In July of 2021, Amplitude formed our first company-wide employee resource group (ERG) for women, Women in Tech (WiT). The Women in Tech ERG works to cultivate an inclusive environment that supports and encourages women to advance their skills and leadership potential through connection, mentorship, collaboration, and discussion.
To further this mission, we’re continuing our ERG Spotlight Series as part of Women’s History Month.
Next up in the series: Skyla Banks, Senior Commercial Counsel.
What’s your work background?
I started as a Policy and Procedure Analyst in the auto finance industry immediately after graduating from law school. While the opportunity was in line with my desire to increase my writing skills, the industry I was in was boring and heavily regulated. I decided to bet on myself and jump into the technology industry.
I joined a cybersecurity company as an in-house counsel. From there, I immersed myself in the technology industry and have been in-house counsel for approximately 4-5 technology companies, all participating in creating and developing SaaS products and services.
What’s your role at Amplitude?
At Amplitude, I have the privilege of working as Senior Commercial Counsel with a team of amazing lawyers. In my role, I am primarily responsible for negotiating Amplitude’s sales and vendor/procurement contracts, as well as assisting in other practice groups as needed.
What does it mean to you to be a Black woman lawyer in the tech space?
It means everything to be a Black woman lawyer in tech. According to the 2020 American Bar Association lawyers profile report, African Americans only make up 5% of the legal population in the United States. This is the same percentage as ten years earlier. I highlight this data because the amount of African American lawyers in the United States compared to our White counterparts is drastically lower, and the number of African American lawyers—specifically Black women lawyers—in tech is even smaller.
To be able to walk into a room (or to be present on a Zoom call) and introduce myself as counsel to Amplitude is truly one of the greatest privileges in my life. I take pride in being a Black woman, but to have that accessorized with the title of “esquire” exceeds any form of accomplishment my ancestors could have likely even thought about for me.
What do you think the tech industry can do to be more inclusive?
I think the tech industry can do three things to become more inclusive:
First, tech companies should have tough conversations meant to challenge the norm. There are thousands of talented Black professionals eager and ready to join tech companies. We’re ready to show our value and the positive contributions that can be made to tech companies, not only from our intelligence and educational backgrounds, but also from our cultural and professional experiences.
Second, the tech industry should ensure their hiring practices reflect their written positions on diversity and inclusion. When hiring employees, referrals are always valuable to growth. However, it is customary that the same demographic groups have opportunities to refer their colleagues/friends, whereas African American referrals are often overlooked simply because the referrer is not a manager or lacks decision-making authority. While race should not be a primary requirement for hiring talent, it should be a factor objectively considered to ensure a company’s demographic profile accurately reflects the general population (e.g., the United States population).
Finally, the tech industry should focus on efforts of inclusion that will have a lasting impact on employee retention. While traditional celebrations of African American or Black culture according to a calendar are nice (e.g., Black History Month, Juneteenth, etc.), leaders within the tech industry should celebrate cultural impact and diversity throughout the year. This can be done by celebrating individual contributors on a more public scale (e.g., at company-wide meetings), having round table discussions between leadership teams and diverse managers and individual contributors, and requiring that senior members of leadership teams are active participants in diverse ERGs throughout the company.
Being an ERG sponsor isn’t enough; stepping in, doing the heavy lifting, publicizing, and actively and happily supporting ERG events are what’s important.
What advice would you give to people aspiring for success in your field?
The number one piece of advice I give to anyone, but importantly Black women, who desire to be a lawyer in tech is to not accept “no” from anyone. Whether that be a career counselor at your school, a professor, your family, or even yourself—do not accept no. The path ordained for you is unique to you, and as long as you are willing to work hard, remain persistent, and be disciplined, that path will develop, and you will get to wherever your destination will be. But first, it starts with believing in yourself and realizing that “no” is never the answer.
Excited by Skyla’s Amplitude experience? Check out our current openings on our careers site.