Executive Decisions

Today's feature, Tatyana Araya, is a Jersey native with a partial upbringing in Costa Rica that fueled her passion for the career she has today in diversity in inclusion. One of the key takeaways I got from my chat with her is that the things we do behind the scenes to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk are an extremely important factor in paving a smoother road for those that are coming up behind us.

Congratulations are also in order: Tatyana just started the next phase of her career journey. She's continuing to take the recruiting career path and the tech industry by storm (fitting, given her current home base in the rainy city of Seattle) with her recent move from Tableau to Google.

Read on for details on Tatyana's passion for increasing diversity in tech, dedication to being a resource for as many aspiring professionals as she can, and experiences in leadership through ALPFA.

Into the Details

Personal Title

I would definitely say "Diversity and Inclusion Advocate." I've always been interested in diversity and I have a pretty diverse background: my mom is Latina and my dad is black. I also spent part of my childhood growing up in Costa Rica.

I've always been exposed to different backgrounds and I've always loved it. I truly feel like there's no other way than to be someone who understands and embraces diversity. So, when people don’t see that, it makes me want to figure out how, and what, I can do to change that.

How has working for a large tech company impacted your career goals and trajectory?

So, I know when I originally started getting into recruiting, Seattle as a city was very focused on the technology business sector and I realized that a lot of the companies that fall under that umbrella lack diversity among the employees they place in tech roles. Pretty much every key business area outside of HR lacked resources who were persons of color and/or women.

Seeing that bothered me, especially coming from my hometown in New Jersey, which is more diverse comparatively. Because of my hometown, I've always been exposed to diversity, to the work that I do now, and I focus on identifying ways that we can help ensure there is a shift in the amount of opportunity for diverse talent where I am today. I started getting involved with a number of non-profit organizations like ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals For America) and Future For Us, an organization founded by 2 women of color. The purpose of Future for Us is to help Womxn of Color excel and get into leadership roles at their companies.

Another key component of my work involves trying to engage leaders in order to understand what the true issue is and where we're lacking. I've always been interested in diversity in corporate America and in talking to people who have job titles that are dedicated to advancing inclusion and/or diversity within their organizations. Ironically, over 80% of the people I talk to who occupy these roles are white women, not women of color. I generally try to gauge their thoughts on practices at their current companies and I recently put together a data-driven presentation for leadership based on what I learned. From there, I've started to put those initiatives into place at Tableau.

My ability to do this truly shows that for D&I initiatives to work, having support of leadership is key - it has to come from the top. CEO investment in driving my ideas to fruition has been helpful. The success of this initiative also makes me want to keep going and keep pushing for the next initiative. I think that it will be a great model for other firms to use moving forward.

People that fell into my target discussion group at other firms have been surprisingly open to having discussions with me around implementing similar initiatives at their places of work. I usually reach out on LinkedIn, but, I also have a network of connections I can reach out to based on my role as the VP of Events for ALPFA's Seattle chapter. During my time In that role, a group of us on the leadership team ended up suggesting we host an event with local corporate employee resource groups (ERGs). We were able to make it happen; we invited companies with well-established ERGs and some that are just starting to invest in that space (Bank of America, Microsoft, Expedia, EY, Zillow, etc.). We used the event to gauge ideas and to learn what may work across companies, what similarities and differences there are in the way our ERGs operate at our respective firms, what we agree and disagree on, and how we can keep the work going from here.

I then took that to Tableau and helped build the case for creating ERGs at Tableau. The data I gathered made clear how ERG activities and output affect attrition at the companies that have them and how the future will continue to be shaped by them.

More importantly, I also learned more about the effect starting ERGs can have on your job and as an individual with a separate full-time role. ERG work can be a full-time job on top of the job you already occupy, and you have to be careful to maintain both areas if you choose to go that route. I know of at least one leader who lost their initial role due to the time they ended up devoting to their ERG. For this reason, when looking to start and to maintain ERGs, you need a strong understanding from leadership that there is an ROI (return on investment) that will come from you doing the work.

"I truly feel like there's no other way than to be someone who understands and embraces diversity. So, when people don’t see that, it makes me want to figure out how, and what, I can do to change that."

If you had to list two of your most significant accomplishments during your entire professional career, what would they be and why?

At Tableau, kicking off a lot of D&I initiatives targeting diversity in recruiting. I started a diversity task force meeting focused on work done by recruiting and hiring managers. Getting the meeting off the ground was a challenge all its own; I had to separate the discussion into two different meetings to accommodate participants across various time zones. The outcomes were worth the effort, though.

Getting the opportunity to accept a position at Google is another accomplishment for me. Google is a tough company to get into, so to have someone there reach out to me for an opportunity solely based on their knowledge of the work that I've done was pretty cool.

On the non-profit side, since I became the VP of Events for ALPFA Seattle, I've been able to change the way we host some of our events. ALPFA is a long-standing organization, and when I originally joined, there were some processes and events I didn't agree with. One event, the Women of ALPFA Event in Seattle hosted every February, usually draws in about 100-150 people. We typically hold panel discussions, but I wanted to do something more interactive; workshop-based activities of sorts.

One of the concepts we focused on was "corporate chess" and the process involved in navigating that. Corporate chess is essentially the connector between the sponsorship those in power can offer and the impostor syndrome that separates a lot of us from going after what we want at work. To put it plainly, it's basically the game of navigating corporate, political "BS." As an example, there are things as simple as your physical posture in the workplace that can have a subliminal impact on the way we're perceived by our colleagues. There are things a sponsor might recommend you either avoid saying or work to say more during meetings. Even more specifically for this activity, we prepared scenarios that women often encounter in the workplace and talked through how to overcome them, including things like combatting impostor syndrome.

We definitely marketed the workshop-like nature of the event a lot more and as a result, we drew in about 300 people - double the usual number. The feedback we got was amazing. Attendees said they loved the interaction and the realness of the event compared to prior years. We did do a panel, but the discussion focused more on sponsorship; forget mentorship, what women really need at many points in their careers, and often lack, is sponsorship.

Are there skills you developed inside or outside of your professional roles that have led to increased access to opportunity for you? If so, what are they?

My first recruiting job out here in Seattle was for a staffing agency. The position in question is usually primed for type A, extroverted kinds of people, and I'm definitely an introvert. Also, because Seattle is so tech-based, a lot of the roles I applied for were technical roles. It wasn't uncommon for me to get questions like "what do you do now? What's the difference between Python and Java?" So, to break into this space, I had to break out of my shell. But doing so helped me become a much more technical recruiter.

Same with ALPFA - you have to force yourself to talk to people. I don't mean force as in creating awkward conversation where there isn't any; it's more of a natural flow. Because I am usually a part of the leadership team for the events we host, I often have people coming up to me giving me feedback all while juggling managing relationships with corporate sponsors in attendance as well. "Forced" talking is not necessarily code switching for me (and I use "code switching" specifically because I'm working on not doing that so often in professional spaces), but instead learning how to work with different people in different environments. I see the positives in it, in stepping outside of your comfort zone, but I see the negatives as well. The emotional tax women carry is often related to code switching, so we have to be mindful of that, too.

How are you best able to lift as you climb?

I always try to keep in contact with people. As a recruiter, I get a lot of messages on LinkedIn. I make it a point to take time out of my day on Sundays, usually from 3-5 PM, to reply to all of my messages. I also always give out my card at ALPFA events and try to ensure I always keep in contact with people who are looking for help. Even if I can't help them myself, I always refer them to someone who can. I don't personally work on campus recruiting, for example, but I know people that do, and can make connections that way. Instead of asking for a resume to pass on, I'll often invite contacts to my company's campus for coffee. In one instance when I did this, I was able to get a program manager to come meet me and my guest during his visit to campus so he could get face time with, and a point of contact for, the person he should be speaking to for the role he was targeting.

Instead of these encounters being set up as formal occurrences, I try to make them informal - coffee, a tour of the office, etc. Tableau was named best building in Seattle, so, I'm always open to touring the space for that reason. I usually give at least 2-3 tours a day to folks interested in opportunities in the space. Not every day, but often that's the general commitment I make, especially during the summer months when it's nice out. I obviously see firsthand the lack of women and people of color there are in tech, so I feel a responsibility to bridge that gap and to be a resource as best I can.

"I usually give at least 2-3 tours a day to folks interested in opportunities in the space. Not every day, but often that's the general commitment I make, especially during the summer months when it's nice out. I obviously see firsthand the lack of women and people of color there are in tech, so I feel a responsibility to bridge that gap and to be a resource as best I can."

If you had to list one go-to garb item in your work wardrobe, what would it be?

I always have my North Face jacket and a sweater with me because Seattle is pretty gray. It's not like Jersey or Florida; even in the summer, the max is generally only in the 70s or 80s, and it's often raining.

When I first moved, my mom wanted a to buy me an umbrella because of all the rain and I remember saying no because that's the kind of thing that makes you stand out.

Want to learn more about Tatyana's work experiences? Check out her LinkedIn page!


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