Mo: Hello welcome everybody for everyday inclusion and belonging LinkedIn Live. Really glad to have you all here, thrilled to have Steph Douglass the VP of People Vungle with us.

Before we jump in and talk about what Steph and their team are doing, I’ve got to do a little public service announcement. It is the day to give. Whatever side of the aisle you are on wherever your policy issues lie get out there exercise your right to vote.

Here’s a little fun fact from history in 1872 suffragist Susan B Anthony was arrested because she broke the law, she went and she voted, and she was put in jail for exercising her right to vote. So don’t take it for granted, whether it’s a school board election, local ballot issues, when you are choosing representatives whatever it might be every election matters your vote counts, get out there and vote!

So okay, now we can talk about everyday inclusion. Steph, she put her I voted sticker up. You all should know this about Steph, she takes great pride in being the very first person at her polling place every election and in fact the polling officials know her.

Steph: Absolutely yes, they are I do take great pride in being there first. I think they think I’m a little nuts but there’s something really cool about being the first person to vote in in your district so.

Mo: Absolutely. So, let’s do this, I know that you’ve had a deep commitment. You’ve been doing human resources people work for your career and I know for you personally, it’s always been a core value in a way that you lead in terms of making sure that everybody’s got a voice, making sure that everybody cultures are really supported bringing their individual and authentic selves to work. I’d love to hear what you all are doing at Vungle.

First tell us what Vungle is and what your demographics are, I just I think all of that is really fascinating.

Workplace Diversity

Steph: It’s certainly an area of passion for me and over the last couple decades of looking at what we can do is organizations has really shifted. Early on I believe a lot of us were very active in building the diversity space.

But without making it a space that people want to stay and have a sense of belonging it almost doesn’t matter. So, a lot of the work now is once you build that diversity of creating a place where people come as they are. So, we’re in add tech so we’re based out of San Francisco and I think a lot of people have a really strong idea of what that demographic is going to look like.

And there’s some truth to that the kinds of people who are drawn to this industry. But we do have offices around the world and in our offices of 250 people about half of them are here in San Francisco. We have over 30 nationalities and that’s pretty exciting. Of those 30 nationalities, we have over 60 languages spoken in our offices.

So, when we talk about a diverse workspace you’re walking through, literally walking through space where people come from different places in the world, different socioeconomic places. We’re very careful at looking at a wide breath of schools when we recruit so we don’t limit things that way. And you hear different people talking in different languages in different accents and celebrating different things in their culture.

And so, creating a place where you can have that be real and organic is incredibly important because that will attract more people that can be comfortable in your space.

Mo: So y’all started with diversity right, you started with like you can bring in the diversity but if everybody has to show up and behave the same way you’re not leveraging the beautiful things that diversity brings.

So, you started with diversity, I’d love to hear just some of the things that you’ve done because I don’t know of a much more diverse group of people than at Vungle. And so, I’d love to hear that, and then let’s talk about OK we brought the diversity and now we’re doing things to create the inclusion.

But I’d love a couple of tips because not many people, not many organizations have been able to pull off what you all have with that commitment to bringing in diversity. I heard a couple of things like you’re different you know looking at schools what are some other things that you’ve done?

Steph: Well I think one of the really important things in this cycle because there’s things you do throughout the cycle, is in your recruiting cycle is doing a lot of training around understanding our unconscious bias and removing that bias from an interview process.

And Maureen, you know you’ve come here and done trainings for my team, so we’ve got great stuff we’ve done there. And there are the real table stakes you need to look at your job descriptions and make sure that they are open inclusive. So, there’s not language that would be less appealing to a certain demographic or draw in only a certain demographic.

Interview for Skillset

You need to make sure that you are interviewing for the skillset of a job. This may sound just like, well of course you do that, except for a lot of people don’t. They are looking for people they want to hang out with. And so that means that if I meet you and you went to the same schools I did we kind of have the same socioeconomic status, and we kind of look the same, I’m going to have this natural connection and it’s going to move an interview in a different direction than if we don’t have those things in common.

So really removing that from the interview process and saying we are going to interview for the skills needed for that job. And we’re going to define that very carefully and so for those of you who are thinking well woah, woah, what about my culture I want my culture. That’s important to, you need to make sure that your culture is filled with honest values that can be values for any kind of people.

So, if your culture is about having fun and playing sports, you’re going to obviously alienate a lot of people. You can have all those things, but if your culture is built around a set of values, of communicating respectfully, and you do a lot of training around that that, that’s a healthy culture. That’s something that you want to build.

So again, removing that bias through the interview process is the 1st place that we start because that kind of blooms out into how we treat our review process and how we interact with each other. And we do a lot of training around that.

Mo: And I love this idea of not saying I’m not trying to find somebody that I want to hang out with. And removing that like me bias and the other piece, I love this idea of culture add versus culture fit. And the culture add is still true to your values, but I think the work and the time that you have spent defining those and making sure that those are really even those core values can lead to inclusivity is really key. All that foundational work that you’ve done in the diverse talent now let’s talk about inclusion and belonging.

 I happened to be at your office, I think it was Chinese New Year, I’m trying to remember what holiday it was. That’s one little thing but I know you all too everything from celebrations with food and acknowledgment and I’m going to be quiet and let you talk about all those great things.

Steph: Yeah you know one of the neat things is when you start to remove all that bias you bring people in for the right reasons and have good values set. That wanting to hang out together actually does happen with everybody and that’s a neat thing and part of it is celebrating differences.

So, it’s the it’s the fun stuff like celebrating Chinese New Year’s or celebrating Diwali as an office but letting it be organic, not making it a kind of forced weird thing but seeing people who are excited about it and giving them the space to celebrate those things and share them really comfortably with different people. And opening the space for people to ask questions about it. I don’t understand this holiday what does it mean, why is it important? It’s making sure we do serve lunch here a couple of times a week and it’s making sure that the food that is served each time is something that everybody can eat.

There are options for everybody, but also that we are serving all kinds of different foods from around the world. People in this office come from all over the world and eat all kinds of foods, so making sure that that just in a day-to-day, it normalizes the you know, you’re going to have all kinds of different foods from all over the world here on a regular basis.

Things maybe like looking at when people are going through fasting, so certainly a lot of people from different cultures have periods of the year where they fast. So how do you create a space for people to understand that that’s happening and support them through it.

So there, I mean there’s so many really neat ways of doing that and then you know, there’s things like the fun clubs that we have that attract all different people. One of the women who works for me, Jane who’s amazing, who you’ve Maureen sponsors at the DND club and you walked in there and it’s all these different people from all different places and they have this connection around that. But a lot of it also comes to you know learning how to use language well so it’s inclusive on a regular basis.

Being in a safe environment to say hey, that did offend me or hey, I have a question about that. So those things, the more you build on them and you get more comfortable having those conversations, the more inclusive the environment becomes.

Mo: I heard two things in there that are critical. One is sort of allowing for this curiosity, so I actually heard three. Allowing the curiosity and like OK maybe I don’t know what this holiday is or maybe I don’t know why you’re fasting can you tell me about that?

The third thing that I think is really critical is you talked about a safe space to have the conversation and this for me is one of the things I think is really important. We go to blame and shame and we don’t allow room for the missed steps. We’re actually going to have a whole in this. How have you done that at Vungle? How have you created a place where people can and talk about it when somebody says something exclusive or make somebody feel uncomfortable?

Respectful Conversations

Steph: Yeah, I mean I think that’s such a hard space because people, I think people generally want to do the right thing. And I think they generally don’t want to hurt other humans especially when you’re in an environment together.

I mean I think that’s mostly true. And so, if we can give permission to say hey that didn’t feel OK, or here’s why that bothers me. And not make it about shaming someone but saying you know when you, when you call us the girls it feels this way to me, and I know you didn’t probably mean that in that way but that’s how it’s feeling.

I do think that a lot of those conversations happen quietly and privately to start, and I think that if you can do training around respectful communication and feedback, which we do a lot of so there’s a giving feedback but there’s also the receiving feedback. And that doesn’t mean that everything you feedback on me I have to agree with or accept, but it should be presented in respectful manner and I should be able to hear that it’s important to you and be respectful back.

And so that goes for any of these things when you’re dealing with diversity, you know bumps or just you know performance issues or any kind of communication. So, you can build that in as normal in an organization where there is a good feedback and where people can ask questions and where they can make mistakes, I think that’s pretty important because we have all blown it. On a pretty regular basis people blow it, and it can be OK for you to say well I didn’t know that was not OK. Or I didn’t know that you can’t eat that or that you know saying that means this, if we can make that OK then we can address it.

Mo: I think there was a key point in there that you haven’t left that to chance.  You haven’t expected people to have that skill set and again you know in most cultures were not raised to be like all up in your grill and telling you what’s going on. We’re going to shove this under the rug and so teaching people as adults how to receive, how to present, how to have this ongoing. Like death to this annual performance review already an instead like having this constant feedback loop but then you talk about it and you have training.

You provide people with some you know some skills space, that’s really, really key. Because so many organizations just think they are going to get it.

Steph: They don’t, because it’s hard stuff and its uncomfortable stuff and again, people don’t want to step wrong but when they do, they don’t want to be shamed for it.

I mean obviously unless something gets to a place where someone does need to be talked to and that doesn’t happen. But I think that that a lot of things people want to do the right thing and if you give them the tools to ask the questions or to say that felt uncomfortable to me, you know then then you can start have a dialogue and then start to shift your culture.

Mo: There’s a piece that I’m hearing here Steph, that’s really about this being just like ongoing. You know that there is not like oh we’re done, we’ve done this cooling, or you know we take this approach that is just a constant. How have you helped people have you know that inclusion thought that this is actually a part of my responsibility.

Steph: Yeah, I mean there’s your challenge right. Because we all get busy with other things, it is never done. The trainings are regular, the conversation is regular, our value set talks to it and we really embed that in our conversations, and we use it as values filter for all decision making at the leadership level and encourage others to.

Evolve with Change

So, for us it does feel very present, but it doesn’t it doesn’t start that way right. It’s something you know, it’s like building muscle, it’s like brushing your teeth everyday which you know you hopefully y’alll do, but you didn’t think about. But if you build that muscle it gets it gets more natural. But it’s never ending, and also you know you need people to come into your world and you want to train them as they come in and you want to make sure that things change.

Again, what we thought was cutting edge around this kind of work 5 years ago would be nothing now, so you do have to evolve with that. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the work that you’re doing with everyday inclusion because it is going to be this constant reminder and a lot of it’s that reminder.  so that’s why I’m very, very excited about the work that you’re doing there too.

Mo: We’re coming up on time, we’ve covered a lot of ground if you just have one or two pieces of advice or you want to drop some last truth bombs what would they be Steph?

Steph: Well I’ll tell you this, you know people say that having a more diverse staff make your business better, well it does. I mean it absolutely does it doesn’t mean that things are always going to be easy. I mean the easiest thing is to sit in a room with everyone just like you and agree with each other and that’s just so boring and so not creative and so not interesting.

Diversity in Conversation

So, I would strongly encourage people to do the work of building the environment and that doesn’t mean just like I’m going to hire diversity and then I’m done because you’re not done. I had a dinner last year at one of the summits and it was tables of 10 and I was sitting there and every single person there came from a different country and they had different languages. And it meant that the conversations are richer and they’re more interesting and we have to work harder to understand each other and it is, it’s really cool.

Steph: So, I strongly encourage people to do the work and it won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but you can do it.

Mo: I love that challenge reward payoff right. It is a challenge right you have to, but how interesting and I love that idea like we could all be the same and how boring is that. Just leave it with that.

Steph, thank you so much for joining us and sharing all your good stuff. If you all are not following Steph I would. She is always posting really interesting content ideas and I always leave conversations with her with something to think about. So Steph, thank for being here and sharing your truth bombs and all the work that you all are doing at bungle and keep up the great work!

Steph: Thank you so much for having me.


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