Gen Z Roundtable: What are the Leaders of Tomorrow Looking For?

What are the leaders of tomorrow looking for in companies they’re working for? What brands to they admire (or not)? What do they want Boomers and Gen X to know about them?  Join us in our virtual roundtable discussion with 4 future leaders from Gen Z – Tea Blumer, Gaven Kerr, Ciera Thompson, and Jalen Hatton.

Gen Z Roundtable Donald Thompson Podcast Tea Blumer Jalen Hatton Gaven Kerr Ciera Thompson

Donald Thompson: Once again, guys, thank you. This is the Donald Thompson Podcast and we’re so excited to have a phenomenal group of folks here and we’re all here together to really talk about how we can better understand, relate to and motivate folks that are in generation Z. And so what I’m going to do is we’ll go in order for a little bit. And so Tia, if it’s OK, we’ll start with you.

And if you wouldn’t mind, just take a minute and introduce yourself and then give everybody a little bit to get to know you by.

Tea Blumer: Sure. Great. So my name is Tea Blumer, I remind people by saying like, princess Tea, from Star Wars.

I graduated in- last year from art and design at NC State University with a minor in graphic design. And I’m in a kind of interesting position because – and I kind of call myself an accidental entrepreneur – in that I never really was expecting to be on the path that I am right now. So in 2018, I had an opportunity to acquire a website platform with over 630,000 registered users on it.

And this community was a place that I joined myself about 10 years ago, and essentially it helped me in my artistic journey to discover my personal style and my different art techniques about art. And so right now I’m really working on reviving this art community. We just, we’re working on launching a Kickstarter program to try to raise some funds and raise some awareness about our mission and whatnot.

So it’s kind of what I’ve been up to. Not necessarily what I expected originally, but definitely rewarding and worth it.

Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s fantastic. Well, welcome and thank you for coming on. Sierra, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Ciera Thompson: Yeah. Um, my name is Ciera Thompson. I’m a recent graduate from App State University. Literally this weekend, graduated with a degree in broadcasting and electronic media and a focus in production. During my time at app state, I was the operations manager of App TV, which is a student run television station. We’re on cable and we’re on YouTube and we have eight original programs, and I oversaw the interns working at that station as well as produced my own narrative content.

During my last semester, we produced App TV’s first feature film, which was a lot of fun. I’m hoping to pursue a career in television production working on sets, working as a PA, writing – all that stuff is my passion. So after all the COVID-19 stuff settles down and Hollywood reopens, I’m hoping to pursue that.

Donald Thompson: Awesome. That’s great, Gavin?

Gaven Kerr: Hey, so I’m Gavin. I just graduated from NC State also this weekend. I have a degree in computer science with a minor in art and design. My whole life I’ve kind of flip-flopped between these two things, you know? I was doing art all throughout my childhood and then in high school I kind of realized like, “Oh, I’ll do math.”

And I majored in computer science and I was like, “Oh wait, I miss art.” So, I’m finally realizing that I can actually like mend these two worlds together. So I’m currently looking for a job as a technical artist for an animation studio or a game studio, and if anyone doesn’t know what that type of position is, it’s basically – so at those types of studios, there are artists who know nothing about programming and programmers who know nothing about art.

I know a little bit about both. So I’m kind of trying to fill that void and merge those two worlds together. So obviously, plans have been put on hold a little bit just because of the state of the world. But yeah, I’m just super inspired by other queer artists and I hope that someday I can contribute in the same way that I am so inspired by people now,

Donald Thompson: That’s great. Jalen?

Jalen Hatton: Hey everybody, my name is Jalen Hadden. I graduated from North Carolina A&T in 2016 with a degree in finance. So, my initial planning as far as my career went was, you know, wanting to get into financial services, investment banking, and the whole nine. And, you know, really try to shift the way that people got access to financial resources, right?

So basically, you know, women and people of color, I realized were disadvantaged in terms of like, our accessibility. You know, to these things that help us build wealth. So I started out as a wealth manager with a company here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then I quickly realized that there were some practical barriers to innovating from within the industry.

And so at that point, I began to look at startups and entrepreneurship. And so, you know, I had an opportunity to meet a gentleman named Scott Moody, who’s a local entrepreneur here. And he basically just introduced me to the Raleigh startup ecosystem. And ever since that moment, you know, I’ve just been really passionate about working with really other passionate entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses.

So, since then, I’ve more or less transitioned from being a traditional financial service professional to being. An inside business development person to being a founder myself, and now I work with founders in a marketing partnership capacity. So basically, really helping a lot of small and middle market businesses figure out how they navigate the digital, sort of like transformation.

So that’s, that’s what I’m most passionate about right now. And just looking forward to learn more about you guys.

Donald Thompson: That is good stuff. So, when we think about this generation Z conversation, what are some of the things about yourself, your friends, that folks in my world – or my generation – don’t get that you’d like to educate us and share a little bit about whether it’s motivating you perspective that we could understand your generation just a little bit better?

Jalen Hatton: Thing that I want older generations to understand about, you know, our generation is that, you know, while we’re socially conscious, we’re not just bleeding hearts, right?

So what that means, to me at least, is that we want to make sure that we have a positive impact on the world, but we don’t see positive impact as something that’s separate from also making money, right? So I feel like for us it’s important to like kind of get rid of a lot of, like the dichotomies that we’ve all been trained to think in, right?

Like, it’s either nonprofit or for profit, right? And it doesn’t have to be that way. They can kind of, you know, work together to help each other, you know, help accomplish both goals.

Donald Thompson: Goals. That’s a great answer. Yeah. Gavin?

Gaven Kerr: Well, first I just want to say completely agree with that point. And also I think that one of the things tha I’d most like for older generations to understand is just really all that I seek in a workplace a lot of the time is just respect from everybody there, you know? Respect from the people older than me, respect from the other people that I’m working with. I don’t think I’d necessarily ask anything different from the older generations as opposed to someone my own age.

I just want for my viewpoints to be understood in the workplace, and if someone doesn’t understand then to ask and not just kind of blow me off. You know, I want to be allowed to fail so I can grow, and also allowed to contribute ideas just to see like, where I can Excel.

Donald Thompson: That’s powerful.

I think that the thing I  would echo because both of those things are very enlightening to me. And Gavin, your point of you don’t want to be treated differently, right? Necessarily, but you want to be heard, right? Like,and I think that a lot of times, and I’m guilty of this, right? We can have these stereotypes of each other.

And to your point, Jaylin of profit versus nonprofit, but there’s a way you can do social good and make money, right? How you can combine those things to have a third rail, not an either or decision. And so I think the points that you guys made, even initially, are really, really powerful because we all get into like everything’s a negotiation, win or lose.

Right? Why can’t everybody win in certain scenarios? Now, if you’re running a race, there’s a winner and there’s a loser. That makes sense. But business and relationships have so much more complexity there that it doesn’t have to be always either or. And so that’s a, that’s a great point of, of feedback.


Ciera Thompson: Gavin kind of made me think of some of the best classes I was in during college are the ones where our professors treated us like professionals. They didn’t treat us like students. They treated us like we were walking into a workplace and even though we were learning about certain things, we were very new, they kind of – I dunno, it was a kind of respect to show like, OK, you guys are going to be able to handle this. These are big projects, but you can go and fail, and that’s okay, and that’s why you’re here. So that kind of support in a classroom, and I’d imagine in a workplace is really good. And it allows people to learn on their own.

And I think when you learn things on your own, and then you kind of take critique and just build from there, you become more confident in the things that you’re working on. So yeah, I kind of look for just being treated as an equal right off the bat, but also just having that same support of, they still understand that you’re learning, but they’re still giving you that respect.

Donald Thompson: Makes sense. Tea?

Tea Blumer: Yeah. I definitely want to echo everything, what everyone said about respect and being treated as equals. Something that Gavin brought up that was especially, notable for me was to ask questions when they didn’t quite understand something. So, something that I have kind of encountered before is people.

You know, not necessarily understanding where I’m coming from, and instead of just asking me they will either lead the conversation or they will kind of just pretend that they know what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s because they don’t know that they aren’t understanding from the same perspective as I am, or maybe it’s because they don’t want to admit that they don’t know.

I don’t know which one. They just kind of try to play it off as they do understand. So definitely just that vulnerability, I guess, and openness to a different perspective, especially one for understanding younger generations like our own. You know, we are living that experience. We are close with our peers and we hear what our peers say honestly and truthfully.

And so, you know, having conversations like these are really, really beneficial for the older generation to be receptive to what we think and what we, what we say.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, you know, I’m having a – this is great. I think as a business leader, one of the things that will help us in the marketplace is diversity of thought.

These are things that are easy to say. They’re easy to put onto a website copy and more difficult  to humble yourself and really do. And that’s really part of the journey that I’m on is making sure that the things that we tout are built into the fabric of actually how that we work, right? And so that it, it really comes to fruition.

And so those are great answers and I really appreciate it. Let’s switch gears a little bit and look a little bit macro from a marketing standpoint. I want to hear from you guys about brands that you admire and why.

Tea Blumer: I can start on that. For me, it’s actually a lot easier to identify brands that I do not admire. I spent a while thinking about this one and I see it’s there. I think Jalen  wastalking about something really interesting in the concept of doing good while simultaneously, you know, being profitable.

And that’s something that I actually still personally struggle with myself in terms of, you know, realizing that you can still do good as a business and company while still, you know, being profitable and sustainable. But one of the things that I see a lot of companies doing is this whole concept of authenticity.

It’s been a really big trend in marketing and it’s true that we value authenticity, but at the same time, we also have a pretty good BS meter in a way to identify when companies are trying to be, you know, authentic, cool, hip or whatnot, but not as necessarily actively, you know, reflecting those values in their internal workings or within, you know, their business, B2B relations.

And so, I think it was a little bit difficult for me to identify the ones that I admire. I do have some names, I don’t want to mention them, but for ones that I don’t admire, but unless you want me to do it, um,

Donald Thompson: Yeah, drop knowledge! We just – we’re having real .talk. This is a real – this is the real deal like we wanna, I wanna know! I don’t want to do anything they’re doing.

Tea Blumer: Yeah. I mean, one of the first ones that came to mind, I read some information about it the other day, is the application called TikTok. It’s kind of like Vine where you have like little mini segments of videos. And it’s really popular amidst our generation and younger.

And one of the things I recently learned, and, you know, do your own fact checking on this, is that I’ve heard it was a rebrand of Musically. And Musically was an application that had run into some difficulty with just like content that wasn’t necessarily like being appropriately distributed to its users. And TikTok’s come up under fire as well specifically for censoring individuals from Asia and China, especially with the Hong Kong riots. As well as taking content creators who are more attractive than others and especially putting them towards the forefront and trying to hinder the visibility of other content creators.

Donald Thompson: Nope. Got it. Who wants up next on that one and do find a few that you admire, but however you guys want to go with it, and actually it makes the point, right? I have a series of questions, but that doesn’t mean that’s what’s on your mind. Like I think that’s also the point, right? Is you may have – I may be directionally taking a conversation, but the innovation is can we be fluid enough?

Right, right. And have a more full conversation, right? That that hits the hot, hot buttons of everybody that’s involved. And so that’s a great point, Gavin. Jaylin, Sarah, who wants next?

Gaven Kerr: Well, I think I have a good jumping off point of what Taylor was saying just because I literally, when I was preparing for this question I wrote down, it would be easier for me to say which ones I do not admire and kind of in the same boat. I – so all of the same points obviously, but I also just was looking up a few numbers beforehand and, so one thing that really bugs me is when companies do all of this pride marketing for like the whole month of June, and then the second that June is over, they’re like, “Meh, whatever,” you know? Like they don’t donate any money, they don’t care, whatever.

And so I found that Converse, the company, actually has like pride footwear and they give a hundred percent of the proceeds to LGBT organizations, which I think is really cool. However, Disney, which I’m sure has much more money, also has pride market, you know, products,  but they give 10% of proceeds, which is like, you know, something.

But when it’s Disney, they’re so rich that I feel like they can do more, you know, and don’t just like be a false ally, I guess. So yeah, I think that that’s just like, one of the issues I have with a lot of corporations is giving like a false sense of solidarity when really they’re just in it for the profit.

Donald Thompson: I mean, you know, you make a good point. And I’ve had those same feelings over the years as an African American in business where everyone gets really excited for the month of February, Black Mistory Month, but we’ve not really fundamentally changed how we talk about history in school, right? In our broader social consciousness.

But for that month, right? We’re seeing like the same images and nothing – no disrespect to Dr. Martin Luther King, no disrespect to all of the wonderful folks that gave us a platform forward – but it’s not representative of a single month, a whole community of people – right? But that’s where everybody, it’s cool to be black in February.

Well, no, it’s like there’s a more, you know, there’s more to it. So I can’t relate to your experience completely, but there are some threads that are similar, right? In terms of how we attack it. Cierra? Jaylin?

Jalen Hatton: So there are two brands that I want to call out that I actually do, like, you know, kind of how they’re positioning themselves.

So, the first one, believe it or not, is Nike and it may not exactly be for the reason that you would think, right? Cause I know right now Nike has kind of been in this mode of really leaning into their sort of socially conscious efforts, right? But really what I like about Nike in their branding is something that kind of shifts to what you were saying a little bit earlier, Don, which is.

I think Nike is doing a really good job of listening to their audience through social media. Right? So I’ll give you a very quick use case for what I’m talking about.

So here’s this shoe that’s called the Air Force One. You guys are probably familiar, right? And right now it’s like, it’s kind of coming back as like this, the new cool shoe to wear or whatever.

But I remember, I guess 15 years ago when they first came out, right? And they were really cool back then, but they kind of went out of style probably around the time I got to high school, right? So the reason why I was so impressed by this sort of like reemergence of the Air Force One is because what I noticed was it didn’t really start with Nike, right?

So it didn’t start with Nike saying, “Hey, we’ve got the new Air Force O`ne, we’re bringing it back, and now we’re trying to get everybody else to get on board with that.” I actually saw the Air Forces come back first,  and this might sound funny, but like in music videos, right? So I saw a lot of rappers – and it wasn’t even like the biggest rappers, right?

It was a lot of the underground guys are just the up and comers. And so then I saw it go from a lot of these rappers wearing them in their videos to then the Instagram influencers start wearing them in their pictures, right? And then it transitioned to finally, you know, Nike picked up on that and then just reinforced the behavior with their own content.

Right? So it’s kind of like a more bottom up sort of approach, I guess, as opposed to these very like top down approach that I think is more conventional for brands as large as Nike, right? So I was really impressed by that from them. And the second brand that I’m really, really impressed with is a brand that’s actually not – it’s not a consumer bread. But Bridgewater Capital is one of the largest hedge funds in the world, but they’re, I guess you would say their former CEO or the CEO Emeritus is a guy who’s like, really into things like emotional intelligence, the practice of meditation, and more importantly, he’s got this really – this concept that he calls radical truth and radical transparency, right? And what’s really behind the concept is the admission of people to say, “Hey, we all have bias, right? And the fact of the matter is, our perceptions are always colored by what our biases are.” So, has been very, very keen on it and has also done a lot of teaching around how business leaders can put in like these more or less, these like management systems, right? To basically capture the data that’s going on, like on the day to day of their company and then being able to trust the data points to say whether or not like somebody is actually being fair or doing their job well or whatever the case may be.

But really taking a lot of the judgment out of like the subjective hands of just our opinions, right? Because a lot of times our opinions are, again, are colored by the way we see the world and not necessarily by reality. So I know that’s really like an internal thing, but at the same time, I feel like that’s still a part of who they are as a company, and I really appreciate it.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s awesome. And so I think you’re talking about Ray Dalio? And so the name of the book is called principles and, it is not like, it’s a serious book. This is a grown folk book, like it’s like 200 something pages or whatever, and I don’t read that fast. But anyway, the reason that I liked the book is that it forces you to take a really serious look, not only at your biases, but what are you going to do about them?

Jalen Hatton: Right,

Donald Thompson: Right?  Like there’s one thing to have a diversity and inclusion pep rally, right? And go to a chain, diversity is good women, good, multicultural, good. And then you go back into your workplace and it’s same as usual, right? The reason that I like this book, and it talks about business, is it’s not only challenging your biases, but how do you create diversity of thought within your team so that the actions that the company takes helps to reinforce that broader perspective of group where everybody’s idea can be empowered and the best idea’s what moves forward so that we now can then use our varied experiences for that good, right? But actually, how do you put it in practice? And that’s one of the things that I got a lot of good stuff about the book, but I very much agree and that’s highlighted a lot of stuff I read is good, but if I’ve got highlighters all across it that means it’s changing me. And that’s one of the books that that’s changing me. Cierra? Let me give you some space to jump back in.

Ciera Thompson: Yeah. So for me, in terms of companies just based on my interests, I look at production companies a lot or who I pay attention to.

So when I’m watching TV shows, I look at who it was produced by and going into authenticity, when I watch something that has a female lead and it’s about women, and then the credits roll and it’s written by men and it’s produced by men. That’s something that I then think, ‘OK, it’s harder for me to support this cause you’re saying like, yes, we’re showing this and we’re representing you, but the people behind the camera don’t share the same representation.’ But a production company that I really admire is called Hello Sunshine, and it was actually founded by Reese Witherspoon. So they did Big Little Lies, and they did Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s a company that I trust because I’ve heard Reese speak in interviews about how she – the importance of just having women on set.

There are plenty of episodes just written by women so yeah, that’s just a company that I really admire and as much as I wanted HBO that has really diverse shows and Netflix and all that stuff, it’s just hard to like dwindle down who’s really doing the work behind them and how much of it is just showing off like, you know, we’ll produce this show, we’ll have it on Netflix, so it looks good to the community, but behind that, it’s still the same people making the content, so.

Donald Thompson: Oh man. So there’s a lot to dig into there. One is that you guys do your homework, right? And you know, you look beyond just the superficial, kind of the veil of what you see to really do kind of an authenticity check, right Cierra. That’s what you did, right? It didn’t take a long time, but you just kind of waited and watched and to see if things lined up. And that’s number one, is that for brands and for companies, companies like mine Walk West, I was on a phone call or a Zoom right before this, and one of the candidates I asked very simply, why Walk West?

Why are you interested in interviewing with us? And she said, I don’t know if this was right or not, but I really liked the fact that you have a lot of women in leadership. So, if I’m talking about diversity and inclusion from a stage, but I don’t actually create that environment in my company, then I’m being a hypocrite.

Right? And that’s worse than trying to be authentic, in my opinion. Right? And a lot of times when I’m looking at how do I improve and how do I grow, it’s really a function of who do you spend time with that’s different than you. Right? And that’s how those best ideas blossom. But anyway, Ciera, back to your comment, that authenticity check is really cool.

And then also, you said that you had listened to interviews by Reese Witherspoon and you trusted. What she was trying to do. And trust is really at a premium these days because it’s really hard to know who to trust. And so that brings me back to my next question. This is a little bit off script, but we kind of moved in this direction with all the noise and social media with all the things on the CNN, the Fox’s of the world, the MSNBC.

How do you guys determine who to trust with your information about whether it’s COVID, about what school to go to or what to watch? How are you guys influenced by others in a way that you do find that authentic information and can trust?

Ciera Thompson: Great. Yeah, I mean, I was just gonna go off of Reese Witherspoon as an example.

You know, you’re likely to trust people who have experienced things similar to you and Reese being a woman in Hollywood and having gone through everything that she had to go through to get to where she is, makes her a more trustworthy boss than a guy who didn’t have to go through all the sexism and all that stuff.

Same for like, you know, you’re going to trust an African American to speak on Black Lives Matter before you’re going to trust a white person because they’ve experienced this thing. So in terms of that, for what I look for in a leader that I would trust, just having similar experiences or knowing that they’re aware of things that are different from them is very important.

Jalen Hatton: So I’ll take it a slightly different direction. So for one, for me personally, consistency is big, right? So I’m not looking for –  people who do these, like really large and dramatic sort of blow out events. Right? Like you said, like we’ll put together some, you know, diversity, parade or rally, it doesn’t really impress me.

Right? What I’m more so looking to see is like just little things, again, over a consistent period of time, and then that in itself will kind of trigger to me that there’s a better chance that I can trust you, number one. Number two, I also think that like, you know, whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re all preprogrammed to just to trust people who were able to identify with, which is kind of building off of what Ciera is saying, right? But it goes beyond even just like demographic things. Like it goes beyond just like, you know, we’re both men or we’re both African-American. It also speaks to, I think like psychographic things. So, you know, what brands do you support, right? Like what types of content do you, like to post about?

Right? And I think a lot of that is not, it’s not a conscious thought per se, but it happens sort of subconsciously. But I think you know, that, that plays a role, whether I like it or not into who I decide to trust, quite honestly.

Donald Thompson: Yeah. Tea?

Tea Blumer: Yeah. Another thing that I think everyone kind of mentioned as well is that it’s more so about the individual behind the brands then the brand itself.

So, you know, it’s about Reese Witherspoon versus, you know – trusting Reese versus her company maybe, or, you know, trusting the individual behind and who’s kind of either driving the force along, or, you know, making the big decisions. And it’s a lot easier to look at a person, I think then like then a company and be like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I identify with this person because of these characteristics or, or whatnot. The person who comes to my mind and someone who I actually realize who I do admire their company is Lonnie Perkins with Canva. Her, especially in the design and, you know, design world and graphic design world.

She, I heard a story that she had something like 900 hundred employees, and she actually, she actually spoke with each and every one of those individuals, for the onboarding purpose. And again, this wasn’t something that, you know, she screamed from the rooftops. It’s just something that kind of throughout the interview naturally came out as part of her process.

And I think that speaks a lot to the character of consistency and showing their values. So, yeah.

Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s great. Gaven?

Gaven Kerr: So I don’t know if I have anything really substantial to contribute cause I really like all those answers. But just going back to the consistency thing, I think that also ties into what you were saying, Don about how we do our research. You know, it’s like when someone is putting out content or some sort of product or service, things don’t really slip by us because we are so interconnected in the internet, you know, virality on Twitter and Facebook and all that kind of stuff which has its own kind of toxic-ness about it.

But anyway, but I also think a really important part of looking towards respecting like a leader and stuff is there self-awareness, you know? So it’s about not just doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing or doing what’s right, but like understanding why you are doing that and how what you’re doing will be impactful for people, I guess, if that makes sense.

Donald Thompson: No, it does, and it’s really, really powerful. I mean, I think, you know, a good friend of mine, his name is John Samuel, and he worked for a company called LCI Tech and he lost his vision while he was in school at North Carolina State University. And so he didn’t grow up as low vision or blind, it hit him during his formative, I’m going to change the world period in his life, and so story is incredible. And when I was talking to him, he said this phrase, and I always gotta give him credit. It’s just so powerful, is that when you have proximity to someone, then you’re going to be more empathetic.

So proximity breeds empathy. So if I know you that I care more about the issues you care about, if you’re just somebody on a TV set or just a parade that’s happening. It’s not that I don’t like, it’s not, I’m against you, but I’m not for you. Because I, I, I don’t, I don’t have an emotional reason to do something that’s outside of my comfort zone.

And so one of the things that we have to try to do just in – to make our world better is how do we create environments where we can know each other better and therefore be more empathetic with each other? And that just comes from that proximity and spending time together. Here’s a question for you guys.

So a lot of times, and again, I’m still learning about the space, but in the LGBTQA perspective, there’s a lot of acronyms, right? So there’s a, there’s a lot of letters, right? For someone like me that know typical kind of straight African American guy that grew up in a certain era, how important is it when somebody is trying to learn about differences?

How important are these acronyms to each one of the groups? How do I ask and others, and I’m speaking on behalf of many, how do I ask questions about things when I just want to know. But I don’t want it to come across as attacking, but I’m open, but what do I, what do I do when I want to learn more?

Gaven Kerr: Well, I think that, first of all, I think it’s important to note that I am a CIS white queer person, you know?

So I can only speak for that demographic, but I think to some extent it varies by person, which is why it is kind of a difficult subject. You know, like if someone were to ask me, well, one, I wear earrings. I have nail polished on. I’m generally, very feminine, people don’t usually ask me if I’m gay.

But if you wanted to, I wouldn’t be offended because I’m very secure in that part of myself. And I think it’s generally safer to not ask because it can be very triggering for people if they are not. You know, it’s like if you’re in the closet, then you don’t want someone asking you if you’re gay, because to you it may just be, “Oh, I don’t care.

I just want to know. I’m not putting anything by it.” But to them, there could be some internalized homophobia. You asking them if they’re gay, could spark some sort of spiral for them. You know? So I understand and respect the want to know, but to some degree it doesn’t always matter, I guess.

Donald Thompson: That’s a great like, and I’ll let you extend on, but that’s a great piece of advice, right? And I asked the question, and I’ve talked to a few others on this topic. It’s really, and I want you to correct me if I’m going astray. It’s really just about being human and treating people in an empathetic way just as an individual and what they bring to the table at work and not trying to put the pressure on those things that should be brought out when people are made more comfortable.

Right? And that’s something that I’ve had to, as I work in this DNI space and things that I’m learning, there’s all of these gray areas, right? That are coming, but one of the things that’s really cool is because I have a lot of diverse friends, I’ll use John Samuel again. I was talking on a podcast and there’s a lot of people going to be on this podcast, so I was like, John, do I say blind do I say disabled? Like I want to, I don’t want to say this wrong. He said, “Don one, if you say it with that tone, you’re going to be fine because you’re a giver. You’re not wanting to offend anybody. And people can really can feel that.” He said, “but I’m using low vision and blind.” And he said, “That’s what I, that’s how I’m describing it right now.”

And so obviously I picked the way he’s describing it and I’m moving, moving from there. But, Tea, Ciera, Jalen, any other like perspective on-

Ciera Thompson: I definitely want to emphasize it. It depends on person to person. It’s almost impossible to give like a broad answer of what people in the group would prefer.

And I know it’s always even changing, especially in our generation where we’re coming up and where people are super accepting and super individual. Like I have friends who are gay, but they don’t care if you call them a lesbian, but they don’t care if you call them queer or they don’t want to be called queer at all.

And so it just depends person to person. I agree that it’s just best, like it doesn’t really matter in a lot of sense- like in a lot of situations, if people have a preferred pronoun, they’ll usually let you know what it is when they meet you. And then you just can always ask to be reminded. Like, what are you, if after you’ve been told by like, what do you prefer to be called by?

But if that’s never kind of said, then I don’t really think it has to be, you know, top priority on your mind in terms of interacting with another person. And then, Google is always your best friend. It sucks to be the person where you’re the only gay person or the only black woman that they know.

And so you’re coming to them with all the questions of what is this? What does this mean? What does that mean? How does this going on? You can take the, you know, if it’s a close friend, you can like educate them and like feel comfortable in doing that. But I think it’s important for people to take the time to educate themselves before putting that pressure onto the people in the communities because it’s not for them to educate them.

Donald Thompson: That’s a great – that’s great feedback all the way around. And again, you know, I’m a lot of middle aged white guys best black friend. So I get it. Like, I get a lot of, like, I get it every time there’s some kind of crisis in African Americans being like, “Hey, Don, you know, how should we approach this?” Or I’m like, “Hey man, this is not -”

Tea Blumer: Yeah, I think thats – I think something we mentioned earlier specifically with the question what do you want older generations to understand while working with us? My answer with that was just ask. And I, you know, in this situation, it really is up to an individual Some topics are a little bit more sensitive and individual individualized. And so I think the whole concept of self educating beforeyou, you know, put the burden on having someone educate you because, you know, like Gaven mentioned, it is only their experience as well. They can’t speak for the whole group just because I’m an Asian woman it’s not like I – my experience reflects every Asian female experience out there. So keeping that in mind as well. I think there is, you know, a level of when you are close to someone you’re able to kind of share those things a little more freely and understand that it will be received in the right way, if that makes sense cause I think a lot of times with educating, other individuals about experiences and whatnot a lot of times there is that whole worry of my experience doesn’t reflect everyone’s, A, but then also B, just because it can be like a tiring event essentially, if that makes sense.

Donald Thompson: Absolutely does. I mean, it’s almost like when my oldest daughter, Mariah, was finishing high school, she confided, she was like, I wish people would stop asking me what I’m going to major in, right, in college. I just finished high school and I’m going into this big thing, and she didn’t know, right.

She like, she wasn’t a hundred percent sure. And so there’s a, there’s a pressure of that repetition of a question that may be not the right time or that you’re not ready to answer, and I think we can all kind of relate to that. Indifferent in different areas. So that’s great feedback Tea. Jalen, anything to add on that before we move to the last question?

Jalen Hatton: Not too much. Honestly, I echo all the points that everybody made, especially about, you know, just avoiding the desire to generalize people. Right? And then also, I think it’s a really insightful point to say like, before, you know, make a comment or ask somebody about something that might be sensitive, like ask yourself first, does this really matter?

‘Cause if it’s not worth the risk, then just don’t do it. And then the other one other thing that I would add on top of that is vulnerability is a really great tool as it relates to navigating tough conversations, right? So if you as a boss and executive, a manager, do things generally right? Not, not just in the moment that you want something, but just generally as you interact with your people, show them that you can be vulnerable.

I think it’s gonna make them a little less defensive when it comes time for you to ask them something or just have a difficult conversation.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s powerful. I mean, I’m really appreciative. Like we’ve got a few more minutes with you guys and I can talk to you guys all day because I mean, it’s just, you guys are open, scary smart, each of you in, in the different lanes that you’re working and all of that, and it’s just, it’s really good.

So let’s take a bigger picture approach and kind of look at the world for a minute. And there’s just a lot of chaos going on. There’s a pandemic, and that’s kind of obvious, but even before the pandemic, right? Just kind of the divide in cultures and there’s just, there’s just a lot happening right in our, in our society.

So the question for each of you as we close out, if you had a magic wand, what would you do with that magic wand? What would you do – and I don’t want to put any other caveat around it. If you had a magic wand, what would you do with that magic wand?

Jalen Hatton: So I’ll go first because mine is going to be really quick.

If I had a magic wand, I would use it to make sure that everybody was as self-aware as they possibly could be. Like I think, I think if we could really see all of ourselves for who we are for both the good, the bad, and the ugly, right. And then also be able to accept that the world would be a lot better, a lot better place.

Gaven Kerr: I think that,  there’s a bit too much going on. So when I was trying to think of an answer for this, there’s a bit too much going on to try to think of one answer because I don’t know even how to prioritize, but I came up with that, I think I would make it so that there’s just more moral accountability for actions and repercussions for those actions.

Like accountability for large corporations and their impact on the environment. Accountability at police departments were innocent black people are getting killed. Accountability for our government for not passing any gun legislation. Like, I think it kind of fits in that little box a little bit. So that’s what I would do.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s powerful.

Tea Blumer: I struggle with these kinds of questions because like Gaven said I it’s hard to prioritize. There’s so many things out there that I would want to change. And so thinking from kind of a realistic perspective.

It’s kind of like when I was in school, I really wondered why there wasn’t like a class that was like teaching empathy or like teaching, like, the human side of interactions and communication from a fundamental level. And I’ve had the privilege of attending some different courses and experiences that allowed me to have like, one-on-one experiences with other people and kind of in a, in a very vulnerable situation.

But I think that – and that’s something that I do see lacking a lot in, in education. and so, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s the monkey’s paw sort of thing where if I wished it there somehow it would go wrong, but I think that giving more opportunity for that kind of connection, you know, institutionalizing empathy is like not what I’m trying to say here at all.

Like that. That sounds like impossible, but just kind of thinking along those of like interactions and whatnot.

Donald Thompson: That’s powerful. Ciera?

Ciera Thompson: Yeah. So, it was kind of impossible not to think about this question in terms of everything that’s going on right now. I think one of the positives of COVID is just that it’s making people realize that the government can help us in certain ways that didn’t seem possible before that maybe more healthcare for all is one of the good things that we should all fight for.

But, you know, and like essential workers, like the people who are really like keeping the country going, aren’t the people who are making all the decisions, they’re the people who are still working while we’re all at home. And just so, going into like, those kinds of things that we’re beginning to see are the true priorities in our country is what I would want to like, wave the wand for that.

It’s not so much about the individual, it’s about the community and that, you know, like, I think a good example is like, this is dumbing it down a lot, but like. The money we use for a military if we were to use it for our education system. And then later, you know, we build up our education system that it has this whole like ripple effects kind of thing.

But it’s hard to do that, and it’s hard to think broadly for thinking about the individual a lot of the times. And so I think COVID is forced people to work more as a community. And to like, look out for each other and help each other more in small ways, supporting local farms, supporting local foods, and just seeing that we can kind of support each other if we all are more focused on the group rather than the individual.

So I probably want to change the sort of American individualistic mindset to broaden that because I think it has more longterm benefits to think of our country as a community rather than the serving the single person.


Donald Thompson: powerful. And I – it’s difficult when you have experiences that have created kind of a macro environment in one direction, but then you realize in a crisis, we all need each other and we’re not really ready as much as we could be to work as a unit, as a nation.

Because we’ve got so many individuals silos, right? And that’s, that’s even at the group level, right? Republican or Democrat, right. Or black versus white or all of these different groupings. When reality is COVID doesn’t care about any of that, right? It is something that is non-discriminatory and how do we fight that single enemy together if we spent all of our practice time for the big moment against each other. Right? And so for me, I agree with what you’ve all said, but along the lines, as you guys emerge as leaders in your own right, that’s one of the things you guys can push through and change. And how do we create in more of our everyday habit of really learning how to work together so that when we need it as a nation or we need it as a company that’s fighting the charge, or as a community organization, we’re practicing working together every day.

Right? And then it’s not as unnatural when we need to do it in a very, very big situation. So, well, listen, folks, I, am very, very glad to have spoken with you guys today and you guys were open and candid. I’ve learned a lot.

Jalen Hatton: Thank you for providing this platform and this is definitely important stuff.

Donald Thompson: No, we appreciate it.

Gaven Kerr: Thank you so much.

Donald Thompson: Oh, you’re very welcome. Talk to you guys soon, and thank you guys so much for your help.

Tea Blumer: Nice meeting everyone too.

Donald Thompson: All right, bye guys.

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The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit