As a Black and Japanese woman, ServiceNow VP of Operations for Digital Innovation and Transformation Mica Mayo navigates the intersectionality of being a Black woman in leadership daily. Along the way, Mica has acquired skills that have led her to become a natural problem solver in her roles over the years. At ServiceNow, she is in charge of digitizing, automating, and executing internal processes that make the lives of employees easier.
The state of the nation is causing employees to navigate society in unique ways while handling two pandemics — COVID-19 and systemic racism. There is no doubt that this will bleed into the work culture. That hasn’t stopped ServiceNow from offering a supportive environment for its employees, with Mica having first hand experience. She sat down and spoke with AfroTech about working at ServiceNow in a time such as this and her experience being a Black and Asian woman and how that hasn’t held her back at all with excelling in her career.
Can you tell us about your current position with ServiceNow and the developmental step you took to get there?
Mayo: I am VP of Operations for Digital Innovation and Transformation. That sounds real fancy, but [that basically means], the job [impacts] the global market, [to include] sales, services and our customer partner area. You can just simplistically say while all industries are going through digital transformations, I’m doing that inside the company.
I have been in a number of operations and finance roles. I’ve worked across all different parts of a company at several different companies over all those years. As you get more and more experience, you work with different functions across the company, that then just kind of culminates into being able to do this efficiently with the title at ServiceNow, and that’s pretty exciting. This is a new role. It didn’t officially exist until a couple of months ago. I had been doing some of this as part of my traditional sales and operational responsibility, then declared it a full-fledged role of discipline and that took shape effectively on October 1.
How has being a Black and Asian woman shaped your career experiences?
Mayo: So I’ve got one half of my family that is just a generation removed from slavery, and I’ve got another half of my family that immigrated from Japan. Oddly, my parents met at college and hadn’t really had much interaction with either group until then. I can tell you that both families were vehemently opposed to their union at that time [in the early 70s]; it just really wasn’t the thing. But with that as my backdrop, it has instilled within me this notion of, you are not entitled to anything, and you have to be resilient. I was not brought up feeling any assumed privilege. That combination makes me very passionate and frankly has contributed to a really deep work ethic. I work hard as a result.
The thing that’s unique is when you put being Black and Japanese [together], it’s difficult [for people] to tell what my ethnic background is — like ‘what is she?’ Some people can kind of tell right away, other people don’t and that has resulted in a lifetime of people making wrong assumptions about me. A lifetime. People will interact with me in various ways as a result, [which] led me to be very self-conscious in certain settings because I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to get. [I have learned from that not to] assume when I meet other people. [I am more] open to listening and better understanding where people are coming from, and having empathy for different folks. That’s been a benefit.
What’s something you wish you’d known before climbing the corporate ladder?
Mayo: I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, I don’t know if it’s because I’m Black, I don’t know if it’s because I’m Japanese, but for some reason, I just always have been a bit hesitant about promoting myself, and so I wait until I feel I’m really ready for that next level. I wish that someone had taken me aside earlier and said, ‘No, don’t wait, nobody else does, take a leap — take that stretch position.’ I should have really self-promoted and jumped out ahead. Who cares if it’s only been X amount of times at level whatever, who cares? Go after that next role even before it seems like it feels right. I think that’s what I wish I had gotten as early advice. You don’t have to be overqualified to then throw your name into the hat. Dream big. Go for it.
How has ServiceNow stayed ahead of the curve in regards to enhancing workflows?
Mayo: ServiceNow is all about making the world of work, work better for people by what’s called digitizing workflows. The best way to describe what the company does is to think about when you join a company, normally you’ve got to get an employee badge, a computer, and a workspace. There’s paperwork that you have to complete for your tax withholding, benefits, etc. Then you’ve got to be set up with an email account, and gain access to tools. All of these things are serviced by different departments. It can be clunky when you’re trying to get started quickly. You [want to] do it correctly so that you can get to work and ensure that there are no delays in getting paid. ServiceNow aims to thread all that together, so it’s seamless for the employee and you can even do all of that, through your mobile phone.
How has the pandemic impacted employees and what has ServiceNow done to step in?
Mayo: Getting back to what we’ve done since the pandemic, ServiceNow has always been focused on the customer. When the pandemic first hit, we created a bunch of very critical and free apps, so that any industry could coordinate their emergency response.
[For example, we asked questions like] do you have enough PPE? How do you get through all of your testing? Various local governments and companies have leveraged our free apps, and even non-customers of ServiceNow can access them. What ServiceNow has also done internally–which I feel has been outstanding–is allowing employees to flex work. Work when you can. It was pretty easy for most folks to pivot and work from home, [and] the company has really been empathetic as well, giving resources to get counseling. Additionally, every employee was given a stipend of additional funds, so you had a pool of money that you could use to set up your home office, [or use it] for your own mental health and wellness. There have also been supportive forums bringing the employee base together, to just talk — and that’s certainly specific to the Black employees as well.
The confidence and relief of hearing our CEO, Bill McDermott, commit to no layoffs through 2020 as a result of the pandemic is indescribable. It eliminated some anxiety and helped our employees focus. Everyone is trying to balance and struggle with [life right now].
Have any initiatives hit close to home for you?
Mayo: ServiceNow has been engaging and putting a pronounced focus on Black employees. Police brutality and systemic racism are nothing new. However, ServiceNow has done a number of things that I am encouraged by. Immediately, we had an all-company [meeting] devoted to discussion. Our CEO and our chief marketing and communications officer had a conversation with one of our Black employees about the movement outside our walls, as well as experiences he’d had being Black at ServiceNow. I thought it was pretty risky, because it was live, anything could have gone wrong. Then, because it’s live you’re seeing the chat from everywhere in the company as people are commenting, and there were a few questionable things that people were saying because they didn’t know or didn’t understand the reality of the experience. I was encouraged to see that other employees jumped in on the chat to help educate and correct misinformation or misunderstanding. It was a powerful listening and learning moment.
That was one thing, I think, that kind of set the stage, to be quite honest. We’ve also developed a five-point plan that outlines how we’ll drive sustainable change within ServiceNow, and of course, the company has donated money to certain purposeful kinds of causes and matched employees’ donations, too.
There were teams and a budget assigned as a direct result of that five-point plan. I’m encouraged by the work our DIBS (Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging) teams are implementing in partnership across the enterprise to ramp up. For example, to drive a deeper understanding, we’ve had learning sprints, to educate employees and drive awareness and understanding of topics like allyship, advocates, and sponsorship. There was a purposeful day of learning where everyone was encouraged to take that day off, and finally, the company made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a corporate holiday. That may sound small but I’m confident that if we execute on the plan, there’ll be material or demonstrative change. I volunteered to help with the recruiting pillar in the five-point plan, but there are others as well that I’m sure I’ll also get engaged with.
How has the company personally empowered you and what is your greatest professional accomplishment at ServiceNow?
Mayo: My greatest professional accomplishment is my current role. I’ve been entrusted to drive ServiceNow’s internal digital transformation, which is critical to the business, as we scale from our existing $4 billion in revenue to $10 billion. I’d say, for now, that is my biggest accomplishment here at ServiceNow.
What advice would you give Black professionals who are interested in the tech industry?
Mayo: There is so much opportunity; even if you’ve experienced [frequent] career changes, don’t let that discourage you. You can learn how to code or you have valuable transferable skills from other industries. My advice would be [that] this is an industry that is really embracing of those who [are] driven by continuous learning. Don’t let ‘oh I didn’t do computer science’ be your excuse for not going into high tech or deciding to make a late-career change. It is a newer industry where people are valued and seen for what [skills] can transfer and be a huge value or asset within the industry. So that’s how I would encourage people.
ServiceNow ensures that employees are cared for both inside and outside of the workplace. Mica serves as a prime example of how companies that take care of their employees will thrive. See which career opportunities might be a good fit for you here.
This piece has been brought to you in partnership with ServiceNow.