Dropbox and #BlackLivesMatter #StopAsianHate (w/ Danny Guillory)

Zach sits down with Danny Guillory, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Dropbox, about Dropbox’s journey to be a more equitable and inclusive place to work. Check the links in the show notes to find out more about Dropbox’s recruiting efforts!

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TRANSCRIPT

Zach
Living Corporate is brought to you by The Access Point. The reality is this is the largest influx of Black and brown talent corporate America has ever had, and as a result, a variety of talent entering the workforce are first generation professionals. The other reality? Most of these folks aren’t learning what it means to navigate a majority white workplace in their college classes. Enter The Access Point, a live weekly web show within the Living Corporate network that gives Black and brown college students the real talk they need and likely haven’t heard elsewhere. Every week our hosts and special guests are dropping gems, so don’t miss out. Check out The Access Point, airing every Tuesday at 7pm Central Standard on LivingCorporate.tv.

Danny
My father always described diversity as this thing that is really about asking questions and overturning a rock, and you look what’s underneath, and there are these things that are underneath that you didn’t expect because you never asked the question. So a lot of it is continually asking questions about how things are integrated into what you do.

Zach
What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate, and I ain’t gonna hold y’all today. Today is a fire episode. Oh, man. I can’t even hold it. It’s just a heat, heat, heat, heat episode, man. You know, I’m gonna say off the top, man, thank you to Dropbox for working with your boy, rocking with Living Corporate. I’m excited about the conversation I had with Danny Guillory, who is the vice president and chief diversity officer at Dropbox. Just had a dope conversation, you know, really talking a lot about just this space and this work and the experiences of Black folks specifically at work and the dynamics within Black professional spaces and this propensity to gatekeep and power hoard, right, and just not share information, not share spotlights, not share. Just not share. And I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, y’all. We’re not going to progress as a collective group across the Black diaspora if we try to practice the same patriarchal capitalistic white supremacists tactics on each other. Like, it just doesn’t work like that. We need to reimagine how we show up for one another in these colonized westernized spaces. It’s not sustainable for the future of work if we don’t radically reimagine how we operate in these spaces, right? Like, we buy into the propaganda that there’s only so many crumbs on the plate. There’s more to be had and to be shared, but it takes truly a courageous and a courageously different mindset than the ones that frankly so many folks practice who are privileged enough to get in positions of power or authority or exclusive majority white spaces, right? Like, we have to do better in that regard. And I could continue to talk about this, but I do think that we’re going to need to have some more conversations about just, like, Black economics, group economics, and how to take that same mindset of grassroots organizing and sharing, truly sharing wealth, and wealth in this context I’m talking about knowledge and networking for the sake of growth in the corporate context, right? Like, we have to. Now, as we radically shift and change how we organize, yes, the white power structure in corporate spaces will also adjust and create means to distract and disassemble us, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still need to be intentional about how we organize and move together. We’re just not right now, right? And there’s so many reasons as to why we aren’t doing that, but, you know, again, for another podcast. All that being said, I really, really appreciated my discussion with Danny. As you can tell I have a lot of thoughts on my mind just as I went back and listened to our conversation, all the things that we talked about and the new ideas that it sparked and the things that I really want to get to, and hopefully we’ll get to in a part two. We’ll continue to expand on this dialogue that you’ll hear that we had. Before we do that though, let’s go ahead and 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. Today, I’d like to discuss 3 things we can do to show our coworkers appreciation in this digital age. It’s essential that we build fans of our work to help progress our careers. Fans are like your hype squad, the people who amp up the crowd. They give you a break from always hyping up yourself and are willing to tell anyone and everyone how great they think you are. As much as we need to build a fanbase for ourselves, our coworkers need to build a fanbase too. Since this can easily become a reciprocal relationship, I think it’s important that we take some time out to recognize those we believe are doing good work. Working in a virtual setting can make this a bit more challenging, but here are 3 ways to express your gratitude. First, give them a Linkedin recommendation. I know this may seem basic, but similar to product or restaurant reviews, recommendations on a public platform like Linkedin act as social currency that can help boost their professional brand. These recommendations provide social proof that they do the work they say they do, which can help if they are ever on the job search, especially externally. Take the time to write a well-thought-out recommendation that provides specifics on how you all worked together and how your coworker provided value or created results. Second, send them an email that they can use in their performance review. We all have to do self-assessments at the end of the year; what better way to tell a coworker that you’re a fan than to help them make a case for more coins or a promotion. Send them an email detailing how their work impacted you and the results you all were able to create. If you’d like to take it up a notch, you could even cc their boss on the email to increase awareness. Lastly, you can nominate them for a company-wide recognition program. Most of our organizations have these programs, but the majority of us ignore them throughout the year. However, they could be a great way to highlight that teammate or coworker, especially since some of the programs are announced throughout the company, which could help boost their profile. Now, these aren’t the only ways to tell your teammate, coworker, or boss thank you and that you’re a fan, but these are a great start in boosting the visibility of the amazing work they’re doing. 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
Living Corporate is brought to you by The Break Room. Have you ever felt burnt out, depressed, or otherwise exhausted by being one of the onlys at work? You know what I’m talking about. Hosted by Black psychologists, psychiatrists and PhDs, The Break Room is a live weekly web show in the Living Corporate network that discusses mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. Name another weekly show explicitly focused on mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. I’ll wait. This is why you got to check out The Break Room, airing every Thursday at 7pm Central Standard Time on LivingCorporate.tv.

Zach
Danny, what’s going on? How you doing?

Danny
Man, I’m doing fine, Zach. How are you?

Zach
You know, I’m good. Look, it’s interesting. I just want to get started straight up, because we talked off-mic, and we talked a little bit about your journey. You know, why are you in this role? Why do you do this? And then why do you do it at Dropbox?

Danny
That’s a great question. For me, the journey really started with with my father. So my father actually used to be a chemistry professor, taught for many, many years, and he decided he wanted to do something a little different. Eventually he decided–the way he puts it is that he found people more interesting than molecules, and so in about the mid 1980s, before diversity was really something that was talked about or even a term that was used in a corporate context, he started one of the first companies doing work in diversity, equity and inclusion consulting with a lot of companies, a lot of what were back then technologies but wouldn’t be considered tech today, but they were back then. He always wanted me to work with him. And of course, like any good son, the last thing I wanted to do was was work directly with my father, and so I went off for a career in law and did other things, but eventually came back to work with him. And I think the reason why was that the one common theme that ran through my life was that I really enjoyed seeing people reach their full potential. So even when I was in law school–I assistant taught at an elementary school, a bilingual elementary school in Boston, and really enjoyed seeing kids develop and grow. During undergrad I used to mentor kids from the local elementary school, and for me even now today I love the work that we do on a grand scale, but I think the moments that mean the most to me are when I get an email or a message or something from somebody that says some program impacted them in some way or it says they made this decision in their career or they experienced some kind of transformation because some of the work that we’ve done. So for me I think the driving factor in everything that I’ve done, if I look at all of my different experiences, has really been about people reaching their full potential, and that’s really in essence what diversity, equity and inclusion are about. To get specific though to Dropbox, I think what was unique about Dropbox for me was the level of commitment when I got there. So even when I arrived there were already a set of very specific goals related to the representation of women and underrepresented minorities at the company. They already had a lot of the systems in place too, so when you do diversity work–even though I can be principled about it, I can talk about it, but a lot of it is working in between the lines and having systems actually start to change and systems start to recognize and acknowledge where there are gaps, and a lot of the systems and things that I was hoping to measure to be able to understand what to do were already in place. There were already a set of commitments and expectations of executive staff in terms of what some of their roles were to be and what they were committed to, and I think the other thing that’s really important, and we can talk about this at some point, is there is already a commitment to funding the function, because a lot of times organizations, when they do this, will try to hire one person to transform an organization with respect to diversity, and that’s very difficult to do, and here there was already commitment to having a team in place, and that made a difference. You can really be a force multiplier when you have people, and if you don’t it’s really difficult to do that. So I think those were some of the elements for me that made the prospect of coming to Dropbox really attractive.

Zach
You said a few things there. I want to double click on a couple of them though. So you talked about systems. It’s interesting–we’re in this place, right, where, you know, there’s this growing tension between what I’m gonna call–so not the work that your father was doing, which is super dope, but, like, this I’m gonna say white majority diversity and inclusion, this corporatized diversity and inclusion, and I’m gonna say, like, a spectrum–I’ve talked about this before, you know I’ve brought this up with Antoine Andrews, who is the chief diversity and impact officer at SurveyMonkey. I’ve talked to Mary-Frances Winters and other people who’ve graced Living Corporate, but there’s, like, a spectrum, right? It’s, like, this really conservative diversity and inclusion, which is, like, really focused on individuals, focused on unconscious bias, very binary in its analysis of people and groups, and then there’s this other side which I would say is more quote unquote “liberal” which is more focused on, like, analyzing systems of power and equity and justice and solving or repairing harms and things of that nature, but I still believe, and I’m curious to get your perspective on this, I do believe there’s still a tension between these two camps, and I know that there’s of course spaces and spots in between these two extremes I’m discussing, but I’m curious, like, as you think about–one, do you agree that that framing is accurate, and then two, if so, where do you see things breaking? And I ask that–look, now I’m asking you a three-pronged question, but it’s cool. I’ma keep it going. I asked that because as I look at–let’s talk about, as an example, most recently this anti-Asian, clearly terroristic action and murder of eight individuals by someone with supposed white supremacist ties, and, you know, you have all these Asian activists, like, out in the street again. Like, these are not your corporate professionals. These are folks who are out there doing the work, and they’re saying, “Look, we need to call out white supremacy. We need to name these behaviors. We need to talk about this.” I’m going back to what you said, systems, and I know you weren’t talking about them in this context, but I’m naming it because it’s something for me I’m curious about, all of this and, like, just where do you see this diversity and inclusion work–like, when do you see it breaking? And, like, in terms of, like, having a stance and really having, like, a consistent point of view on naming systems, calling out systems for actual change and systemic impact?

Danny
Okay. So you’ve asked me a lot of different things, Zach, [both laugh] and it’s fair because they’re linked, but let me start out first of all by saying that what happened recently, a couple of days ago in Georgia, is tragic and horrifying and disappointing, and I think there’s a longer discussion about kind of the state of things today, and I can also share a little bit later on some of the unique things that we’re doing in general around the increasing violence towards Asian-Americans and Asians within the United States in particular, but I’ll talk about that a little bit later. I think the major question that you asked is this dist–and it’s a great one because we’re really facing it as diversity professionals front and center right now, and that’s this distinction between how we typically measure success with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion in organizations and increasingly what the expectations are of people within organizations and what they want them to do. And it is attention. It is attention. You’re absolutely right. We as diversity professionals–and it may be generational, you know? That may be an element to this. We as diversity professionals have typically measured–and this is how I think about my own work–“Am I getting a fair paycheck?” So pay equity. “Am I getting opportunities for training and development and to grow in terms of my skill set? Am I getting projects that I like and enjoy that help me to grow and develop? Am I getting an opportunity to be promoted fairly with respect to my other colleagues? Am I getting opportunities to continue to be successful in the organization?” Those are typically the standards by which–at least when I grew up–I usually evaluated an organization, and that’s the framework that we as diversity professionals have typically used because it’s very tangible. It’s something that is an outcome that you can measure very clearly and understand very clearly. What’s happened I think is that–and again, I don’t know if it’s generational. It may be. I don’t know, but the expectations seem to be shifting in terms of what people want. I think some people believe “those are table stakes now,” and “of course I get all that,” and “now I also want you to play a role in the organization in terms of what’s happening in the external world, and it’s something that I don’t have a solution for yet because a lot of the solutions for it are things that sometimes are symbolic, and it’s something kind of that I struggle with sometimes. To give you an example of what I mean, when things happened last summer with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, there were a lot of people in our organization who pushed immediately to do what I refer to as this kind of performative–things that we share with the public, and my point to the organization was that “I don’t want to do something that just runs out on the next news cycle,” because that’s what tends to happen with performative actions. So what we did instead was in addition to donations and showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter when everything happened, we also organized a 6-month series called Truth and Reconciliation where every week we had speakers come in to talk about different issues that the Black community had experienced in America. So whether it was policing–it was policing one month, education another month. We also did the history of resistance another month, health care and health policy, and we had people come in to really share in a multi-dimensional way. We had people who were academics, we had people who led different movements. We had authors. We had poets. A variety of different people who came in and shared all this, and then we completed the whole series by then saying “Now that we as an organization have an in-depth understanding, let’s see what kind of action we want to take, whether it’s individual or collective,” and we took people through a workshop where they were then able to kind of identify what resonated with them the most as well as whether or not they wanted to do something on an individual basis or with other people. So for me what I try to do is make sure that whatever we do is also substantive in some way. I’ll give you another example. We’ve done some things with respect to the response to the violence against Asian nations, American and Asian-Americans in the United States, and by the way, I need to tell you that that issue is one that is very personal to me. My wife is actually Korean-American and has experience being yelled at on the streets over the past couple of months by people in San Francisco, so it’s something that is very, very personal to me. And so what we’ve done is we have shared communications with the organization as well as places where people could donate and do different things to donate and support causes that we’re working against, against the violence, against Asian-Americans, but we’ve also decided to do something a little bit what I consider to be unique and that is that–also because of the way it’s been portrayed has unfortunately started to raise some of the historical or more recently historical challenges between the Black community and the Asian and Asian-American community. So we’re just launching actually next week a kind of study group of people from our Asian ERG as well as our Black employee resource group at Dropbox to go through a study group where we’ll be reviewing and talking about these experiences and how we got to this place as communities. Not us as individuals, but as communities, and kind of making and sharing a joint statement in terms of our learning and where we’d like to take things, take the dialogue as an organization going forward. Again, what I’m talking about here are things that are less performative, although I think that’s important, to show solidarity. I think it’s important to do something that’s really transformational, and what I also–you know, you asked me why I’m at a place like Dropbox, it’s because I have the opportunity to do what I consider to be transformational work, not only performative work. So I’m not saying those performative things aren’t important because that’s what a lot of people will look at and see, but like I said, I want something to live past a news cycle. But in terms of the tension you’ve talked about, it’s a hard one because all of us are in businesses that need to make money, and our primary thing that we do as employees of an organization when we take a paycheck is we serve that organization to help them to be profitable. That’s kind of the general contract that we have with organizations, and so figuring out how to toggle that attention and focus and effort is something that frankly is kind of new and that I think myself and my peers in this work are all trying to navigate right now.

Zach
So first of all, thank you so much, you know, and to your point around the Black and Asian tension, that’s so true, and I’ve yet to see any organization or organization really engage that, to your larger point. I believe it has something to do with just technology, right, that creates this new expectation and demand around what organizations should do, and then, you know, frankly with the internet comes a greater level of awareness in real time. Are you thinking about Twitter? And yes, there’s competing, there’s challenges with Twitter, and yes, there’s trolls and stuff on Twitter, but when you think about Twitter as an information hub, it’s just so much real time information. There’s live video. I’m not having to wait on the newspaper or even necessarily for it to go through, like, some type of journalistic or editorial lens. I’m getting raw information directly to me in near real time. It’s about all these studies about how much faster information travels from Twitter than from, like, your traditional media channels or even news websites, and so I think with that information comes a higher expectation of action, and then on top of that, like, and information in this context being specifically around, you know, maybe what the kind of business that companies are in that maybe we weren’t, we wouldn’t have had as much transparency today as we would have had. We had much more transparency than we did, like, in the early 2000s, late 90s, around, like, how these companies, you know, make their money or what they’re actually involved in or what their board believes, you know? There’s all just so much more awareness, which then creates a heightened level of expectation in terms of “Okay, what are y’all going to do now?” Now I’m gonna push you on something because what you said was cool, right? And, you know, one of my questions about the truth and reconciliation program–let me ask you something, you know, a lot of organizations will certainly–not as robust as what you described, but they’ll do some sort of activity where they will bring in a brand or we’ll bring in Dr. Robin DiAngelo, so on and so on. We’ll have these conversations about the ideas of racism or the ideas of white supremacy or the the historicity of Black struggle in America or whatever the case is. We’ll bring in external people. My question is where, if at all, is there an opportunity to–we can do that, and I respectfully say there can be a bit of theater to that. Not speaking to your program, I wasn’t there, but I’m speaking to this idea of like, “Hey, we’re gonna do this thing.” I think it kind of goes back to what you said about being performative. I think there’s a certain degree of internal performance as well, right? So my question is, where, if at all, can organizations also take those ideas where we’re talking about these concepts in theory, outside of our company, and then start thinking about how policies and things need to shift inside of the company? Like, is there space for that? And if so, like, what would you imagine that looks like?

Danny
That’s really interesting. So I think what that requires is people starting to think about diversity as integrated into everything they do. So first of all, it requires having the understanding, so going through some in-depth process where you start to–you start to see all these things in some way. So that’s why the mindset and awareness piece is important. Diversity… My father always described diversity as this thing that is really about asking questions and overturning a rock, and you look what’s underneath, and there are these things that are underneath that you didn’t expect because you never asked the question. So a lot of it is continually asking questions about how things are integrated into what you do. An example of what I mean where something starts to become integrated into the business–there are two examples actually that I have for you, one that I didn’t come up with, which I’ll highlight first, and one that I’ve been thinking about for a long time that we’re actually moving on, one that one of the people within the company actually came up with themselves as she had been through the Truth and Reconciliation program. And one of the things that we do at Dropbox is we have a set of councils that periodically will review our products, give feedback on them, and will give us insights to different things that we’re trying to do. And she came to me and had this meeting with me. And she said, “Danny, I have an idea. One of the things that I’d like to do is I’d like to have the next council we have on this particular product feature consist solely of people of color, like, 100%,” and I said, “Are you sure?” You know, “Does this have implications for the product?” And she basically said that “I’ve gotten plenty of feedback, and we as a company have gotten plenty of feedback from the majority population, and so I’d like to change that experience dramatically and see what we’re missing.” And I said, “Okay, I think that’s great. I’d love to see how the business responds when you do this.” And she went ahead and did it, and actually the results of the process that she went through were featured on video, one of our recent all hands that went out to the entire company. So that’s an example of where when you start to talk about these things, and we still work at a business, how can you start to take these principles and apply them in a way that is starting to actually transform in a significant way? So I’ve got a couple business examples. First, another example that I have for you is there’s been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence and diversity and bias in artificial intelligence, but what has been missing a lot of times is what in a practical way to do about it. We talk about things at a high level where people will say, “We should have diversity in datasets.” Okay, understand that people will also say, “We have to make sure that we have diverse teams working on AI.” Absolutely, I get that. So I’m not denying all of those, those types of steps are foundational and absolutely necessary. But I think what we miss sometimes [is] the dialogue is what can we actually do as an organization. Also, one of the things that we decided to do that I’d always thought about in my mind but wanted to play with is we actually put together what we call a Product Diversity Council, where what we did was we called on people from our different employee resource groups, so representatives, [and] we have about seven different employee resource groups at Dropbox, and we asked them at different points in the product development cycle with certain selected products to actually go through and review the product for bias from a remedial [standpoint?], and so thinking about things from their identity and thinking about how the product could be biased. And then also from a proactive [standpoint?], is there an opportunity that we’re potentially missing? What’s interesting to me, for example, when we think about CS education, when we think about the way that different schools sequence education, and do we really think that that’s needed or necessary all the time, or does that create a barrier that’s unnecessary? Do people even need to come from a traditional background to be able to be successful in CS? And I think there’s some questions that we can start to ask and be more revolutionary about and revisit that can start to have the impact that you’re talking about. Because if Dropbox says, like, “With one of our programs called Ignite, we can take somebody in who doesn’t come from a traditional CS background, give them about three to six months, and they can become a full time kind of software engineer at the end of the process.” Okay, that’s something that creates access. That’s something that creates opportunity that many populations have not had.

Zach
So, you know, right now, you know, we’re seeing publications that expose companies regarding the experience that Black employees are having at work. Like, we’re seeing that, you know? We’ve seen major tech companies experience this as of, like, just the past couple weeks. I’m curious, what, in your perspective, are warning signs for executive leadership that something like that is coming?

Danny
That’s a great question, Zach. I honestly don’t think there are particular warning signs anymore, and I think it goes back to what you what you said before. I think the expectations that people have of the workplace, I think because of the access that we have through social media, through different channels, our willingness to share our lives in ways that we weren’t in the past. I mean, when I grew up, I couldn’t imagine putting my whole life on television or on the web for everybody to see, and yet that’s very common now. So people are much more willing and open to sharing. And I also think, as I mentioned before, the expectations are a little bit different, I think. So I think more than anything what a company has to do is there’s not necessarily going to be a warning sign, because anybody can be prepared to say anything at any point. I think what you need to be is confident in your efforts and what you’re doing and that they’re genuine, because if you’re confident about that, if you’re doing good work and you really are investing in it and taking it seriously, then that helps in terms of being able to respond as things like this come up. Now, there are common things that you could look at, like promotion rates, like advancement rates, like retention rates, like sentiment that you get from employee engagement surveys, where you can cut it by different demographic groups and everything else. So those are some of the obvious things, but I guess what I’m suggesting is that even if you do all of that, that information may not still head off something like that coming or may not even–you could be great along all of those metrics nowadays, I think, and still have somebody have an experience that doesn’t necessarily track with that. And also, again, as we talked about the different channels, I think people’s willingness to share and having multiple channels means that it may come up because I, as an employee, can always go and post anything I want to on LinkedIn. I don’t even need a great podcast like this, or the New York Times or anybody to carry what I say. I could share something and get 1,000 likes tomorrow if I want to. So to answer your question, I don’t think there are some basic things that I think you need that any good company that’s doing work around diversity would look at any way, but in terms of being prepared for any one person sharing something about an experience that hasn’t been ideal from their perspective, that could happen no matter how great the work is that a company does.

Zach
Yeah, you know, and I think in the spirit of that, you know, there continues to be this larger critique around tech and diversity, equity and inclusion, you know, despite the supposed focus over the past 10 and a half years to 15 years. By the numbers, right? When you think about representation, and you think about turnover, and again, representation at all levels, recruitment, we really haven’t seen drastic change, but we’ve spent, you know–I mean, there’s been studies showing that we’ve spent billions, you know, more than 10 to $15 billion on, you know, unconscious bias training and all these different things. And yet, you know, we haven’t really seen, again, that needle move. Why do you think that is?

Danny
So I think there are some historical reasons that make it difficult, but what that means is that there will be some dramatic solutions that will be required. So historical reasons are obviously in terms of both what the access that in particular the Black community has had to certain educational opportunities that are well documented historically. Some of it also has to do with geography and where companies have chosen to locate themselves. A McKinsey report came out recently that said basically that about 60%+ of the Black workforce in the United States is spread across the South. So that means they are not in Seattle, that means they are not in San Francisco, that means they are not in New York, okay? They are spread out across the South, and I know you know that well because you live in the South. So there’s something about geography there too. What it does mean though is that there are opportunities for solutions, but the solutions are going to have to be radical and different. Let me give you an example of one, even though I know it’s still capturing a certain college educated segment, one that we’re actually in the process of starting, right? Now we have a unique role in our organization that’s called a site reliability engineer, and I won’t go into the details of what that is because I don’t know if I understand that entirely myself. I’m a lawyer by training. I’m not a software engineer. But basically it’s the kind of role that they don’t train for in school. It’s one that when you come to Dropbox because it’s a really unique kind of thing no matter what your background is you basically have to get trained in it, and so one of the software engineers came to us and said, “You know what? I really care about our representation in terms of Black employees, and I want to do something different. We have to train people anyway when they come here to do this role. It doesn’t matter whether they went to Howard or Harvard or Stanford or North Carolina A&T. It doesn’t matter. They still are going to have to get trained to do this, so why don’t we do this? Why don’t we just go ahead and set up the first three months of their time, we’ll hire them still, they’ll be hired as a full time employee, but the first three months of their time here what we’re going to do is we’re just going to train them and they will go ahead and start the role because they would have to do that for the first three months no matter who they were,” and that’s the kind of thing and that’s something that we’re actually in the process of beginning recruiting for that, and we’re hoping to hire our first cohort doing that. We would hire them in the fall, and they would come on next year. And so what I’m suggesting by that is not to do something like that specifically–it could be that, it could be anything else, but what it requires is people asking questions and being radical about how they do things. Doing things around the edges isn’t going to move those numbers, and that’s why I don’t think those numbers have necessarily moved on an industry-wide basis. Most organizations–and again, you know we’re not perfect by any stretch, we’re getting better and we’re pushing at it, so I’m not claiming that we’re perfect and we have it all figured out yet, but I think all of us as diversity professionals, but not just us, the organizations that we work for, have to be serious about asking some radical questions and doing things radically different if we want to see a different result, because the gap and the opportunity gap is so large that just doing things, just changing the system a little bit isn’t going to dramatically impact the result that we have.

Zach
You know, I’m just blown away right now. You and I had a conversation offline, so I know you were already excited about being here, but I’m kind of–because you said you’re a lawyer by trade, that’s your background, you know what words mean, and you still said it. You used the word radical. I’m brought to pause that somebody from such a large brand would say that to me over here, because now I’m about to say I agree with you that there needs to be a radical reimagining of a lot of systems, and I also agree. I’m gonna say the things that you maybe can’t say the way that I can say it, because this is a space, you know, [and] I’m saying it a little different. I agree that a lot of these companies aren’t very serious, or they’re not willing to take the steps that it really is going to take because of these gaps. That is so true. I think sometimes we say, “Okay, we’re gonna donate a million dollars to the NAACP,” or “We’re going to set up a voluntary ERG group that’s going to give extra time for recruitment efforts when we remember to send them an email and ask if they can drive out to this, that and the third, or, you know, we’re going to kind of tack on things, but everything that you just spoke to, it indicates intention and it indicates investment, because it takes–I would love to have a separate conversation about how much money it costs–now, of course there’s opportunity costs, but just to, like, hire somebody and just train them. Like, not hire them and then have them, you know, like, you’re literally just hiring, you’re the investment on the back end, though I’m sure y’all did it with the numbers in mind, but I can tell you that most companies are going to hear that program and balk and say, “Well, wait, no.” We have to–and so to your whole point at the top, you talked about the fact, you know, companies need to make money, but I dare say this is the first time someone’s been on this platform and somehow maintained some effort of like–I don’t know, it doesn’t sound as exploitative the way that you talk about it, and I’m kind of impressed. I’m not gonna lie. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, I’m a bit taken aback, because so many times so much of this work–you talked to it, you said at the top of this it’s about investment and, like, making sure that there’s capital, there’s financial support behind it, and, you know, it’s very hard. I’m gonna go one step further and say it’s not actually possible to make these changes without someone being willing to spend big money, right, for these systems to really change. I just–I’m gonna be honest with you. Give Danny a round of applause, man. I’m impressed. I mean, I’m an honest guy. That’s dope. Go ahead. I’m cutting you off.

Danny
No, no. I think, you know, some of it is investment, but a lot of it is also about peers and colleagues, because even with the team that I have–so my team is a little bit larger than most, we’re a 2,000, 2,500 person company, and I have a team of me plus six, which is more than [enough?]. It’s a pretty significant team in comparison to at least a lot of my colleagues and other organizations. And even with that, though, I can tell you that the only way this works is if my partners in recruiting, in learning and organizational development, in our group that–actually our human resource business partners are–the different hiring managers that we work with, the group that runs the hiring process for the engineering team. If you don’t have those receptive partners, then all the goodwill doesn’t really make much of a difference. And then I also have a manager who is pretty passionate about this, because I took over from somebody before me. She actually ran diversity, equity and inclusion for about a four or five month period and got a much more in-depth education about it than she had ever had before. So she’s somebody who is very supportive of pushing things. So that’s the other part of this. Money and investment are great, but you also have to have some partners who are willing to go along with you for the ride and who actually proactively reach out to you. The other thing that I do, I think, [is] is I at least try to understand what they’re up against, because that’s the other thing about the performative aspects that we have to think about as leaders. It’s great if a company comes up with a five year goal and the executives decide that, but who does that roll down to? That rolls down to recruiting, because then everybody’s telling recruiting, “I need you to get me these candidates.” So enrolling these partners early on is really important, because sticking them with a goal that they weren’t a part of developing is problematic and not setting oneself up for success. So my point is that I think the investment is important, but also having kind of that support from your colleagues and partners is essential. And that was something that I couldn’t measure until I got here, but it’s been refreshing and a lot of fun.

Zach
Now, look, before we get up out of here, though, what are you excited about at Dropbox over the next year? And straight up? Danny, tell me, why should Black and brown folks want to work there?

Danny
So thanks for that question, Zach. And I hope you’ll want to come to Dropbox. One of the things that’s really exciting is that I think it’s a place where people can really be successful. It’s really the extent, the way in which we support the whole person is really unique, not only in terms of what you can achieve in the work that you do, but also other aspects of your life, and that’s become more important for us as we become a virtual first company. So what that means is that probably about 80% of the work will be done out of the home and only about 20% in our collaboration spaces that we have. What that also does, though, is offers a unique opportunity, because I talked about that 60% number of people that are Black and brown that are across the south. Well, we want you to come and work with us because now our roles are nationwide. We are not hiring just in New York or San Francisco or Seattle. Hey, we’re hiring all over the place. And so I think you’ll be very hard-pressed to find a company that, whether you’re in Houston, like us or in other parts of the South, whether it’s Houston, whether that’s New Orleans, where my dad is from, whether that’s Atlanta, whether that’s Chattanooga, whether it’s Raleigh, Durham, those are all places where now you can come and work for Dropbox and have a really unique tech experience without leaving your home, without leaving your community, and so that’s something that we really want to grow and one of the reasons why we actually decided to go virtual first was that. So I think it’s a great place, it’s a really unique kind of environment, and if any of your folks are interested, hit me up directly on LinkedIn. Okay, I don’t know how many 1000s of people I just opened myself up to…

Zach
Be careful, but what I’m gonna do tonight is I’m gonna take your LinkedIn, some information on Dropbox, and I’ll put that all in the show notes and make sure everybody–listen, y’all hear me right here. This is not an ad, and it’s not, like, you know, an endorsement either, but it is some love, because I really appreciate Danny for stopping by. I appreciate Alyssa, who’s been there this whole time making sure I don’t get Dropbox in trouble, and yo, thank you so much, Danny. I’m tempted to ask you, like, five more questions, but what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna just count you a friend of the show and then hope that we can do this again.

Danny
Hey, let’s do a part two, you know? Always leave them wanting more, right? That’s what they say, right? So let’s do a part two sometime down the line.

Zach
I’m here for it. We’ll talk soon. I appreciate you.

Danny
Okay. Thank you, Zach.

Zach
Peace.

Zach
Living Corporate is brought to you by The Leadership Range, a podcast within the Living Corporate network. Hosted by globally-certified and Fortune 500 executive coach and leadership development expert Neil Edwards, The Leadership Range is focused on having real, raw, soulful and accountable conversations about inclusive leadership, allyship, professional development. Every week is a new episode with new learning and new actions to take on to grow inclusively. Make sure you check out The Leadership Range everywhere you listen to podcasts.

Zach
And we’re back. Yo, again, shout-out to Danny. Shout-out to Dropbox. You know, it’s interesting how you think about these organizations–for me I know that Dropbox is a tech company, duh, but I don’t know if I think about Dropbox beyond the fact that it’s just a place where you hold your content, right? Like, that’s what I think about Dropbox. I don’t think about, like, this huge community of people making all these things work. I just don’t. I never did, and so I want to shout out Danny. I really appreciated him sharing his journey and the things that Dropbox is doing that, you know, are creating impact and what he’s excited about, right? Like, I think, like, that’s important. When you talk to these people in these positions it’s like, “Okay, what are you looking forward to,” right, it’s easy to kind of get in these, like, very–I don’t know, just monotonous conversations about the same D&I buzzwords, but it’s like, “What are we actually doing in this space? What impact are you creating? What are you driving,” right? And also “What are you looking forward to?” Like, I’m just thankful that we were able to have that conversation, and listen, make sure you go ahead and give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. If you give us four, I’ma think you’re a hater for that, and to be honest with you, like, I’m looking at you like, “Why you hating?” Five stars and a review. Come on, you know what to do. And then go ahead and use the little Share button to flip it to your friends. Tweeting it is great. Like, to be clear, social media is dope. Sharing it with, like, your actual text message group–everybody that I’m talking to right now has a text message group where you actually be texting in there. Take this little podcast and share it in there, right? Share it in there. You’ll love yourself for it afterwards. You’ll feel so much better. I promise. Anyway, until next time, y’all. This has been Zach. Peace.

 

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