Continuing our leadership spotlight with LiveRamp, Zach sits down with Sam Cook, Ariana McMillan & Brittany Mitchell to have a conversation that highlights the perspectives of Black and Brown women at work, particularly how they are impacted by company culture and changes, how they show support and want to be supported, and what they most enjoy in a company. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Sam, Ariana, & Brittany and to learn more about LiveRamp!
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Zach : Brittany, Sam, Ariana, what’s going on y’all?
Ariana : Not much. How are you doing?
Zach : I’m doing well. Lemme tell you something, you know, we typically do one-on-ones on Living Corporate, but then, you know, from time to time, we’ll do a panel. I’m excited that we have a bit of a different format today. I’m so–what’s the word? I don’t wanna say excited again, but I’m really looking forward to this conversation. LiveRamp. Black women in tech, Black women at LiveRamp. I recognize I’m a man. So my intention is to talk the least amount, right?
Ariana : Amen.
Sam : And listen. Right?
Zach : And listen and be quiet. Absolutely. Right. I appreciate that. I’ve been married for like eight years. I’m finally starting to learn how to, you know what I’m saying, not talk so much, you know, and just be kinda quiet. And I got a little girl, and she’s talking. Yeah, she’s talking quite a bit. She’s 17 months old. Her name is Emery. She’s talking all the time. Anyway, let’s do this round table. I’m not gonna pick on nobody. Let’s talk about your journeys in tech and how each of y’all got into LiveRamp.
Sam : Well, I’ll start. So, I’d never been in the tech world. I mean, I’ve always been in corporate, but it’s been more or less staffing. So this job just kind of landed in my lap. And when it landed in my lap, I had no idea what LiveRamp was until I start interviewing and hearing all the tech words. And I was just like, oh crap. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do this. I don’t know anything about tech, you know? But working in HR, you really just pick up the concept. It’s all about people. I mean, no matter what world it’s in, it’s just more or less about people. And so, I’m still learning about the tech words and things like that, but that’s just kind of how it landed in my lap.
Ariana : I will go next. So I always like to start out by saying I actually studied at music conservatory for college. I was [inaudible] First Class.
Zach : What did you play? Or what did you study?
Ariana : Classical guitar.
Zach : Okay. I play classical tuba.
Ariana : Nice. Very nice.
Brittany : That is very cool.
Ariana : And, for that reason, when I tell people that, they’re like, okay, how the heck did you end up here? So I didn’t wanna be part of the typical performer struggle. So I made sure that I had a double major in business. And so, my first role was actually an ad operations at Spotify. So that was my first job. And that is how I started in the ad tech world, in the tech space. And that led me to other opportunities. And that’s why I ended up at LiveRamp.
Brittany : Nice.
Sam : Nice.
Brittany : I’ll go last. It’s only three of us. So my path was marketing and international business. So I did undergrad at University of Tennessee. And then I got my graduate degree at University of South Carolina. My path was always gonna be like marketing, like manager, director, CMO. I was like marketing, marketing, marketing. I never really thought about tech. I was more into, like, beauty. But then, when I was working at, prior to LiveRamp, I was at State Farm headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, working as a marketing manager, I led our performance marketing team. So I ran a $250 million ad budget. I worked with all the partners in industry, and so, I had to learn those tech terms pretty quickly. Always wanted to live in New York. That was like my dream. So I’m meeting with my LiveRamp rep, Julia Scribner, and she said, Hey, do you wanna be poached? I said, yes. And so she’s like, we only have sales roles. I was like, whatever, I love LiveRamp. I love New York. Then I was like, I already know everything about LiveRamp. And then I got here and I was like, I know nothing about LiveRamp and I know nothing about tech. But now, I mean, like it’s a great environment, a great culture. So, in it now. And so I think I’m good.
Zach : That’s so cool. You know, as I hear each of y’all talk about your stories, none of them are traditional, or the ways that, I don’t know, like popular media seems to kind of like describe, getting into tech. It sounds as if each of y’all were really engaged in your purpose, whatever that was at the time. And then things happened to just work together, you know, to get here. You know, I’m curious as you’re pivoting and as you’ve pivoted into LiveRamp, and then of course, you know, y’all been Black your whole lives.
Ariana : That’s right.
Zach : True story.
Brittany : True story.
Brittany : Facts, right? Yeah. Yeah.
Zach : So like we’re in this season where like publicly supporting Black women seems to be en vogue, right? So you have, you know, Black women on front covers of magazines. You have different types of VC grants. Not enough of them to be clear. It’s only like, I think like 0.2 or 3% of all VC investments are [to] Black women. But anyway, the point is, there’s more things happening in the public sphere around supporting Black women. I’m curious, for y’all, what is the difference between real and performative support for Black women at work?
Ariana : Yeah. So I guess I’ll start. In my experience, it’s really what your actions say. And I think in the tech space, I will say this as a blanket statement, but I think it’s just very easy to say and then not do and hide in the shadows again. And performative activism to me looks like making sure that you join an employee resource group, making sure you’re going to TED Talks and chats about racism and or diversity and inclusion in the workplace. And then, in your own life and in your own influence, not using your power, if you have it, to amplify the voices of women of color. And because, it is quite rare to find Black women in the tech space. We mostly have white leaders. And it’s interesting being a manager now and working alongside these women as peers who in my past life, in my roles–[laughing] my past life, in my past roles… I’m not dead. [inaudible] In my past roles have actually made it a point to kind of keep me from progressing and growing. My growth and my talent was usually seen as a threat. And I think I have at LiveRamp found people who use their power and influence to make sure that they’re leaving space and growth paths for women of color. And making sure that they have the same resources allocated to them that I think we’re really not used to seeing.
Brittany : Yeah, I would say that’s a good point. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about it and to do an Instagram post about it. It’s another thing to be about it. So like, from where I sit on the sales side, I mean, I’m all about performance, all about numbers, all about, I mean having fun. But, I wanna do everything in my power for my performance to stand alone. But if I have to raise my hand, I don’t wanna raise my hand and say, something’s not right. But if I do raise my hand, I’m doing it because something has been going on a long time that it’s getting in the way of my performance. And for me, what real support from leadership looks like is saying, you know, we hope that’s not what’s happening, but your concern could be valid.
Brittany : And let’s talk about it. What’s happening? Why are you being treated this way? Who was it? Let’s explore it. I don’t wanna throw out, I don’t wanna throw anyone under the bus. I don’t wanna call HR. I don’t wanna–I don’t wanna raise my hand and say I’m different, but I think real support is more than just “Black women are cool. Let’s support them.” It’s also like “Something might not be right. And if it’s not right, how do we fix it? How do we hear it? How do we make sure everyone’s treated equally?”
Ariana : And, kind of going off of that point–that’s a great point that you made–another key difference is, you know, microaggressions. And so Brittany, to your point about not wanting to be the one to raise your hand, it’s like we’re put in positions where we have to do that. And then when we do that, it’s just like, “Okay, well, you’re the angry Black woman who’s being aggressive,” A.K.A. advocating for herself, and it’s like, well, if you’re about it though, then one, you wouldn’t see that as a stereotype that everyone else doe and you would see that as just that, self-advocacy and trying to get your performance noticed just like everybody else. And it’s like, I was put in a position where you weren’t just naturally gonna call on me in the sea of my white counterparts. I have to make sure that I’m here and that I’m noticed. And don’t use that against me either.
Sam : Yeah. Right. Yeah. And I agree too. I think being in corporate America, almost 20 years, I’ve been labeled as feisty, sassy, aggressive, and I had to learn like, okay, that’s overshadowing my talent and skills because my white counterpart didn’t see, they didn’t hear anything I said, because they focused on my delivery. And so I had to become unapologetic and say, okay, I’m not gonna change who I am. I mean, as long as I’m professional, I’m not gonna change who I am. I mean, I’m no different than these white men over here, who [are] yelling and cussing at his peer.
Zach : Talk about it.
Sam : I’m no different. I’m no different, I’m just a different color than you. And so, I’ve became unapologetic, and I’ve had experiences where [inaudible] say, you know, “You’re just coming off aggressive,”
Sam : [And] I say, “Okay, but did you hear what I said?” So I’m not gonna apologize for it. And I think too, is that, I don’t expect our white peers to be able to know, but I always say, just seek to understand, instead of making assumptions. And that, to me, says volumes when you’re really seeking to try to understand Black and brown people. And to do what you can to help us in the workplace versus making assumptions and letting our aggressiveness overshadow our talent and skills. So that’s that for me.
Brittany : I was gonna say, I agree. We don’t have the luxury of unawareness. Just know, like from a Black woman’s perspective, everything we do, we’re thinking about it. How’s it gonna come off? Did I—like, I probably don’t have the luxury of being late like you do. Everything is like, I’m just thinking about it two or three times, just to make sure am I doing the best that I can do, how I’m doing it, and following the rules and all that stuff. And not everyone has to think about that all the time. So I just want that to be a way of people to know that.
Ariana : Yeah. And going off of that, I think in the tech space, we easily fall into the kind of colorblind mentality where it’s just like–working at tech companies for me and Spotify being my first role, like, I kind of felt like it was first day at orientation at college. Like that is very much like kind of how the culture comes across. And because of that, it’s just like, oh, like, you know, we’re all here for the same purpose, we care about the culture, we accept you for who you are. But I think it’s dangerous because then it kind of removes accountability for making sure that there are healthy and inclusive structures in place. And I think you guys both made good points about white counterparts just being insecure and acknowledging that there is a difference. There just is. And I think unfortunately we tend to stick out like sore thumbs, and I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but I think the first step is to acknowledge that there is a difference. It’s not okay, but it is okay to do the necessary education and realize your privilege and realize like what you can do with it.
Brittany : Exactly.
Ariana : And it can be used for good.
Brittany : Yeah. It can. Yeah.
Zach : You know, it’s interesting, and I’ve been saying this as kind of like a joke, but it seems like white folks got a conscience around Black humanity ever since they saw George Floyd being murdered on camera. But we’ve been like, it’s not a new thing. So what is it about–but anyway, so folks would reach out to me and they would say like, well, what about a mentorship program? Or like, we can like coach you for this. And finally, I was on some podcast, and it was a white woman’s podcast, who was great, Laurie Ruettimann, but anyway, I told her, I said, the thing about it is with white people, Laurie, you included, need to understand is that Black folks don’t actually need your advice or your guidance. We just need your things. Like, you know what I’m saying? We just need the stuff.
Zach : There’s a proven historical, quantitatively measurable, like, huge chunk of time that we can point at and show that Black folks have continued to do, particularly Black women, do way more with just a little bit of something. So what would it look like if we actually had an equitable amount of resources to execute? So we don’t really need you to tell us. We already know what you’re trying to coach us on. We been known that. Like, we don’t actually need you to tell us that. Like, to the whole point I heard a lot about just–and even in what y’all was just saying is like, hyper-awareness. Black women don’t just do things to do ‘em. There’s like three or four different, five, six calculations that go into even the email that you write. Let alone like, like, you know what you wear. And like, don’t get me started on your hair. Like everything, how you can present yourself.
Ariana : Oh yeah that’s a different story.
Zach : So much thought that happens. Right. There’s so much that happens. And so we don’t really need you to tell us what to do. Give us your resources.
Ariana : We don’t need more mentorship programs.
Sam : No.
Ariana : And I think at a lot of these institutions that they’re used as almost like figureheads or placeholders to say that we have a diversity program. But then it’s like, okay, so there’s a job open–
Sam : It’s a checkbox.
Ariana : Right. It’s a checkbox, there’s a job opening. I have the qualifications. I have the receipts. Put me in the job. Don’t tell me we have a development program that will kind of, you know, groom you to be ready for this position. It’s just like, you know I’m ready now.
Sam : What are you grooming me for? To not be so Black? Like, what is it?
Ariana : Zach, to your point, this is not new to us. We did not start thinking about this stuff just because we entered a corporate space. To some extent, I think we’ve all been brought up with it. And I know personally, my parents have always, you know, reminded me that I have to work twice as hard to have half of what my white counterparts have. And that, that journey is exhausting.
Sam : It is.
Ariana : But it’s one that I think you internalize very early on. And you in a way become empowered by it, but it’s still okay to admit that that is tiresome.
Zach : Yes.
Ariana : And you reach a point where you’ve had enough.
Sam : Exactly. Yeah.
Zach : I’ve had some conversations and I’ve told some folks flat out. I said, you know, when we talk about diversity and inclusion programs or we talk about, like, increasing representation, or we talk about increasing pipeline, and the first thing you default to is like a coaching program or mentorship program, I said, you know, that’s racist, right? That’s racist because the implication is, “Oh, these Black folks not really that smart. We gotta get ‘em up to speed and then they’ll be worthy of placement in the manager program, or placement in the executive level, or placement in the C-suite,” or whatever the case is, when the reality is, again, like, I don’t know. I continue to marvel at what we choose to read and not read about us, in our own history. Like we’ve been performing. What we don’t have is opportunity. Now, you said something, Sam, I’m not gonna skate away from this. You said you trying to change to be less white. And I have said that. Now this is a LiveRamp sponsored podcast. So I’m not gonna use the term, but I will, after we get off this recording, I’m gonna tell y’all the term I’ll be using for that. ‘Cause they do try to de-Blackify us sometimes. I think.
Sam : They do. They do. It’s like this coaching and development program, it’s like, I’m trying to train you to be less Black and more like me, because in their eyes they’re good. They made it. They’re good. They’re polished. We need the polishing and the grooming in their eyes. And that’s why I’m just like, no, have the same qualifications, I don’t need your grooming, or you’re polishing up. So yeah.
Brittany : That’s why I always push hard for okay. Like in my last job at State Farm, what are the boxes? I’ve walked in saying, I wanna be a manager, but I’m an analyst right now. What are the boxes I need to check? I had to go take these tests. I had to do all this stuff. I’m like, give me boxes, I check boxes. None of this is subjective. And then, and they did that and I checked the boxes and you know, there was some extra items. And then, you know, then it all worked out, long story short. But when you make it more objective, and you make it the same for everyone, and you make the rules clear, and you publish the rules, then I feel good. Then I feel good. I don’t feel like it’s a race thing. I feel like it’s attainable. And then I can hold you accountable to the rules you created. When it’s like, oh, you know, he’s just been here forever. He’s just great. Don’t you? I think he’s great. You think he’s great? He just managed everything. Like that, I have a problem with that.
Sam : Yeah. And I think too, from an HR perspective is that, you know, I hear leaders say, well, they’re not a good culture fit, or their personality, their personality don’t go. And I’m like, what does that mean? What qualifications do they have? Have they met the qualifications? You said, have they checked all the boxes? I mean, I don’t know what personality or culture fit means. What does that mean? In your world, that’s a different story than in my eyes. So I’m gonna stay away from that. And we’re not gonna even; we’re gonna disregard that, and let’s focus on their skills and their talents.
Ariana : Yes. The whole idea of culture fit has just been so dangerous. And it really just means, do I wanna be best friends with this person outside of work?
Sam : Exactly. Do I wanna go to happy hour with you?
Ariana : And I’m just like, that’s really what it is. And people, I’ve worked with hiring managers who have said that. And you know, round table discussions, after interviewing a candidate, it’s like, well, they seem like really dope. I think we could easily hang out with them. And I’m just like, why are we hanging out with them? Can they do the job?
Sam : Can we just focus on the work, if we have the eight to five apart?
Ariana : Right. Like, can they do the job? What does their resume say? I notice that this person doesn’t have the proper qualifications to be successful in this role. I’m sorry that they happen to be white. But, and I’ve been in situations where I’m like, well, we have this woman or this man and, you know, I see initiative in this resume. I see a drive. I see willingness to learn might not have the degree that you wanted from the place that you wanted. But I know this person can come in the door and kill it. This person happens to be a person of color, what are we really talking about now?
Sam : Exactly.
Ariana : What’s the culture fit? ‘Cause I was like, I see diversity of perspective, thought, and race and ethnicity. How is this not adding to a team that you say you want to build? Ask yourself the real questions.
Sam : The difference is what builds the team. Everyone brings a different skill set. That’s what builds it. And that’s what makes a team thrive.
Zach : It’s so interesting. Right. Even in this whole, to your statement earlier Ariana around diversity of thought, diversity of skillset, diversity of education. And how white folks create extra lenses, and language, and arguments, to really like dismiss Black and brown experience, or dismiss Black and brown representation. ‘Cause, like, truth of the matter is we know that a black or a brown person is going to have diverse thought, perspective, and experience juxtaposed to their white counterpart. Like we don’t even have to like go down these like intellectual rabbit holes like, we know that. To that end, I’m actually curious, I’ma speak as a man, a Black man, but, and a man. Not, but a man, and a man. I engage in corporate spaces and I sometimes I feel like generationally there’s challenge. There’s challenge sometimes when I try to reach out to like Gen X, or Baby Boomer Black folks to help me and like kind of reach back, I feel like there’s a certain, sometimes a divide. And I’m curious, you know, what experience or do y’all have in receiving support or reaching back to kind of like lift as you climb, for other Black women at work?
Brittany : It’s a great question. I would say in my roles, anyone who wants to reach out to me, who’s new, I’m always open to mentorship. Usually, as much as I can, when there’s a new person, I reach out say, Hey, welcome to LiveRamp or whatever company I’ve been at. The opposite way. I probably haven’t done that much outreach at LiveRamp itself, but definitely at State Farm, I reached out to leaders of color just to understand their journey, especially women. Everyone was very open. I don’t know, I think a lot of people are open to have a chat, and to meet, and to give advice. But I don’t know if people are in a room saying, have you met her, have you talked to her? We have this thing coming up, her name. I don’t know if they’re advocating, they’re friendly and they’re open, but I can’t tell if they’re a sponsor. I don’t know about you guys.
Ariana : And similar to that point, what I’ve experienced is that, you know, if I do find Black people at a company who are in higher positions, who like seemingly do have the influence, and the power to mentor you and help lift you up. I quickly realized that they’re still climbing themselves. And I think I have to be really real for a second, and just say like, it’s unfortunate that regardless of the hierarchy and the level that you’re coming in at, it’s still a fight with each other. Like, there’s still definitely direct competition with Black women in particular to fill these roles because it’s not easy for anyone. And I think, you know, if we had real pipelines to develop people from entry level straight outta college, to upper management, then you are more willing to make time and space to bring up people underneath you.
Ariana : And I think unfortunately like we’re just still at a time where the numbers just aren’t there. And I think, something that I’ve tried to be very aware of just as a hiring manager is being very transparent about this in the interview process as well. ’cause I think I have a few Black people on my team, which I’m very proud of. And something that they’ve asked me, especially if they interview onsite is just like, what’s LiveRamp’s plans for diversifying the pipeline? I’m not really seeing a lot of people like me and it’s just like, look, I’m very happy that I was given the opportunity to become a manager and I don’t take that lightly. And this is what I’m personally doing to make sure that I have room left for y’all. But I get that it’s a privilege even as a Black woman in a tech space at LiveRamp, to be able to have that time and resources to kind of develop my own program within my own purview. And I just don’t think a lot of people have gotten that opportunity.
Brittany : That’s crazy that it feels like there are limited spots. I mean, the way you talk about it, it’s like the NFL and there are only so many spots, and it’s like, what? There are plenty of management positions, and frankly, companies reorganize. Like managers like every month they reorganize is like organized into some more positions.
Ariana : And why is it that each team is only comfortable having like one or a couple Black people? You know’sjust like, you start out with a few Black people, but not that there’s a bunch because y’all are gonna be in the cafeteria, laughing and tackling together at the water cooler. I’ve literally been told before that there’s a group of people who sit in the cafeteria (Black people) and you guys are laughing, and having a great time.
Sam : Being too loud.
Brittany : And it’s making people–
Sam : Uncomfortable.
Ariana : Yes. And it’s making people uncomfortable. I said, first of all, this was a boss that I used to have. I said, please name the people. I want her to name each one so I can say we’re all Black and what are we doing? Eating lunch like everybody else.
Zach : Living.
Ariana : That’s what I’m saying. Living. Yeah. Living. And because of experiences like that, Brittany, similar to what you were saying before. It’s sad because we end up competing against each other. And then it’s like, you know, I don’t wanna be in a space where I’m scared to like associate with other Black people because of like the implications that my white counterparts are projecting onto us.
Sam : Yeah. And I can relate and again, I’m HR, so I’m kind of different because I have to stay in the middle. I have to be unbiased. I have to be objective. And so, if I reach out to too many Black people or make myself too accessible to too many Black people, then my white counterparts are gonna feel like, okay, she’s showing favoritism or she’s sticking to her kind or whatever. And so, I have to really stay in the middle, but you know, I feel like in my career I I’ve treated everybody right. I haven’t discriminated. I’ve done right by anyone. And if I, you know, connect with a Black person, I just hope that they share and say, Hey, Sam is a good confidant for you to talk to, or what have you. And they kind of meet me in the middle with that, but it’s kind of hard because sometimes I do wanna just come over here to the Black side, but I have to stay in the middle. So I won’t be perceived as showing favorism.. So it’s a different situation for me.
Ariana : I gotta tell you on Sam’s behalf, ’cause Sam and I work closely together. And you know, HR stuff is hard. So it’s not always for the best situations, the best reasons, but it is so nice to have a Black woman in this role.
Sam : Yes.
Ariana : Where we could just keep it real. Especially when we have to talk about things that are not easy to discuss.
Sam : Yes.
Ariana : And she gets where I’m coming from. She understands my thought process. She understands what I’m up against, and it’s just really helpful. And she does it while being unbiased. So kudos to you.
Sam : Thank you. You know, that’s a good thing about it is that when I do connect with a Black person, I definitely can relate and understand the situation. And have the conversations with you that I may not be able to have with the white counterparts. So definitely. So thank you.
Zach : Shout out to all the Black HR folks who are kin folk, and not just skin folk. You know what I’m talking about because sometimes..
Ariana : Yeah. Oh yeah.
Brittany : But to your point Ariana, sometimes you feel like, and I never really consciously thought of it like that. But sometimes you feel like you be pigeonholed if you try to connect with Black people. Or sometimes you feel, and I do feel sometimes Black people feel like they have to put up a front. In that I’m gonna be less friendly to you so I can feel, fit in elsewhere, which is so ridiculous to even say it like that. But, I think we feel a lot of pressure that we’re being watched all the time. And so, people react to that in different ways. When really we should just be going to work and doing our jobs, but it’s like, we can’t. [inaudible].
Ariana : Right. And you know, I think all three of us on this call are, are members of Black Out [inaudible], which is an ERG that we just started a year ago. And it definitely in some heads when people joined, ’cause then it was just like, I thought you were just happy to like be here and like have a job. Like, why are you, why do you need this sense of agency? Like, are you not happy with what you’re getting? And it’s just like, why can’t people just say like, this might not be something that I understand, but I support. Why are you threatened by my need to have community? Oh, it’s because you’re used to being in the majority. Yeah. Okay.
Ariana : That’s it.
Brittany : Yeah. I was really debating whether to say this, but feels like very safe space. But you know, I’m part of Private Library. I’m part of all the things. And I understand like from an ERG perspective, anyone should be able to join any ERG, the openness, I’m all about it. But I’m also like also very busy. So I go to stuff, I don’t go to stuff, I should go to more stuff. But, last week I went to the Black Mental Wellness monthly session for the first time. And honestly, I went because in the email or the Slack message, there was a note that said, this is, if you identify as Black and something about that made me relax and not like I don’t know. It was just, I just didn’t wanna be in another group or like sometimes I feel like when you don’t identify as the group and you’re in the group thing, you’re like there to watch us [inaudible] to me.
Sam : You have to. Yeah. You kind gotta, still be guarded in what you say because you don’t want to–
Brittany : Which defeats the purpose.
Sam : Yeah, exactly.
Ariana : Well, it’s tough. And just speaking as like one of the co-presidents like, I’m gonna keep it real. Like we had to do that because you know, I also led the ERG at Spotify and since Black people are the fewest in number, in order to get the same resources as the other ERGs, there’s power in numbers. And so, most of your group is going to be allies.
Brittany : Yeah. Yeah.
Ariana : What is difficult when you think about like what the purpose of the ERG is, and that is to create a safe space of community for people who identify as Black. And so with those mental health calls, we were just like, how can we talk about mental health explicitly and openly, if we are amongst people who cannot relate to our experience?
Brittany : Yeah. And what was interesting. It wasn’t even that I had something like dramatic to say. It was just like–
Ariana : No.
Brittany : I’m just gonna be here and hang out. We talk about Simone Biles, talk about a lot of stuff. And, but I don’t have to be on. Like, I don’t have to like, think, how am I gonna say this? I need to say a certain word. I mean, it’s just like, oh, okay. We just hang out and be relaxed.
Ariana : I need some Simone Biles. Yeah. Can we talk about like how much Simone Biles’ experience just projects into like our everyday lives at work?
Sam : Exactly.
Ariana : Because, let me tell you, the reaction that white people had to her was just like, well, what’s the matter with you?
Sam : You need to suck it up.
Ariana : Like, perform for us.
Sam : Yeah. You knew this before you got into this. And I’m just like, really?
Ariana : What do you mean you have mental health issues? What does that mean? Explain it to us. Pick it apart. And it’s just like, oh, okay, well this feels quite real. Why don’t Black women take more sick days for the same reasons?
Sam : Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Zach : Hm.
Brittany : Deep, some deep stuff.
Sam : We gotta hang out more often. I’m like, I need to hang out with you guys.
Zach : What’s going on? We can make this into a reoccurring series, what we need to do.
Sam : I think we do.
Zach : Put a little section. No, for real. And I’ll just sit back and go.
Brittany : Hmm. Hmm, hmm.
Zach : I ask a couple of questions and be quiet. So it’s interesting. You know, one, this has been an incredible dialogue. You know, I gave y’all’s word that I would respect y’all’s time. Side note, for those listening to this, at LiveRamp and outside LiveRamp, respect Black women’s time. You know what I mean? Like in general, just in life, you know, you schedule a meeting, you book the time, show up on time and finished the meeting on time.
Ariana : Yes.
Zach : All right. You know what I’m saying? You say you gonna do something, just do what you said. Respect the time.
Sam : Just saying.
Zach : We all have a very limited amount of it. We can’t get it back. So all right, with that being said, last question for everybody here. Big question. And it’s a two-part question. All right. So first of all, what are you most proud of at LiveRamp right now? And then what would you say stands to need the most change at LiveRamp?
Brittany : I’ll kick it off. So most proud of, I’m gonna do a two part, most proud of. Most proud of LiveRamp as a company. I really do believe in our position, in the tech ecosystem, and what we’re doing. And I’ve worked with a lot of different tech partners in my roles, client side, and otherwise. And I just feel like we’re ahead of the game, the way we’re thinking about it, that way we’re bringing companies together. I’m very impressed and proud to be a part of that. And then the other proud is personally, at LiveRamp, for me to go into a sales role at such a dynamic company and to see success, I’m really proud of myself to be able to do that. And for LiveRamp taking a chance on someone who has never been in a sales role before. So love that. As far as what could be improved, I think it’s like Ariana, seeing more people like me in management it’s cool that we’re being more accountable and we have these calls where we talk about the report. But let me tell you, the first time I saw that diversity report, and they went through the different ethnicities and Black was this little bitty blue line. It was just this tiny little line.
Ariana : A smidgen.
Sam : Yes. One hundred per cent.
Brittany : I was like, I think I’m the only person like who. And then I started going through Workday. I’m like who’s this Black girl? Like, I don’t even know. And so, it’s good we’re aware. It’s good that we’re are working on it, but I wanna see people who look like me in roles and speaking at Ramped Up, being in leadership roles, having influence, on the Zooms, on the all hands. Like I just wanna see, I’m gonna feel more open to be open, when I see more people who look like me.
Ariana : I can go next. Brittany, I definitely agree. I’m proud of LiveRamp’s product. I think I’m proud that we are, you know, still the leaders in our product and in the industry. And I am happy to work alongside people who are motivated by that and seek to keep it going. It’s just one, it’s great job security. But two, I think it just creates a very energetic and positive work environment. I’m also proud of, I think just the trust that I think has been put in me as an employee of the company. With me being a Black woman with my past career choices. You know, I became a manager six months into this job, coming in as an IC, in a department that was brand new and I got to build a team from scratch.
Ariana : And I am happy that I work alongside people who recognize my accomplishments, acknowledge my strengths, support and develop my weaknesses. And are just not threatened at the fact that I have clout at this company, and that I’m listened to and that I am heard. Yeah. I think in terms of improvement, I think we’ve come a long way in terms of acknowledging that diversity, Brittany, to your point is something that we need to work on. Because I think as of last year I was one of three Black people managers in the whole company.
Brittany : See, I don’t even know, you know?
Ariana : Yeah. Which was an appalling number. And I think we only had like 15 to 20 Black people out of like 1500 and I was like, there’s work to be done. And basically, I said this on a panel with the CEO present and I was just like, you know, I hope I don’t get fired after saying this. But I was just like, we have to acknowledge it’s uncomfortable, but we have to acknowledge that a lot of hiring managers at this company are choosing to hire people that they’re comfortable with, who look like them. Who let’s be real, do not always have the qualifications needed for the job. And you know that because you have to work with some of these people.
Sam : I know that too. Actually, first hand. [inaudible].
Ariana : And I think, you know, it’s an uncomfortable space for us to be in, but we have the resources to correct those numbers and reflect what the world looks like today. And I would also like to see LiveRamp show more comfort in speaking out against racism in America. If you were gonna have a higher number of people of color at this company, you’d need to acknowledge what we go through when we, well virtually sign off from work these days. But when we’re back in the office, when we leave this office. You know, last summer was very telling in terms of what people were comfortable with and what they weren’t. When the whole George Floyd thing was happening, I wasn’t out there protesting, ’cause COVID was very real. I couldn’t necessarily show up and talk about, you know, identity [inaudible] Brittany, and the [inaudible]. I’m just like out here trying not to get killed, you know?
Brittany : Right. I‘m sorry to jump in, but just so you said, I couldn’t believe I had people ask me, are you gonna go protest? I wanna be like, you’ve heard of COVID right? Like I am Black, but I also wanna be alive. I was like, I can’t even. We had calls. Managers had calls with everyone to make sure people are okay. I get that. But I was like, but okay, well, I’m gonna be the only Black person in this call? Are they gonna ask me questions? I don’t want that to happen. And no one did, thank goodness. But then it’s also like the expectation. I’m like, I’ve gotta be Black. I gotta do my job, and I gotta not get sick. So anyway, you can drive, it’s not a [inaudible].
Ariana : No, no. And to your point, like, just because we’re not out protesting doesn’t mean that we’re not angry, and it doesn’t mean that we’re not affected. And you’re asking me if I’m okay, but then you’re still asking me if I can squeeze in like three meetings today that weren’t previously scheduled before. So like it’s my time and my mental health really being valued here. And also, I was like, I see other tech companies releasing emails, tweets, statements about supporting the Black community, whether that’s performative or not. I was like, I haven’t heard anything from y’all. And I know I’m not the only person who has said this, and I think we still have a lot of work to do in terms of addressing our discomfort with taking a stand with certain things. And I think once that starts to happen a bit more, I will only feel more confident in, you know, LiveRamp as an organization.
Sam : So for me, there’s two things. So I think one of the things I’m proud of is that I have an awesome manager, Melissa Glover. She’s a white lady. And what I love about her is that she admits, she’s like Sam, I don’t understand what you’re going through, but we could talk about it, help me understand. And she’s definitely open-minded. She don’t make any judgments. And she’s just very easy to talk to about situations when I’m dealing with, just as a Black woman. I’m like, look, I don’t feel comfortable with doing this and it’s because I’m a Black woman. She’s like, Hey, I don’t understand, but I’m gonna support you. And sometimes that’s all it takes, is someone to support you. And admit that, I don’t understand, I can’t relate what you’re going through, but help me understand, educate me so I can know.
Sam : I think the second thing is the diversity and inclusion program we’re working on, that’s ramping up. We still have a long way to go, but being a part of that makes me feel good because I can be impactful on the policies that we develop. Making sure that everyone is getting fairly treated across the board or what have you. The only thing I think that we need to work on, I think Brittany, maybe you said that, but I think that because there’s not a lot of Black people in the company, is bringing on more Black people, is gonna cause people to get outside of their comfort zone, and get used to that. And having to be a part to really just educate them and really teach them like, Hey, it’s okay. We’re not scary Black people, we’re are not here to hurt you. We’re just here to get our chance in the world, just like you have it. So I think that’s the thing that we really have a long ways to go. Especially getting into leadership roles is leadership not making that assumption about Black women, Black men, or what have you, but just really educating them on that we can be a good resource and you know, just as good as you are. So I think that’s one of the things that we have to, a long way to work on.
Zach : I’ll say this is, first of all, this has been a great conversation. And before we wrap up and I say my goodbyes and my thank yous to live ramp and everything. I will say it is important for organizations to not only have and make appropriate public statements because they do have employees that work there and beyond. Even if you have a all white company, these are still humanitarian issues. So we should speak to these things period, because they impact all of us as human beings. But the reality of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and misogyny, you know, kind of tribalize us in ways that are unproductive. But, I’m just saying, ideally, you would speak on these things anyway. And, Ariana, I agree that those statements should happen and they should be paired with tangible, practical, sustainable policies and procedures for that company to enact, to actually create inequity, inclusion, organizational justice.
Ariana : Absolutely.
Zach : Listen, people ask like, what does Living Corporate do? Living Corporate, we create content that centers and amplifies Black and brown folks at work. I am so proud of this panel, of this conversation. Shout out to LiveRamp. Listen y’all in charge, y’all heard what’s going on over here. I’m not gonna cut these edits out and I’m not cutting out this part either. Thank you so much to Brittany, Ariana, and Sam, and shout out to LiveRamp. This is one of a few different Leadership Spotlight Series we’re doing. Living Corporate, LiveRamp, we will catch y’all soon. Thank y’all. Y’all can all come back now? Y’all don’t have to come back as LiveRamp. Let’s come back and talk, right?
Sam : Yeah. Okay. Let’s do it.
Brittany : We’ll hold you to it.
Sam : We’d love to.
Ariana : Thank you, Zach.
Brittany : Thanks.
Zach : All right y’all. Peace.