Office Hours: I’m a Senior Strategy & Ops Leader at Twitter, a storyteller, a self-proclaimed freedom fighter, and the founder of Sista Circle: BWiT – a 10K+ strong community supporting Black women in tech. I’m Lexi B. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Lexi B, a strategy and operations leader at Twitter. I am also the founder of Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech, a solidarity group dedicated to supporting the work of Black Women in the technology (BWiT) industry from across the Diaspora.

Established in April 2017, Sista Circle: BWiT is rooted in the deep history of fellowship groups of Black women in the United States. These groups are a part of the foundation of Black American culture, especially during the Civil Rights Movement, and provided safe spaces for Black women to discuss and organize around issues facing their communities. Sista Circle draws inspiration from these groups using technology and social media to create connections with Black women on a global scale.

Sista Circle: BWiT has three main goals:

1) To build a strong network and safe space for Black women in the technology industry to grow and learn from each other professionally

2) To partner with tech companies to further the recruitment and retention of Black women in the tech space

3) To create sustainable relationships with other Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses.

I started my career as an engineering program manager at Netapp as a new college graduate in July 2011 and spent the bulk of my time there understanding program management from diverse aspects of the business including engineering, quote to invoice, finance, and procurement. Since then, I have worked at Airbnb, Facebook, and currently Twitter on interesting topics such as Hate Speech, Policy, Trust and Safety, Privacy, and more!

I’m a self-proclaimed freedom fighter and use storytelling to ensure others’ voices are heard and seen as they work to live out their truths. Through speaking engagements, panels, and workshops I encourage and influence people to define privilege as an opportunity to support others, identity their privilege layers, and how use them to freedom fight for others in the workplace.

I am also a strong advocate for mid-level management direct training and accountability on equity in the workplace. I pride myself on giving every team member an opportunity to work on impactful projects, deliver actionable feedback, and humanize the workplace experience.

You can find me on my website and on social media at @LexiBSpeaks (Twitter and Instagram).

Ask me anything about equitable management practices, career development, project management, community building, being a Black woman in tech, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @lexib!Elphas – please ask @lexib your questions before Friday, February 18th. @lexib may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Let's do this!
As a Sista Circle community member, I have to state that Lexi created something crucial and wonderful. A safe and edifying space for Black women seeking to invest in themselves and be in community.
Hi @samanthabroxton! Let me re-phrase.... "HEY SIS!!" Thank you so much for this beautiful note. Because of you and other Black women, I am!
Hi @lexib, can you speak a little more about defining and identifying privilege layers? How do you incorporate that into community building especially in the digital space and what are some strategies or methods used to embedded these value structures within social networks such as Twitter and Facebook?
Hi @tiffanyip, thank you so much for this question! This topic is one of my favorites and I speak about it ALOT, especially in my "Everyone Is A Freedom Fighter" Keynote and workshop. Privilege has become a very controversial word because society has actively brought negative feelings around it. Think about the last time you used the word "privilege" to describe someone and they received as an insult. Privilege is not a bad or good thing - it is just a real thing. What does it look like when everyone in the room can candidly understand their privilege layers (race, ethnicity, ability, socio economic background, is fluent in the popular language of the group, had a supportive upbringing, education, etc - the list is quite long) and just OWN it? For example, I am a proud Black woman who comes from a very supportive and loving household. I have multiple degrees of education and that education has supported me in a large professional network. I am also an extraverted introvert = I know how to use extraversion in the professional world to navigate work settings (but secretly I am very much an introvert and prefer Friday nights at home). I am an American citizen which means that when I apply to different jobs (based in the United States) I do not have to think about "can this company offer me a working visa". Also, I manage many meetings; therefore, I have influence on agenda topics in the meeting and can support people in navigating hard conversations. When people - especially managers and leaders are keenly aware of their privilege layers, they can literally use them to support someone else who does not have that layer. Embedding these values into social media: Social media is very interesting (in my opinion) I love how we can use it to literally change the world. I good example of this is how folks are using social media for social change and community building that creates social change. It is clear that one tweet can literally change policies and ideologies. But I am also aware that social media is a direct reflection of the user and the user is a direct reflection of their environment AKA social media is just how we think and feel in real life projected to a computer screen. What I want to see is more people using social media for actual solution based dialogue on these layers of privilege, how we can use our layers to support other people and then some sort of "click here to borrow privilege for XYZ". What would it look like if we all could find other people that could help us with building our own dreams through social media. I think that is happening right now but I think it would be quite phenomenal if it was used at scale.
@lexib I would love to hear about your experience building the Sista Circle community - lessons learned, the must dos to get a community flourishing, things you wouldn't waste your time on again.
Hi @Heatherly! Thank you so much for this question. To be quite candid, I did not create this community for it to grow. In April 2017, I was seeking mentorship and guidance from other Black women in tech about some career development issues that I navigating and I wanted to find a few Black women I did not work with that could give me some unbiased feedback. I asked a few of my friends to join the group so they could invite a few other women to join and we organized a brunch. The magic at the brunch was electrifying because all 15 other women were also so excited to meet each other and exchange war stories. I stumbled into community building; therefore, I did not have any plans, acumen or understanding of the nuances of this space. Even today I often feel like a deer in headlights. Most impactful lessons learned so far: 1) The likelihood that the solution your are discovering for your issues will help so many people is really high! Like I said earlier, I didn't realize how many other people felt the way I did. Do you know the quote "If you see something broken, change it?" .... Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech is the literal symbol of it. 2) Your community is about the needs of the members: Many of my initial ideas for the community are no longer valid because I have 10,000+ women around the world who are quite vocal about their needs. Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech Leadership Circle follows them completely. If there is an increase in folks discussing a certain topic, we actively find a partner/sponsor to support an event on that topic. 3) Create policies, scratch them out and create them again: Very similar to #2, you must have policies and guidelines for community interaction. There are over 10,000k people in this community and Black is not a monolith. We all come from different backgrounds, languages, families, ideologies, ...the list continues. But we must interact with each other in the same respectful way. As your community builds, you will notice certain behaviors that are not aligned with your mission. If that behavior increases from multiple people, it is important to add a policy. It is also possible that the policy your created (in response to something problematic) 2 years ago is no longer valid right now. A good example of this was when SC:BWiT was around 2000 people, I noticed a huge increase in self promotion. We had people that only wanted to post about their YouTube channel or their upcoming speaking engagement. I am a huge fan of self promotion, especially from Black women because we are usually the people that are told to be silenced. But the massive amount of self promotion was hurting the candid back and forth conversations within our platform. We activated a "no self promotion" policy. Fast forward about 4 months ago, the Leadership team and I reviewed the policy and decided to let it go since we were not seeing as many self promotion posts that were taking away from community conversation. 4) You will mess upI mess up all of the time and I am very open and honest about the mess ups. I am human and I am also learning. Things to not waste your time on: Leading a community of so many people is quite daunting and can cause ALOT of burn out. You need to figure out what are the most important things and prioritize that. I receive hundreds of messages, DMs, emails, Kim Possible Beeps and carrier pigeons Every.Single.Day and I used to spend ALOT of time trying to answer all of them. I AM ONE PERSON! Do not waste your time on the feelings of guilt for not getting back to someone in a certain time period. Do focus your time on how to create scalable solutions for your community and also create boundaries around you. I always tell people that there are two Lexi Bs in the world - the founder and the human. About 80% of each of them are the same. But there is a 20% that is different and that 20% is sacred. #BoundariesAreBlessings
@lexib I have been a fan of your community for some time! As a polymath who LIVES to solve problems and make complex issues simple and easy to understand and fix, I am thinking a PM role with the right SaaS company that touches a variety of verticles might be fun. How did you do your career research on companies? What are your thoughts on an outreach message that will feel good and not spammy for people in PM roles at these companies as part of an informational interview effort? When is your book coming out?
Hi @AmeliaR! Thank you so much for the kind words. Hey Girl Hey!!!!!!!!!!!! When I do career transition research, 90% of that "research" is understanding myself. I am a strong believer of finding a company that aligns to my wants and needs at the time of my search. Let me give you some examples: Priority = Personal Life/flexibilityCompany Value = flexible working hours, anti-micromanagementPriority = Make $$$$Company Value = we promote people who deserve to be promoted without all the red tape, we pay equitable, the pay band matches what you are looking forPriority = TitleCompany Value = I would look for a start up over a large company because start-ups usually give people titles that they may or may not get at. larger companyPriority = VacationCompany Value = unlimited PTO, no meeting Fridays, etcNow, your priorities will change every few years because you are a growing, evolving Queen. But take a step back and focus on what you want out of life for the next 2-4 years and then look for companies that can align with those personal goals. Outreach: I am all about shouting your shot to people so I saw go for it. But be very clear on your ask of the people. I would lean towards language like "I would love to have a virtual coffee to learn more about your current role and background as I continue to navigate my next steps as a PM"Book: LOL - I have always wanted to write one and I am sure it will happen...when the timing is perfect :)
@lexib this is incredibly useful, thank you!
hi @lexib !so excited you're here- i was just reading about you and your work yesterday on the Blacks in Tech site. such good timing!i lead recruiting for the pill club, where we are working to democratize access to healthcare, starting with birth control, via financially and geographically accessible telehealth and telemedicine services. a significant proportion of our users are from underserved communities.we have a few goals this year, including better representing the populations we serve with the populations we hire. like many tech companies, there's a lot of room for opportunity. it's an intentional road ahead to ensure we always have the resources in place to support these communities in the ways that they need, and aren't just recruiting in a vacuum. that said, i recognize that many companies have been where we are and have failed to truly do right by the POC and Black talent they bring on board. what are some of the pitfalls you've seen from companies trying to do better that might be less obvious?super inspired by the work you do and thank you for your time and expertise!
Thank you for your question @jessicaholland! First and foremost I love that work that you are doing and I am so inspired by it. Making sure everyone has accessibility to healthcare, especially women, is a very important topic to me. One of the biggest pitfalls that companies do is not taking retention seriously. They put so much effort on finding diverse talent (which is wonderful and I support it) but do not put in effort to make sure that talent is seen, valued, safe and paid equitably when they arrive. But remember, people do not leave companies because the Black History Month catering is salty or the Women's History Month shirt design is not cute. We leave companies because we are not being seen or valued by or management/peers. We are not being paid equitably for the work that we deliver and there are people who make the work place quite unsafe (hostility, questioning your skills, adding your manager to emails vigorously because they don't trust your comments, not giving you opportunities to shine, watching your other team members receive direct and actionable feedback to make them better but you only receive feedback that is very subjective).If you are going to hire anyone, especially people from communities that have centuries of historical trauma, then you need stop treating them like a public relations campaign and treat them like humans. Require actual training for managers and leaders because many of them have never been properly trained. Have consequences for bad players. Hold middle management accountable because they are the people that have the power uplift company culture or actively decrease it. Most importantly, believe your team members when they courageously bring issues to the table for solutions. Do not retaliate against them for stand up and speaking out. Many people have not realized that it is not just about a number of diverse hires a year. It is really about how many of those hires feel seen, safe, valued and paid equitably.
thanks so much for this @lexib ! we want to support every employee in the ways they need; what you've stated above is why i left my last company (they wanted to do all the hiring, but did nothing to put an end to the microaggressions running rampant in our office. soul sucking). i appreciate your time and response!
@lexib Yay! Welcome Lexi! I've been a member of Sista Circle for about 3.5 years and it has been instrumental in my career personally and professionally. I've utilized the community to connect with other like-minded individuals and to also promote and recruit open roles that I am supporting as a talent professional. Thank you for the time, energy and commitment you have put into cultivating the community. Perhaps a question that readers of this thread might find helpful: How would you encourage someone to develop and articulate their accomplishments and goals when their employer might not have a robust performance review or outlined role growth?
Hi @monicawilliamsshehe Thank you so much for the kind words. "HEY SIS!!!!!!" First and foremost, you need to always keep track of your goals and accomplishments on a weekly basis. I actually spend my Friday mornings (each week) doing 4 things before starting my day: 1) Send all of the email intros to people that I promised I would send throughout the week2) Add any referrals that are in my email to the refer tool3) Send gratitude emails to team members (with their manager cc-ed) 4) Write down all of my accomplishments and how I am tracking to my quarterly goals (I use a simple spreadsheet for this)I do #4 because it is easy to forget all of the amazing work you do - the big stuff and especially the small stuff. When it is time for the performance review cycle, I literally open my spreadsheet and summarize everything in there! Performance Reviews can be emotionally draining but what it comes down to is this: 1) Can you articulate how dope you are?2) Can your manager articulate how dope you are?3) Do you have sponsors at work that can articulate how dope you are? #1) was highlighted above. #2) You need to create time for you and your manager each month to discuss how you are tracking to your goals. This is also a GREAT time to ask for candid and actionable feedback. Then you can implement that feedback throughout the performance review cycle and the narrative will be " I gave Monica feedback in January and she mot only changed course but continued to check in with me about her progress" - Yea, you want the on the performance review :) I personally do this weekly with my manager. I am very blessed to have a manager that is very open about feedback and my accomplishments so she also brings it up without me prompting it. But I have been in situations before where I have to lead this. #3)Building strong working relationships at work is crucial because to only will these relationships help you in the actual work, they will also support you in your review. Take the time to acknowledge the amazing work your team members are doing. Ask them for feedback throughout the performance cycle as well.
Hi @lexib, I'm a member of Sista Circle, so just want to say thank you for creating such an important space. I've learned so much from being part of the group. My question is, being a black woman in tech, what would you say have been your biggest lessons or takeaways?
Hi @CandiceB thank you so much for your kind note. "Hey QUEEN!!!!!" Well in my @AmeliaR voice "the book will have all the deets" In the beginning of my career it was understanding that I am worthy even though I had many people who tried to make me feel I wasn't. I did not feel valued and there were times where I doubted my own capabilities. If I could love on Little Lexi B right now, I would tell her "Do not let others take your shine because they are jealous f your potential. Focus on strengthening your subject matter expertise skills and get a new job." Other lessons that I have learned in my Black womanhood are the following: 1) Use "disrupting the space" as your advantage. I was the only Black body in many spaces - and I still am; therefore folks will always assume I am disrupting something. Learn how to use it to your advantage. Show these people you are FABULOUS!2) Work smart, not hard. I was always taught that I need to work 18x harder to get what everyone just instantly gets. I still believe that because of discrimination I must work harder. But I have also learned how to work strategically. Working strategically will get you farther, faster. 3) Find community - everyday is going to be interesting and there are many times where you are perfect and still leave the day feeling defeated. That is where community comes in - to uplift you when you can't uplift yourself4) If it feels wrong, leave - you do not need to stay in a space that does not serve you. Pack up and move on. No one deserves your talents and greatness unless they treat you like the human you are.5) Ask for help - closed mouths don't get fed. Ask for help and then ask again. 6) Think Black Woman Always - every room that I am, I am always thinking about how can I leave this room better for the next Black woman
Thank you for your work @lexib; I'm humbled and inspired by your story and look forward to learning more about what you're doing. I love the tiny history lesson too; the history I grew up learning rarely focused on women in solidarity, but now I'm learning what a force for good women have always been. Will you let us know the best way we can support you and the work you do?
Hi @sarahguerrero - Thank you so much for your kind words and I love support! Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech is always looking for partnerships with other companies. Please send an email to [email protected] if your organization is interested in learning more. Our partnerships are defined in so many ways and that includes virtual masterclasses and workshops for our community, partnering for an upcoming conference, swag, the opportunities are endless. My career brand - This year I am very much focused on getting my career development message out to as many people as possible and I am always looking for speaking opportunities for keynotes and workshops. If you would like to learn about those, please send an email to [email protected] for more information.
@lexib are there any self-serve online resources that you would recommend for “mid-level management direct training and accountability on equity in the workplace”, or do you think a facilitator is needed for that kind of training to be effective? Thank you!
Hi @lksksi! Thank you so much for this great question: I think the best way to teach managers who to be equitable managers is through active live trainings with facilitation, homework and multiple lessons to discuss progress and feedback. Phenomenal leadership is not something that can be taught online and maybe that is one of the reasons why we are lacking in quality leadership in corporate spaces. Folks need to have interactive training, be challenged, be uncomfortable and then use those learnings in real time. Therefore, it is very important the company at large financially supports these learnings and adds consequences to managers and leaders that do not show improvement.