Continuing our leadership spotlight with LiveRamp, Zach sits down with Alex Jovel, Diego Panama, & Jenell Potts to have a conversation focusing on experiences working in the tech industry as a Black or brown employee and the importance of Employee Resources Groups and their impact on workplace experience. All LiveRamp leaders, Alex is an executive assistant manager and the communications and marketing chair of the Latinx ERG, Diego is chief commercial officer and lead of the Latinx ERG, and Jenell is a data ethics specialist focusing on consumer care. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Alex, Diego & Jenell and to learn more about LiveRamp!
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Zach – Yo partnership alert, partnership alert, partnership alert. Living Corporate has a partnership with LinkedIn Learning. An American massive open online course provider, that provides video courses taught by industry experts, across a wide array of subjects. Now, the partnership is because Living Corporate has courses on LinkedIn Learning focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion for our leaders, career professionals, and anyone really looking to up-skill themselves and be better allies. So make sure you check out our courses on LinkedIn Learning by clicking the link in the show notes. And let’s just say, you don’t want to do that. And you go to LinkedIn Learning on LinkedIn, search Living Corporate we’ll be right there. All right. Peace.
– What’s up y’all, this is Zach from Living Corporate and we’re back, continuing our LiveRamp Leadership Series. Listen, I hope that as the series goes on that you notice our– no that’s good, let me not tell you what I hope you notice. You know what I’m saying? You notice what you want to notice. It’s fine. I’m gonna talk about what I’m noticing in the discussions with LiveRamp leadership is there’s an awareness and an embracing that like what they’re doing is new. They are flexible and open and receptive to, you know, coordinating and working together in new ways and really being critical and systems thinkers. You can hear that in how they, for me anyway, how they answer the question, how they talk about their journey. So I share that to say, I’m really excited about today’s episode.
– Today’s conversation, we’re going to be talking a bit about the role of employee resource groups, strategically, and how they fit, and how they have fit, and how they continue to shift and to fit for LiveRamp. Really excited about this discussion you know, really get to the nuances of identity and really the structures of ERGs and how they can play a practical role to support your career. And so, before we do that, we get to our conversation with awesome, incredible leaders at LiveRamp. we’re going to tap in with Tristan. I’ll see you in a minute.
Zach – What’s up y’all? How y’all doing?
Jenell – What’s up?
Diego – Hey Zach.
Zach – Look I’m, I’m excited that we’re able to work together, LiveRamp and Living Corporate. But then, also, be able to have this conversation. We have Diego Panama, the chief commercial officer and the ERG Latinx lead or sponsor, Alex Jovell, PNC coordinator and in the ERG Latinx group, and then Jenell Potts who is on maternity leave but stopped by, graced us with her presence, to have a really just dope conversation about the experience of LiveRamp through Black and brown employees’ lenses. And so, I know I said what’s up, but like just a pulse check for where we are in this moment. How are y’all doing? Like, how do y’all feel?
Diego – First, I’ll say right now I’m excited and I feel grateful to be able to join you, Zach. Once I had a chance to listen to some of your podcasts over the last week or so, and I’m already happy. I’m aware of your podcast, and it was enjoyable and I’m learning. So, really thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today. It’s really appreciated.
Zach – Aw, thank you.
Jenell – Yes. And I can echo that too, really excited, thrilled to be here. This is my first podcast experience, being on a podcast. I’m a podcast head. I have podcasts I listen to weekly. So this is really exciting for me and being that it’s representing people of color, and for people of color, it makes this experience that much more exciting. So thanks for having us here.
Zach – No doubt. Thanks.
Alex – Same for me as Jenell, this is my first podcast. I’m not going to lie. I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m very excited and very grateful to be here. Just, you know, sharing a little bit, my experience as a brown person at LiveRamp and just in general, you know, in corporate world. And to be able to share here with you, and with Jenell, and Diego, today is very exciting.
Zach – This is great. So I’mma do a little bit of round robin. I’m a tag. I’m gonna call up, pull up a few folks out on front street with the direct question, but please I’m really looking for all your perspectives. So Diego, let’s talk a little bit about your journey into LiveRamp and the current position that you hold. And I’m really trying to understand also like, as a part B to that is, when you think about your ERG role, and the sponsorship role, the leadership role that you play there, how does that fit into the work that you do in business strategy at LiveRamp?
Diego – Sure. Thanks Zach. So I am the chief commercial officer at LiveRamp and I’ve been in the role for about three months, but I’ve been at LiveRamp for about eight years. I joined LiveRamp when we were very early on, about 30 people, and I like to say I’ve had every sales role in the company, now culminating with the chief commercial officer role that I took on a few months ago. And, even before taking this role, we got together, a few LiveRamp persons, Alex included, and decided to found Latinx at LiveRamp as one of the first ERGs at LiveRamp. And that was a really great experience. There’s a lot more that we can talk about there. But one of the parts that was most exciting to me about taking on the broader role at LiveRamp, executive role at LiveRamp, is coming in with that perspective of being a Latino employee at LiveRamp, of being a member of an ERG group and even having a louder microphone if you will, for everything that’s going on and everything that’s top of mind.
– And you know, I’m part of our leadership team now, and I can tell you that DIB is front and center of everything that we do. And personally, I’d like to say that it’s not just that it’s good for business because yes, and you can point to all the research that shows how diversity and inclusion and different points of views is helpful, and that’s all great, but there’s a bigger reason to do this, and that’s what gets me excited. You know, like there’s a bigger reason to make sure that DIB is front and center in our strategy, in our work, and it’s about our workforce, our own employees, it’s about how we [?] our product, and our customers and our communities, and it’s all a cycle that fits in together. So it’s every decision that we make, you know, whether it’s we’re opening an office in So-and-so country and it’s like, “Okay, well, are certain employees going to be limited by operating in that country?” Like, how do we think about that? So it’s been really fun to have the lens front and center as we make business decisions and think about our strategy and just continue to make LiveRamp an awesome place to work and a great company.
Zach – You know, I’d love to hear from Jenell and Alex their experience and their journey into LiveRamp and, like, how they got here in this place today?
Jenell – Yeah. Yeah. I consider my journey somewhat unique in that I had no technical experience when I got to LiveRamp at all. I have a heavy customer service background, and then I worked for a healthcare organization, Kaiser Permanente, where I was in the HR benefits working with very complex pension plans and finances and everything guiding the physicians. And so when I got to LiveRamp last year, May of 2020, during the pandemic, decided to just take a leap of change and leap of faith, wanted something different. I was hired as a–I just changed the name of my role. So I used to be a consumer care specialist, but now I’m a data ethics specialist focusing on consumer care. And so what I do is explain to consumers their individual privacy rights and help them understand under CCPA, CPRA and GDPR, and so I use that experience of having a lot of customer service experience and able to use my experience at Kaiser for explaining difficult concepts, to be able to bring myself to the position I’m in here now. So, like I said, completely new to the tech world. But that was how I kind of navigated my way into LiveRamp.
Alex – Yeah. And for me, it’s similar to Jenell. This is also my first tech experience. Before coming to LiveRamp, I had not worked in the tech world. I actually had worked for several years outside of the U.S., so I had a little bit of different kind of background as I was working in central America as my first job experiences. Came to the U.S., struggled a little bit to find my little spot where I fit in in their business world, because I was coming into something completely different. Had a couple of different jobs, and I think that was probably my first exposure to diversity and what it means to companies. Was in a job, they offered me the position and they were like, “It’s so great that we like you, you’re also a diversity hire.” And I didn’t think much of it in the moment when they said that, but it still resonates with me like 8 years later. It meant something at that point.
– So, you know, and then I eventually took the leap and interviewed at LiveRamp, and I remember one of the first things I saw at LiveRamp when I walked into our reception–that has been remodeled since then–there were a bunch of little flags from different countries that were represented as LiveRamp’s employees. And I saw the El Salvador flag, and I was like “What? There is somebody else who identifies with the same country that I do?” And it was impressive to me, and I asked around, and I didn’t know that person was actually Diego and that later we would be working so closely together. So that’s just how things worked out. And I’ve been very lucky and fortunate to work at LiveRamp, where I’ve been able to switch out my role. I started out as an executive assistant, worked with several different teams, and now here I am on the HR team. So that’s a little bit about how I got here.
Zach – So, well, first of all, thank you for that. And something else that you touched on there around just the diversity of the Latino/Latina space, like, just globally and how diverse and just differentiated it is, culture to culture. There’s a variety of cultures. It’s really easy when you think about mass media or just like common talking points to really bundle everyone together, but the reality is that there is a variety of different experiences, a kaleidoscope of perspectives, experiences, cultures, accents, languages, cuisine, everything. It’s just very unique. I’m curious, today we’re having this conversation, I continue to reference ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). Can we talk a little bit about the impact of ERGs on your experience at LiveRamp? Like tactically, practically speaking, what does that look like for you?
Jenell – Yeah. I just love how Alex just described how it felt to walk in and feel just the culture of the company by visually seeing it. And for me, like I said earlier, since I started LiveRamp during the pandemic, ERGs mean more to me now than they’ve ever meant before, because this is where I’ve gained my sense of belonging, really, in the company. I’ve gained my sense of understanding, like, understanding our culture and being able to share those experiences, shared experiences with people that look like me. Because when I started I just–I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t see people who look like me on my Teams. Virtually. I didn’t see people who look like me on Slack. And I was literally having conversations with people like, “Do you know Black people that work here?
– Where are they? Where have they been? Where can I find them?” And so, as funny as that may be, that was really–I was concerned. And so I was connected with some people, and they introduced me to some people who look like me, some Black folks, and I just really started to treat ERGs as my virtual break room, I’d like to refer to it as a place that I can just step into and let my hair down and know that that’s the place that I connect with people that look like me. So right now the impact of ERGs is everything to me and my experience here at LiveRamp.
Alex – Yeah. You know, I didn’t start out with the idea of being part of an ERG. The idea, like, [was] never something that crossed my mind. That wasn’t me. But you know, last year was just so impactful as a year. There was just so much going on that when the whole process of forming ERGs at LiveRamp started I found myself raising my hand and I’m like, “Here, me. I want it, and I want to participate in this.” I just felt this need to connect with other team members, more so on a deeper level. Like, I did know there were a few other Latinx, [but I] had no idea there were so many of us in a way or so many Latinx allies at LiveRamp until we started this process and this journey. So it’s been very impactful for me, you know, to be able to recognize where I am in my own journey as Latinx, how I identify, how I represent myself, in different aspects of my life, being professional one of them,
– and also to appreciate where other people are. I know I’m still learning. I’m not the first person to talk about the Latinx community. I have one experience among everybody who is Latinx, and it’s also been great for me, not just in my own ERG. I felt like I’ve been able to appreciate and recognize similar and different experiences across other ERGs in our company. We’ve had cross-team collaborations where it’s been great. Like, I got to collaborate with Jenell last year. Like, I had never met Jenell. We had a really great connection on an event. We collaborated. We identified as moms. And for me, that’s been so impactful, not to just connect with my Latinx community but with other ERGs across [LiveRamp].
Diego – Yeah, I’ll echo that. And I got to know Alex and Jenell through our ERG work, and especially last year when we were all remote, I remember the first Latinx group meeting we had, like, “Wow, there’s a lot of us,” and we just kind of hung out and talked for an hour, and that was really powerful. And then the other side of it is just we can be a voice, and I noticed that we make a difference, like, because whether it’s as Black or Latinx or women or whatever the ERG is, together we’re able to create more awareness and it does have impact. Like, even though it feels like it might be a trickle and maybe slower than we all want. Like, I notice that, whether it’s to our leadership team or to our extended team, like, just creating that awareness so that all of us put in the work to make LiveRamp what we want it to be.
Zach – Now, what I love is–what I’m hearing, like, the through-line I’m hearing between all of your stories is community and connection, and it’s easy to undersell the value–I know I did, especially when I was younger in my career… not that I’m just some steely veteran, I mean. But still, when I was younger in my career, I remember just being like, “Oh, this is cool, but like, how are y’all going to impact this and change this and fix this and speak up for that?” And I’m not saying those things are not real and should not exist and happen. Anything that can create senses of belonging and connection are so invaluable, especially on those longer days [when] you have a challenging situation, work is doing what work does as it pertains to just being work. Having a group that, like, to your point earlier, Diego, around turning up your microphone, I also believe Diego that, like, you being here and you being a sponsor in this space. I believe you being here being a sponsor in this space does impact positively, dramatically, exponentially even impact the positioning of the Latinx ERG. I’m curious, let me ask the group this, what influenced each of you to either sponsor or be a part of an ERG? Because it’s not like if you’re not a part of an ERG, you don’t belong to that group or you don’t have relationships. So what was the extra push to take a more active role in ERGs?
Diego – Yeah. I’m happy to start, and you might not like the answer, Zach, because I listened to your conversation with Y’Vonne, incredible, but the reality for me is that last year was transformational. I’ve been in this country for about 20 years, and obviously I know I’m Latino, but I’ve never really identified or like carried it front and center or felt the need to, or even like, felt the need to like really push to make a difference. And it’s kind of like, up to me, it was like a little bit of a slap in the face. Like, “Hey, if this is in front of your face,” and the reality is that, for our country, our institutions, like, it’s just racism exists, and we all have to really work day-to-day to be anti-racist.
– Because we just have this–all of us have this legacy of how we’ve been brought up that we have to push to make a change, and something that’s always kind of gotten to me. I remember since I was little is that “How come some people get certain opportunities and some people don’t?” I remember growing up, I was like, “Man, if I only had been born in the United States, like, I could do this and this,” and like, “What a random thing, that I wasn’t born between these borders, and that just kind of like sets my faith or like my opportunities.” So I’ve always kind of had like this innate interest on like making sure everybody has a fair shot and the right opportunity, but everything kind of came together last year where it’s like, “Hey, like, let’s just work to make a difference and educate yourself,” and Latinx and then the ERG at LiveRamp felt like a natural place to start. So that’s a little bit of my story of where that came. I like to believe that as a country, we are going through a unique moment in time, and it’s going to be up to all of us to make sure that it actually makes a difference. But I like to believe that we are really going through a transformation here.
Jenell – Yeah. So I didn’t hear the conversation that Diego was referring to, Zach, but I can already make an assumption that I have an idea of maybe what you felt, or were feeling. And so, remember, I was hired with LiveRamp May of 2020. So this is when ish hit the fan. It all hit the fan. And we were all, people of color were just kind of like side-eyeing all the companies like, “Are you really concerned about DIB? Are you hopping on this bandwagon that seems to be riding forward?” And so I was hired right at the beginning when everything hit the fan, and everybody’s “DIB this, DIB that.” So, in one place, I’m looking for people who look like me and I desperately want to feel the sense of the longing, right,
– so I do want to start and be a part of and start an ERG for that reason. But then the other side of me is like, “Well, if they haven’t had one by now, you know, do I really want to be a part of something that’s being created during this time? Is it really coming from a genuine place?” And so I kind of sat with myself and just like, “You know what? We have to move forward. I can’t wonder why things hadn’t been established or anything like that. We have to move forward.” So personally, I made the decision like, “Okay, well, this isn’t created. Well…” I was connected with Analecia Smith and Ariana McMillan, who are two Black women at LiveRamp, and we just collectively came together to create the group. So that’s how we got in it, and we were happy to say we’ve successfully created a safe, authentic space. And so all of those concerns and worries kind of went out the window once we got together.
Alex – Yeah. I have to say the same about 2020. I don’t know if I would be as active in the Latinx ERG if 2020 wouldn’t existed. I would probably have a less participative role. But it was just such a year. It was just so impactful. Like, there’s moments when different things happen in our history and it causes you to take action, and this was one of those for me. So that’s why I decided to join the ERG, and a little bit–it’s echoing what Jenell said–was, “This is my chance to make sure it goes the way I would like it to go instead of letting somebody else set up the ERG the way they think it should be.” I wanted to have a voice of what I thought the ERG–how it should work, how it should look.
Zach – I love that. I’m hearing a personal element of ownership and a high element of identity in each of your explanations and your stories, your backgrounds. To the commentary around authentic engagement, and to the commentary around even just last year, like, can each of you share how not just the events of last year, the murder of George Floyd and the protests around the world, but (also) company response, increased pressure, a global pandemic, how have these things, do you feel, shaped the way that each of you decide to show up to work in this season, compared to 2019?
Alex – I’m just going to say it has shaped–like, I do try to be more authentic at work. It doesn’t come easy for me. It’s not a switch I turn on and I’d be like, “Okay, now I’m going to talk about all this. I’m going to be open about all this.” LiveRamp has opened a lot of opportunities for us. There’s been lots of areas for us to discuss opportunities to be open, but I mean, it doesn’t come easy to me. I know maybe for some other people it’s a lot easier. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable and be authentic. It’s my struggle. It’s something I’m working on, but I feel I’m making progress. Like, I’m able to start talking about this, and like, this affects me this way, and to think about how it affects other people and try to be and give them that safe space.
– Or sometimes just the reminder to check in on another colleague, because I think it’s so easy to get tied up in our day to day. It may not be something big, but maybe it’s something big for that person that you decide to check in on. And I think that’s what I try to remember. I don’t always do (it), but when something’s going on, like, that’s what at least I want to be able to give somebody, like, “Hey, are you okay today? How are you feeling about this? I’m here if you need me.” So that’s what I’m trying to do different from 2020. I don’t know if it’s impactful for everybody, but it’s been big for me. And to see other people check in on me, it makes a big difference to me.
Jenell – Yeah. I think Alex hit it right on the head for me just as far as being intentional about showing up as your most authentic self. And for me it’s–being hired in the middle of the pandemic. I wasn’t sure if it’s that or just me coming in as a Black person during all of this focus on DIB where I just kind of said to myself, like, “I’m not code switching. I’m not doing any of that stuff that used to be, like, a normal thing to do in the workspace. Like, I’m not doing it.” But then, also, with working from home, there’s not much you can hide about yourself anymore. You know what I mean? As your child just walked in, Zach, you know what I mean? These are the things that we, before, when women were talking about their kids so much in the workplace, there’s no hiding my kid having a tantrum and not caring that I’m on a meeting. So like being my authentic self, either part of me was kind of forced to be. And then part of me–I felt like I was very intentional about like, “I’m going to be my true, straight, female, Black,” you know, everything that I identify as is who I am and take it or leave it.
Diego – Yeah. I echo that. Again, I think that in a way, like, 2020 gave us no choice but to just show up as who we are. And in a way it’s also like I think the team and company, everybody’s just hungry for it. I think working remotely, everybody’s just so hungry for human connection that it’s like–I know Alex’s son has the best name in the world, and his name is Diego, and, like, my kids jump into calls. I block my calendar two or three times a day. Like at the very beginning of the pandemic, with no childcare, like no pools, no anything. You know what? I have to take two hour breaks in the middle of the day to just help out with the kids. So all of us just have to show up as who we are. And hopefully that’s here to stay, ‘cause I think we’re all better for it.
Zach – You know, this has been a great conversation. I really think we could go another hour, but I want to respect everyone’s calendars. I will ask this–final question is, for organizations who are–yes, in 2021–just now trying to create ERGs or who recognize that they need to really start over with their ERGs. What are some points of advice you’d give them?
Jenell – I would say–just to the question, that last point you made about starting over, the courage to just recognize and realize maybe what we had been doing wasn’t working, don’t be afraid of that. Nothing’s wrong with hitting the reset button. And then also, nothing’s wrong with jumping into uncharted waters, something that you’re not too familiar with. You don’t need to be an expert, but just acknowledging each person and everyone’s own experiences, it can just be so simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Everybody doesn’t have to know how to define all the LGBTQs and the I’s and the A’s and all of those things, but it’s just being intentional about listening and being open to new experiences.
Diego – Yeah. I would add it’s not just going to happen. You have to be deliberate about it. And the leadership teams out there, like, you have to be deliberate and you have to invest in it and invest in the resources that are required. And then put in the time. Like, leadership teams really can really impact a company’s culture, and there has to be just genuine buy-in, the authentic belief that this is important. So like, that’s kind of where, hopefully, you can just start and then invest, actually invest the time and the resources required.
Alex – Yeah. I want to use the word Jenell used. It was intentional. I think that’s so key, whether they’re starting from the beginning or they’re restarting. Just be intentional about what you’re doing. It doesn’t need to be perfect right off the bat. You know, LiveRamp has been doing this for about a year. Ours aren’t perfect yet. All of our ERGs have their moments. It takes time. But just really being intentional about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I think that’s the key to get started.
Zach – Y’all, I love it. This has been a super dope conversation. Love the conversation. I want to thank each of you. We consider you each friends of the show. Hope you can come back, whether it’s in like a formal, like, we’re doing a whole brand campaign, you know, thing, or y’all just coming by just to kick it and say what’s up. Thank you, each of you, and we will talk to y’all soon.
– And we’re back. Listen, I want to shout out the LiveRamp team. I want to shout out, really just honestly, all the coordination off-mic. Tabitha, thank you very much. Kham of course, my man. This has been really great. I’m excited about the fact that we’re having some conversations with a brand that is not afraid just to have honest dialogue about experience. And so I’m really looking forward to the next insert into this series. Keep your eyes peeled. There’s quite a few things going on, but I just want to thank Diego Panama, chief commercial officer and a member of the Latinx ERG. I want to thank Alex Jovell, P&C coordinator and also a member of the Latinx ERG at LiveRamp, and of course I want to thank Jenell Potts, consumer care advocate and former ERG Black founder and president. So look, I appreciate these discussions, I hope that brands that are listening to this series, individual leaders, that they would really pick up that to create interesting and engaging content it has to be authentic. And so, I just want to shout out LiveRamp for being frank and being willing to really happen to have authentic conversations, that may not always be the most comfortable.
– All right y’all, look, make sure to give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. This has been Zach. Check out the links in the show notes to know more about LiveRamp, and we’ll catch y’all soon. Peace.