Behind the Code: A Day in the Life With Plaid’s Own Shenae Simmons and Marcus Crowder
Photo Credit: AfroTech
Pivotal moments this year, including the death of George Floyd and mass protests, have underscored the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. For financial technology company Plaid, it’s meant in part not only empowering employees but also amplifying their voices as a whole; a commitment the San Francisco-based company has dived all in on.
Plaid allows users to easily connect their financial accounts to apps they use to manage their financial lives. Some of their customers include Venmo, Chime, Microsoft, and Acorns.
Behind the scenes, the company has dedicated itself to ensuring that Plaid is a workplace that supports these critical issues, with a multitude of initiatives and events launched internally including a fireside chat with Black leaders in tech, a company-wide book club, and D&I lightning talks featuring employee stories. They’ve also implemented their own version of Employee Resource Groups, called Plaid Community Groups, which include groups like “Plaids of Color” among others.
Additionally, as part of Plaid’s three-times-a-year hackathon, the team developed a concept for a program aimed at helping early-stage BIPOC founded startups by providing expertise and resources designed to create opportunities and foster a more inclusive fintech community. This is currently slated to roll out early next year.
Recently speaking with Technical Support Engineer, Shenae Simmons, and Software Engineer, Marcus Crowder, we learned how Plaid is dedicated to moving the needle on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Position: Technical Support Engineer
Time with the company: Less than 1 year
Position: Software Engineer
Time with the company: 1 year
AfroTech: What’s your role in the organization and how does it contribute to larger company goals?
Shenae: As a technical support engineer, I am the first line of contact for our customers when they experience technical issues. By responding to and resolving the issue in a timely manner, I am reinforcing the trust in Plaid and the efficiency of our products.
Marcus: I am a software engineer at Plaid on the Integrations team. The team is responsible for ensuring that our Fintech customers have access to consumer-permissioned data so that they can continue to build meaningful products that make it easier for all of us to manage our money digitally. In addition to supporting my core team, I also support the team that’s building Plaid Exchange, an open finance out-of-the-box solution for banks. Both of these workstreams are core to Plaid’s business to ensure that our fintech customers have access to consumer-permissioned data so that they can build products to make better financial outcomes for everyone.
What is your connection to Plaid’s ERG groups and how has it shaped your time there?
Shenae: I really enjoy being a member of Plaids of Color (PloC). I was on the committee that organized a survey to determine the BLM organizations Plaid should make donations to. We have done a lot of virtual events like movie nights, fireside chats with Black entrepreneurs, and trivia nights to engage the community.
Marcus: I co-founded PloC with Darius Simmons, another engineer at Plaid. Our mission is to raise awareness and promote the representation of people of color at Plaid. We organize and support company-wide diversity initiatives while working with leadership to build an inclusive community of shared values and goals.
We have held community-building and social events, created a platform to discuss issues like social injustice and recently hosted a fireside chat on Black leadership in technology. We also provide help and support to other company initiatives such as an internal program to support URG-founded Fintechs.
What can ERG programs do in terms of supporting various communities present in the tech world?
Shenae: This year’s hackathon theme was financial inclusion for BIPOC, and the team that I was on won the top prize. With the blessing of our CEO and leadership, we are bringing the project to life.
Plaid’s mission has always been to enable innovation in financial services for societal and economic growth. This is even more important now. I hope that the BLM movement doesn’t lose steam and that the policies put in place now will employ more Black people in STEM and in management positions.
Marcus: We need ERGs to step up and be a voice in helping tackle issues head-on and work with leadership to hold companies accountable for their initiatives and goals that were set after the recent tragedies this year. ERGs also need to advocate for hiring people of color into leadership roles.
What do you hope to see the company accomplish in terms of diversity and inclusion within Plaid?
Shenae: As with any company, we’re of the mindset that there’s always more that we can do and I’m excited to see some of the DEIB programs that we have implemented come to fruition and other exciting initiatives include product inclusion principles, as well as revisions to our documentation and some technical terms with inclusive language.
Marcus: I hope to see successful startups coming out of our new program supporting BIPOC-founded startups and for Plaid to hit the Diversity, Equality, Inclusion, and Belonging goals that were set out.
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?
Shenae: My heart swelled 200 percent when our CEO announced that Juneteenth would be a company holiday. They rescheduled our company hackathon around the holiday.
Marcus: My favorite experience so far as a Black employee was during the fireside chat we recently hosted on Black Leadership in Tech Today, featuring various black fintech founders. They shared their personal experience around social injustice and the challenges of building a successful business and leadership through the pandemic. I was really happy with my company’s willingness to bring people together from our industry and have strong discussions around the current state of social unrest within America and what got it here following the protests and marches this year.
What advice do you have for Black professionals potentially interested in being recruited by Plaid?
Shenae: Be yourself, ask open-ended questions, and follow-up with the interviewer after each segment of the interview process. The interviewers are not there to trick you so we do ask questions or assign you coding challenges that you will see if you are hired.
Get to know more about Plaid and how they’re driving change here.
This piece was brought to you in partnership with Plaid.