The Alpha Woman team recently attended the #MoveTheDial summit in Toronto. After a dynamite presentation by Damien Hooper-Campbell, Global Chief Diversity Officer for eBay, we were able to sit down with him to ask a few questions that were on our minds.
DHC: Speaking at today’s #MoveTheDial conference was part of that. Today was about breaking convention. It was about remembering the people who came before you, who have broken convention so that when you get tired, you recharge thinking of them.
Also, I have an amazing fiancé, she’s a great partner. My faith in God helps me, and I exercise when I can. I actually get a lot of energy from this work. Like today, even though I’m physically tired from running around the stage, I’m so full right now because of how many people afterward have said: “I needed to hear that, thank you I’m going to take that and pass it on.” The kind of recharge that we’re talking about comes from family as well. I have a very close relationship with my mother, and my family is very supportive.
The last thing I would say in terms of recharge is my professional network across tech and even outside of tech – we’re all friends. We get together, we share best practices and sometimes we go to dinner and have a glass of wine and just talk. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing “oh, you’re having this challenge, or this problem”, I’m not alone anymore. And so that’s another way to refuel.
DHC: I don’t think there’s one career path to it. I’m not sure why God decided my journey was to go from wearing suits on Wall Street to hoodies, jeans, and sneakers in California. I don’t always get what’s going on but it always ends up being the right thing.
I’d say there are a couple of distinct buckets that got me here. One was my lived experience, being a young man of colour, a black man in the US coming from a single parent household, but also having a father who is from Guyana. My mother made education a priority and so we moved around quite a bit. I often found myself in racially and socio-economically polarizing communities. For example, the South Side of Chicago when my mother was going to business school. It was a predominantly black neighbourhood.
We also spent time in Fairfield County, Connecticut, which is very wealthy. I was one of 8 black students out of 800. I think a lot of that lived experience comes from being in the majority but still being in the minority. I was told I talked white or I didn’t wear the right clothes but then being a minority in the majority visibly and being told I’m too black because of the fact that I just moved from Chicago.
I think there are two paths I could have taken. One path could have been anger. I could have fought and have been very upset. For whatever reason, maybe it was my mother, maybe it was my father, I decided to talk to people. I really wanted to understand, why would you think or say things like this?
I’m still all about learning from people. I don’t know everything about the transgender community, I don’t know everything there is to know about people with disabilities and so I’ve got to learn and sometimes I’m going to get it wrong. I hope people are cool enough to say “hey I know you probably didn’t mean to get it wrong, let me tell you how it rolls”. I also have to be humble and vulnerable enough to say I’m wrong.
Bucket number two is trial and error. I spent a lot of time as a waiter in college where I realized I loved people but at that time, the cool thing to do was to go into investment banking. I got a lot from it but I realized that’s not what I wanted so I got into the non-profit sector. I realized that there was a common theme and it was people. It was through trial and error that I understood that helping people is what drives me, no matter what the industry.
What I’ll never be able to quantify though are the measurements that actually touch me the most. For example, when someone who has not been open about their sexual orientation or preference says “for the first time, out of all the companies I’ve worked for, I felt comfortable being open about who I am here”.
The last bucket is other people who have helped me. The first person that gave me my shot on Wall Street was the Chief Diversity Officer of Morgan Stanley. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Sometimes there will be someone on the perimeter who says, “have you ever thought about X”, and that’s how I made the transition from Wall Street into tech. A mentee of mine had an old resume and submitted the resume on my behalf for a job in diversity in Google and didn’t tell me until the day before the recruiter was going to call me. So just goes to show mentees can help mentors.
DHC: This is the first time eBay has ever had a diversity and inclusion centralized practice, even though they’ve been doing diversity for a long time. I was the first in this role. I took over the University Recruiting team 4 months after starting. We started with universities because there is such a high volume and velocity of new talent coming in.
DHC: Partners. I work with business partners who are part of the people leadership team. A great example is my colleague Camille who is running communications for Canada and Latin America. As an example, Camille and others have partnerships such as #MovetheDial that enable us to share our narrative with everybody from university students up to executives, so we’re deliberate in those partnerships as well.
Also, it’s not just about recruiting, it’s about a 360-degree vision of what we do. For example, how we use a technology called Textio. They use augmented machine learning to take a job description that is written by a human being and essentially dip it in a bath and pull it out with language that is not biased. We have an enterprise-wide, global partnership with them to ensure our job descriptions are unbiased.
And then you look at places like our Korea office that took it upon themselves to blind resumes for their intern recruiting. I believe they’re even thinking about doing it for other levels, whereby they don’t include candidate name, location and do not ask for a photo, whereas historically this was required.
We aren’t allowing the biases, whether or conscious or unconscious, to enable someone to get the interview or not. In my role, I sometimes own the lever, as in the University Recruiting situation, and sometimes I have to partner with people to get stuff done.
DHC: There are two vehicles: structural and cultural. Structural refer to the systems and processes. I work very closely with our people development team. We’re evolving our performance management process so that when we have performance calibration discussions, we explore having a 10-minute review of the different kinds of biases or the things that pop up in these calibration conversations. You’ll never really get rid of all biases, but you can mitigate it and work with partners that do that.
Another major part of our workplace is what we call our Communities Of Inclusion. Or, what other people call Employee Resource Groups. There are two key things that we worked on when it came to developing our Communities Of Inclusion. Number one is making sure that people at eBay know that for example, if a community of inclusion is focused on women in technology it doesn’t mean that men aren’t welcome to join. And just because a man joins doesn’t mean they have to stop focusing on things that are about women and tech.
With our current eBay Women in Technology group (called EWIT for short) we have men who are actually on that leadership team. That is great to see in practice as it also means that the onus is on all of us, as members of the community, to meet the challenges in front of us.
The last thing I would point to is our Courageous Conversations Series. We kicked off a diversity and inclusion survey two years ago – it was the first one eBay has ever conducted. Twenty-five questions were sent out to the entire eBay global population ranging on things from “with which gender do you self-identify”, all the way to asking people “what behaviours have you seen others demonstrate that are inclusive” and “is there at least one other person within this company with whom you believe you can be your true self?”
Those are all aspects of inclusion we want to tackle. We looked at that data and one of the things we saw was that people felt that they could not bring every single aspect of themselves to work. This is not particular to eBay. If we’re seeing that data and we want people to come to work and be themselves, and to be productive, then the onus is on us to make sure that we’re changing things. Courageous Conversations is a direct output of that. We launched it at our headquarters and we’re now talking about how we launch it in parts of Europe and Asia next year.
DHC: You can’t roll out one policy. For example, parental leave policy cannot be the same as there are different constraints depending on the country. Cultural norms as well. What you can roll out are company values. At eBay, we are dedicated to making the most culturally diverse and inclusive place for the world to work, grow, buy and sell. And then, within the cultural context that exists in each country, you fight towards that same end goal, but you do it in a way that’s relevant to the people who are there.
I think the worst thing a company could ever do is hire someone like me who then produces a one-size fit all plan. I spent my first 4 or 5 months literally traveling. My first week was spent between our Dublin office and our Berlin office. I spent time just listening. Because the truth is, I don’t know all the cultural norms in every single country that eBay is in.
And even if I did know everything about all these different groups, I can’t manage projects locally. So we train our people on the ground to do it by providing frameworks, financial support from my budget, and by providing recognition and things that help people who are volunteering for this work outside of their core jobs to be rewarded. I think we’ve done a really good job at some of those things, and others were still on that journey of trying to perfect.
DHC: We undertake extensive reporting that we make public which measures our corporate key performance indicators as it relates to diversity and inclusion. What I’ll never be able to quantify though are the measurements that actually touch me the most. For example, when someone who has not been open about their sexual orientation or preference says “for the first time, out of all the companies I’ve worked for, I felt comfortable being open about who I am here”. Or when somebody we engage in a session says “Thank you for opening up as a VP and senior leader of the company that you have ADHD. Because I’ve been so afraid that I was in the kind of environment that I couldn’t talk about those kinds of things.”
I don’t have a number for that. I save all those emails and put them in a scrapbook because that’s why I’m in this work. I’m not in it just for the numbers and to make people externally happy, I’m in it for that. That’s real and that’s what I feel my role is.