What Happened in April in TechTown

This monthly report highlights the latest updates in TechTown news and our progress in our top areas of focus: RecruitmentRetention and Measurement.

As the stay at home order continues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, TechTown’s monthly activity has been limited, thus focusing primarily on building community and thoughtful discussion at Monthly Morning Sessions.

TechTown hosted it’s second consecutive virtual morning session on April 22. Twenty TechTown members logged into Zoom to connect with one another, learned about New Relic’s recruiting partnership with Oregon State University (OSU), and discussed curated questions in small groups.

During the session, TechTown Steering Committee member and New Relic’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Rachel Etnire Parrott led a question and answer session to provide details, insights and lessons from a new curriculum and recruiting partnership between New Relic and OSU

This partnership, which started with a chance encounter between Cristin Rigney (Senior Recruiter at New Relic) and Jennifer Villalobos (Professor within the College of Business at OSU), was designed to provide students with real-world experience of actual cultural challenges that companies face.  

“We presented the students the challenges we are facing at New Relic in terms of culture and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). We then asked them to do a paper on what they would do at New Relic and what they would do if they took a role at a software company to scale their culture in the face of constantly changing organization structure and technology.”
– Rachel explains how she kicked off the program with the students 

In addition to sharing the program and answering questions, Rachel shared the misses and the wins she has faced when working on DEI strategy with the group:

“I wish I could tell you that we’ve solved the problem of how to scale culture and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion work. No one really has, and many of us are trying to fix the airplane while it’s still in flight. This work is measured in the strides we make and the minds we change, often one by one. It takes repeated exposure, knocking on doors, remaining consciously competent about culture, the human brain, changing workforce demographics and the impact of those changes, etc. Through remaining persistent, focused, and finding the right balance between when to compromise and when to hold firm. We have created a lot of incredible change and have been able to scale some of our efforts.” 

Rachel also shared the following lessons and advice with the group:

  • The limited success of creating affinity groups or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) without systematic support from the business or c-level executives
  • Ensuring the DE&I staff is prepared to advise/lead/be the subject matter expert (SME) within the organization
  • Utilizing data and metrics to measure the impact of inclusion and/or initiatives 
  • Prioritizing energy and effort into creating high impact Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • Creating a safe and open space to discuss the need for a more diverse leadership team 
  • Leveraging high impact trainings for employees

By openly sharing the challenges and successes Rachel and New Relic face, it provided participants a glimpse into this work at another company and created an environment for open sharing that was taken into the breakout rooms for the second half of the morning session.

The breakout groups discussed questions that ranged from those intended to build connections with one another to how companies have brought folks together and tried to be intentionally inclusive during quarantine.

Some of the ideas shared included, companywide weekly virtual coffee meeting, breakfast and learn, themed virtual happy hours, photo challenges, and virtual background contest. A notable creative idea is a Mister Rogers game, where people in the organization get into small groups and talk about different topics that do not include work. A key component of the game is reshuffling the makeup of small groups regularly so folks can connect informally with many different colleagues.

This session was a great example of how TechTown continues to foster dynamic learning and collaboration regardless of circumstance. We are looking forward to continuing this level of sharing, discussion and community at our next Monthly Session. 

About TechTown Portland

A movement. A commitment. A community.

TechTownPDX is a collection of Portland tech companies who have come together to commit to a Diversity Pledge – a shared commitment and action plan to collectively advance workplace diversity and inclusion in order to grow the industry while broadening prosperity.

Our mission is to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion within pledge companies. We do this by taking collective action with the local tech companies who have taken our Diversity & Inclusion Pledge that is focused around Partnerships, Hiring Strategies, Career Development, Training & Education and Measuring Progress.

About Prosper Portland

TechTown is powered by Prosper Portland. Prosper Portland creates economic growth and opportunity for Portland. Prosper Portland’s vision is to make Portland one of the most globally competitive, healthy, and equitable cities in the world by investing in job creation, encouraging broad economic prosperity, and fostering great places throughout the city. We aspire to be a workplace of choice with passionate staff excelling in an open and empowering environment and sharing a commitment to our collective success.

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Portland tech companies have joined the Diversity & Inclusion Pledge since its initial launch in 2015.

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