Regardless of industry or leadership level, everyone with a job needs to know that they are being heard and accounted for by their employer during this tumultuous time. You can be the voice of reassurance for your direct reports by doing these five things asap:

1. Check-in with everyone, one-on-one, privately.

Use the following agenda as a guide:

  • Reiterate your company/org’s stance and plan regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). Ask your direct report if they understand; make sure they do.
  • Ask “How is this impacting you outside of work?” Listen and take notes in a secure, confidential place.
  • Ask “How can I be supportive at this time?” Listen and take notes. Be honest about what you can and can’t do, and what will require more investigation by you. …

(Adapted from my earlier Twitter thread.)

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Photo credit: LA West Media

In the past few years, I’ve been in the position to lead inside companies while major events, all with racism at their core, have unfolded in the news. From the unrelenting videos of police violence against our Black neighbors, to the presence of actual Nazis in our midst, to the Muslim travel ban, to the images of Latinx children in detention camps, leading “business as usual” is not an option.

The reality inside most companies is that the people in the lead are not the ones most deeply affected. I cannot explain the feeling of walking into an office in the midst of these events and being asked with a smile “How was your weekend?” The real answer is “My weekend was a racist hellscape, thanks.” And the extra painful part is being around people who have the luxury of not paying attention, not fearing for their family’s safety, wondering why all the long faces. …

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Photo courtesy #WOC in Tech Chat

My job is helping people build healthy, inclusive workplace cultures. That’s not always simple or straightforward and I have to answer a lot of questions with “that depends.” I love the complexity of this work, but sometimes it would be nice to have some easy answers. Here’s one for anyone who manages people:

One-on-one meetings are the fundamental building block of healthy workplace culture.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re working on, or how big your organization is: If managers and leaders conduct consistent 1:1’s with their teams, the organization will see meaningful benefits to overall cultural health.

What is a one-on-one meeting?

This may seem like an easy answer, but it’s important to define. First: 1:1’s are sacred time. Be disciplined about not canceling or continually rescheduling your 1:1’s. By having a reliable channel of communication with their manager, reports can trust that issues that develop at work will also have a forum for discussion and support. When 1:1 scheduling is flaky, you erode trust with your team. …

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Starbucks is one of the most recognizable brands around the world

Dear Starbucks Leadership:

Given all of the free wifi I’ve used over the years, I’d like to offer my expertise as you lead up to your company-wide training on May 29. Having trained thousands of employees across sectors on issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) — and specifically on race in the workplace — I hope my guidance helps you plan. Starbucks getting this right would be huge for our country, not just those who pay close attention to D&I in business.

  1. Your current challenge is about race, specifically anti-Black racism.

If you want to fix this, the first step is to be honest with yourselves about where you are falling down on race at every level of the company, starting with executive leadership. No company can successfully shift culture at this magnitude without strong buy-in at the highest levels of the company. Simultaneously, no company can shift without engaging their own Black employees on solutions. …

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Photo courtesy #WOCinTech Chat

Today, Atlassian released a report “State of Diversity 2018.” As someone who has been actively working with companies on diversity and inclusion for over 20 years, I am thrilled to see the work of Aubrey Blanche and her team. This rich data set takes a vital pulse of our industry’s attitudes and challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

While there is a myriad of valuable data to dissect, I want to focus on one particular trend highlighted by the Atlassian data, which is mirrored in the experience of my consulting firm, Vaya: People overwhelmingly express that they care about diversity, but when it comes to action, Silicon Valley’s “growth mindset” comes to a screeching halt. …

Frances McDormand introduced the world to “inclusion riders” at the Oscars and I’m thrilled.

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Craig Sjodin/ABC

The approach cited by McDormand was created by Dr. Stacy Smith at USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and was originally envisioned to diversify talent in the media. You can read more about their work here.

A rider modifies a contract for the specific needs of a given engagement or contract participant. They are notably used in the music industry, where artist riders specify details for the safety and comfort of a touring act. …

Dear C-Suite tech execs:

The most talented people in your company are looking for new jobs.

I can tell you why.

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You have bad managers

There’s no other way to put it. Here’s the most important part: It’s your fault, not theirs.

Do you have a theory of management in your company? Do you have management training to support that theory? Are your front-line managers, themselves, managed well? Do they have your support to set expectations in guiding their direct reports? Where do they go when they feel stuck? Where do direct reports go when they have a challenge with their manager? …

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Photo Courtesy #WOCinTech

The question I’ve been asked more than any other over the years is “How can I make my company’s culture inclusive?”

It’s always difficult to answer because, at the root of it, is how your company views employees. Like “theories of change” and “management theories,” every organization must develop a well-articulated employment theory. I do not mean this in Keynesian economic terms, but instead in terms of defining your company’s relationship to the humans who perform the work.

Instead of links to articles and examples, I am sharing language from my own company, Vaya Consulting, below. It is for new employees from me, the CEO. …

I grew up in an unincorporated part of the San Francisco Bay Area that was a well-documented KKK gathering spot. I discovered this just before my seventh birthday when TIME Magazine ran a story called “The Klan Rides Again” (November 19, 1979 | Vol. 114 №21). My friend’s mom had a copy, I was a good reader and well, my town was named explicitly. Most of the people I knew outside my family shrugged it off as “blown out of proportion.”

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November 19, 1979

I spent all of my formative years as one of only a handful of non-white kids in this predominantly working class community. People I grew up with “joked” about the KKK and neo-Nazis. They were “only joking” when some boys in my 7th grade social studies class drew swastikas on their homework for our (only) Jewish teacher. They were “drunk and goofing off” in high school when a group of them attacked a Chinese butcher and threw him in a dumpster. It was “just a practical joke” when homes started getting tagged with swastikas in the middle of the night. …

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Photo courtesy

If you find this piece useful, find out more about how my firm can help your business. Visit

For the past two days, I have watched friends and acquaintances debate the merits of diversity in tech with ill-informed folks on social media. This stems from an ignorant set of remarks about Facebook’s inability to attract talent from backgrounds underrepresented in tech, essentially blaming it on “the pipeline issue,” one of the laziest analyses of this sector’s lack of diversity.

So, for the people who are working on this issue and are tired of repeatedly rehashing the defense, I have assembled an FAQ, to use the term loosely. These are some of the typical arguments lodged against diversity efforts, followed by responses. Copy and paste, refer people to it, use this information as a guide.


Nicole Sanchez

Founder of Vaya Consulting. Co-creator of Organizational culture expert, working at the intersection of tech and social impact.

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