It’s Time to Go Beyond: Evolution of Array

by Phylicia Jones March 21, 2022 | 11 min read

Words Like Freedom 

There are words like Freedom

Sweet and wonderful to say

On my heartstrings freedom sings

All day every day.

There are words like Liberty 

That almost make me cry

If you had known what I know

You would know why. 

Langston Hughes

Day One, Four Years Ago

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, I stood with my fellow Black Dutonian, Adam Boone, and read the above words from Langston Hughes’ poem, Words like Freedom, to the entire company during our first town hall of the year. It was that day that we introduced Array, the first Black and Latine employee resource group (ERG) at PagerDuty. Looking back, I was nervous because it was only my second month at the company and on this stage, I was given the mic and the opportunity for our voices to be heard. As a Black woman in America who was building her career, there is no better feeling than when you are passed the mic and allowed to speak from your heart. This is what I would call liberty. There were no barriers leading up to this moment; we were given a date and a time, so we just showed up and got started. This is when I knew this kind of work could be done at PagerDuty.

PagerDuty allowed me to see that we all have a part to play when it comes to inclusion, diversity and equity. Let me tell you about the Array journey through my experience and how we are moving beyond one-month celebrations to ongoing programming to raise up those (Black, Latine, and Allies) around us. Part of this story highlights how I learned to use the platform of an ERG to help create a place of belonging and equity at the place where I work. 

Looking Back

When I first came to PagerDuty, as many people of color do, I  counted–how many of “us” are here. Luckily, it was more than where I was coming from, so needless to say, I was excited. I remember meeting other Black and Latine Dutonians and instantly feeling a sense of community here at PagerDuty as we shared lunches together, and sat in conference rooms brainstorming the name of our ERG, its mission, and vision.

The mission of Array is to enable a community of continuous learning that fosters empathy and understanding of the lived Black and Latine experience. 

Vision: To level the playing field for Black/Latine employees by cultivating and celebrating a diverse and inclusive global work environment at PagerDuty, so that we can continue to attract talent that represents our diverse customer base.

I thought to myself, “Is this what my ancestors experienced as they were planning civil rights movements?” Possibly. If I reflect on my time at PagerDuty, as the longest-standing Array Leader, Array has given so much to me and PagerDuty as we both continue to move forward on the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity journey we started four years ago. We’ve learned together what uncomfortable conversations you can have, we’ve given permission to Black and Latine employees to have their own spaces as we navigate challenging social issues that directly impact us, and we created learning opportunities to bring awareness to the Black and Latine experiences for allies because, as we are not a monolith—we are a diaspora filled with an array of beautiful history and excellence—how can we get others to see our realities?

We Are in the Long Game  

Last year, I learned the term, “universal belonging,” from John Powell, Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, as I studied the future of work. Universal belonging is a sense or a feeling of oneness among people. It is a feeling that binds people together irrespective of differences of opinion, race, creed, class, or religion. Even though many Array members have come and gone, my time and experiences within Array have allowed me to understand how we survive in the future of work and what kind of work it takes to create a place of belonging when we are separated in a distributed world. It has been through the evolution of Array that I learned that a pandemic or a crisis is not the time to be complacent.   

Because of our PagerDuty values of Bring Your Self, Take the Lead, and Run Together, Array grew and the sense of oneness has become even more important. Over the years, we have been given the permission and have the privilege at PagerDuty to create this sense of oneness and bring others along with us. 

Here is what we are learning…We cannot let calendar months dictate when we should or can talk about race or celebrate who we are. The fact is, a day or month of celebration of history doesn’t erase the past and solve the issues facing us today and going forward. In the last four years, I have witnessed Array’s growth in leadership, membership, participation in programming, and engagement in our events because of the incremental actions we have taken. Fast forward to 2022. Array has over 90 members in our community, and we have created sub-groups in Array—’Array-Black’ and ‘Array-Latine’—to create unique experiences for those diasporas. We have a goal to go beyond our Black History Month / Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations and instead drive connection and change through ongoing programming that drives connection, growth, and community building. In addition, last year was the first year we were able to get a report of our own Inclusion Survey data to help inform programming and events that really address our members’ needs.  Now with increased membership and data, we can evolve and scale just like any great team. We want to create history through influencing others to realize a better future for Black and Latine talent in the workplace. Can we reach a “new normal” that serves us all more equitably than returning to normal?

Change Takes Leadership

Real change requires accountability and real leaders willing to do the work. Right after Array became an ERG, Jennifer Tejada, our CEO, wanted to sit down and meet with Array leaders to have a conversation. The image is still so vivid to me. She came into the room, sat down, and said “What can I do to help?” That was it, and the rest is history. Since then, the connection and relationship Array has built with our CEO has given us access to our Black and Latine Board Members—Alec Gallimore, Elena Gomez, and Bonita Stewart; sponsorship to start the first ERG sponsored Mentorship Program between Array members and Senior Leaders; and enabled us to generate awareness for how we address different challenges that our members are facing through the lens of the business and the employee experience. The thing about Jenn is that she never pretends to know the answer when it comes to Array, but she takes time to listen in our quarterly update meetings and is willing to support finding solutions.

Looking ForwardCommunity Building 

I heard we were in the “junior year” of the pandemic. Thinking back to my high school days, junior year was the year you got serious about your future after high school. In a way, the Array today is getting serious about our future and building strength within our community at PagerDuty so we can feel that sense of belonging. I am excited about the commitment our leaders are making to increase retention and engagement within our community by bringing ideas to the table and bringing them to life. We believe these ongoing acts of connection will set us on the path where universally, we feel empowered to bring ourselves to work each day and do the best we can for each other and our customers. This year we are driving ongoing community building by:

  • Connect to the uncomfortable conversations—We continue our Spill the Tea conversations because we believe there is power in conversation. These intimate conversations among members give us the safety to express ourselves and have a real talk about what’s top of mind. These are scheduled monthly to create casual collisions among our members across the organization. 
  • Connect Array members with leaders – We are moving into year two of our Array Mentorship Program that is designed for Senior Leadership Team (SLT) members to mentor Black and Brown Dutonians in developing their careers and provide guidance, while also learning best practices of allyship for supporting Black and Brown communities inside and outside the workplace. Now that we have increased our representation among our VP population, we hope to build more structure and support around the mentorship relationships to expose more Senior Leaders to our Black and Brown employees’ perspectives and experiences to better inform their inclusive and equitable leadership capabilities.

“I cannot begin to express my gratitude and just how much this program gave me the confidence to DREAM BIG!  I had an excellent mentor. He gave me ample time to speak my mind. He not only listened but heard me, was vulnerable with me in sharing his personal stories, and he let me know that anything is possible.” —2021 Array mentee, Meley Bekele

  • Connect Array members to each other – Through membership growth, we are starting a “Reach One, Teach One” (ROTO) series. As a direct response to our inclusion survey, we want to take action. Our members wanted a space to discuss how they might navigate career milestones and decisions. Sometimes, the best place to start these conversations is within your own community. We are hosting these sessions every other month where we will: 
    • Choose one focused topic where we share perspectives, advice, and insights (selected topics upon member request), 
    • Offer practical tips on how to navigate the processes
    • Create a safe space to have real talk and ask hard questions to increase awareness for how to move forward.
  • Connect to a bigger purpose – We recognize our opportunities were not possible without the sacrifices of our ancestors who came before us. As we move through this year, we will continue to maintain our partnership with our ID&E and Social Impact Teams to ensure we are giving time to our people and our communities. We have intentionally amplified the voices of Black-owned and Latine-owned businesses as we celebrated our heritages in February and September/October. We will continue our commitment here to find ways to give back through small and large efforts to ensure we are lifting up those around us in all ways. Past and current partnerships have been with: 
    • Days for Change 
    • Code Tenderloin 
    • MLK Middle School, San Francisco 
    • Women’s Building, San Francisco 
    • The New Georgia Project 
    • Atlanta Mission 
    • Covenant house of Georgia 
    • Empowr 
    • Atlanta Community Food Bank

Continue To Have Hope for the Future

The journey is ongoing because change is not the final destination—justice is. My hope is that year over year, we become more conscious, more aware, and embrace the willingness to learn to iterate our programming and increase our impact one person at a time. Array has taught me we all have something to learn about who we are, how we impact others, and how to be an example of what change can look like when you put people first. True liberty and freedom will only come when everyone is willing and allows themselves to learn as one people. I think Array can help with that learning process. I am forever grateful for the past and current Array members who have shared their personal and professional experiences and stories with me over the years. It is those stories and experiences that are accepted and at the core of what makes Array the community that it is today. 

What Makes Array 

No two stories the same

A mix of melanin we call by name

A space for an unfiltered tone

A community I can call home.

Filled with pride and emotion 

I don’t feel like a token 

Always there on a day like today

Moving us forward, this is Array

Phylicia Jones