On a Monday morning in late August, Nordstrom sent out a company-wide letter in which the fashion giant addressed the looming elephant in the room following a summer of turmoil after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. From there leaders in the company leapt into action forming the Nordstrom Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Council, which is designed to drive diversity and change within the company.
But as actions speak louder than words, the brand has issued a challenge to itself, setting a series of goals that include increasing corporate diversity and leadership opportunities. By the end of 2025, they will increase Black and Latinx populations in people-manager roles by at least 50 percent.
Nordstrom has also committed to making improvements in the marketplace, including prioritizing the diversity of brands they collaborate with. Also, taking it a step further by pledging $500 million in retail sales to brands owned by, operated by or designed by Black and/or Latinx individuals by the close of 2025.
Corporations are now being called to do more than mimic catchy slogans, and Nordstrom is committed to doing the work. A company culture that allocator, Danielle Fraser and senior software engineer, Curtis Jordan, have embraced as they’ve worked to help lead change within the company. We joined both to take a look at Nordstrom through their eyes as they ran through their day, how diversity is creating opportunities, ways that technology is enhancing the workplace, and tips for tech professionals to get a start at the company.
Time with the company: 2.5 years
Position: Senior Software Engineering Manager
Time with the company: 5 years
AfroTech: What’s the first thing you do to start your workday? And what are some day-to-day projects that you work on?
Danielle: The first thing I do when I start my workday is turn on my laptop and check my calendar for the day. I like to know what is coming up for that day and how to prioritize my to do list. As an allocator, my main function is to deploy our inventory to the best locations in order to satisfy our customers’ needs. We use data to drive these actions and deliver the most beneficial outcomes. In layman’s terms, I analyze inventory for our stores.
Curtis: Coffee and check my Slack message. [My job is] system modernization to enable more efficient fulfillment operations for Nordstrom’s supply chain business. Fulfillment services handle order and inventory data flow between the Nordstrom ecosystem and the supply chain. We also enable automation [robotics] at the fulfillment centers to improve our order volume and improve the speed of delivery to customers.
How do you see your company recruiting/hiring/retaining Black talent?
Danielle: I feel over the years I have been working at Nordstrom, the recruitment, hiring, and retaining of Black employees has become more of a priority and I think Nordstrom is trying to do the work. I think like many companies 2020 has put more pressure on Nordstrom to make this a public goal. Most systems in America are not set up for Black and Brown people to succeed and corporations are no different, but I think Nordstrom is willing to challenge some of these systems.
Curtis: [Nordstrom is] focusing on engaging talent from different spheres than currently sourced. [The company is] looking to go beyond the typical sources for talent in favor of forging partnerships with organizations focused exclusively on Black talent. [There is] emphasis on Nordstrom as an organization to welcome Black technical talent as a driver for improving the organization and helping it achieve its goals.
It’s midday, what’s on your schedule?
Danielle: I’m currently working on a project that Nordstrom is driving to figure out how to remove bias from design and create a more inclusive workplace. I am supporting the strategy aspect of this project and our presentation is in a few days, so just working with my team to finalize our PowerPoint.
Curtis: Go for a run! Get set for touch bases with members of my team and additional meetings to set goals and objectives for key projects.
What’s your connection with the Black ERG at Nordstrom, what work does the group do to foster community?
Danielle: I am heavily involved in Black Employee Network. I am the Marketplace Liaison Leader for the group. Internally, the ERG fosters community through professional development events, social events, speaking series with industry professionals, and internal speaker series with leaders of our company. Externally, we host volunteer programs and drives to reach out and impact the community we work and do business in. I think fostering community both internally and externally is a fundamental reason for BEN.
Curtis: I’ve attended several BEN group activities. The group has provided a means to help improve awareness and community within the organization. The creation of communication channels like our BEN Slack channel, as well as company conversations around race relations in America.
What’s one of your favorite memories new or old at your company as it relates to how you felt included as a Black employee?
Danielle: In 2019, I had the privilege of hearing Martin Luther King III speak at Nordstrom, and after a very moving call to action a coworker and I hatched a plan to host a school supply drive for teachers in our underserved communities. I felt really supported because although it was out of my job scope, my leadership team and co-workers fully supported the idea and for the first time I felt like I had a place to belong and people I could trust.
Curtis: Being assigned to drive a number of initiatives that helped the organization achieve key objectives. A project that helped enable supply chain operations for our NYC store launch and driving the launch of automation systems to support our move into this space for fulfillment optimization.
How will you set yourself up for your next major project or promotion?
Danielle: This is something I am actively working on right now. For my next promotion, I am hoping it will be different from what I currently do, so just finding ways to incorporate those skillsets in my current job, in order to prove I am capable.
Curtis: Working on it! Drive my projects to achieve the business objectives on time with high quality as well as improve the overall effectiveness of the team and the supply chain organization. Expand my understanding and influence inside and outside of my immediate engineering group.
What’s the last thing you do before you complete the workday?
Danielle: I start and end my day with a peek at my calendar, I want to make sure I completed all my goals and tasks and I am prepared for the following workday.
Curtis: Check my Slack, look at what my schedule is for the next day and make a plan.
What advice do you have for Black professionals looking to get recruited by Nordstrom?
Danielle: Apply, we need your amazing talent! Visit careers.nordstrom.com to find your next position!
Curtis: The organization has numerous opportunities and challenges and is conducive to helping an individual thrive. From an engineering standpoint, retail operations involve the use of all the latest and greatest technologies, so one will not lack for challenges. Depending on what area you are interested in, Nordstrom has a spot. Show your aptitude and initiative and we will get you in.
Be sure to learn more about how Nordstrom continues to support their Black employees here.
This piece was brought to you in partnership with Nordstrom.