she amazing? What I loved about this interview was the thread that Kirstyne wove through her entire life story about her activism from the time she was in school, all the way till now and how that has informed her work. And also really drives her in her mission. If you enjoyed this episode, dont forget to subscribe to Living Corporate and share us with your friends and colleagues and hey, you can really help us out by leaving a six star review, wherever you get your podcasts. You may be thinking, but theyre only five stars, give us all those stars, but then go the next step by leaving a couple of sentences in your own words, telling us what you liked about the show or what you enjoy about the series. And dont forget to visit living-corporate.com to learn more about our other podcast, videos, web shows, and more. This is Amy C. Waninger and I will see you next week on See It To Be It.

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