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TechTown Champion Learning.com Shows What Small Companies Can Achieve

by | Aug 30, 2019 | News

In early 2017, Learning.com took a big step toward accountability for the underrepresentation of women and people of color in Portland’s tech industry, as well as our own team. We have TechTown PDX to thank for getting us on track. 

Our value proposition and the support we provide our customers naturally align to a commitment of equity and inclusivity. Many of us spend our days thinking about how today’s youth will gain the future-ready skills needed for a life of prosperity. Knowing everyone’s future won’t be the same, our products teach students how technology can be a positive force in their lives, no matter where their path leads them or where they started. 

We work to foster a culture that leads us to engage in causes for the community, be a support system for one another through tough times, and sponsor our colleagues to build new skill sets. Our secret sauce is how incredibly driven and compassionate our people are, and we like being a culture that deeply cares about the well-being of others. Ultimately, culture is a priority at Learning.com, and as we know, the key to having a successful commitment to achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

 

Why We Took the Pledge 

A lack in diversity isn’t unique to just Learning.com, but the solution is. We knew solving for this would be an ongoing journey, but we didn’t have a map. 

Our first step was taken by a member of our Development team, Tom Mooney. Tom first gathered us together and started The Diversity Committee. It was on a volunteer basis, and, like other small companies, we juggled this along with the many hats we wear in our day jobs.  We didn’t have a plan of action, a frame of reference, or fully understand what was possible. Nevertheless, we project managed our way to the committee’s first mission statement; struggles ensued. 

In June 2017, we took the TechTown pledge to formalize our commitment to DEI. Then, we were able to capture our diversity data and start thinking about setting some goals. 

Come 2018, the committee opened up a leadership opportunity and we had our first chairperson, Katie Zink. With a background in Women and Gender Studies, as well as experience volunteering with and serving on committees for organizations like Raphael House, Oregon Tradeswomen, and Girls Inc, Katie whole-heartedly accepted the opportunity to lead us in this commitment. 

learning.com office meeting room

 

The Impact of the Pledge 

As the committee chair, Katie works closely with HR to ensure we’re meeting our committee goals, and represent Learning.com at the TechTown Morning Action Committee (MAC) meetings. 

After her first meeting, she thought, jackpot. This is our chance to meet others in Portland solving for the same issues. TechTown provided a sounding board and brave space to ask questions, express frustrations, and implement solutions. 

Through partnering with TechTown, Learning.com was able to get the momentum we needed and set clear goals: show up for the community, elevate our culture, and educate our team.

Some of the goals TechTown posed to us were:

  • Seventy percent participation in the TechTown survey for accountability of our diversity data
  • Ten percent participation in Allyshift trainings to foster inclusion and a sense of belonging at work
  • Two community events implemented quarterly to rally behind organizations already doing great work

 

The Work TechTown Inspired 

TechTown’s Allyshift trainings have been a helpful strategy for elevating our culture and bringing attention to our biases in the workplace. Our HR manager has gone through the training and has begun facilitating AllyShift trainings, too. 

Inspired by ideas from other pledge companies, we sponsored a trip to the Oregon Historical Society for our employees this Spring to learn and acknowledge the history of the land, and what contributed to much of the racial disparity we still know in Portland today. You can’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been, as they say. 

Encouraging pledge companies to sponsor and volunteer with organizations also committed to DEI has been an excellent opportunity for local community involvement. We were pleased to sponsor organizations like ChickTech in their 2018 High School Kick Off and Careers in Tech Conference in partnership with ACT-W. 

We also participated in the NW Youth Career Expo with the Portland Workforce Alliance. This was an opportunity for one on one conversations with students about how working in tech is fun, rewarding, and that you get to be yourself; aha moments ensued!  

These events met our mission in more ways than one: show up for the youth in our local community and inspire young women to pursue careers in tech who may not have otherwise seen themselves with that potential. 

learning.com take you child to work day

 

With the momentum we gained, we’ve also created new Employee Resource Groups and programs including: 

  • Empower Hour, our Lunch and Learn program for education and small group discussion around topics committed to equity and inclusion. 
  • Well-Read and Loosely Bound, our book club where we explore a diversity of authors, stories, and perspectives (this has been a particularly great way to bring our field employees closer together). 
  • Our volunteer program whereby our employees can log “VTO” hours while giving back to the community through a cause of their choice or company-sponsored volunteer days. 

Finally, we’re in the process of implementing KPIs per the recommendation of TechTown to track the success of our commitment. 

 

From Our Team  

Recent Employee of the Month and avid participant of our volunteer program, Francisca Tedja, shared what’s important to her in a company culture, as well as some advice she’d give to future job seekers. 

“I like working in a company where there is a culture of work/life balance and giving back to the community. Given that we spend most of our days at work, it is important to feel like we’re with an extended family.  Feeling valued, respected, and encouraged by receiving the tools to reach full potential will not only benefit the individual, but those around us and the company as a whole. In summary, it is the culture at Learning.com.” 

To those seeking future careers she advises, “your attitude determines your altitude.” 

When employees feel valued, are set up for success, and are a part of something bigger than themselves, we see the attitudes, work ethic, and engagement that lead to success and innovation. 

Fortunately, there’s a propulsion here in Portland to continue working for equity and inclusion in the Tech Industry, and TechTown PDX is breeding leaders of the charge. 

**This article was originally published by TechTown PDX.

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