Culture · 5 min read

DEI at Fullstory: Building a community that celebrates our differences

Lara McLeod
Posted April 25, 2022
DEI at Fullstory: Building a community that celebrates our differences

What does it mean to bring your authentic self to work? This is the question I asked myself each day, pivoting my career to pursue Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This is also the question I continue to ask myself now, as a leader in DEI striving to make a better workplace for all employees in tech.

My journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion wasn’t linear. I didn’t set out to do this work—instead, the work found me.

Early on in my career, as a UX Writer in tech, I’d consistently been asked to bring my authentic self to work—a notion I consistently scoffed at. My true self was messy, and, as a Black woman in tech, I was acutely aware that I was navigating spaces that weren’t meant for people like me.

So, I kept the parts of myself that I feared would negatively impact my career separate from my work persona, hidden under a professional mask of assimilation. Belonging didn’t seem like an option to me, so I settled for fitting in instead.

In 2015, everything changed.

Experiencing some major burn out, I was met with the social and psychological repercussions that come with code-switching. I desperately wanted to find a safe workplace where I felt I belonged, and I realized I was more passionate about building that safe space than I was about my regular day job.

So–refusing to define myself as a victim and participate in my own oppression–I shifted my career to focus on social justice and DEI, using my personal experiences as a Black woman in tech to build a better workplace where those of us from underserved communities could feel safe bringing our authentic selves to work.

Why Fullstory?

In 2020, the world had a DEI wake up call, and many tech companies scrambled to re-evaluate their work in this space and hire DEI leaders. The emphasis on DEI in the tech industry is greater now than ever before, and I–along with others who work in DEI—had a plethora of new DEI leadership opportunities to pursue.

So, why Fullstory? Ultimately, it came down to two key words: empathy and trust–two of our watchwords here at Fullstory and key ingredients in effective DEI work.

Empathy is all about caring to understand how people feel and understanding their lived experiences, especially when they’re different from our own. By tapping into empathy, we can put ourselves in our colleagues’ shoes and plan for change management that considers diverse needs, expectations, and perspectives.

An empathetic approach to DEI capacity-building also helps us to call everyone into this work—regardless of identity—by understanding where each of our colleagues are and why they are at that point in their DEI journey. It allows us to lead with curiosity, connect more genuinely, and continue moving the work forward by bringing others along.

Ultimately, grounding DEI work in empathy creates radical accountability that actively centers every employee in stepping outside of our everyday realities to see the barriers that create exclusion and inequality, become sensitized to others’ needs and sufferings, and start caring enough about DEI to invest in solutions.

Trust is all about creating an environment of psychological safety—where people believe they can speak up candidly with ideas, questions, concerns, and even mistakes. This is vital to DEI, as we’re dealing with emotionally challenging and uncertain paths to achievement when building inclusive and equitable workplaces, where people feel like they belong regardless of their identity.

We’re asking our employees to do a lot. We’re asking them to bring their authentic selves to work, while also increasing their openness to a never-ending cycle of DEI learning and (sometimes) failing. In short, if we want people to show up authentically—without fear of negative consequences or judgment—we need to foster trust and the environment for employees to feel psychologically safe doing so.

These two watchwords are at the core of my DEI philosophy because, when we get them right, we ground DEI work in humanity. That allows us to better connect with and understand each other, and ultimately cultivate an inclusive environment where diversity is celebrated, people are equally empowered to succeed, and employees feel safe bringing more authenticity into the workplace.

What’s next?

At Fullstory, we’re committed to building something better. It’s not only in our product, but in our community where FullStorians can bring their best, highest, and authentic selves to work. We believe that central to being a fulfilling place to work is a Fullstory community where values are shared and differences are celebrated.

To this end, our watchwords lie at the center of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. This means anchoring on empathy by caring to truly understand lived experiences different from our own; being curious and seeking clarity to understand hard problems and commit to measurable progress; leaning on bionic people processes that bring fairness and equity to the way FullStorians are recognized, rewarded, and grow their careers; and knowing that we cannot accomplish this work without a community built on trust—one where there’s an expectation to speak up, ask questions, and own our mistakes without fear of judgment.

Our work is just beginning at Fullstory—it isn’t beautifully wrapped, and it doesn’t end tomorrow, the next day, or even a few years from now. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re focusing on progress over perfection. We don’t expect to have every answer and solve every problem immediately. Any great accomplishment is preceded by failure, and we plan to learn from them, try new things, and continue to tweak as we go.

Ultimately, we’re building an environment where everyone can grow and thrive, without question or fear, regardless of their background. And we're all committed to doing better to get there. Each FullStorian adds to the continuous evolution of our community, and every FullStorian carries the responsibility of active participation in building a workplace that is radically inclusive, equitable, and just.

Lara McLeodHead of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

About the author

Lara is Head of DEI at Fullstory. She has a passion for developing innovative strategies that transform workplace cultures and produce equitable and inclusive outcomes.

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