Are you Diversity Resistant, Inclusive AF, or Somewhere in the Middle? with Jen O’Ryan from Double Tall Consulting

Jen O’Ryan was in tech for 20 years, but she started to realize that she wanted to do something to give back to the community. She wanted to help companies move from really good intentions and really good ideas – and having no idea where to start – to actual results. So like so many in diversity and inclusion work, she became an accidental expert.


Jackie Ferguson: Please welcome, Dr. Jen O’Ryan, to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast. Jen is the founder and principal of Double Tall Consulting, specializing in the design of inclusion and diversity strategies.

Leveraging two decades of experience and change management, Jen has guided organizations across a variety of industries through her process. She holds a PhD in Human Behavior, focused on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as an MBA in Technology Management and a BA in Ethics and Human Behavior. Jen is a public speaker and the author of Inclusive AF, a field guide for accidental diversity experts; designed for leaders looking to cultivate a more welcoming workspace.

Jen, we’re so excited to have you on the podcast today. 

Jen O’Ryan: Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. 

Yeah. So, let’s jump in. Let’s talk first a little about your early career. How did you get started and what did you think you’d be doing at this point in your career? I wanted to be– well, two things, I wanted to be Batman. And then I realized that that was probably not can happen. No, I really– I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I mean, originally, it was like, “I’m going to go to LA and be a stunt person in  film.” And then I realized, “No, I just want to go to LA.” Because it rains all the time in Seattle and it doesn’t in LA. So, again, getting down to your root, “Why?” 

Jackie Ferguson: Yep, that’s right. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, I spent a couple of years contracting, driving around the country, doing different projects, and I ended up back in Seattle. And I was doing a project at Boeing and a friend of mine had just taken a project at Microsoft and said, “No, you have to come here because they never stop working. It’s all they do is problem-solve and work.”

Jackie Ferguson: Wow. 

Jen O’Ryan: At that at that time, it was totally me. And so, yeah, I went and absolutely fell in love with the company and the culture, and it was just such a great time to stumble my way into tech. So, that’s where I spent the next 20-ish years. 

Jackie Ferguson: Love it. And then, tell me a little about your experience in tech. How did you go from tech to diversity and inclusion and then tell us why this work is so important to you? 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah, it’s interesting. And that’s– actually part of the title of the book is “The Accidental Expert” because tech is full of accidental experts because there will be a need and somebody will very quickly have to go figure out how to do something in, you know, code or something like that.

And all of a sudden, they’re the go-to expert on it. And then it just kind of becomes a default. It’s a term that I use lovingly and I consider myself an “accidental expert” in a few ways. So, back to your question, I always had a huge passion around humans and understanding how they engage with each other and with change and just how do we navigate that ourselves in the world?

And always been fascinated with that. And, but, I lived in Seattle, and at the time, it’s like, “Okay, you got to go the business route, get an MBA, do the corporate thing.” And I was always drawn to projects and systems that were underperforming, or had grown so quickly they didn’t have the infrastructure, and then just kind of deconstructing them, putting them back together, optimizing them and sending them on their way.

And so, when I was working on my PhD, I knew that I wanted to do something to give back to the community. And at the time, it seemed like a lot of the inclusion and diversity initiatives were focused on these aspirational goals as if they would just kind of– we’ll introduce it to the company and it will just become part of the culture.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: With the 20 years experience of launching things, I’m like, “That’s actually not how change works. That’s actually not how we operate.”

Full Episode Transcript

Jen O’Ryan on Linkedin
Inclusive AF: A Field Guide for Accidental Diversity Experts, by Jen O’Ryan

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by Head of Content Jackie Ferguson, and is a production of Earfluence.

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