In June of 2020 we formed our first ever Black employee resource group (ERG), Black Leaders at Amplitude Creating Change (BLACC). Our vision is to elevate the experience of Black individuals at Amplitude and within the technology community. We strive to build an inclusive culture to ensure that as we increase the amount of Black representation within the company, the environment is one where there is still a strong sense of belonging.
To further this mission, we’re now launching an ERG spotlight series, beginning with amplifying Black voices here at Amplitude.
First up in the series: Adrian Gregory, Sr. Director of Customer Success, EMEA
What’s your work background?
I’ve had two distinct chapters in my career. The first was in financial services. I worked for a few different large financial organizations in a variety of roles focused on project and product management. The second chapter brought me into the startup world. I’ve since worked in both customer success and operation/strategy roles, first at Optimizely, and now at Amplitude. I’ve really enjoyed seeing these two different sides of the working world, the structured corporate roles and the fast-paced startup environment.
What’s your role at Amplitude?
For the past four years, I have been helping to build and grow our EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) market. I lead the Customer Success team here in Europe.
What does it mean to you to be Black in the tech space?
This feels like a complicated question, but I’ll try to provide a simple answer.
Being Black in tech is not all that different from being Black in America. The main difference is that while I find myself surrounded by many supportive people in our forward-thinking organization, it is also at a cost of not being surrounded by many people that look like me. I think there’s an opportunity to harness the power of a large group of individuals within these organizations who have the willingness and desire to help drive change, to actually do something to be a part of that change in our industry.
What do you think the tech industry can do to be more inclusive?
We have to be honest with ourselves that we have a long way to go. I think organizations should think about it in three ways:
- Recruiting: It’s more than just putting an emphasis on diverse hiring as an organization. You need to make it top of mind by talking about it frequently, providing resources to find a diverse set of candidates, and actually measuring your efforts to help drive accountability. High-growth companies continually apply pressure to themselves when it comes to the rate of hiring. We may actually need to allow organizations to slow down to find the right people, keeping diversity in mind. The right candidates are likely out there if we cast a larger net. Remote working also allows us to recruit from places outside of traditional tech hubs, opening up new candidates pools. Our teams and organizations also have to be equipped to give people with less traditional backgrounds a chance. This may require investing in managers to help coach them on how to provide these opportunities.
- Creating Space: Let’s be intentional about creating inclusive spaces within our organizations. I’ve never been very involved in employee groups before, but I have recently gotten involved with our BLACC ERG at Amplitude, and I now understand the power of these types of groups. They give employees the space to be heard and to begin to drive change with like-minded peers. They can also be really helpful in coaching your organization through biases and suggesting ways the company can be more inclusive.
- Giving back: Organizations that want to have a real impact on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry need to look beyond their hiring efforts. The pipeline for diverse candidates is low because we need to invest more in the Black community and give people the desire, opportunity and roadmap for how to work in this space. We need to support and promote Black leaders so children can aspire to be like them. We need to invest in our communities by giving back to those who might not have the same opportunities as us. This requires moving beyond the idle guilt phase, to taking action and doing small things that contribute to longer-term growth.
Here’s an example. When I lived in San Francisco, I was a mentor at BUILD. We were constantly looking for more people in the tech community to offer their time to mentor kids in the program. I was also looking for ways we could partner with my company at the time, Optimizely. We found a great way to leverage our collective strengths to help the community by building a partnership between Optimizely and BUILD to teach the young kids how to build websites for their fictitious businesses. This allowed us to expose children to the tech world early on, helped them learn some skills that would be beneficial in school and later in life, and helped empower the BUILD organization to drive an even bigger impact. I’m still looking for more ways to contribute to this effort from abroad.
What advice would you give to people aspiring for success in your field?
You are not alone on this journey. I’d really recommend finding mentors in this space. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had great mentors in my life that have helped guide me along the way. People from all walks of life. Look around and see who inspires you, then seek out their advice. Hopefully more and more of these people are Black voices that we can look up to.
I’d also say, don’t think of your career as a linear path. Each role you have gives you skills that you accumulate over time to help you move towards your long-term vision. Be open to taking a non-traditional path and taking some risks. I think this is how we can learn more about ourselves, and start to appreciate the journey.
For underrepresented groups, my advice is to find your own voice for driving change. This may not look like everyone else’s activism. While I don’t consider myself to be a traditional activist, I am trying to lead by example and hoping to make an impact by sharing my own experience and perspectives. I want to challenge myself as I continue to grow in my career, to have a bigger voice and to find more areas where I can share my influence.