Last week, you may have seen that Wunderkind officially announced our rebranding to Wunderkind. Part of the reasoning for the rebranding was to ensure we better align with our goal of unleashing the extraordinary power of individuality to our clients. But more than that, we decided we needed a brand that captured who we are as individual people. Our employees bring their own unique identities, cultures, and experiences to the office each and every day. At Wunderkind, we have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) platform that supports employees regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability (both visible and invisible), and generations. In celebration of Black History Month, our BlacX ERG (our internal employee resource that aims to provide a safe space for black employees and their allies) hosted a month-long series of events and initiatives that took place internally and externally.
In December of last year, the committee members of BlacX met with our Diversity and Inclusion team to get the ball rolling ways to support this pivotal month. “One of our goals in the previous year was to make sure that we set up and support Employee Resource Groups for everyone within the company. Now that they are there, we really looked to have heritage months like Black History Month move the needle on setting up spaces for people with different background to open up so that real conversations can happen,” said Lakuan Smith, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Wunderkind.
The results? Impactful programming aimed at not only creating dialogue within the company but also supporting the local charity Facing History and Ourselves, whose mission is to use lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate. Check out everything that we did below.
Black History Town Hall
To kick off the month, BlacX hosted and led a Town Hall discussion. Employees gathered in our main atrium to socialize and taste a sampling of cocktails made from black-owned businesses. Afterward, we gathered in our main atrium to engage in a very frank, and honest discussion about the black experience in the workplace—specifically in the tech space.
“When we were setting up the event we wanted to ensure the felt as open as possible,” said BlacX Co-lead and Senior Brand Designer Sarah Olushoga. “We know this can be a sensitive topic. So, unlike regular panels, we wanted to make sure the speakers were sitting at the same level as everyone else in the room. This way it would feel more like a group discussion where everyone felt capable of chiming in with their thoughts.”
The event lasted well into the evening and saw everyone from BlacX committee members, to employee resource group allies, and even new employees add their experiences into the discussion. “What’s been really great about the Town Hall is that it’s created a lot of interest in the black experience at Wunderkind,” added Olushoga. “In just our first BlacX meeting after the event we saw nearly 40 people attend and a lot of people who joined had questions directly stemming from the Town Hall. It’s been great to see the effects as people show interest in joining the group.”
Black Roots to American Charts
Later in the week, we met up with employees from PayPal and Spotify at PayPal’s New York office to discuss the impact of black culture and music on the overall American lexicon and sense of identity. In addition to hearing music from decades of the world’s most influential artists, the evening offered an educational and networking experience for all involved.”While it can be easy to hear about all of the work left to do when it comes to being black in tech, the Black Roots in America event with PayPal really helped show that there is room to grow your career in tech as a black person,” said Olushoga.
Black in Tech Panel
Right after Valentine’s day, we teamed up with Frame.io and Code Nation to host a event with the aim of providing an open and honest discussion for all. The night featured 4 inspiring panelists, including one of our Principle Software Engineers Tony Bellamy, as they walked the attendees through their own diverse backgrounds—sharing their journeys within the tech industry and offering key insights into how they got to where they are today.
“Participating in the Frame.io panel was an enriching experience that allowed me to reflect on my journey so far in tech and share some of the insights that I wish I had when I was starting my career. Listening to the other panelists was inspiring and made me appreciate being part of a larger community,” said Bellamy.
Before and after the panel, we opened the floor for all attendees to network with fellow black in tech employees and allies to learn more about their own challenges and opportunities.
Celebration of Black Influence & Block Party
We closed out Black History Month with our biggest event on the calendar by hosting a Block Party on the main floor of our office. The event saw employees line up for a potluck of dishes, like Mac & Cheese bites, chicken poppers, and fries, that was coupled with mixed drinks sure to remind anyone still working that it was officially time for the weekend.
Beyond the celebration of a month of events, the team also sourced local black-owned businesses to feature at the party. “When looking for vendors to feature at the block party we reached out to friends in our networks and also messaged some of the amazing businesses featured within the Black Owned Brooklyn Instagram to have them come feature their products for our employees to buy,” said Olushoga. The result was a marketplace of goods from plants to candles, earrings to incense, and more.
But the good news didn’t end there. With the help of our internal programming and the support of employees and allies alike, we were able to raise hundreds of dollars to support Facing History and Ourselves. Additionally, our committee leaders within BlacX are already looking to take the learnings from this year’s events to create more programming throughout 2020 and beyond as it’s important to understand that the black experience should not, and will not, be confined to only one month each year.