The Stories of Black Futures Month at PagerDuty

by PagerDuty March 4, 2021 | 8 min read

“If you want to change the story, you need to change the storytellers. Let the future hold our stories we are creating today.”

Array, PagerDuty’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for Black and Latinx employees, celebrated Black History Month this past February with a focused and intentional approach to telling and showcasing stories through a “future” lens while also recognizing our past. The theme for the month was “Black Futures Month: Excellence, Resilience, and Equity.” The goal was to feature and elevate the Black voices across our entire organization that serve as examples for how we can define and honor the resilience of Black talent today and tomorrow, uncover equitable solutions through conversations and connection, and highlight Black excellence across PagerDuty and the communities we serve.

Black Futures = Excellence

Array partnered with our Company Kickoff team to host a moderated Black Leadership panel with our newest board members: Dr. Alec Gallimore and Bonita C. Stewart. Torian Parker, a Senior Product Designer based in Toronto, led the conversation and focused on how these leaders lead in their respective domains and areas of expertise. They are examples of great leaders who are doing the work and represent Black excellence. It was evident that discovering one’s excellence across the Black community is not left to chance, as Stewart expressed to kick off the panel: “It takes being your noblist. That is where you find success.” Gallimore and Stewart walked us through their values of building character, courage, and being willing to do the hard work to serve others across their careers.

Doing the hard work often requires constant trust building, leaning into uncomfortable conversations, and measuring what matters to understand the past and change systems for the future. Gallimore stated at the end, ”The best way to predict the future is to create it!” Their main takeaways were that they had to learn how to be an active ally in every aspect of their career. We are in a new era where we all have to be willing to be an ally if we want to see real change in the world. This requires reaching out and teaching others, hiring in multiples to eliminate the “only” experiences, and focusing on reaching inclusive leadership excellence every chance we can get.

At the end of the month, Gallimore came back to speak with the Array members in an intimate event called “Spill the Tea” to have a “one-on-one” conversation about the future of Black talent and to share perspectives on what is needed today in order to realize the possibilities of the future. It is important to invest in the growth of Black talent. Array wanted to expose members to a leader who looks like them and inspires them to “be what you can’t see today, so that one day someone can see themselves in you.”

The Black Futures Month Yearbook

Throughout the month, we spotlighted our Black and LatinX talent that thrives withinPagerDuty by creating the Black Futures Month Yearbook. The yearbook consists of a series of profiles intended to highlight and emphasize the complexity and individuality of our Array members. We asked our members to describe who they are, who inspires them, and how they navigate their Black experience in their life and in work. By normalizing the variety of faces of color across the entire company, we are doing the tough work of increasing our visibility internally—and reinforcing the need for more.

As we move towards the future, it is important for people to “see us” as individuals and not as a monolith of “The Black and Brown talent.” By emphasizing the diversity of talent within PagerDuty, we hope to bring attention to their individual and collective excellence that they bring to our customers on a daily basis.

Black Futures = Resilience

One of the Kwanzaa principles, Ujima, stands for “collective work and responsibility,” which means to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems—and solve them together. Looking back at the past, there are many great examples we can look at today to understand what it takes to move through and beyond the challenges. It requires building community, giving back in terms of our time and money, and the willingness to share our stories within our community and help each other reach the other side of the struggle.

Reaching Out Into Our Communities

Throughout the month of February, Array sponsored two schools, MLK Middle School (San Francisco, California) and Cascade Elementary School (Atlanta, Georgia). These schools were selected because they are within the communities in which PagerDuty is located and educate predominantly Black and Brown students. We held a fundraiser to help provide teachers with school supplies, give students school kits, and provide parents grocery gift cards, as many of the families are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and struggle with basic needs, such as food and household supplies. To conclude, Array members partnered with MLK Middle School and hosted a career panel where faculty and students had an opportunity to speak with Black and Latinx PagerDuty employees to hear about their backgrounds and career paths.

Connecting With Our “Cousins” in Tech

We partnered with multiple Black ERGs at GAP Inc, Zendesk, and DocuSign, and hosted at virtual Cookout! By creating a community with other Black talent across tech and with our customers, we intend to learn, build bonds, and create connections so that we can work together to move forward towards a better future.

Since food is so core to Black culture, we created an experience that provided participants with a list of Black-owned restaurants and held a Cookout-themed game. Throughout the Cookout event, we learned about how other ERGs are creating spaces for Black communities in their organizations and how they support one another. This included sharing insights on what has been effective and what work there is still left to do. This event offered opportunities for other ERGs to share their stories of success and failure so that we can collectively learn from their reflections. The hope is that we will continue to share ideas in a regular meet-up with similar SaaS & IT organizations. This work becomes easier when we do it together!

Black Future = Equity

The fact is, you do not have to be Black to see Black people win; seeing Black people win isn’t a zero sum game. Representation and leveling the playing field has always been a part of Array’s vision, and in February, Array launched the first Reverse Mentorship Program, which is designed for Senior Leadership team (SLT) members to mentor Black and Brown Dutonians in developing their career and provide guidance, while also learning best practices of allyship for supporting Black and Brown communities inside and outside the workplace. This program is mutually beneficial and creates a two-way mentorship channel to achieve the following:

  • Expose SLT to our Black and Brown employees’ perspectives and experiences to better inform their inclusive and equitable leadership capabilities.
  • Invest in the growth of Dutonians: mentees can expand their business knowledge and skills, gain valuable advice from experienced leaders on growing their careers, and build their professional networks.

All in all, no Black Futures Month can go on without connecting people to the amazing Black culture. In partnership with our Vibe team, we:

  • Sent Black Future Experience Boxes to Array members and mentors that included items from Black-owned businesses, such as coffee from Black and Bold, tea from Just Add Honey, and the book Black Futures, which paints a picture of what a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable future can look like for the Black community.
  • Hosted Yoga & Soul sessions with Audrey Cash of Level3 Yoga, a hip-hop yoga studio based out of Atlanta, GA, that focuses on promoting physical, spiritual, and emotional healing, while combating the stigmas around mental health within the hip-hop community.
  • Held a virtual Concert in collaboration with Sofar Sounds with Black artists:
    • ShySpeaks is an American hip-hop and spoken word artist. With her soulful voice, thoughtful lyrics, and irrepressible confidence, Shy is winning fans from San Francisco to the UK—and many cities in between. Her rhymes are brilliant, spiritual, and introspective.
    • Ben Mulwana is a Ugandan-born and raised singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. His songs have a storytelling quality that is both unique and familiar and heavily shaped by his culture.

This is our story, what’s yours? We can build a future where excellence is celebrated, resilience is recognized, and equity is measured. Let’s continue to do the work, our future is depending on us.

Our actions create history, and the stories that make up Black history gives us examples of excellence, resilience, and equity that we can talk about and teach future generations. Here at PagerDuty, we want to lead the way, build a story, and leave a legacy that moves the Black community forward. We encourage you to check out the Black-owned businesses and artists we featured and support them!