Every February we celebrate the contributions, achievements, history, and culture of Black people as part of Black History Month. Per the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, this year's Black History Month theme is Black Health and Wellness, which "considers activities, rituals, and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well." This theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black professionals.
While Black history can (and should) be celebrated year-round, finding a way to honor Black history any day this month is a great start! To give you some ideas, we asked some of our partner companies what they have planned this year to celebrate Black History Month. Keep reading to see how they’re celebrating in their own words!
Host events by Black creatives — Cockroach Labs
“Cockroach Labs is celebrating Black History Month with Black@CRL, our community of Black Roachers, guiding programming. Throughout the month, we'll be highlighting central figures in Black History across company channels for broad visibility, inviting Black creatives to host events including cooking classes, tastings, and more. We plan on capping the month with a panel in which leaders creating opportunities for Black talent in the tech industry will share their stories and strategies for accomplishing their work. We believe that the time to celebrate Black History is all the time, which is why we run Black@CRL programming year-round.”
Learn more about Cockroach Labs here
Highlight Black health and wellness experts — ServiceNow
“The national theme for Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness.” ServiceNow will build off of this theme by highlighting Black experts in the field of health and wellness and approaches to strengthening mental health, fitness and nutrition. We will host a series of events featuring special guest speakers, ServiceNow leaders, employee panels and interactive dialogues. Additionally, we will offer volunteer opportunities for employees to give back to nonprofit organizations that advocate for health and wellness in the Black community and those that support the education of Black history and culture.”
Learn more about ServiceNow here.
Celebrate Black contributions, culture, and presence — Freddie Mac
“In recognition of Black History Month, our ARISE (African Diaspora, Resources and Information Sharing for Everyone) business resource group (BRG) will engage employees through a series of events that celebrate Black contributions, culture and presence. Inclusive engagement events include an equitable housing panel discussion, a Black Women’s Symposium, a Black executives panel and other total-wellbeing sessions. ”
Learn more about Freddie Mac here.
Donate to Black-led organizations — Autodesk
“Autodesk's focus for this year's Black History Month celebration will emphasize "The Importance of Black Health and Wellness". We're honoring this month by donating to the Black Joy Parade and committing to an unrestricted donation to the Hidden Genius Project for the next three years. We're also hosting various local and global virtual events, including a Southern BBQ experience, virtual yoga, a virtual tour through the Museum of African Diaspora Exhibits, and a Panel Discussion with our CEO.”
Learn more about Autodesk here.
Host a self care webinar — Cummins
“Cummins is excited for the upcoming Black History Month celebration! The Cummins Black Network, one of the many employee resource groups at Cummins, will be hosting several events with the theme ‘Black Health & Wellness’. Employees will have the opportunity to attend and actively participate in several events throughout the month, such as a live cooking session with Chef Sandy, an interactive ‘Self-Care is Wellness’ webinar, and even a ‘Basics of Yoga’ session! Check out @CumminsCareers on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to follow along as Cummins celebrates Black History Month! ”
Learn more about Cummins here.
Showcase the imagination and artistry in the community — Riot Games
“Our BIPOC employee resource group, Riot Noir, continues their ongoing mission for Black Heritage Month to celebrate Black culture and amplify Black voices. This year they embrace the theme of creativity by showcasing the imagination, innovation and artistry within the Black community. They will explore unique stories across gaming and entertainment and will host various events throughout the month including a keynote panel, a digital showcase, and a local industry event in partnership with Valence.community."
Learn more about Riot Games here.
Play Black history month trivia — SoundCloud
"SoundCloud wants to service the role of education and celebration by continuing conversations about how Black music and artists have documented moments in history and kept the spirit of celebration and self-expression alive. Our platform and social channels will speak to the roles that Black artists have played in archiving history and how music inspires the future of Black history, culture, and art. SoundClouders can also
- Sign up for Conscious and Confident communication workshops
- Win Self-Care packages from Black-owned businesses during Black History Month Trivia
- Find and contribute to our lists of local Black-owned businesses
- Read and listen to practical tips for practicing allyship, speaking to children about race, and understanding more about the Black experience today
- Celebrate our Faces of SoundCloud campaign on SoundCloud’s LinkedIn account"
Learn more about SoundCloud here.
Focus on physical, mental, and financial health — Lockheed Martin
“This February, Lockheed Martin is planning a series of events centered around the theme “Health and Wellness and its Impact on the Black Community”. Led by the Business Resource Group, Black Excellence Council (B.E.C), these events will engage our employee population across the country by promoting the importance of community wellness, as well as physical, mental, and financial health. Each week Lockheed Martin employees will participate in workshops and events including, Couch Conversations – You Are What You Eat, Breaking the Stigma: A Discussion on Mental Health in the Black Community, and Strategies for Developing a Legacy of Values and Finances.”
Learn more about Lockheed Martin here.
Celebrate Black History Through Parenthood and Wellness — Yelp
"To kick off this Black History Month, we want to shine a light on our Black parents. From family planning disparities in healthcare to tough, necessary conversations with their children on safety, Black parents have unique concerns. Our employees are invited to a virtual panel where we’ll dive into meaningful conversations. To keep the dialogue going, we’ll host several other events, including a fireside chat about the history of the Black Panther Party. We’ll also hear from a Black- and queer-run wellness consultancy on decreasing stress and anxiety, and establishing healthy boundaries while working remotely.
Learn more about Yelp here.
Cultivate a safe and inclusive culture — Datadog
“Throughout the month of February, Datadog’s Black in Technology Community Guild will host programming and events to support our colleagues, focused around the theme of Black health and wellness. We are dedicated to having conversations that will help us cultivate a safe and inclusive culture, while promoting healing and wellness in communities of color. We will host a panel discussion available to all employees to spotlight our Black leaders and allies and workshops to explore diverse healing modalities and expression through different mediums.”
Learn more about Datadog here.
Participate in interactive learning experiences — Clarus Commerce
“The DEI Employee Resource Group at Clarus Commerce is looking forward to celebrating Black History Month. First, our company will participate in an interactive learning and celebratory experience through an online platform that will consist of Black history trivia as well as recognition of key contributors, inventors and trailblazers that have helped shape our society today. Second, we will host an employee-led panel discussion on the perspectives, importance and influence of Black history.”
Learn more about Clarus Commerce here.
Unlock your potential — PayPal
“Black History Month is just around the corner. We’re proud to announce the theme for this year’s Black History Month: Unlocking and Amplifying our Fullest Potential—Bringing Focus to Holistic Black Wellness. While we acknowledge that everyone celebrates it in their own way, we wanted to share what PayPal's Black Employee Resource Group, Amplify, has planned for this month of celebration.
Upcoming BHM Events:
- Week 1: Unlocking and Amplifying our Fullest Potential; Bringing Focus to Career and Professional Development
- Week 2: From Scraps to Seen; Unlocking and Amplifying our Fullest Potential; Exploring the Dynamic Relationship between History, Sound and Flavor
- Week 3: Spoken Word Event
- Week 4: Unlocking and Amplifying our Fullest Potential: Bringing Focus to Holistic Black Wellness"
Learn more about PayPal here.
Honor Black history month by celebrating Black Excellence — CU Direct
"The Black Employees Striving in Tech (BEST) ERG honors Black History Month by holding various events. Our guest speaker, Renee Sattiewhite, CEO and President of the African American Credit Union Coalition, will discuss the challenges that diverse groups have in the finance industry while encouraging leaders of all types to promote diversity in the workplace.
We will publish a list of books for self-help by and for black individuals and allies. To top off our month, we are hosting a Virtual "Celebrate & Paint" event to honor our people's achievements as a whole and our group for our accomplishments.”
Learn more about CU Direct here.
Engage in conversations about race and power — Relativity
“In celebration of Black History month our community resource group, BREL: Black @ Relativity will be putting together a series of events to celebrate and educate our community on the importance of Black History. We believe that Black History is American History, and in order to grow it’s important to understand where we’ve been while striving for a better future.
Relativity will be hosting an internal session with media executive and NYU professor Stephen Barr, leading us in a conversation about race and power in America. In addition to this there will be a public event titled “Growing Your Career as a Black Professional: Tips and tricks with BRel” taking place February 24th. In this session Black professionals from various fields will speak on how individuals can empower themselves to successfully navigate their professional careers.”
Learn more about Relativity here.
Host a movie discussion — Workiva
“Throughout the month of February, we are providing our employees opportunities to learn about Black history, share their experiences, and engage in meaningful dialogue. With support from our our Ethnic Diversity in Tech Employee Resource Group, we'll host a movie discussion around the current issues faced by the Black community, share artist spotlights along with resources on how to support black artists, promote internal speaker sessions that focus on elevating black voices within Workiva, and highlight charitable giving opportunities to support the black community. We're encouraging employees company-wide to reflect on the past and act for the future.”
Learn more about Workiva here.
Help Black college students prepare for their careers — PwC
“PwC is building on their culture of belonging during Black History Month through events and opportunities to connect, learn, and celebrate Black history, culture, and contributions. Throughout the month, PwCers will have the opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of Black identity across several topics, including the intersection of race and environmental equity, generational wealth-building, and food for the soul. The firm will also highlight opportunities, causes, and organizations that support the Black community, including getting involved with PwC's Access Your Potential commitment helping 25,000 Black and Latinx college students prepare for and begin in-demand careers.”
Learn more about PwC here.
Feature professional development organizations — CDW
"During Black History Month, our Black Excellence Unlimited (BeU) Business Resource Group (BRG) will host a variety of events and initiatives with the theme “Celebrate. Honor. Lead.”
Celebrate: BeU will be shining a spotlight on a few Black-owned businesses making an impact in their communities
Honor: In 2021, the Black community collectively grieved the loss of many prominent members of the community who inspired us, entertained us and paved the way for us. BeU will pay tribute to some of those fallen in acknowledgment of their contributions to Black life, success and culture.
Lead: Throughout the month, BeU will feature various organizations that are rooted in professional development, academic advancement, art and culture, and community service across the U.S."
Learn more about CDW here.
Host an internal company panel — PagerDuty
“This year our ERG, Array, will be honoring Black History Month with the theme, “Rooted in the World: Our Heritage, Our Story”.
We will host company-wide events throughout the month, in addition to programming exclusive to the Array community. All employees are invited to learn from professor and curator of Black history, Dr. Jamille Harrell-Sims and participate in a fun trivia activity. Additionally, Array members are invited to an internal employee panel to hear their personal stories.
In alignment with Array’s mission, to cultivate and celebrate a diverse and inclusive global environment at PagerDuty, this programming aims to show the importance and influence of Black history.”
Learn more about PagerDuty here.
Honor the contributions of Black medical practitioners — CHG Healthcare
“This year, CHG Healthcare celebrates Black History Month with an emphasis on health and wellness. The activities and events we have planned honor the many contributions of Black medical practitioners throughout history and highlight the importance of achieving health equity in America. We’ll begin the month by sharing a catalog of educational resources and conversation prompts to encourage meaningful employee discussions. Later, we’re hosting guest speaker, Dr. Evelyn Lewis & Clark, the first African American president of the AAFP, as she shares her background in the United States Navy, her journey of becoming a physician, and her commitment to making a difference in the lives of veterans.”
Learn more about CHG Healthcare here.
Elevate personal stories and experiences — 2U
“This year, 2U's Black Engagement Network (BNet) centered its Black History Month experiences around the theme, "Together, We Move." Through the focus areas of cultural education, cultural celebration, retention, and personal/professional advancement, our programming will elevate stories and experiences of how far we’ve come and how we’re still moving forward together to higher heights. Some of our events include a screening and discussion of the documentary "Segregated by Design," a panel of 2U HBCU grads who are supporting our HBCU partner programs, a panel on intersectionality in the workplace, and our flagship celebratory arts event, Freedom Fest.”
Learn more about 2U here.
Focus on breaking through bias — Waters Corporation
“Waters is proud to honor Black History Month by inviting our employees to participate in educational and interactive virtual events hosted by our Multicultural hub. Our events will focus on breaking through bias through discussion and deeper dives around Black historical events. We’re excited to feature amazing Black individuals who helped to break barriers and pave the way for others.”
Learn more about Waters Corporation here.
Engage in a 7-day step challenge — CoStar Group
“In celebration of Black History Month, CoStar Group’s Black Excellence Network has organized a series of company-wide events aligned with the 2022 theme of Black Health and Wellness.
We will host a webinar on healthy living, led by a naturopathic doctor, and a discussion on financial wellness. In addition to these events, employees will have the opportunity to engage in a 7-day step challenge and other informal events during our “fun Friday” series.”
Learn more about CoStar Group here.
Start a blog series — Webflow
“At Webflow, we celebrate the designers, creators, and entrepreneurs who have shaped our industry year round, not just during Black History Month. So we're celebrating Black History Month by starting a few blog series that will continue throughout the year. These blogs will feature our Black community at Webflow, honor the legacy of Black creatives who have shaped our industry, and celebrate the intersectional identities within the Black community that are often erased and invisible. Our Black Affinity Group (Blackflow) is planning several events to celebrate the Black community at Webflow as well.”
Learn more about Webflow here.
Promote Black financial health — T. Rowe Price
“As an asset manager, T. Rowe Price is focusing on Black financial health and wellness in celebration of Black History Month. Through its diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, as well as the work of the T. Rowe Price Foundation, the firm is promoting black financial health and wellness by fostering greater economic access and opportunity.
The firm offers a free financial education program, Money Confident Kids®, to students, parents, and educators that provides tools and strategies for generating financial stability and identifying obstacles that drive financial inequity—including the racial wealth gap.”
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Dance it out with an AfroSoca werkout party — Elastic
“To celebrate Black History Month, Elastic is focusing on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. From a mental health awareness session with Black Men Heal to afro-textured hair care tips, we’re acknowledging a breadth of topics and providing resources the Black community can leverage for wellness and self-care. Elasticians will be able to get their blood pumping with an AfroSoca Werkout Party, highlight their favorite black-owned restaurants and other businesses, participate in Q&A sessions, and broaden their knowledge about historical Black figures and their contributions.”
Learn more about Elastic here.
Award grants to Black-owned businesses — Siemens
“At Siemens, we’ve launched a 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge in celebration of Black History Month. Studies show it takes 21 days to form a habit, so during this time we’ll encourage employees to deepen their understanding of racism and examine ways to promote racial equity. Also, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency Business Centers, Siemens and Siemens Mobility will be awarding grants to nine small Black-owned businesses to advance DEI in entrepreneurship. By listening and learning from each other, we can continue to build a more inclusive organization that reflects the communities we serve.”
Learn more about Siemens here.
Share newsletters about unsung Black heroes — Moody’s
“In observance of Black History Month, Moody’s is hosting several events including a panel discussion titled “Black Representation in Product Innovation” in partnership with our product teams, the Black Product Managers (BPM) Network, and their president and co-founder Brittany Bankston. We will also be sharing newsletters that reflect on the untold stories of unsung Black heroes and achievers, providing zoom backgrounds and screensavers to our employees to celebrate Black History Month, and hosting a Black History Month trivia afternoon.”
Learn more about Moody’s here.
Host a 21-day habit building challenge — SoftwareONE
“In an effort to drive more awareness and education surrounding Black History Month, SoftwareONE North America, along with its cross-functional employee diversity equity and inclusion committee called ‘Mosaic,’ will host a 21-day racial equity and habit building challenge. This program is intended to assist each employee with becoming more engaged, compassionate, and constructive in our continued quest for racial equality by providing educational resources, highlighting influential figures, and promoting employee stories. We’ll wrap this program with a round table discussion on the Black Experience and how best to celebrate critical contributions to equality year-round.”
Learn more about SoftwareONE here.
Explore Health & Wellness in the Black Community — Nike, Inc.
"NIKE, Inc.’s Black Employee Network (BEN) is leading Black History Month celebrations with programming that explores health and wellness in the Black Community. Throughout the month, teammates will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of experiences: from panel discussions with Nike athletes on mental health, specially curated audio-guided runs on the Nike Run Club app, and discussions on climate change with prominent thought leaders. Finally, we’ll conclude with the much celebrated, annual SNKRBALL event – bringing the Nike community together for an evening of Black culture, music and entertainment – featuring appearances from Nike athletes and special musical performances.
Learn more about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Nike: https://jobs.nike.com/diversity-and-inclusion.”
Learn more about Nike here.
Address issues the community faces through discussions — Splunk
“For Black History Month, Splunk’s Black Employees and Mentors Group (BEAMS) – will explore the theme, The Hills We Climb. Our programming includes discussions about “The Black Ceiling”, barriers to Black professional progression, and the attack on voting rights; we’ll feature a “Sistah Circle” addressing issues Black women face and a giving campaign.
Black Americans and our communities have been on a rollercoaster of progress, setback, and everything in between. Our goal this month is to show how the climb up the hills of injustice presents known and unforeseen obstacles and how reaching the peaks represents the actualization of hard-fought progress.”
Learn more about Splunk here.
Host community building events — Okta
“Black history is American history. A rich and deep history interwoven into the fabric of our country, creating a beautiful tapestry that truly encompasses our nation. Okta’s Black Employee Network through its People of Collective Cultures (POCC) ERG celebrates the history of Black achievement with a living collection of information highlighting the historic and ongoing accomplishments of the Black Community. In addition, we host events to build community and provide continuous awareness of the need to support our Black employees with information regarding physical and mental health, mentoring and career development assistance. Black History cannot be contained in one month.”
POCC ERG Leadership:
Pamala Simpson, Engineering Principal Technical Program Manager
Nola Turnage - Manager, Legal Operations - Contracts
Learn more about Okta here.
Amplify Black excellence in technology — Pluralsight
“Following PowerToFly’s 2022 Black History Month theme, our BIPOC ERG, seeColor, is honoring Black History Month by “Amplifying Black Excellence in Technology,” focusing on how we can expand the Voice, Community, Connection, and Growth of the Black community. This will be done by sharing educational resources with our larger Pluralsight team around Black excellence in technology at Pluralsight and beyond. We’ll be holding a panel that highlights how Black team members can grow their careers in technology and how allies can amplify Black excellence in the technology industry. Finally, we’ll be sharing written stories of excellence in the Black community, of both historical and current day figures.”
Learn more about Pluralsight here.
Post a Black history quote of the week — Aurora Solar
“At Aurora, we are celebrating Black History Month with a variety of events & activities created by our Black at Aurora ERG. In addition to our events, we are posting weekly history highlights and a Black History quote of the week in our company-wide announcements channel in Slack. We have also created a Soul Food Cookbook full of family recipes that our team can download.
February 1 - Lunch & Learn: Celebrating Black History
February 8 - Hidden Figures Viewing Party
February 14-18 Soul Food Week
February 24 - Virtual Soul Food Cookout”
Learn more about Aurora Solar here.
Invest in the community, invest in yourself — BlackRock
“Each year, Black History Month serves as a time for us to come together and celebrate the achievements, culture, and community we share as Black Americans. This year, the theme of our Black History Month celebration is “Investing in Community, Investing in Ourselves.” Throughout February, we'll host local and national events across four pillars: social connection, community empowerment, mental health, and financial health.”
Learn more about BlackRock here.
Realize Black history Is Black excellence — Intuitive
“In February, Intuitive will recognize Black History Month with events and activations around the theme: Black History Is Black Excellence. Throughout the month, we’ll celebrate Black leaders and perspectives at Intuitive with a series of employee spotlight articles and communications. BLACK at Intuitive, an Employee Resource Group, will also host a company-wide program highlighting how diverse teams drive business results and enable Intuitive’s mission of improving healthcare outcomes. The program will also feature personal reflections on the importance of Black History Month, showcase the contributions of Black employees, and activate employees to build more inclusion and diversity.”
Learn more about Intuitive here.
Spotlighting Black colleagues— Raytheon Technologies
“At Raytheon Intelligence & Space, we are celebrating Black History Month by spotlighting our 8 BEYA winners both internally and externally, as well as encouraging our employees to share stories of their colleagues who are making a difference in DE&I. In addition, our Black Employee Resource Group is also focused on how Raytheon Black Employees are contributing to and shaping the future of the business. They have a packed calendar of events including recognizing our 6 “Keeper of the Dream” internal award winners selected for how they embody the attributes of his MLK Jr. and keep his dream alive.”
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
One thing Arielle does each day that she wishes more people would do is say 'thank you.' "I may say thank you just as much as I say hello in a day. I think it is important to show people around you that you appreciate even the seemingly small things they do or contribute," she explains. For this track and field coach, sorority member, and doctoral candidate, an attitude of gratitude is key to success.
We sat down with Arielle, a systems engineer at NSA, to learn more about her involvement in ERGs and how they sparked her career growth.
Born and raised in Maryland, Arielle has always strived for success. She is currently less than a year away from completing her doctoral degree in Engineering Management at The George Washington University, all while coaching and training track and field, organizing community service projects with her sorority, and working her way up NSA's organizational ladder.
Arielle joined NSA two years ago after completing her degree and gaining work experience as a mechanical engineer. She was encouraged to apply by a guest lecturer in one of her master's courses who later became her mentor. Once she began her career at NSA, this same mentor suggested she look into the different Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) the agency had to offer.
ERGs and Their Impact
Arielle is currently part of three ERGs – African American (AAERG), Women (WERG), and Next Gen (NERG). "I joined each because they represent parts of me and my experiences as a millennial Black woman. At the time, I did not know just how beneficial they would be to me as I navigated a new career and environment," says Arielle.
Her involvement in each of these ERGs has afforded her opportunities for personal and professional growth. "When my schedule allows, I attend the AAERG general body meetings and take advantage of the learning, professional development and social opportunities they offer."
Similarly, through the WERG, Arielle says she has been able to participate in events such as the Seventh Intelligence Community Women's Summit, as well as lead initiatives such as the 2020 Women's Intelligence Network (WIN) Symposium Cohort 2 – Growing Leadership and Technical Skills. "We are working to identify available resources and develop an IC-wide strategy to build leadership skills for women seeking to advance to higher grades and technical skills for women in specific work roles."
Career Growth Through Mentorship
Apart from social opportunities and events, Arielle's involvement in ERGs has introduced possibilities for professional development as well.
Every year, NSA holds a promotion cycle in which employees have the opportunity to submit promotion packages which include an Employee Performance Assessment (EPA). The purpose of these self-written assessments is to account for professional accomplishments and their impact on the organization. Although she was new to the agency, Arielle was encouraged to submit a promotion package to get familiarized with the process.
After struggling with her self-assessment, Arielle leaned on the support of the AAERG's sponsored EPA reviews during the promotion cycle. "As someone new to NSA and their promotion process, it was overwhelming, but [the AAERG] partnered me with an amazing woman who provided guidance, feedback and encouragement."
She was partnered with a senior-level woman with more than 30 years of experience at NSA. After reading through Arielle's first draft, she offered critiques and encouragement that would give Arielle the motivation she required to push for a higher standard. "I will never forget her kindness during our meeting, and her optimism that I would be a competitive candidate. Then it was back to the drawing board, equipped with her feedback and suggestions," says Arielle.
Arielle excelled at her second attempt at drafting her EPA and was left with the final task of paring down her accomplishments to meet the character limit. "I was fortunate enough to have members of my team and leadership work with me to decipher between my most and least impactful accomplishments." After three more iterations, Arielle finally submitted her package, and was later recommended for promotion.
Not only did Arielle attain experience and a step up the organizational ladder, she also gained a mentor during the process. "During the first in-person meeting with my assigned EPA reviewer, I was inspired by her. When the hustle and bustle of promotion season died down, I reached out to her asking if she was accepting new mentees, and if so, would she be interested in mentoring me. She enthusiastically accepted," she says. Due to the pandemic, in-person meetings have been put on hold, but they are currently working to connect and establish their formal mentoring relationship.
Arielle considers ERGs to be very valuable: "I wish more women and minorities knew that through ERGs, there are opportunities to pursue your interests outside of your formal work role." These versatile groups offer their members the chance to network and impact lives both within the agency and in the community.
Three Tips for Overcoming Hurdles and Excelling in your Career
Arielle knows all too well that there are systemic barriers that will challenge her throughout her career. "I am in no way naïve to the barriers Black people face and I understand I will be met with challenges as a Black woman in STEM due to people's unconscious and conscious biases and prejudices," she says: "However, I cannot allow that to dictate how I navigate my career or life."
Instead, Arielle has leaned into her own strengths, and leveraged the support of her ERG networks and mentors to own her career journey.
We asked Arielle which traits have helped her foster this sense of personal agency and excel at NSA. After some deliberation, she summed them up in 3 P's – Preparation, Presentation and Personality.
Preparation: "As a student and an athlete I have always understood that preparation is vital to success and performance. With any task I am responsible for, I am sure to prepare as much as possible, taking the necessary time to learn and develop my skills and knowledge, and further, be confident in that knowledge," Arielle says.
Presentation: "I am, admittedly, a recovering perfectionist. Even as a child, I wanted everything to be perfect, which forced me to be detail-oriented. At NSA, this has helped me develop, design, structure and deliver content for various topics and audiences, ranging from the general workforce to senior agency leaders," she says.
Personality: "I am a people person. I have been able to make genuine connections with people throughout my life and career. When you make genuine connections with people and show that you care about the person, not just the work they do, it fosters trust and collaboration. People feel more open to sharing ideas and being vulnerable. I have never been afraid to be vulnerable and share my weaknesses because it is an opportunity to grow. I am open, confident, but self-aware, and have been told I have a receiving demeanor," Arielle says.Click here to learn more about NSA's open roles.
Kellie Persson was at the WWDC17, Apple's annual conference for developers, when she heard Michelle Obama give an answer about why there weren't more Black women in tech.
"'You're asking too late,'" Kellie remembers the former First Lady saying. "'If you're asking when you're trying to hire people, you need to go back to the beginning, find out why these young women aren't interested or what causes them to fall out of love with it. You start at the beginning.'"
Kellie, who is now a Sr. Software Engineer at cloud-based construction management software company Procore, is a success story of that early intervention.
She joined her elementary school's computer club, where she enjoyed playing games and designing a printable book starring Garfield. That interest continued into her senior year of high school, when she learned programming.
When she started at Spelman College, Kellie thought she wanted to be a patent lawyer, to combine her love for math and science with a reliable career path. But her deep-seeded passion for engineering won out after she took her first computer science classes.
We sat down with Kellie to talk about her experience studying amongst other Black women and then going to work in a field where she was often an "only," how she's learned to show up as her full self at work, and how she has experienced the Procore community.
"You just have to show up"
According to research done by the National Science Foundation, only 1.6% of engineers in 2015 were Black women.
That's not the experience Kellie had at Spelman, though. Being a student at the historically Black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta meant that Kellie was surrounded by other high-achieving Black women just like herself—and that the faculty had opted in to teach exactly that group.
"Spelman has a really competitive entry. When you start, it's like a reset, almost a level playing field. Everybody's smart. It sets up an environment where you don't know anything other than to be your best self," says Kellie. "You're not going in there talking with teachers who you feel don't value you or don't see your worth. You just have to show up, and that's a very big advantage."
Kellie learned that she had to show up and give her very best when she wrote a paper on The Tempest, a play she'd read in high school, and got a "D minus minus minus" on it. "It didn't knock my confidence," says Kellie, "but it helped me to see that I do have to show up as my best self."
Spelman gave her opportunities to test her confidence, and most importantly, to do so amongst a community of other women that proved that Kellie wasn't an anomaly. "I realized I wasn't an 'only' any more," she says. "Even if I didn't see a lot of me reflected in my workplace, I knew that we were out there."
Stepping away—and stepping back up
When Kellie began her career in engineering post-grad, she was plenty confident, but still felt decidedly outside of the "club" of mostly white men in her department.
"It felt like certain privileges or promotions or things were extended to members of the club," she says. And when Kellie decided to start a family, it "wasn't celebrated."
"I felt that I was held back because of choosing to have a family," says Kellie. She ended up stepping away from her field for about four years. She considered doing a master's program in dietetics, to line up with her lifelong interest in nutrition and wellness, but ended up deciding that going back to work in engineering was right for her and her family.
At her first job back, she had to learn how to develop in iOS, and that shook her—but just for a moment. "It hit me hard, like 'did I ever know what I was doing? Was I just faking it this entire time?'" says Kellie. "But I was able to tap back into what I had learned so many years prior at Spelman. That came back."
She especially remembered lessons from one of her mentors, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne. "She was a firecracker, she had all this passion and she didn't try to dumb it down. I realized from her that you can be yourself. How exuberant or passionate you are shouldn't be offensive to people, and if it is, that's not your problem."
When Procore reached out about a job opportunity, Kellie was intrigued. Two former coworkers were working there and told her great things about the role, and her family had roots in the construction field. "I understood that space, I understood why it was such a need," she says.
As a Sr. Software Engineer, Kellie is committed to creating great, reliable products for Procore's customers. "Who wants to use an unstable product? If you can't rely on it, just imagine how our clients feel," she says.
Feeling a sense of belonging as a black woman in tech
The racial reckoning of the last year or so, stemming from George Floyd's death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, has led to conversations at many American workplaces that mostly-white leaders weren't practiced in having.
"Some people have never had to be an only, or be uncomfortable. And especially recently, there have been a lot of uncomfortable things that have come up and people don't know how to deal with it. That doesn't feel good to them, but people need to learn to sit with their discomfort and think about it," says Kellie of her experience talking about racism at work.
"It's not other people's job to make you feel comfortable—especially people like me. We've been in uncomfortable spaces and we didn't have someone try to make us comfortable; we had to deal," she adds.
She's found, though, that Procore's leadership has been willing to sit with those uncomfortable topics and to listen. "One of the best things that came out of that with Procore is not trying to run away from [problems], but acknowledging why don't we have a lot of people of color, why don't we have a lot of women, and saying 'let's do something about it,'" says Kellie.
Last summer was a hard time for many Black Americans, including Kellie, who says that the only meetings she showed up to with her camera on the week of George Floyd's death were those hosted by Procore's ERG for Black employees. "I needed that support group. I wasn't trying to explain to anybody. I just needed to talk to individuals who understood where I was at. I showed up every day and I did my job, but I didn't want to answer questions of how I was doing and 'what can I do to be better?'" remembers Kellie.
Later on, she also participated in listening sessions between that ERG and Procore's leadership. "They talked to each one of us," she says. "I felt valued and I felt seen."
Staying a rockstar
When Kellie thinks of where she'd like to be in five years, she has a pretty clear vision: "I just wanna try to be a rockstar."
"I want someone to, when they speak about me, not praise me, but talk about how I had a positive impact on them," she adds.
One key way she's able to make an impact? Leading by example: working hard, and showing up authentically, even when it makes others uncomfortable.
That's a lesson that she hopes everyone, but especially other Black women interested in tech, take to heart. "There are people that are rooting for you," she says. "You just have to go find them."
If you want to find your people at Procore, check out their open roles.
Jasmine Harvey is pursuing her MBA while working full-time as a buyer for Viasat, a global communications and satellite internet company. Balancing home, work, and school while maintaining a 3.9 grade point average has been quite a challenge. Jasmine had a perfect 4.0 until she took one of the hardest classes in her program, Managerial Economics and Global, during this COVID pandemic. She finished a full 15 percentage points above the class average, but was still 0.6 points away from an "A".
"I was devastated after receiving my first B," she says. "I have two more classes remaining, and I know I am going to hit this out of the park. I'm speaking into existence that I will complete my MBA with only one B."
I don't doubt that she will.
Jasmine applies that level of drive, determination, and focus to everything in her life, whether it's launching a Black Professional Alliance (BPA) chapter at Viasat's Duluth campus or advancing her career and plotting her way towards her dream job. We sat down to discuss her career journey, what it's like being a Black woman at Viasat, and how she optimizes her development at work, in the classroom, and beyond.
From government to private industry
Jasmine spent several years working as a purchasing specialist for the United States Army, at Fort Benning, Georgia. She enjoyed the work, but realized that her opportunities for growth were minimal, particularly since leadership positions were seldom vacated. "I became uninterested with the repetitiveness and was determined to expand my career," says Jasmine, who spruced up her LinkedIn profile and later contacted by a Viasat recruiter.
Highly impressed with the interview, Jasmine quickly accepted Viasat's offer to come on board as a Procurement Specialist. "I researched the company and saw that they received several awards for being one of the best places to work," she notes. "It appeared that Viasat is not just a place of work, but they actually care for their employees. Not to mention, I've never been employed with a company who offered tuition reimbursement."
Although her responsibilities are similar to her previous work at Fort Benning, the challenges she endured were the complete opposite. Jasmine was unknown to the satellite industry. "In the beginning, it was like being at a new school; surrounded by unfamiliar faces and learning from a new teacher. At times, I became very frustrated trying to grasp the information." Now, two and a half years into her career at Viasat, Jasmine is mentoring and answering questions from other new buyers.
Leaning into her career development
Jasmine knows exactly where she'd like to be in a few years: achieving the goal of being promoted into a leadership or management role at the Duluth location. She's already chasing after that goal by enrolling in Viasat's mentorship program.
Jasmine matched with Ron Rhodes, Director of Operations, who is listed as the most compatible mentor for her career goals. Jasmine is preparing for her first meeting with Ron. "I'm excited to hear about Ron's career journey and the challenges he faced along the way. Ron came on board as an Operation Program Manager and worked his way to the Director's position, and that's the typical goal for me also," says Jasmine.
Thrilled for the opportunity to obtain advice from people sitting in seats she one day hopes to occupy, Jasmine plans to select the director of purchasing, as her next mentor. "His extensive knowledge with Viasat is a perfect fit for my career guidance," she says, with poise.
Jasmine credits her success to the opportunities offered at Viasat and supporting cast. Formal programs, tuition reimbursement supporting her MBA, and the opportunity to visit Viasat headquarters for training (after which Jasmine developed a presentation to share her learnings with her team in the Duluth office) are just a few tools available to help move oneself to the next level.
Her coworkers have also played a critical role in her development. Jasmine says that she is grateful for Charlotte White, who has been at Viasat for over 40 years. Charlotte provides calmness, techniques, and workarounds to unique situations. "I wouldn't be in the place I am today if it wasn't for her," says Jasmine. "She often reminds me that this is not a sprint, but more like a marathon. It takes time to grow and you will never know it all," says Jasmine.
Supporting women and minority groups at work
When Jasmine joined Viasat, her desire was to get involved and become active throughout the organization. As a member of Viasat Women in Technology Alliance, which is an Employee Resource Group that supports women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Jasmine is continuing her goal to collaborate with peers and leadership.
During strains of the current pandemic, and recent world events centered around racism and police brutality, Jasmine insisted on being part of the change to make the world a better place. Deliberations amongst other employees, they created and launched a Black Professional Alliance (BPA) at Viasat's Duluth campus a few weeks ago, with the goal of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
The BPA's first meeting was a huge success! Jasmine is receiving feedback from others who also want to be involved. "BPA is not just providing opportunities for Black people, but we want to give an opportunity for everyone to have a sense of belonging within the organization."
Jasmine, like Viasat's Chief People Officer Melinda Kimbro, wants the company's renewed focus on diversity to last. "Speaking about race in the workplace can be uncomfortable sometimes," she says, "but cultural diversity and inclusion must be a round clock practice within our organization."
You know how people get homesick when they're away for a while? Well, Jasmine says she's getting "worksick" as she continues to work from home—she misses the face-to-face interaction with her teammates and coworkers. But for now, she'll continue to keep doing what she does best—striving ahead despite the constraints of an ongoing pandemic.
"Unexpected challenges may come, but I've learned to adapt and overcome all obstacles. Confidence and inspiration give me the motivation to keep striving for excellence to make any mission a success," she says. "I've always been taught with the proper application of time and effort…anything can be achieved"
You can learn more about careers at Viasat here.