Office Hours: Trailblazing from tech sales (team) to business operations (department) to JEDI transformation (industry) - I’m Dominique Hollins. AMA!Featured

Hello Elpha Community!

I hope this hour finds you all healthy and in good spirits.

I’m Dominique Hollins, Founder and Connector-in-Chief of WĒ360, a boutique justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) consulting firm. I serve the global community as a trusted strategic advisor to executive leaders and employee advocates at public, private, academic and non-profit institutions around the world. I provide JEDI advocates and decision-makers with the framework and tools to launch customized strategies that bridge the gap between corporate responsibility and organizational accountability.

I have a sales, operations, and financial background that allowed me to drive sales at Google, lead business operations, compliance and marketplace diversity at eBay and become a thought-leader and influencer across Silicon Valley for my employee resource group (ERG) advocacy.

But this is not at all how my story started nor where I intended for it to go.

I used to believe that I could always earn my way to wherever I needed to go, as my academic path had repeatedly proven. Well, my time in the tech industry revealed to me that my idea of a meritocracy would not be honored, especially not for a Black bisexual woman Millennial who was entering the workforce during the financial collapse of 2010. My career became riddled with, what I didn’t know at the time to be, microaggressions, imposter syndrome, anxiety, depression and PTSD.

I needed to find a new way to succeed in or out of an exclusionary work environment.

I didn’t become a D&I/DEI/DEIB/JEDI advocate because I wanted to, I became a JEDI change agent out of necessity.

Today, my mission is to enable global prosperity by connecting corporate, non-profit, government, academic and community resources directly to the people with whom they have shared goals or interests, specifically people of color. If I can elevate just one, then they can elevate another and the vibration continues until we all have what we need.

I do this as the Founder of my own company, Co-Founder of Our Collective - a community ERG for Black and Latinx talent across Silicon Valley, Coach, Facilitator and DEIB Senior Fellow at Hone and as a public speaker. I use the skills and strengths from my life story to turn the tides of corporate hypocrisy and exclusion against itself. I am the change I have been waiting for.

In my spare time, I enjoy learning about quantum consciousness, marine biodiversity, playing chess, writing, hiking, exploring food and wine or engaging in stimulating conversations.

Ask me anything about being a JEDI catalyst, how to remove cultural barriers to broaden employee engagement and focus, servant leadership, career development, executive influence, mindfulness, community building, food and wine, self-care, cultivating fun, authenticity, collaborative working environments, project management, executive training, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @dominiquehollins!Elphas – please ask @dominiquehollins your questions before Friday, September 9th. @dominiquehollins may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you for having me Elpha Team! I'm proud to me among other brilliant and dynamic female leaders in this community!
Hi Dominique, thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions.I'm a founding engineer at an early startup. While everyone on the engineering team is respectful and friendly and our team culture is very inclusive, our team is not diverse. We tried hard to recruit people from the URGs but most of the time we failed. The most common reasons we heard is that early startups are too risky. I think we could have recruited more people from the URG if we were more open to hire people who are at early stages of their career. However, we hired Senior+ engineers only since the goal was to build the product ASAP as test the market for the product market fit.How do you advise early startups to prioritize D&I/DEI/DEIB/JEDI for real when resource is limited and the operations are time critical? Also as someone who is part of the URG and ran an ERG at a previous company, I'm well aware that the burden should not be on the URG people. I've prioritized my own time to demonstrate good performance rather than pushing for the initiatives to support diversity. But sometimes I feel that I failed "my responsibility" as an advocate.
Hello Sharon & pleasure to meet you!! :-)Ooooof! This is a tough and familiar question I often get from clients and VC partners. Thank you for asking. In order to best answer your question, I will copy and paste some of your content from above here. I'm a founding engineer at an early startup. While everyone on the engineering team is respectful and friendly and our team culture is very inclusive, our team is not diverse. >>> This is usually where the lack of diversity begins. At the foundation of the company, diversity tends to be an after thought. The most successful startups that have more diversity had it as a foundational part of the business. That said, we now have to integrate DEI, which becomes harder as you grow. I would ask - how did you find your existing team? How diverse are those sources? How diverse is your team's personal/professional network? Usually diversity in the office is a reflection of lived diversity outside of the office. We tried hard to recruit people from the URGs but most of the time we failed. The most common reasons we heard is that early startups are too risky. >>> What recruitment methods did you use? How diverse was your recruitment team? From whom did you receive this feedback. Those who are earlier in their careers may be more risk averse than those who are more senior or vice versa; however, how the risk is packaged and communicated relative to the reward will depend on the audience. The messaging for college grads should be different for Senior Engineers to drive greater outcomes. When I started my career in tech, I was too afraid to work at a startup because couldn't afford the risk as a Black Queer Millennial. Now, with more experience, I welcome startups, but am rarely presented with opportunities, even though I have 12 years in the tech ecosystem. My story is not uncommon, but a more targeted recruitment process may yield greater outcomes. Also, if you volunteer with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), you could build partnerships that will give you access to this talent pipeline and others within specific communities. I think we could have recruited more people from the URG if we were more open to hire people who are at early stages of their career. However, we hired Senior+ engineers only since the goal was to build the product ASAP as test the market for the product market fit. >>> I often hear this as well, and I would ask you to consider how are you recruiting to URGs relative to those who are not URGs? What are the key differences in these communities and what part of your compensation package speaks to these differences? e.g. if you have medical benefits that support reproductive services, that could be beneficial to women and/or members of the transgender community. The more you are aware of the communities you want to hire, the better your marketing and recruiting process can reflect those needs or resources. How do you advise early startups to prioritize D&I/DEI/DEIB/JEDI for real when resource is limited and the operations are time critical? >>>> The leadership team has to make it a priority, communicate the priority and actually set goals to achieve them otherwise, they run the risk of engaging in exclusionary practices that will affect their business in the future. That could manifest as a product or service that excludes a consumer group, which would then require your company to seek DEI resources. The challenge is, at that time, it will appear performative and PR. They would have to choose to make this a priority for 2023 and beyond. It is not your responsibility to carry the DEI voice of your company. It should be everyone's priority. However, you can always plant a seed and do your part from your position of influence. If you can convince your company to start with a DEI Audit, then that could help measure where you are relative to where you could be. Feel free to contact me if you're interested!I hope this helps, even if just a little. A tech diversity recruiter could provide greater insight!
Dominique, thank you soooo much for the incredibly insightful reply. It definitely helps me a lot. There are a lot of aha moments (eg: the company and people who have the "foundational" impact of the company must truly believe that diversity is crucial to the business. ) for me and practical things (eg: partner with NSBE) that I can start with. To myself, it's really about building up the courage to challenge others. But I definitely has more courage now. Thank you again.
Hi Dominique! thank you so much for sharing your time for office hours :)I love that phrase "turn the tides of corporate hypocrisy and exclusion." We know a lot of the red flags by the time we're in our jobs, but I'm super curious to hear in your experience -- for job seekers, how do you know when a company's "commitment to diversity" is genuine?
Hello Naomi!! Nice to meet you :-)Excellent question, thank you for asking. The signs are all around you from the first time you interact with them through onboarding. What you are looking for is how considerate they are towards candidates of different backgrounds throughout the process, while keeping in mind that different industries and companies are in different stages of their DEI journeys. Personally, I never expect any organization to meet my expectations for DEI because the world would look different if any of those organizations existed. However, I do give points to companies for each demonstration of DEI I witness from them. This looks like: 1. How much diversity is reflected throughout the company website? Do I see myself anywhere at a company that looks like that? Could I see myself at a company that looks like their website conveys. 2. What does the Board and C-Suite or most senior executives look like? Then, repeat question 1 for this group of leaders i.e. "Do I see myself on this board, executive team, etc. 3. What does the job description say? Are they asking for an outrageous amount of requirements that aren't relevant to the job? Does it seem like this job description and company description are describing a place where someone like me can work every day? You can usually sense the tone of an organization by the way they talk about themselves. 4. Google Them! What has the news cycle been saying about this company? Are there any discrimination or harassment claims?5. Go to the Blind app and read what their employees are saying about them?6. Go to Glassdoor and see what people are saying about their experiences7. Watch how the recruiter treats you during the interview process. How respectful and considerate of your needs are they throughout the process? How transparent are they about the company, your potential role and your experience as an employee?8. What does the interview panel and process look like? Is there a homogenous or diverse interview slate9. What's the salary range and how transparent are they about your compensation package10. What does your gut say? Our intuition, our inner knowing, is always our most clear sign of whether or not something is good for us. If you can access your consciousness, that little voice within, what does it tell you? It's probably right. These are just a few, but I hope this helps.
Hey there @dominiquehollins! Great to see you here!
Hello Regina! It's always a pleasure to see how our networks continue to intersect. I definitely know I'm in the right room :-) Great to see you!
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us!Given your experience across so many sectors, have you found any differences in receptiveness to JEDI efforts between public, private, academic and non-profit institutions?Also, so curious to hear more on "quantum consciousness"! 👀
Hello Teresa! Pleasure to e-meet you :-)Excellent question, thank you for asking. I have had the opportunity to work within the financial and tech sectors and I have partnered with and consulted for academic, non-profit and public institutions. Based on my experience, here's what I have seen. The Tech Sector is most disruptive, flexible and wealthy. While the tech industry gets a ton of flack for how little progress it has made, specifically in the impact and outcomes affecting Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, it is also influencing how other institutions build and model their DEI programs. I often hear my clients in other industries refer to Google, Amazon or Facebook without much thought to the advantages and disadvantages of these institutions. Tech companies tend to have more money to sponsor valuable conferences like AfroTech, Grace Hopper, the Hispanic/Black/Asian/LGBTQ+ Chambers of Commerce, internship programs, etc., but that often covers that lack of true impact that advocates seek from the ROI of those investments. In other words, the tech industry throws money at DEI problems without getting to the root of the issue - just check the progress of their annual DEI reports over the past 5-10 years. Also, given that the tech sector is heavily driven by consumer engagement, they are often beholden to feedback from their users, which leads me to question their authenticity. Public & Academic Institutions tend to be more open, but also scholarly, bureaucratic, legalized, and structured. In these institutions, I've found that there is a will and desire by administrators, students, politicians and educators, but also limitations on legal implications, constitutional rights, fair representation and the intersection of meeting the needs of all of those stakeholders. There is also often a serious challenge in getting access to funding to actually hire the talent needed to build the strategy and programs to enact DEI within these institutions. Finally, there is a ton of "politcking" = decisions will be made according to who authorizes it and has the most power/influence in the room, regardless if their intentions align with that of the communities in need.Non-Profit leaders tend to be well meaning and hire willing and able staff, but can be confronted with the same types of exclusionary practices as their private counterparts with a primary factor being less oversight. There are fewer legal protections for HR violations or unequal distribution of funds, imbalance in which communities get which resources, etc. I find little difference in non-profit than private in terms of DEI strategy. While these organizations tend to have great goals and ambitions, I see their leadership share the same diversity problems as corporations. I don't understand that. Financial Sector has the money and arguably one of the longer histories of DEI programs; however, that also has not equated to diverse and equitable outcomes. We are now seeing an increase in awareness and financial investments, but this could have happened long ago. So, they could definitely do more, but they are also picking up the pace. All sectors have more work to do, but all are ramping up and confronted with their own unique challenges. I love to experience the diversity of these challenges, as it helps to inform my consulting practice. While they are different, they are also very similar.Also, quantum consciousness is my new jam! I am exploring how to access my inner consciousness more easily, so I can show others how to do it as well. The insight and empowerment it provides is unparalleled.
Hi Dominique! Thank you so much for making the time for this! What are some of the "vetting questions" you recommend job searchers ask future employers to get a sense of their diversity efforts? Any red flags to look out for?
Hello and thank you for this question Josefina! Here are some of my favorites: 1.) Can you describe your company culture for me? (Looking for references to diversity, inclusion, benefits, work/life balance, team interaction, a diverse leadership team and other buzz words that are important to me.)2.) Can you tell me about the diversity of your leadership team?3.) Does the company have a diversity strategy?4.) How is everyone in the company held accountable for this diversity strategy?5.) What is the performance management process like?6.) How are managers engaged in the career development process?7.) What career development resources are available to employees?8.) On average, how long does it take an employee to get promoted?9.) Does the company have an employee survey? If so, how did the company score in company culture in the last survey?10.) Does the company have employee resource groups (ERGs)?The answers to these questions will give me an excellent sense of how they value, treat, support and develop all of their employees at the company.