Pushing Past Diversity, Promoting Inclusion and Belonging: Pride Month at Nitro

At Nitro, diversity isn’t just an objective we work toward. It’s a mission that calls us to embody one of our founding values: Be Good. While Pride Month brings all Nitronauts together to celebrate diversity and inclusion, it’s a mentality of acceptance, visibility, and education that extends far beyond this special month.

Our organization’s diversity permeates all levels and departments and in 2017 we sat down with three Nitronauts who reflect that: Erica Johnson, VP People, Eric Salas, Head of Marketing, and, Mario Kevesic, Global Customer Support Manager to share their personal and professional experiences with Nitro, tech, and the status of LGBTQIA+ equality. Today, we sat down (virtually of course) with these senior leaders once again for Pride Month 2020 to revisit some questions we asked them and to find out how things have progressed at the start of a new decade.

Why is Pride Month so important, especially this year?  

Erica: Pride celebrations started to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion where two women of color led members of the LGBTQIA+ community in a fight against the police brutality they consistently endured at the time. This year it’s especially important because we find that many are in the streets protesting and fighting this battle for the Black community in particular, who continue to suffer grave injustice at the hands of police and who strive to obtain equality despite the systematic racism they face daily. Pride continues to be an important reminder that freedom and equality for everyone no matter your sexual orientation, race, gender, or class is something we constantly must fight to achieve and maintain in our society.

Eric: For me, Pride Month was always a time to celebrate as we look back and see the progress we’ve made as an LGBTQIA+ community, a community that has always had to fight for acceptance and equality—not just in the eyes of the law, but in the hearts of people everywhere. It truly is amazing how far we’ve come since that first protest at Stonewall. However, in recent years, instead of celebrating progress I’ve been finding myself concerned about a potential future where we’re forced to take significant steps back. This year in particular, along with Black Lives Matter and the fight against racial injustice, I see Pride as an opportunity for everyone and our allies to come together to help shine a light on the issues and help educate people to, as Gandhi once said, “be part of the change they want to see in the world.”

Mario: The recent unjustified murders of black people by law enforcement officers has triggered mass riots demanding higher protections for black people as well as police reforms that ensure equal treatment for all citizens regardless of skin color. This is very similar to the Stonewall riots  51 years ago Black Lives Matter movement is a testament that civil rights are still not equally applied to everyone and there is a lot to do to get there. Pride month is especially important this year because it’s an opportunity for the LGBTQIA+ community to understand and acknowledge issues the Black community is facing, and to stand with our black brothers and sisters and fight together for justice and equality.

Since we last spoke, have there been any changes to how Nitro continues to ensure every Nitronaut feels included and valued? 

Erica: Creating an environment to ensure every Nitronaut feels included and valued will always be a work in progress. As we continue to face changes and challenges in the world as a business and as our employees do in their personal lives, we have to ensure we are constantly evolving to ensure we provide the necessary support and environment for everyone to thrive and do their best work.

Mario: Making every Nitronaut feel included and valued has always been core to our culture but we’re constantly encouraging and embracing feedback and finding ways to improve that experience. This starts with hiring decisions and new hire’s onboarding experience, and  continues throughout every Nitronaut’s career. The Life at Nitro squad organize such a variety of social events that not only welcome everyone but are so varied that everyone can find something of interest.

Eric: Nitro has always placed a priority on inclusion and diversity, and I think the managers and leaders at Nitro reflect a level of diversity that is not usually found in other similar companies. This is definitely a testament to our company values—High Performance, No BS, and Be Good—that help to ensure that everyone has a voice and to encourage healthy discussion to achieve better outcomes. This year, with Nitronauts all working from home, it’s certainly become more of a challenge to keep everyone connected and engaged but we’re discovering ways to overcome that. A perfect example: for Pride this year, Nitro sent every Nitronaut a box of rainbow-decorated cupcakes or cookies to celebrate—and this got everyone posting photos of their treats on Slack. Seeing all my colleagues wishing us a Happy Pride just made me so proud to be a Nitronaut.

Celebrating Pride at home this year with rainbow-decorated treats and some creative Nitronaut Pride cocktails

How does diversity contribute to Nitro’s overall growth and strength? Has this changed in the past three years? 

Eric: I think Nitro’s commitment to diversity has only grown in the last three years, and the results have been impressive with more talented hires and promotions of women, people of color, and gays and lesbians in key roles across the company. First, that increased visibility serves as an everyday reminder of Nitro’s diversity internally and externally, which also helps attract top talent. Second, having more diversity across the company strengthens our values and helps us be even better colleagues to each other and raises our employee engagement and satisfaction. Finally, having more diversity enables us to seek out and have a deeper appreciation for other perspectives that can help us build better solutions and achieve better outcomes for our customers.

Erica: Continuing to hire and promote Nitronauts from all walks of life ensures that we are constantly learning from each other and innovating. Innovation not only allows us to continue to hire top talent, but it leads to a better product and a better overall business. In the last three years, we have only gotten better at this which lead us to an IPO listing on the ASX last year. Seeing our diversity, inclusion, and innovation reap such great rewards for the business and Nitroanuts alike makes me #nitroproud.

Mario: As I mentioned 3 years ago, creative solutions for our products and our customers are extremely important to Nitro’s success. This can be only achieved with a team of different minds, different backgrounds, and life experiences. Our Recruiting team has an important role in ensuring Nitro hires smart people of all backgrounds and, in the past few years, I’ve noticed that we have hired more women and people of different races and sexual orientations.

How does diversity impact personal and professional development among Nitronauts? 

Mario: This goes in line with the previous question. Creativity is strengthened with diversity, and creativity is part of an individual’s personal and professional development. I learn best from watching others in action and I can attest that my personal and professional development happened at the rate  it has only because I learned from a diverse group of people who all have unique ways of thinking and creating.

Eric: When it comes to the personal and professional development I’ve had in my own career, I look back on my experiences at one of my very first jobs when I first started. The company was well-known in the telecommunications industry, and I had the enviable opportunity to join their leadership training program and potentially spend half my career working my way up to a lofty title and a nice corner office. On paper, this was a dream first job for me—but I quickly realized that this dream was more of a delusion. I was the only non-white person in the training program, and I didn’t get the impression that anyone was interested in learning more about me. That lack of trust and comfort also meant that I would likely have to stay in the closet, especially If I wanted to stay in their cookie-cutter program churning out an army of clones. So, within a week I left the program, and found another company where my hiring manager was an out lesbian who I connected with instantly. At the end of the day, it’s so important that we provide personal and professional support, resources, and mentorship at all levels, because we want Nitro to succeed with Nitronauts bringing their best, authentic self every day. (Needless to say, that company I first joined went out of business a long time ago.)

Erica: People do great work in an environment where they feel good and supported. No one feels good about being in an environment where you don’t feel included. If you don’t feel like people fully respect and appreciate who you are and what you have to offer, you are not going to want to participate or contribute at work. And we want all Nitronauts, to feel like their contribution matters and that Nitro supports them coming here to do their best work.

Where is there room to grow at Nitro and in tech as a whole in this new decade? 

Erica: There is so much work to still do at Nitro, in tech, and in the world. The challenges currently facing much of the world from COVID-19, struggling economies, and systematic racism can be and should be helped by tech innovation. Three years ago, I said that tech is so innovative and creative we should be able to solve for these things and I still believe that. Finding new ways to work, supporting the  most vulnerable in our society, and creating an equal world is something we can do. We must be willing to be intentional and fearless when it comes to facing these challenges head on. And we must  be willing to talk openly and loudly about what we plan to change. We are doing this at Nitro to create an even more inclusive environment for all. I look forward to seeing more of this from other tech companies.

Eric: Pride Month is only just a snapshot of time, so the real challenges and opportunities are what we need to work on and celebrate year-round. Especially during a time like this when everyone is working from home, it becomes even more important to ensure there is awareness and engagement around diversity and inclusion issues. Our People team and Life at Nitro squad are focused on helping this stay a priority and are always coming up with ways for everyone to learn and get more involved.

Mario: I think it’s important to continue to have visibility on and be sensitive to diversity and social issues that impact everyone around us. It’s inspirational to have company leaders that directly and publicly promote diversity and stand for equality. Nitro’s leadership is definitely one of the front-runners when it comes to that.

At Nitro, we believe that building an inclusive environment is a team effort and change must begin on a daily level—thoughtful hiring processes, authentic interactions, and the desire to learn about and include each other. It’s something we strive toward every day, and in the end, it’s what makes us stronger and more connected—whether that’s during Pride Month or any other day that we’re Nitro Proud.

For a closer look at life at Nitro, click here.

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