Technology is all around us, even in places you’d least expect it, which has been a blessing for those interested in jump-starting a career in the tech industry. With more and more businesses embracing flexible and remote work, the door has started to crack open wider, particularly at companies looking to drive diversity and inclusion in an industry that’s still largely white.
For Medallia, the industry leader in customer and employee experience management, it’s meant embracing creative minds from all walks of life, a method that seems to be paying off in dividends as the company has worked to expand its inclusion efforts. That includes their Black at Medallia (BAM) employee resource group — a space created to enable and empower Black and brown employees and have their voices heard on a company-wide level. BAM’s mission is to elevate the Black experience both at Medallia and within the communities they serve. A biweekly town hall series, impactful discussions, and partnering with Medallia to donate $200k to four different nonprofits are a few of the ways BAM has driven their mission.
They haven’t stopped there either. Medalllia’s CEO Leslie Stretch made a pledge statement that “confronting inequality takes more than words.” Over the summer, Stretch unveiled a plan designed to increase hiring for historically excluded groups, increase ERG funding, dedicate time to ongoing education and much more.
It’s that kind of public and personal display of support that has empowered employees, affectionately known as Medallians. We recently sat down with two of them to discuss how they’ve been impacted by these ongoing efforts, what life in the tech industry is really like and more.
Kofi Frimpong – Director of IT, Sales & Marketing Solutions
AfroTech: Tell us a little bit about your current role and duties at Medallia.
Kofi: As a Director of Enterprise Applications, I’ve really been focused on driving the digital transformation of our business processes and matching what the business needs with innovative and cutting-edge solutions. The goal really is to connect people, technology and data for our sales, marketing, professional services and operational organizations utilizing state-of-the-art technologies to drive business.
As a company, we help our customers win through people and product experience. If you look at key brands around the world, they trust Medallia’s experience and engagement cloud technology, which embeds the voice of the customer in an organization and empowers employees with the real-time customer data, insights and tools they need to make every experience great. We are the only company that powers and fosters organizations to stay engaged in real-time with their audience, driving customer loyalty and growth in a changing world.
AfroTech: What do you enjoy most about leading a team?
Kofi: You can look at it a couple of ways. One, being a people manager actually feels like it’s a huge, huge responsibility, but it’s a responsibility that you can take pride in. As a manager, you have to learn how you guide your team, how to support them, how to encourage, motivate and empower them. The plans you put together to make them successful directly impact their lives. So I don’t just base my job on coming in and getting transactional work done — it’s really about being a mentor, an enabler to help an individual get to their career goal and providing the resources for the progression of their professional journey. So, as a manager, I take great pride in being a conduit to my team’s pathway towards their professional aspirations.
AfroTech: How has Medallia adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kofi: That’s a good question. Experience management is very critical in today’s global economy and societal landscape. Companies, entities, businesses and communities need to really stay connected and have a pulse on what is happening in real-time so they can make immediate and strategic changes, optimize outcomes at scale and meet growing trends. As a company, we were able to quickly move and adapt to a virtual work environment with no disruption to our customers and employees as we adapted to Covid-19 preventative measures. This Employee Experience technology helped us understand how employees felt about whether to return to the office or not.
Additionally, our customers are using our products to engage with their employees, their customers and communities to deal, manage and combat Covid-19. In real-time, they can actually understand through the engagement of what is really happening within and outside the bubble that the company is operating in — this allows them to see which demographics are getting impacted the most. Through Medallia products, our customers are able to understand and support their employees; our local and federal government entities are able to understand the impact to communities and track which hospitals or which healthcare entities have access to resources required to be able to provide and take care of those in need. So by having access to real-time engagement, using our technology, you can make quick decisions and react in real-time.
AfroTech: How has Medallia empowered its URM (underrepresented minority) talent?
Kofi: I really have to give immense kudos and credit to Medallia for being very bold in supporting, taking immediate actions and inspiring the entire company to really stand together for equality. Obviously, we saw what happened this summer, from social justice and the huge protests in the Black Lives Matter movement. And immediately, when all of this was happening, our CEO Leslie Stretch was very, very bold in engaging with URM groups within the company to lay out a plan. He did not mince his words and really stood up and galvanized the entire company. So I give huge credit to the allies, both within and outside Medallia, and the partnership between the leadership team and our diverse communities. Action has been led by being upfront and discussing what is happening and taking real actions on our end.
BAM has been an incredible experience and has given us an opportunity to gather as a collective in a very safe environment, for us to connect, process our thoughts, listen to each other and educate ourselves in a very vulnerable and uncomfortable way with the sole goal of outlining concrete actions to undertake to fight inequality. This year we had a goal of removing all the barriers, discrimination, and intolerance in our communities, so I’ve been very, very hands-on and involved, so I’ve been very, very hands-on and involved. The change thus far has been remarkable, and we aren’t slowing down.
Alisha Thomas – Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Community Manager
AfroTech: Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you landed at Medallia.
Alisha: I have a master’s degree in journalism, and I came out of that degree not knowing what I wanted to do with it. Throughout the years I’ve had contract jobs within the tech industry, which led me from technical content management to internal and external communications to recruiting. On this journey, I realized I needed something that had purpose to it, where I could make an impact and fulfill my purpose. I then stumbled upon the world of diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI]. I ended up at this company called Patreon as a Diversity Sourcer — that’s when I first learned that there’s a whole world of DEI. After Patreon, I went on to a hospitality startup where I carved out a role for myself as the Talent Community Manager. Across all of these roles, however, I knew what drove me, and that was DEI. But being the only Black woman in a fair amount of my previous companies, when trying to implement anything, I always had to work tirelessly against a lot of red tape, oftentimes feeling the weight of the company was on my shoulders.
I got laid off at the end of February, beginning of March this year. But through my DEI work and networking and events — I’ve been to AfroTech three years in a row — I met a now good friend who is the Head of Talent and Belonging at Planet. It was through him that I learned about Lauren Jackman’s (Director, Diversity Inclusion & Belonging at Medallia) job opening for a DIB strategist position. However, at the time of my interview, which I want to say was back in April, it was not the right time, although I deeply wanted it to be. For various reasons, the role was put on pause and then out of the blue opened again two months later, along with a second role for a Global Diversity Inclusion & Belonging Community Manager, the position I hold today. And as I sit here talking to you, I know that I am living in my truth, fulfilling my purpose.
AfroTech: Tell us about your current role at Medallia.
Alisha: At a high level, my job is about community building internally and externally. My job focuses on the inclusion and equity piece of diversity, equity and inclusion, looking at how we show up and where we show up as a company. Internally, I work with the ERGs to help guide and support them as a program manager while strategizing and driving internal efforts that foster a workplace where everyone can bring their whole, authentic self to work. Externally, I focus on DEI efforts through employer branding, partnerships, and events.
AfroTech: How have you been supported during such a tumultuous time?
Alisha: This is the only company that I have worked at where I feel seen, valued and heard, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say a large part of that was due to my manager, Lauren Jackman and her manager, Mary Ainsworth, EVP, Chief People Officer. LJ is simply a gem; she often checks in, like, ‘Are you good? What do you need? How can I help?’ Or ‘I need your thoughts on xyz, etc.’ She is simply here for me as a person, a human, and I feel incredibly blessed to have her in my corner — it’s motivating, it’s empowering.
AfroTech: Describe how Medallia empowers or supports other Medallians.
Alisha: We are global, we have people all over the world. Something I’ve learned during my time being here is that Black Lives Matter isn’t just here in the U.S. Australia, where we have offices in Sydney, also has a very huge movement where they’ve mirrored the U.S. For them, it’s Indigenous Australia’s solidarity with the U.S., a movement for Black lives, which is a movement I was not aware of prior to joining Medallia. Ultimately, at Medallia, it’s about bringing everything together globally and making sure that everyone feels that sense of representation, that sense of inclusion, belonging and equity. There isn’t a remedy or a quick fix to DEI. It’s continuous, intentional work that sometimes has bumps here and there and mistakes made, but it’s about owning those mistakes and moving forward. It’s the constant question of ‘Okay, what else? What’s next, and how can we grow and make things even better?’
By being intentional and boldly addressing the many elephants in the room, Medallia has built a dedicated team of Medallians who feel heard, seen and valued. Want to know what the hype is all about? Learn about opportunities at Medallia here.
This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Medallia.