How Twilio Manages Diversity and Inclusion on a Global Scale - Crescendo Chats | Episode 4
Welcome to Crescendo Chats: Scaling Diversity & Inclusion. In this series, Crescendo co-founder Stefan Kollenberg hosts conversations with HR and diversity & inclusion practitioners, sharing valuable insights from their work.
This week’s conversation is with Andrea Long, the Global Diversity Events Manager at Twilio.
Listen to the podcast or read below for the edited transcript.
Tell us about yourself, your role and what you do.
Stefan: To kick it off, can you share a bit about yourself and what you do?
Andrea: Professionally, I’m an event planner, marketer, and D&I practitioner. I currently work at Twilio, which is a cloud communications platform. At Twilio, I’m the Global Diversity Events manager, so my main focus is an event series called Twilio After Hours - events geared towards the external community that are meant to create inclusive environments for underrepresented groups in tech.
Stefan: How did you end up in that role?
Andrea: Great question! I actually met my now-manager at a networking event. She reached out to me about this role. My career so far has been an interesting mix of event planning, marketing, and diversity work. So when she reached out, I was really excited because the Twilio After Hours program is at the intersection of all three of those.
Stefan: What were some of your past roles?
Andrea: Previously I was at Lyft, where I managed recruitment marketing. I also did a bit of event and partner marketing while I was there. I was there pre-IPO, so there was a lot of growth and a lot of learnings.
What are your biggest lessons?
Stefan: What are some of the biggest learnings you’ve at Twilio so far?
Andrea: The biggest learnings are really about the culture and dynamics of our international office locations. We have 24 offices - 13 of them outside of the US. So my biggest learning so far is from the conversations I’ve had with colleagues related to how diversity looks in each of those locations.
Stefan: And what do you love most about the role?
Andrea: I really do love the global aspect of my role. I’ve been able to learn more about what diversity looks like internationally. I find with companies that have headquarters in the US, typically they take a very US-centric approach. Twilio has done a great job having a more broad, international approach to how they define diversity.
Can You Share More About Your Global Strategy
Stefan: Diving into some more specific questions about the global diversity strategy, can you share how your global strategy got going and how someone else can start a global strategy?
Andrea: Absolutely. It’s important for our global strategy to address different topics that are relevant to each of the locations that we touch. For us - and many other events and diversity practitioners out there - the first thing is to look at your goals. Then also look at the specific diversity and inclusion goals you’re working towards.
Stefan: You mentioned you have 24 offices - what are some of the countries that your strategy touches? What are the differences between those countries and the US?
Andrea: While a majority of our employees are in the US, we’re also going to be in Estonia, the UK, Singapore, and Australia - and hopefully more to come soon.
One interesting example of a unique difference is Singapore. A study found that 92% of Singaporeans experience stress at work. It’s higher than the global average, which is 84%. So there specifically we’re going to have a conversation about stress, burnout, mental health, and practicing self-care.
That’s just one example of how diversity doesn’t always have to be racial diversity or ethnic diversity. We want to have a very intersectional approach and pick topics that are related to people working in those countries.
Key Differences between a Global Strategy and a Local Strategy?
Stefan: And what are the key differences between a global strategy and a local strategy?
Andrea: With a global strategy, it’s really important to make sure that we’re addressing concerns in each country as well as catering to the different policy changes in each country.
For example, in Estonia, parental leave is 18 months. So we have an interesting opportunity to have a conversation there about how that affects women in the workplace. Are they taking all 18 months? Splitting it with their partners? Are they coming back early? And if they come back early, are they being welcomed back into the workforce or are they being shunned because they didn’t spend the 18 months with their family? Just another example of an interesting an unique opportunity to look at the global differences.
Stefan: Twilio published its 2023 diversity goals. How does your events strategy tie into meeting those goals?
Andrea: Everything we do at Twilio is with these goals in mind. I partner with the talent acquisition and talent management teams to ensure that the events they’re hosting from a recruitment and retention standpoint also reinforce and work towards these diversity goals.
Recommendations you’d give to someone trying to get their global D&I event strategy started
Stefan: Can you share the three recommendations you’d give to someone trying to get their global D&I event strategy started?
Andrea: It’s really important to set clear goals - know what you’re working towards. Once you do that, build custom success metrics that are based on those goals. They need to be custom to your company and to your program. Then, do a “listening tour” - ask your employees and colleagues what diversity means to them in each of those global locations.
Stefan: How can someone start a “listening tour”?
Andrea: One great resource is your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) if you’re at a company that has them. Reach out specifically to underrepresented populations that your events are targeting in those different countries is something I’d recommend to everybody.
I would also recommend asking employees in other countries. If you have employees in other countries, generally you’ll have HR in those countries. Make sure to reach out and get volunteers.
You don’t have to wait for people to come to you - you can ask for help as well.
Stefan: What’s the future vision for Twilio After Hours?
Andrea: The vision is to expand and provide the community with resources more frequently - and have ongoing content. Right now, After Hours comes to a city then goes to the next city, and the conversation is different. We’re looking for a way to connect the different locations that we go to and have a greater global After Hours community.
Stefan: What’s a community that you go to for learning or support?
Andrea: Diversity Advocates. It’s lead by the Kapor Center in Oakland, California. It’s an international group of D&I processionals who connect, ask questions and give advice to each other, and support each other in the roles they do.
Stefan: Awesome. Jumping into the “lightning round” - what’s your favourite quote?
Andrea: I have two!
My mom always used to say “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”.
In a similar theme, Michelle Obama said “when they go low, we go high”.
D&I work is challenging, so it’s me wanting to keep that positive attitude and keep myself motivated.
Stefan: What’s a book or movie that changed the way you look at the world?
Andrea: Crash, which came out in 2004. It was a beautiful example of how we’re all interconnected - and how race and gender relations are important to how we interact with the world.
Stefan: What’s your favourite podcast?
Andrea: NPR Code Switch. It’s a really interesting conversation about race and culture. I learn a lot from every episode.
Stefan: What’s the coolest tech product you’ve ever come across?
Andrea: A few years ago I went to Sundance in Park City, Utah, and I got to do this amazing VR experience based on Arthur Ashe. I’d never done VR before - that was definitely the coolest product I’d seen.
Stefan: Awesome. And how can people connect with you?
Andrea: If people are interested in learning more about Twilio, your diversity goals, or the After Hours program, check out our website and follow us on social media. You can reach out to me personally on LinkedIn - just please include a message - and I will do my best to respond.
Stefan: Awesome - thank you so much!
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