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Tech Ladies at Datadog

Tech Ladies at Datadog


Published: May 15, 2019
00:00:00
00:00:00

Sarah

How’s everyone doing tonight?

Thank you so much for coming out to our first (or our second) Tech Ladies x Datadog event.

Our first one was in San Francisco in October, and we had such a great time that we decided to do one here in our New York office.

We bring you a panel to talk about “The Only Experience.”

There is a study done on what it’s like to be the only person of a type on a team, which you can read about more in the Eventbrite link.

And I’m gonna pass this over to Carolyn who will introduce Tech Ladies, and then Tara will talk about Datadog.

Carolyn

Hi everyone, my name is Carolyn.

I help oversee events all across North America for Tech Ladies.

A little bit about Tech

Ladies: We are an online community of 50,000 women that are in tech or wanna be in tech.

We are not technical or non-technical, we are open to anyone and anyone that identifies as a woman in the industry.

If you wanna learn a little bit more about us, you can find us at hiretechladies.com.

We have memberships, both free and paid.

But the free one gives you a lot of perks as well, such as invitations to events like this.

I wanna give a huge shout out again to the Datadog team for bringing this together.

I also wanna give a shout out to the events team and anyone that was working behind the scenes to bring this event to life.

It’s not easy to put things like this together.

So huge shout out to everyone on events and coordination, AV, thank you.

So again, if you wanna learn more about Tech Ladies, myself and my colleague, Madeline who’s in the back, we can answer any questions for you about our organization.

We do have a job board, so if you are a part of a company that’s looking to hire more women, and more folks of color, and other backgrounds into your workforce, please reach out to us and we have a job for it.

So thank you all, and I’d like to introduce Sarah.

Tara

Tara.

Carolyn

Tara, wow, my bad.

Tara

Hi guys, I’m Tara, that’s Sarah, so you know.

So here at Datadog, we’re a SaaS-based monitoring company.

We’re always hiring, so if you’d like to come chat with us afterwards, we have a group of our lovely recruiters sitting right there, shout out.

And also on our panel, Geoffrey.

So anyway, to get things started, I’m gonna pass the phone to Ashley, and she’ll get things started.

Ashley

Thank you, guys.

These guys have put a ton of work into organizing this, and thank you all for making it out.

The weather smiled on us today.

I’m Ashley, I’m Director of Engineering here.

I work with a bunch of different teams, I would love you all to come work with me.

And I’m excited to talk to this lovely panel and hear about the experience of being an only.

I will turn it over to Celene to start by introducing herself.

Couple minute intro, tell us how you’re doing.

Celene

Working?

Ashley

There you go.

Celene

Hi, I’m Celene, I am a Senior Software Engineer here at Datadog.

I work on one of the smart products called Watchdog.

And I am also a mom of two lovely little girls.

Geoffrey

Hi, my name is Geoffrey. I am a University Recruiter hiring for our technical folks for interns and new grads.

I am a mother of none.

Alp

Hi, everyone.

I’m Alp, like the mountains but one.

You laugh but it sticks with people. I’ve alptimized my name.

I work at BuzzFeed, I’ve been there for nearly five years.

I’ve taken a fun journey through the landscape, I was in Apps, then I was in Publishing Tools, and now I’m Senior Product Specialist, focusing on our site experience and our CMS.

And I am unfortunately not a mother.

Bie

Hi, everyone, my name is Bie Aweh, she, her pronouns. I’m the…what am I?

I just started in a role last week, so I have to get the title right.

I’m the Diversity Inclusion, the People Growth Program Manager for Doordash.

And prior to that, I was the Associate Director of North American Learning and Development.

I’ll share another fun fact: I have an identical twin.

Are you an “only”?

Ashley

Wow, we have a diverse array of different roles here.

So I have a question, I’m interested in understanding this audience.

Who here considers themselves an only on their team?

One of only…wow, that’s quite a few.

I hope that at the end of this, you have some…you know, you’re not alone, even if you’re the only on your team.

So to start off, I wanted to talk about what an “only” is, because there are lots of different dimensions.

You can have physical things, or attributes, ethnicity, culture.

And I wonder for you guys, you’re all “onlys” on your team, how do you think about it?

If someone asks you, “Are you an only?",

would you say yes, and why? How do you think about it?

Who would like to start?

Bie

I’ll start since I have the mic.

So the way I think about being the “only,” for me, it’s within the context of being a part of an underrepresented group.

And so we know that’s very common in tech companies…or it’s not exclusive to tech companies, but because I occupy the tech space.

I’m thinking about being the only woman but also the only black person.

Also, when I think about identities beyond that, I think about nationality right, like I’m first generation American.

And so what does it mean to navigate this space as the only first generation American and the barriers that come with that?

So the question here: what was the most impactful moment or the moment where I noticed I was the only?

And that moment came from college.

I went to the University of New Hampshire.

And whenever I say that, people are like, “Oh, Dartmouth,” I’m like, “No, not Dartmouth.”

I went to the University of New Hampshire, and it was 96% White.

And so this is the first time in my life I was experiencing being the only.

But I will say the good (and I use that loosely)

but the good that came from that experience is that it totally shaped my career trajectory.

Like, that’s when I knew I wanted to be in a space supporting underrepresented folks to not only just be in spaces, but to truly thrive.

And that’s what really…. informed me to get into learning and development today.

Alp

It’s a very good question.

I work at BuzzFeed, obviously, and I identify as a gay male.

So there are plenty of gay males in BuzzFeed, but I was one of the first openly gay men in tech.

I have often been the only openly gay man in the roles I’m in, like in product especially.

To me, the important part is the intersectionality of everything because you don’t necessarily have to be the only openly LGBT person in your team, but the particular overlap of your identities might make your experience slightly different than somebody else’s.

And I think especially when it comes to like sexual orientation, I cringe a little when people say “the LGBTQ+ community,” because we’re already kind of internally fractured, certain voices within the community are represented more.

Even as a gay man, I always think of my male privilege in a space, even though I also weight my sexual orientation.

So it is an interesting and complicated question.

But the moment I feel [like an] only is when I realize there’s nobody in leadership.

When there’s a lack of mentorship in my identities, and that’s when it becomes more acute.

That’s when you realize, “Is anybody advocating for me in a way?

Are my certain personality traits being received in different ways because of the intersections of my identities?”

I’m also an immigrant myself. I immigrated to the United States like six years ago…10 years ago actually, sorry.

But sometimes people don’t know that because I don’t really have an accent, I just read as gay most of the time (yay).

But that’s where I go, I feel like my feeling of “only-ness” becomes more acute when I realize “Oh, there’s nobody above who can speak to that identity.”

There’s nobody mentoring me who’s sharing that identity.

Ashley

I see some nods, we’re gonna come back to that leadership thing.

Geoffrey

So for me, it’s kind of funny because I grew up in Hong Kong and I saw a lot of people like me.

At the time, I wasn’t really gay yet until probably like a year before I graduated.

And I think it’s not necessarily…kind of resonating with Alp’s point about intersectionality.

You know, the different parts of me that…if you just look at me as an individual, like if you look at me as Asian, or as a young individual, or as a gay man, we’re not…I wouldn’t say that we’re a huge minority, right.

Like all those pretty much are a huge majority.

But it’s really the makeup of me being a young gay Asian man in tech recruiting, specifically tech recruiting.

It’s very funny how you look around a lot of recruiting organizations and I’m gonna say it’s all white women, a lot of times I see it.

And sometimes I feel uncomfortable in that space.

And when I started getting into that space, that’s when I started to realize, “Wow, it’s kind of crazy how you just see so many people around you and there are different kinds of underrepresented groups across different industries.”

Even if it’s not reflective of a different part of the organization, it’s still tech, but it’s a different part of the organization that really shows you how each part has its own kind of ups and downs.

You know, majorities, minorities, and underrepresented groups.

And you know, it’s really that combination of me as all the parts of me that make me the only one.

Ashley

Do people assume you’re an engineer a lot?

Geoffrey

Yeah, all the time. They’re like, “So are you an intern?

You know, I was hoping to talk to…” “No, I am a recruiter, please talk to an engineer over here.”

Celene

I’ve been at Datadog for five and a half years and when I started, I was the only female engineer.

I actually didn’t feel like an “only” at the time, I think largely because the coworkers I had were fantastic.

They never made me feel marginalized in any way, I was just one of the group.

The moment it hit me was when I became a mom and I had that whole new set of challenges.

Pumping in the office, trying to figure out how to squeeze everything into a shorter day so I could get home for my babies.

Figuring out how to remind folks that I have a pumping schedule, and you can’t schedule meetings during that time unless you wanna make it really awkward.

You know, these kinds of awarenesses just weren’t there.

And when I looked around, I had no one at the company to talk to about it. That’s when I felt really alone.

As an “only,” should you educate and advocate?

Ashley

Yeah, I think that resonates.

And you’re talking about teaching somebody like this is what I’m feeling. The fact that you don’t understand and I have to tell you makes me feel weird.

And this is something that comes up a lot in diversity discussions: how much is the burden on the person who feels left out to teach everybody else—and do things change?

So I’m curious, your thoughts on that. I’ll just leave it open like that.

Who would like to go first?

Alp

I think…again, this is a bit of a fraught conversation in the sense that I have certain privileges due to certain identities.

And I don’t wanna say disadvantages, but different situations due to different identities.

And I, personally, as a political person, believe that it is unfortunate that the burden is owned by people who belong to the “only” identity to educate the people.

But the reality to me is, it is unfortunate but that work needs to get done.

And if I’m having a day where I feel like I can deal with it and do the work, then I have to do the work because that work needs to get done.

Ideally, obviously allies would step in. I think there’s a lot of great people who get it and they wanna advocate, and they speak up increasingly.

But at the end of the day, sometimes…there are long days where I’m like, “I just can’t put up with you and I can’t do this, I just will leave.”

But there are days where I’m like, “Well, the work needs to get done, and I might as well do it because I’m here.”

And I will make it easier for the next person who shares this identity.

But I get it, you can’t have it on all the time.

Bie

I would say a couple things.

The first thing is I’m in a tricky place because I’m in learning and development, and so part of my role is to educate.

So that’s a little tricky to turn someone down.

But I totally agree around a couple of things.

The first thing is, it depends on the day that you find me.

But the second thing is, it depends on my relationship with the person.

Have you developed that rapport with me that demonstrates to me that you’re invested into this? And therefore I will invest my energy into making sure you know.

But I think baseline: Google’s everyone’s best friend.

Google’s really great, it can give you baseline definitions on some of these things, where I don’t necessary have to use that emotional labor on you.

So I think the baseline expectation for me is that you have done some work, you’re not coming to me with a blank slate because there are so many resources in the world and there’s no excuse for that.

But also, you have to demonstrate that you’re committed to ending anti-black racism or something like that when you wanna engage me, and if I’m gonna be committed to educating you.

Geoffrey

Yeah, and going off of that.

So I’m in the university-recruiting space, and I think a lot of organizations kind of look to the university recruiting spaces as like, “Oh, diversity over here.”

Like, in all of recruiting, we can probably get students better and in underrepresented groups from there and so…

Ashley

Pipeline problem.

Geoffrey

Pipeline right, exactly.

And so, all the limelight is always on us being the pioneers of diversity.

Relying on us to feel like we have to be the one that speaks upon it.

And for me personally, I’m happy to have those discussions, I welcome those discussions.

I wouldn’t say I’m not, by any means, trained in diversity or ever took a test and was like, “Oh, you’re diversity qualified, great, cool.”

There’s nothing like that.

And it’s just something that I’m passionate about and something that I wanna have discussions about.

I would never tell you that I’m the source of truth.

I’ll tell you what I feel, and I’ll tell you what diversity inclusion means to me and how, perhaps, we can talk about it.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m always right.

And I think that for example…what I was saying about how I welcome it, sometimes some people don’t.

And some people might identify with an underrepresented group, but don’t necessarily choose to wanna have those discussions or advocate for that.

And you know, by forcing them into those discussions, you’re tokenizing them and that’s not okay.

You can always ask them, “Hey, would you like to be a part of that discussion?”

And if they say, no, that’s their choice, and [don’t] press further.

But yeah, I love talking about it, so if you wanna talk about it—come to me, it’s great.

Ashley

That’s good.

Celene

I’m gonna speak to the question from a little more of an individual perspective.

I think, for me, my idea of educating folks is just by being pretty open about everything.

I do think that even my own journey has been very eye-opening.

There are a lot of things about being a working mom that I didn’t anticipate, just because I didn’t know, because no one told me.

And I think that likewise, it’s beneficial to others, whether you’re male or female, planning to have kids or not, to just be aware of those unique challenges.

And on the flip side, I do wish that people ask me more, especially people in managerial positions.

I think that it’s hard to go up to somebody and just offer information if they don’t put themselves in a position to hear it.

So I do think that a lot of it will just start with you and your peers, and go from there.

Ashley

Yeah, I think there’s…we’re getting towards the leadership thing, which you’re touching on from a different way.

But you sort of touched on you were the first, I think sometimes in an organization, or in a college, you kind of have found your way through.

So I wonder, when you are the first person, when you’re choosing to join a place, what does that feel like?

What are you thinking when you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I interviewed or I said, yes, and now I’m the only one here.”

Is it surprising?

Was it a conscious choice?

How did you think about it?

Geoffrey

For me, it was really figuring out the dynamic of the particular organization.

I think there’s a lot of people who are like, “Oh, yeah, I wanna go to a place where it’s perfect. We have all the DNI figured out, everything’s great like 100%.”

Well, I’m gonna tell you the truth, nobody’s figured it out.

No company has all of their DNI stuff. Wow, they might look like they do, but they probably have a lot of problems still, too, right?

Diversity is one of those things…DNI is really one of those things where it’s a destination, there’s a goal, but you’re never gonna reach the goal.

It’s always about how you get there and the journey that gets you there.

It’s always that conscious effort to be able to keep reaching for that goal, but never actually attaining it, and that’s the tough part about being in this space.

And it’s…I forgot the question.

Ashley

How do you decide to jump in and be like, “You know what, I’m gonna be the first dude on this team?”

Geoffrey

Yeah…

Ashley

You talked about the dynamics, but how do you know it’s good?

Geoffrey

It’s always kind of asking the question, right.

When you’re talking to…you know, when you’re interviewing talking to your panel talking to… whoever you’re interviewing with, all your people, you know that it’s always a two-way street.

You can always ask them questions like, “Oh, would I be able to talk to someone from a different part of the organization?”

What’s important to you?

For me, it was figuring out okay, how open is this organization to diversity, to DNI, and all the different ideas that come with it?

I’m not trying to go to a place that’s perfect, but I’m trying to go to a place that’s open to ideas.

And I think for me, that was how I figured it out.

Alp

To me, I kind of lucked out in a certain way because I don’t come from a technical background at all. I fell into tech as most people do.

I started my tech journey through Foursquare, they needed a community manager who knew Turkish fluently.

I’m Turkish, so I was like, “All right, I’ll cold apply, why not?”

And then got in, decided I really loved it, but I was really fortunate because my manager at Foursquare was actually an openly queer woman and I was like, “Oh, this is great.”

I’ve never had this situation before like this. I’m getting at the leadership question.

I saw somebody being the director of product support then being like, “Oh, this is possible, somebody else did it.”

And even though our identities don’t overlap quite the same, this is not a space that I thought I would necessarily thrive in, but somebody else has, and I’m actually having a lot of fun.

So I think the thing for me is there was a bit of self-selecting: what company could I go to that I know was gonna be cool?

And thankfully, BuzzFeed was hiring but that’s a privilege of sorts because a lot of people don’t necessarily have a choice when it comes to applying for a job.

You need a job so you’re looking for one.

And I had the privilege of being a bit self-selective.

But my decision was okay, well, maybe there aren’t that many openly gay people in tech, but I know the rest of the company is down with the queers, so it’s gonna be fine.

Ashley

Yeah, I feel like Buzzfeed was an easy choice.

Alp

I was like, “It’s gonna be fine.”

But again, it’s not a privilege everybody’s afforded, but that happened to be my journey and I’m thankful for it.

But to me, I did the self-sorting: I self-sorted myself into particular positions that I can apply into.

I didn’t take a blind dive into any random tech organization that I didn’t know the makeup of.

Bie

I appreciate what you said around privilege because from a very young age, I learned that most structures in this world weren’t built for me.

So when I think about myself as a black woman in this world, black woman, first generation, grew up low-income and things like that, most of the structures weren’t built for me.

So at this point, when I go into a space where I’m potentially going to be the only, I think about “What’s the value that they can add for me?” And also, “What value can I add?”

And when I think about the value they can add for me, it’s more from a place of social capital.

Because I think for particularly folks of color, but underrepresented folks in general, we need that social capital to be able to get into spaces.

And so I made a strategic move to go work at UC Berkeley because I knew that would give me [the] social capital to be able to get into these tech companies.

And then on the other side, I always think, and this comes from like third-wave feminism, I use the F word.

But it comes from feminism, it talks about lifting others as you climb.

And so, for me, the responsibilities on me when I get into this space is “How do I bring others with me?”

And so whenever I’m coming into a space where I may potentially be the only one, I’m always like, “Okay, this is great, because I have the opportunity to bring my three, four other people with me.”

Leadership as an “only”

Ashley

While I have your microphone, sorry, Celene.

You’re a leader, and so we’ve talked about what we want from leadership.

But as someone who is an only for one maybe at the leadership level, what’s that like for you?

Bie

Yeah, so most of…majority 99% of my career experience as the “only” it’s been isolating.

So for me, I’ve gotten to a certain point in life where I’m no longer gonna dwell on the things I can’t control.

I’m gonna focus what’s in my wheelhouse, what is within my wheel of power, and I’m gonna focus on leveraging that.

And so I focus on building connections across difference.

Because the reality is, we can sit here all day and talk about, being the only one, but that’s not gonna bring more people into the room.

I’m gonna focus on building relationships with people who have power so that we can bring some more people in the room.

So I’m focused on sponsorship, building relationships with executive members to get that sponsorship to be at the room where those decisions are being made, and therefore bringing others with me.

So yes, it’s been isolating and at this point in my life…And I think this is a recommendation to everyone.

Just focus on reframing because if you spend your energy in that negative space…because it’s a reality, I’m not gonna deny it.

Every time I go on LinkedIn, or Forbes, it’s another article about how black women are underpaid or whatever.

And I just made the decision for myself that I’m going reframe and focus on what I can control.

Bie

Yeah, I go into that like the empowerment vibe I think is true, and that’s what Tech Ladies is about, which I like.

But Celene, your bio for this was super empowered: I’ve done this before I’m used to it.

You’ve succeeded, in incredible ways.

You have a PhD from the best universities in the country, just…she’s incredible, she won’t tell you this, but she is.

And how do you think about it?

How do you think about busting through and finding a path to success?

Celene

So when I initially joined Datadog, I wasn’t seriously concerned about the lack of gender diversity. It came up, but it wasn’t impactful in my decision to join.

So I was already here when I became the only mom.

And I did have a low point when I had my second child where I was very much struggling, questioning myself whether I was cut out to be a full-time working mother of two, and I had thoughts of quitting.

Because I felt like every decision I made was a trade-off: either my work suffers or my kids suffer.

And it was just a no-win situation, one after another.

So I guess the question can be reframed for me as “Why did I decide to stick it out?”

I think, in the end, it was a lot of my personal ambitions.

I had a lot of…I have visions for myself for where I wanted to be in my career.

And I also didn’t want my girls to see that I couldn’t do it, be hopefully an example for them to feel like they will be able to do it too.

And also, in reality, things get better: your kids get older and things get a little bit easier as time goes on.

So yeah, I’m really glad to be over that stage, but also…I forgot my train of thought.

Anyway, maybe you’re gonna touch on this in a common question.

But I think it’s also at a company like this that’s growing so fast to be here, having gone through that for others that are considering the same path.

I think that the only way we’re going to encourage more women to work and be mothers is to be present for them and to be an example.

Ashley

You’re shaping the next generation.

Celene

Yeah, sorry.

To leave or to continue?

Ashley

That was super powerful.

And I feel like we kind of, maybe not to the same degree, but have felt we’re gonna make a trade-off.

And so, I wonder, nod if you guys have felt that too at points in your life, where you’re saying, “This is hard, I can quit or I can go on.”

And I wonder for you guys, is there a moment where you’re like, “I did it, I achieved a thing.”

And you felt like you’ve really hit a goal that you had for yourself or you felt like you hit the next level.

Bie

So I’m gonna take kind of a different spin.

The goal for me was to leave. There was a company that I was at, and it was just so exhausting.

And I remember every day complaining to friends about how exhausting this experience was, or how exhausting my manager was.

And the goal for me, I’m like, “I gotta leave.”

But I was just battling with myself. I’m like, “I can’t leave because literally, I send money back home to my parents, so people depend on me.”

And then I just decided to take a leap of faith and I left.

And so I think sometimes to the extent…and I don’t wanna say give up because I think you brought up a tremendous point around showing that example for your younger children, whoever’s in your life.

But if it’s coming to a point where it’s impacting who you are as a human being, like you’re no longer able to contribute at 100%, then I think you have to have a conversation with yourself that maybe it might be time to go.

And trust your skills, and trust the process that you’ll land where you need to be.

So I don’t think we talk about that enough.

And again, I’m not encouraging everyone to go quit tomorrow.

But assess…take inventory of your savings and all that.

But the goal for me was I knew I needed to leave, and I finally took a leap of faith and I left.

As an “only,” what do you look for in a leader?

Ashley

Very cool.

One more question.

For leadership, what do you look for in a boss?

What makes that better? Being like I’m the only person on this team even if your boss isn’t like you.

Which, as we’ve discussed at leadership levels, there’s not necessarily someone who’s just like you.

How can your boss make it better?

Alp

This is not just like a boss thing, I think it’s just like a broader…maybe I should have thought a bit more before I picked up the microphone.

We’ll do it live!

There was an article, I forget, maybe it’s on The New York Times, or it’s one of those things where it’s like, I don’t know how to teach you that you should care about other people.

I forget or maybe was New York Magazine, I don’t remember.

But there comes a point where I’m like, if you haven’t learned basic empathy skills of being able to take a step out of your own body and be like, “Okay, what is this person going through?” I just don’t know how to do that.

Sometimes you also don’t have the patience to do that.

It’s just literally take a step back and reframe the conversation you’re having, and again, check your implicit biases: is this woman being aggressive or is she assertive?

Or is this gay man being flippant or assertive as well?

I think there are moments where we like…I have an example.

I think there’s certain things where…because I was in a support role for a very long time, and an engineer could say something and people would just roll with it.

They’re like, “Oh, that’s just, you know, him like just whatever.”

But then somebody in a support role says something similar, and then they get a talking to for being like our attitude is not productive.

And to me, that’s interesting: why is that person afforded a certain tenor at work, whereas this other person is not afforded the same tenor?

And I think we really need to…especially in a tech setting where there’s [a] big pay disparity, especially around soft skills, which I hate because they’re actually really hard and they take so much invisible labor and…

Bie

Robots can’t do it.

Alp

And the robots can’t do it.

I’m sorry, but engineering could be computed at one point.

But you’re not gonna be able to automate giving sympathetic responses and understanding.

So I think, bosses, leadership should evaluate, “What labor is happening behind the scenes that I’m not even seeing, either due to my identity that I didn’t ever have to do it, or because of my implicit biases of communicating with people is a lower skill than coding?”

And I think the best way to push it forward is, if this person said the same thing that person said, would I have the same reaction to it?

I think that’s one of the biggest…the most impactful things that people around us could do in a situation like that.

That worked out, right?

Ashley

That worked.

It’s really actionable advice.

Bie

I’ll just add two quick things. Psychological safety, right.

So leaders need to be committed to foster an environment that promotes psychological safety.

And if you’re not familiar with the concept, basically it’s creating an environment where your direct reports feel like they can come to you, they can fail.

And they won’t be, you know, like be written up on a PIP or whatever the case is.

So psychological safety and beyond a growth mindset because in tech, everyone’s like, “Oh, I have a growth mindset.”

But that doesn’t always correlate to being an inclusive leader.

And so when I think about being an inclusive leader is just like a willingness to wanna learn and apply that willingness to wanna learn to reevaluate, and reassessing structures.

Because you can put the greatest diversity programs on in the world, but if you don’t have the structure to support it…

So one of the things I’m working on right now is launching a women in engineering program for our senior engineering women.

And what I told the CEO is that this is great, and I need you to take a more critical look at the promotions data for women.

Because I can have this…they can have the information ready to go for promotions, but if we don’t have a structure that supports them being promoted, or there’s bias in the promotion structure, then it’s no good, it’s all a waste of our time.

And so that commitment to looking deep into the data and understanding what’s happening.

Alp

Hear, hear.

Celene

In reality, a lot of us can’t choose our boss.

So you might be in a situation where you find you don’t have that empathetic ear.

So to that, I would say, find somebody else that’s in a managerial position that maybe doesn’t directly fall in your line, but is somebody that you trust and has that sympathetic ear.

And if there is something that requires action to change, maybe they’re in a position to help make that change.

But for me personally, that made a really big difference, even though I didn’t have other moms in the similar situation as what I was going through.

I did have a couple of allies at the company that I felt I could fully trust, and that they were honestly listening and really cared.

Geoffrey

And I think touching on all three of their points is just being able to talk to leadership openly.

Having them kind of receptive to your ideas, having a discussion about it.

I think, a lot of times, a lot of leadership just…you know, we shouldn’t assume that they’re all terrible people they hate diversity, that’s not the case, right?

I think a lot of times, it’s just that they don’t know how to approach it.

And so a lot of people, because they don’t know, they just don’t approach it at all and just leave it where it is and kind of hide it under the rug.

Which is what I’ve seen at a lot of tech organizations.

But I think it’s just being able to speak up, ask those questions.

Having leadership say, “This is a space that I’m not too familiar with,” acknowledging their privilege.

And then saying, ”What are your thoughts on it?”

Or ”What do you need from me to be able to make this happen?” Or whatever initiative or anything that you’re trying to do.

It’s just having that openness really opens doors to everything else.

How to build rapport with your colleagues as an “only”

Ashley

That’s awesome.

So going back, we talked a little bit about what you want from a boss. Your colleagues…I think Celene you said you felt pretty solid with your colleagues for a while,

and I think you guys all have good rapport with your colleagues.

How do you build that?

Do you have tips for people who now are like when you’re the only one in the team and everyone’s going out for drinks and you don’t drink, for example?

How do you find commonality?

Geoffrey

Just be yourself.

I don’t think there’s…I don’t know what else to say.

You should never have to compromise who you are to do a job that you’re qualified for or be on a team.

The team should respect you for who you are.

And you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to change the way that you look or talk just so that you can be a part of the team or what you think that the team would want.

You should just be who you are so that you know that when you are in a group setting if you’re saying I don’t drink so can we do like a more…speak up.

Can we do an event that’s not specifically only going to bar? Can we go to something that has something else for everyone, right?

Be a little more inclusive and ask for things.

Alp

I agree, sometimes it’s hard.

So I’d like to approach it from a slightly different perspective.

Sometimes I feel like I fall into a clowning mode around straight colleagues, where I perform gayness.

And that also makes me feel like…I’m pretty gay, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s easy because that makes you so…especially when you’re like a bit more of a fem guy, it makes you less threatening.

People laugh, people like to feel like they’re cool and they’re with it.

So it’s also very easy to fall to the other end where you start overperforming a particular identity.

And that’s something I still kind of struggle with because I also love attention if you can’t tell.

So it’s always been like an interesting challenge for me from the other end being like “No, I need to be true to myself.”

I don’t have to be this like Energizer Bunny who is always go, go, go, happy, happy, happy.

And it sometimes becomes difficult if you find yourself trapped into a particular role in a group of peers where you’re like, “Oh yeah, he’s the funny gay one.”

And it’s very easy, because it’s safe, you’re popular, you’re liked.

And I don’t quite have an answer to it.

But that’s something I grapple with sometimes you know, like, “Am I like over performing somehow so people will like me more and it’s less threatening?

Or is it just who I am?”

I’m going through stuff.

Bie

I love what you said around the performative nature of it.

Because I often think about how I perform blackness so that the folks on the other side are happy.

But to answer the question, I was thinking, the way I build rapport is simply like…And Sarah might remember this.

But I just tell people, like…people love talking about themselves.

So get on their calendar and go get some coffee, or tea or beer, or water, whatever you drink with them and allow them to talk about themselves, and that’s where you find the point of connection.

In fact, that’s the only way that I genuinely, authentically connect with people is through their stories.

So once I know your story, I’m able to remember this person is interested in this, so I’m gonna send them this on Slack.

And that’s how I’m building that rapport with them.

But to the piece around performative, I’m like, “Wow, that was my whole life.”

So yeah, you’ve given me a lot to think about now.

I gotta stop performing blackness for people.

Alp

It’s a performative…it’s one of the emotional labor that nobody has to like…a lot of people don’t have to think about, because you wanna be liked, you wanna show it.

So how much is too much? I don’t know.

But I do agree, one-on-one conversations, I think are the best.

In a group setting, obviously, you see the group dynamics.

But I would recommend have one on one interactions, get coffee, whatever, I think that’s good.

Celene

I’ll definitely agree with the one-on-ones, that’s been very beneficial, I think, for both parties.

And I feel like, as our company has gotten quite large, you have to be more intentional, but it’s been really great to get to know people that way.

And also, when you are giving the example of going out with your team or something like that, I don’t really have a good answer for how you build community that way, because usually I can’t go.

So, it’s kind of ironic that I’m speaking to a group about this in the evening, when probably a lot of parents can’t make it.

I don’t know, it’s definitely difficult and challenging.

And maybe it’s just a matter of, as Geoffrey was saying, just speaking up, and just saying, “This doesn’t work for me, can we do something else?”

Has being an “only” helped you personally or professionally?

Ashley

Yeah, and feeling like that’s okay.

And also, you guys have pointed to like a self-awareness that maybe other people wouldn’t be aware of, that no one’s asking you to do.

But because you stand out, it feels like you’re in middle school in the cafeteria on your first day, but all the time.

So I think we’re getting close to wrapping up here, so I’ll leave some time for your beautiful questions.

So I have a couple more, and then we can open it up for the floor.

Because you guys have more interesting things to say than I do.

So yeah, I would say that…One question I have is we talked about the hard stuff, is there any good stuff where you’re like, “I wouldn’t have gotten that if I were just like someone else?”

Or I have perspective. I don’t know what it is, it can be directly related to your job or something else.

But has there been any upsides?

Geoffrey

No upsides.

Ashley

Don’t all go at once.

Geoffrey

No, I think touching upon your point, what you’re saying about like self-awareness, you’re just a lot more aware of the different parts of the organization.

It sounds kind of cheesy, but your eyes are like a little more open than it was before.

When I started my career in like a coordinator role, all I was thinking about was logistics, logistics like how can I do a better job?

So DNI was never really like…I never really thought of it until, like little things where I was…So at my last company, it was like an onsite interview… it was like a batch day.

A bunch of candidates were interviewing.

So one of the girls went into the interview room, and then after she was done with the interview, she came back and she was crying.

And I was like, “Oh my God, what happened?”

I was freaking out, I was like, “Oh, no, this is terrible.”

But then she came back to me and said, “No, no, nothing’s wrong, it’s the first time I’ve ever had a female interviewer.”

And that was just really heartwarming, to hear that in her time that she’s interviewed, she’s never interviewed with anyone that was female.

So seeing that, and seeing how much it affects kind of these students’ lives, how much this space…how impressionable a lot of these students are…that’s what makes me do what I do.

I love investing time and resources into giving these students who are part of this underrepresented group, how can I help them?

I always ask them, how can I help you achieve your goals before achieving mine?

Yes, I do have to recruit, that’s my job, but let’s put that secondary for a second.

Like, what are you doing? What are your goals? How can I help you achieve that, in my role as a recruiter?

And being able to do that, and helping them navigate the space that’s so tough, that they have no idea.

You know, they don’t know what’s in store for them in a few years down the line when they have to deal with the stuff that we deal with right now.

Seeing that and letting them know that there is a place for you, and there are resources for you can really change kind of someone’s life.

Alp

I was just gonna say I feel lucky because it has made me a more empathetic person.

And I truly believe the reason we’re here is to make connections with people and make life better for everybody else as much as we can.

So I’m happy that kind of helped me internalize that.

And when you go through this process, it really makes you grapple with the privileges you do have.

And I might be like an openly gay man, but I am a man, so I want to use that privilege, my male privilege, to lift up other women or non-binary people.

And that makes me happy in that regard.

And I guess it’s taught me to fight for myself as much as possible.

It’s hard, I don’t do it right all the time.

But sometimes, there is a different kind of empowerment that comes from knowing that you’ve got your own back.

And just by being yourself, you can empower other people.

That is a unique thing that comes with being the only, because the more visible you are in your identity, and the more safe and comfortable you feel in broadcasting it to the rest of the world.

Just by going through your life, you can empower other people and inspire other people.

There are moments where people are like, “Oh my God, I wish I was like X, Y, Z like you.”

And I was like really? “Oh, okay, well, thank you.”

I never would have thought of that.

So I guess that’s it.

Bie

I’m still thinking.

Celene

I had a thought.

My answer is pretty similar to what’s already been said.

A personal motivator for me to keep going along is that [I] care about the company, I care about Datadog hiring more amazing people.

And I want to create a space where folks are comfortable talking to each other, and talking to me about any of these issues, and feeling like they can do it here.

So that’s one motivator.

But also, when Alp was speaking, I thought about how, on the flip side, it can be a burden too. When you are the only example in a community, then you feel that you are setting some standard, or some expectation for how future folks in your shoes are going to be treated.

So I guess that’s the balance.

Alp

No pressure.

Closing thoughts

Ashley

Yeah, so last question. Just advice: do you have some closing thoughts, tips for people in the audience?

Celene

I guess, the two big picture things are…there are long-term goals of how to bring about change, so that you don’t have to be the only X, Y, Z for forever.

And I think being a mom in tech, I think a lot of that is just cultural awareness.

This is kind of a cause that I’ve adopted.

And I get really excited when I read some article or I see there’s Netflix shows now about how hard it is being a mom.

And I’m so thrilled that it’s slowly creeping into [the] general consciousness.

And I think that that’s gonna be fundamental in just making it easier for women to have kids and stay at work.

So that’s more of a long-term thing.

And then in the short term, to help yourself be more in a comfortable environment and make it more bearable for you.

As I said before, just being open.

And this isn’t for everybody and I can understand that.

But I think that being open with your peers, and with your manager, about how certain things are affecting you can be an opportunity to educate folks in your immediate space, and hopefully make the day to day better.

Alp

My advice, get political, run for office or vote.

Because across America, people can get fired for being openly LGBTQ in many states.

There is no federal protection for maternity leave, or secondary caregiver leave

. I think this is a longer-term project.

But to me, get political, run for office vote, care, let’s support legislation that’s gonna codify this so your rights are protected.

And I think…you can also obviously advocate in your personal space, don’t get me wrong.

But at the end of the day, we need protections, and that’s not gonna pass until people get involved, and they learn about local laws and protections.

And it’s very unsexy work, it’s not very fun, legislation and passing laws is not a very fun process.

But the reality is, it is work that needs to get done, and it’s not gonna get done until you get involved.

And I know a lot of people are disillusioned with the political process.

But I’m so excited, I cannot wait to become a citizen and run for office because I want to. I really want to.

And I think somebody…thank you, vote for me.

Ashley

I can’t wait to vote for you.

Alp

But you know what I mean, it’s just like, people don’t think about it, because it doesn’t feel like you’re gonna make an impact.

But the reality is I couldn’t…gay people couldn’t get married nationally until a couple of years ago.

And that only happened because people pushed and laws changed, and that became a reality.

And if we could keep doing this in other areas, people can get protection so people can join the workforce, and keep pushing forward.

A lot of times a lot of these problems are systematic, and until you change the system bit by bit, it’s not gonna get better just because you have good will.

Bie

I’m thinking a couple of things.

Certainly, I think there’s validity in thinking about your long-term goals.

And so getting the major wins under your belt and reassessing, if this place is not doing for it you, go someplace else.

I think we lose… particularly in the interviewing process, we lose sight of our power.

You know, you’re choosing them just as much as you want them to choose you.

And so remind yourself that you have power in this process.

And even afterwards, you still have power, you’re powerful in this because we’re in an employee market, right? They need us, they need our skills.

And then the second piece, going back to what I said earlier around this notion of lifting as we climb.

That is my life philosophy, that’s what I ascribe to every day, that’s what gets me out of bed every morning.

Knowing that I’m doing this because I’m creating pathways for folks just like me.

And so keep that in mind hopefully, that’s a driver for you, if that’s the driver for you, keep that in mind when you’re existing in these spaces.

And the last piece I’ll say is cultivating those relationships.

Relationships with executive leaders have been key to my success.

And so I would urge you to do the same.

Geoffrey

I think I have two things.

So one, it was something that was so simple, where I was told it was just to point it out like little things.

When you’re having a discussion, for me my case, like it was an all straight male space.

And then they’re all talking about dating girls, all that stuff.

And I’m like, “Hello, I’m here, I don’t do that.”

And actually, like letting them know that you’re uncomfortable in whatever situation is, or that there should be more that happens, right?

Like letting them know that they’re doing something that makes you feel excluded.

Something simple as that can really, really change the way people talk, change the way that a group is interacting, your team, your organization.

It’s just the little things that really do make a difference.

And then the second thing is don’t ever feel like just because you’re the only one, you don’t have to feel like you always have to be the one that speaks upon everything.

You don’t have to be like the only token person that’s like, “Oh, well, we have this diversity thing that’s happening, hey do you wanna be a part of it?” And then it’s like, let’s have you in it.

And don’t ever…you can always decline.

You can always say, “No, I don’t, you know, this is not…I don’t want to be a part of this discussion.”

And that’s okay, and feeling like it’s okay for you to say no.

There’s so many times when people get pulled in, and they’re just like, “Oh, I guess, I’m part of this.” And it’s like, “Well, here we go again.”

Just keep going at it, and it’s tiring, it’s exhausting to have to do this and your day job.

Which by the way is like this…this DNI thing was not part of my job at all, or I don’t think it’s anyone’s job unless it is your title.

So, you know, it’s okay for you to say no, it’s what I’m trying to get at.

Question and answer

Ashley

That is excellent advice.

Diversity is everyone’s job.

So thank you to all of our awesome panelists. I now open the floor to you guys.

But first, let’s give them a round of applause.

Tara

And thank you, Ashley, great, having you.

Ashley

We have this beautiful purple box, so raise your hand if you would like to ask a question.

Woman 2

And this is the talking box.

She could go, too.

Woman 3

She can go first.

Woman 2

The talking box.

Looking around the crowd and just wondering, one of the things that’s sort of missing here is an older experience, especially in tech.

And I wanna speak to it as far as in my early career, I was very much an only.

I was a newspaper photographer who shot sports.

I was on the sidelines of NCAA Division, One football and basketball.

And I am a tomboy who easily fits into all-male spaces, and could be one of the guys.

And I was young so I didn’t think anything of it.

As I’ve gotten older and I’m working now in software and on engineering teams, but I’m Senior on the teams, I’m finding a completely different environment where I’m an only woman and only person of a certain age.

And at that point…I mean, up to this time, I’ve never had any problems with all male groups.

But now all of a sudden, all male groups are having problems with me saying “I should not talk so much, or be so assertive,” or I should say “we” instead of “I” and things like that.

So if there’s also a big push for women of a certain age to be invisible, and I’m not invisible because I am LGBTQ too.

And happily owning my assertiveness, but find myself in trouble for it and hurt and advancement for it.

So I don’t know if the panel could speak to that.

Alp

Great first of all, thank you so much.

I do agree that…thank you so much for bringing the perspective.

Yes, I do think we do penalize older people in tech for being like outdated.

There’s a lot of implicit biases there as well.

So thank you so much for speaking about that.

And yeah, I’ve definitely had instances where—and I didn’t think about it at the moment—but then I look back on it. I’m like, “Oh that time, I got a comment for being too negative.”

Which I’m like, “I don’t know if you just met me, but I’m not a very negative person overall.”

I was like, “Is that like a coded thing that’s against my sexuality? Is it because I’m, like, very openly expressing my feelings? I’m getting chastised for it.”

That’s the kind of thing whereas I feel like I’ve worked with many a grumpy male engineer who’s straight and they are just out they just roll with it.

The teams are just like “Whatever that’s just Sam being Sam, he does that to everyone.”

So I do think there are instances where your identity is sometimes used as a cudgel: “Well, you’re being too extra, you’re being too blah, blah.”

And it does make you question, ”Did somebody say that because I’m gay?”

Is there something happening there?

And I think the most insidious part of it is it makes you get in your head.

It makes you feel like, “Oh, should I minimize myself?” Especially as a man in tech, I think about this a lot.

Oh, I shouldn’t be taking up so much space, like I should try to listen more.

I really worked on it, but then there’s moments where I’m like, “Oh, do I need to minimize myself more?”

And it is a fraught conversation to have with yourself, because how much of it is you being complicit with a system that doesn’t want you to take up too much space in that identity—but also understanding other privileges that comes from this?

And I don’t really have an answer, but it’s definitely something I’ve grappled with, and I felt like I experienced.

Bie

Just based off what I heard you say that sounds like ageism, sexism, homophobia, all these things operating at once.

And again, I don’t necessarily have a solution.

But one of the things I will always say, and this is the HR in me, it’s to document those instances when that problematic feedback comes up.

And I think depending on your relationship with folks in the organization, can you make the recommendation that we go through a bias training?

Because I think that feedback is being…couched from a very biased place.

I think that’s one recommendation.

Also this… again, this doesn’t solve the problem.

But there’s a really great book…[the] name has escaped me.

He used to write for Forbes and all these other publications.

But basically, he wrote a really awesome book about what it is to be a 55 year-old man at a startup [Editor’s note: this is journalist Dan Lyons, who wrote Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble].

He worked at HubSpot.

He basically trashed HubSpot.

I think they’ve since recovered…well, kind of.

But it’s just like…he talked about where he found the most allyship, and the allyship came from other underrepresented groups.

So he felt most connected to like folks of color.

Because when you think about the larger context of the organization, we’re all underrepresented, right, we’re all minorities (even though I don’t like the term minorities).

And so I would say, seek out your allies in the spaces that you wanna usually seek it out, right.

And the last piece is like, ERGs [Employee Resource Groups], right. Are there ERGs in your organization where you can like, kind of confide in and get that support or reassurance?

Because I think most importantly, I don’t ever want anyone or you to internalize, and have that impostor syndrome and feel like you’re not enough, you’re not adequate,

therefore, I need to settle down—because I think you’re awesome and wonderful as you are and who you are.

Celene

I don’t have an answer, I just wanted to say thanks.

And I’m sure many of the folks here agree that we all want to be you someday and like be in your shoes but in a better environment obviously.

Really inspiring to hear you share.

Woman 2

[Inaudible 01:00:04]. [Laughter].

Ashley

All ages.

Yeah, I think the lady in the front.

Woman 4

Hi, so my question it’s about allyship.

Because a lot of my activism both at the large scale and small scale is about training allies, and raising myself up to be a better ally.

I consider myself an “only,” but I’m usually never the only “only” on a team.

I think a lot of people in this room might feel the same way.

How can you be a really good ally? And also in conjunction, how do you help nurture good allies around you?

Because I do feel like the best way to affect change is to get a lot of people to affect that change with you.

Geoffrey

I think the biggest thing would be to educate yourself, right.

If there’s something that you don’t know, if there’s something that you’re like, not too sure is a little touchy, ask the question.

I think people are like…if there’s a particular part of someone’s identity that you’re like, I…or probably not the right way to say that.

But always educate yourself, whether that’s going on Google and searching up, what intersectionality means, for example.

Or even just asking the questions, if something comes up in the discussion, and you’re like, “Actually, I don’t know what that is, would you be able to define that or and let me know what that means?”

And be able to have that open discussion.

Be able to ask those, [questions], like what would you need from me?

Is there anything I can do to help, right.

How would you be able to help?

And sometimes, maybe taking a step back—maybe they don’t need your help and that’s okay.

But just having your kind of moral support is a lot, it goes a long way.

Alp

This is a bit of weird advice, I guess.

But I think one of them is accepting there’s no perfect allies.

You’re gonna be messy, you’re gonna make mistakes.

I make mistakes, I say stupid things all the time.

I think the best allies are the ones who do the work, screw up, are confronted by the people who are supposedly allies too, and they just learn from it, and then they move on.

Because nobody’s expecting you to know everything, nobody’s expecting you to get it all.

And just because you feel like an only in one area doesn’t mean you have to understand the only experience for everybody else.

And I think it’s a kind of a trap of wanting to do better, and then you start internalizing your imperfection.

And I think that’s okay. I think the faster you understand, “I’m gonna screw up but my heart’s in a good place, and people I’m helping might be mad at me…

If I truly believe this work is important I can just learn from it and move on.”

And I think it’s hard.

I think it’s a hard lesson because it’s hard not to get resentful sometimes.

Being like, “Well, I’m trying so hard, I said one stupid thing, how dare you cancel me or whatever.”

But that’s something I struggle with a lot sometimes because I make it personal.

And sometimes you just need to be like, “It is not personal, it is systematic and this person might have an experience that made them lash out at me or something,” and you just need to be able to be like, “You’re right, I am sorry, I will do better.” And then you move on.

Bie

Captured it.

Ashley

I think it’s empathy. Feeling like someone else cares and notices has been a theme through this whole night.

So any more questions?

Oh yes, so many.

Woman 1

Oh, my God. Run baby run.

Man

Thank you, I just want to expand on that question about being an ally, but a little bit more directed to how to be an ally to team members who work remotely and who are “onlys” on their only self team.

Have you ever experienced being an ally to somebody who works on their own little island?

Alp

I mean, something as simple as time: be mindful of time zones.

It’s surprising that sometimes people forget, and they schedule meetings in weird times.

Include them in your…document your decision making.

Because a lot of times you’ll have informal conversations in a room and that person will never see it.

So I think Slack, while it’s…I don’t know if y’all use Slack, but it’s wonderful, it flows.

If you’re in a different time zone, you’re not gonna be able to catch up.

Don’t make big decisions in a Slack channel.

Just document and make sure people understand how decision making process has been evolving, so they feel like they’re included in some capacity.

And I’m guilty of it too, I think it’s very easy to [overlook]…it’s [an] out of sight, out of mind thing.

But the more you stress the importance of process in those moments, it could really benefit another person.

Also, push for your company to allocate budget for travel so those people can come visit you wherever you are. I think it’s really important.

And I think that at a big tech company, you will find some money to bring somebody along to the headquarters and have an outing.

Ashley

Yeah, it’s part of culture right?

We had one more question, you will be our last question of the evening.

Woman 5

Hi, guys.

I don’t know if it’s really a question but I would like to share my experience if it resonates with you.

Because you were asking a question about what are the good things about being the only.

And one of mine was a bad thing that I turned into a good thing because I was the only black woman in a team of white male developers, nobody would care about what I was doing.

I was dismissed all the time and I was like, “Oh, that’s bad.”

But then I thought, “Yeah, but that’s also good because nobody is watching me, I can do basically whatever I want.”

So it gave me so much more freedom to actually do better things.

And in the end, people recognized me as a good developer because of that.

So I would like to know if there are experiences similar to mine in your group?

Bie

So my last role I worked for a marketing company and I think it’s critical with marketing companies to understand…we look at a lot of McKinsey reports and things like that.

And so they talked about these particular segments with black people, specifically black women and their influence.

And so I was able to provide that insight in a meeting.

And they were able to launch a particular marketing initiative with said company and generate a lot of revenue behind that.

So I don’t know that insight would have happened if I wasn’t at the table.

So there’s a value that we, excuse me, that I add, through all my identities, in terms of living that experience and bringing that experience to the table and helping the team to think in that way.

So there’s definitely value in it for sure. Absolutely.

Ashley

Well, that’s it, thank you, guys.

Thank you all for coming and staying till the very end.

Thank you to our organizers.

Carolyn

I just wanted to thank Celene, Geoffrey, Alp, and Bie, and Ashley for leading such a…this talk really resonated with me.

And I hope that you all feel the same way.

I’m really grateful for you guys taking the time out of your schedule to be here tonight.

Big round of applause.

For everyone who does not work for Datadog, there are a couple of unfamiliar faces in the room.

If you wanna come up and talk to any of our recruiters they’re all sitting at this table over here, raise your hands.

We’re happy to have a conversation with you to get the talk going.

We’re hiring engineers, product managers, designers, everything. We’re a growing company.

So come say hey, and thanks for coming.