Inclusive Hiring and the Fallacy of the Binary Race Narrative, with Pendo’s Jess Jolley

Growing up in rural North Carolina, people would always ask Jess Jolley, “What are you?” or “What are you mixed with?”  In the South, you were either white, Black, or other, and as a light-skinned Black person, that wasn’t always easy. And as Jess would discover by looking into historical records, race is not a binary construct.

Jess Jolley is the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Pendo.


Jackie Ferguson: Hi, and welcome to season four of the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast sponsored by The Diversity Movement. I’m your host, Jackie Ferguson equality advocate and certified diversity executive. On this show, we discuss how diversity, equity and inclusion benefit our workplaces, schools, and communities by sharing the stories, insights, and best practices of game changers, leaders, and glass ceiling breakers that are doing the work to make our world a more understanding, welcoming and supportive place for us all.

Jackie: Welcome to our show, and thanks for listening. My guest today is Jessica Jolley, Head of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Pendo. Jessica, thanks for being with us today. 

Jessica: No, thank you so much for having me, Jackie. 

Jackie: Of course, of course. Jessica, I love to start with a little about your background, your family, your identity, whatever you’d like to share. 

Jessica: Yeah, no, Jackie. So I’m originally from North Carolina. I grew up in rural North Carolina, so 40 minutes from Durham, North Carolina. And I grew up on a farm and I’m actually back there, so have come full circle after living, you know, in New York and DC, back in North Carolina. And I come from a family of farmers. So my great-grandfather was a tobacco farm, you know, his nephew still farms to this day. And same for, this is my maternal side of my family, same from my father’s side. So they’re from Eastern North Carolina, Halifax County. And this long history of farmers and entrepreneurs and educators, in terms of family histories. You know, ended up going to school here in North Carolina, I’m at UNC, left and went to Carnegie Mellon, but I’m back here in the state. 

So I’m a proud north Carolinian. and when it comes to just like identity, and I know we’re going to talk about this today, but when I think about my racial identity, you know, I identify as Black, my parents and both my parents identify as Black, but I’ve really started to, as I’m going through this journey of understanding kind of race and my ancestors and history and going through my own journey of anti-racism, you know, understand race and colorism and privilege.

I’ve really started to learn so much around this concept of race and this binary concept of like, what is it to be white and what it’s, what is it to be nonwhite, and how that has showed up just looking back at and my ancestors and just really understanding, you know, what that’s looked like over the past, you know, couple of decades for them.

Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. And I’d love to dig in Jessica a little more about that. You know, I, I like to take time to understand people’s lived experiences, especially with, you know, multi-racial people being one myself, right, and understanding how those experiences are different because, you know, just because you’re biracial or multiracial doesn’t mean that you have the same experience as somebody else right. So can we talk about that a little bit and digging into your thoughts around the binary concept of Black and white? Let’s talk about that. 

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, I love this question because you know, growing up in North Carolina, when I was growing up, people would ask like, what are you? What are you mixed with? 

And in the south, it was, you’re either white, you’re Black or other, and that’s you know, how you identify. So I was like, I’m Black, I’m a light-skinned Black person, and that, that was as much conversation I would have with just friends around my racial identity and lived experience growing up in in this country.

It’s interesting because there are a couple of things as I started looking back and, and really digging deeper that I found, you know, kind of on this journey. And I think the first is how we talk about race as a, as a social construct and this binary concept of theirs, you know, white and then there’s everything else.

And I started looking back at just census records of my ancestors. I found it fascinating because I’ve really have been looking at a period from like 1830s to like the 1860s. And I look back at census records and these, I would see, you know, an ancestor would have the race column. It would be “N”. So they were identified race, negro.

Go back 10 years, and you would see in that census, that race column was an M, mulatto, go back 10 more years. You’d see that race column was F, free person of color, and at surface like analysis, I’m like, oh, this is just, the nomenclature is changing, and that’s kind of what I took from that. But then I started digging into like, what was happening in, you know, like the state, like what was happening legally.

And it was fascinating because I started to read around like free people of color and how many people there were in North Carolina that were multi-racial, that at some point had the right to vote or had the right to own land, and they were descendants of enslaved people and have indentured servants are, you know, indigenous people and families.

And then either, you know, laws are violence are, you know, so many other attacks, you know, force, forced those families to separate. And so it’s just fascinating, I think, because for me and my history, like growing up in school, I wasn’t taught that, you know, I was kind of taught there’s slavery, civil rights, and there’s reconstruction, civil rights and that’s it.

And so to look back and to understand just. All this tapestry of cultures and, and, you know, experiences that make me who I am that are more than just, you know, the binary construct that we have in our country or that you have seen in other countries really has been like a learning experience for me.

So that’s kind of the, the first lesson and the second I’ll go through really quickly. Also, I just like looking back at some of that history and understanding, you know, trying to understand that experience from my ancestors, I also was like so proud and found these glimmers and moments of entrepreneurship, of ownership, like being able to, you know, see where my ancestors had learned a trade and were able to start to build a life from that.

I know that’s not unique to my story. You know, you hear about Greenwood and Tulsa, and you hear about like the political power of Black people in Wilmington, North Carolina, and, you know, you hear about the business owners and Hayti in Durham, North Carolina, like all these stories and different points in history where you’re like, wait, you know, these aren’t things I’m taught and I’m uncovering.

And that is a part of my DNA and makes me who I am. And I think that’s just been something as I’ve gone on this journey, myself, you know, really thinking about my identity and then how, you know, this construct of race and a binary often conflicts with that. 

Jackie: Absolutely Jessica. That’s so great. Thank you for sharing that. You know, I reflect on how I learned about race in school and you’re right. You know, it’s, there was slavery and then there was civil rights. Slavery was bad. Civil rights gave us the opportunity to have every privilege that everyone else has, you know, congratulations, right. And that’s not how it is, and that’s the extent of how we were taught in school.

And that’s one of the things that has been such a challenge because you know, along with many other things, understanding who we are as culturally diverse people. It’s something that we have to do ourselves, something we have to explore ourselves because it’s not taught, unfortunately in school it’s, it’s, you know, very glossed over. And then there’s nothing after, you know, Civil rights, like there’s no mention of, you know, systemic racism that still exists as a result of the loopholes in the 13th Amendment, right, which we know about. 

And it’s unfortunate that we don’t get more education about, you know, even how to trace our ancestry back, which as you know, just listening to you talk about census records and things into the 18 hundred gets complicated. And so, you know, it’s so important that as we think about education and, and upgrading our education system in that way, that we’re able to incorporate more conversation around race and around cultures, apart from, you know, just the white American culture, right? 

Jessica: I love it, and I’ll just say a plug. I am reading this book called the Black reconstruction. I’m rereading it, but recommend it for people who are like interested in like, just understanding some of this history, because it dives into a lot of the history of voting, the history of being an, emancipation if someone served in the civil war, like it’s fascinating. So, so many rich books and history out there to just like doing that work is so critical, you know, to really understand not only your own identity, but how that shows up, you know, in our systems that we see in our country. 

Jackie: Absolutely. Now, Jessica, you mentioned being from a small town growing up on a farm and then moving to these big cities. Tell me how that transition was for you? 

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, like I mentioned, I come from a family of educators, so education has always been really important in my family and I’ve have been fortunate to like have that emphasized early on. So I always knew I was like, I, it’s important for me, like I will go away to school or like stay here for school, but early on, like I never knew what my career journey was going to be. I, you know, have family members that are dentist or doctors, and it’s like, you know, you kind of hear okay, go down this path, be a lawyer, be a doctor, be a dentist. And I knew that wasn’t for me, I was never someone that had this linear path set up in my mind.

But for me, I was blessed to have parents that supported my curiosity. And so I started my career journey, you know, I would see things I read a lot and I would read, you know, about or see things in movies. Like I saw once there was a woman architect, and I was like I want to be an architect, like, that’s cool. I like that. My parents sent me to camp at NC State and really quickly learned, I can’t really draw straight lines. This is not for me. But, you know, I have a support system that like pushed me to be curious and to try things and to understand it’s okay to fail.

You know, like I went to camp and I was like, that’s not the career I want, I got to figure it out and do something different. You know, I left a farm, I have traveled, and I’ve used that approach to just my journey and my career of trying things and saying, does this, like, what do I like about it?

What are things that I don’t like or where they’re not my strengths? And like, how do I build on that? And so for people that are listening that, you know, might be trying to get into the DEI space, you know, it’s often not linear, and that is okay. And I definitely feel like I’ve had a career where it has evolved and it’s still evolved.

Jackie: Absolutely, and I love that you said, you know, it’s not linear. And I find that to be true when I talk to a lot of executives. They didn’t know that, you know, they were going to take this step, then this step to get to where they are. It’s often very winding. So I’m interested, Jessica, and you talked a little about it, but what did you think you’d be doing?

So you knew architecture wasn’t it, right. But what did you think you’d be doing? And then how did you get to the position that you’re in with Pendo? 

Jessica: Yeah. So early on, I knew I needed a job that had some element of purpose to it. You know, my grandmother was a teacher and it was really kind of instilled in us of like, you have to give back and that’s important if you have certain blessings or if you’re fortunate.

And so I just didn’t know what that looked like. So I started off school. You know, I had this theme of public policy and all my like educational background, both undergrad and then masters degrees, but I didn’t know how to use that. Like, I wasn’t really, I didn’t really want to go into politics. I didn’t really know, like what I could use that skill set for, because I really love, you know, being analytical. I like strategic thinking, but I also want to know that my work has a purpose. And so when I think about my career, I thought less of what is the title, but more of what are the skills that I want to develop and who is doing that type of work and what experiences have they done to get there.

And I say that because even, you know, when I first started working, I worked in consulting and, you know, started doing work around belonging and broadly D&I work. And at that time, you know, the real focus was diversity. We weren’t really talking about belonging as much. But there was no clear path there wasn’t like a certification to become a DEI professional.

And so just really kind of used that same approach I talked about before, like being curious and, you know, reflecting and saying, I know I want to help people and I know I have these skillsets of, you know, being analytical and I’ve gotten these tools. How do I put those things together? And then what really feels like purpose-driven to me. And I think it was a match of those things to kind of really guide my career journey. 

Jackie: Absolutely. Now, Jessica, tell us about your work at Pendo and what you do specifically, and then tell us about some other organizations that you’re involved in. 

Jessica: Yeah. So Jackie, at Pendo, I have been at Pendo almost a year now and so lots going on at Pendo. We are growing quickly and scaling as a company and, and growing globally beyond just North Carolina and other parts of the country, but global expansion. And with DEI, we have four pillars at Pendo and I’ll try to go through them really quickly. 

But that first pillar of my work is talent and representation, and I work really closely with our Head of People and also with our talent acquisition team, our recruiting team. And that is how does our company compare to the makeups of the communities we’re living in when we’re talking about our representation. And that is, you know, if we’re saying, hey, we want our company to look more like Raleigh, to look more like the community we’re in.

And I know when I say, look like I’m thinking, you know, gender representation, racial and an ethnicity, age, physical ability, neurodiversity, all the aspects that make up, you know, someone’s lived experience. Like we want to bring that diverse representation and we want that to be what our company looks like.

So a lot of that is who are we partnering with to make sure we are getting in front of people and letting them know about opportunities. That would be, you know, your traditional universities and HBCU, but also boot camps. And there’s so many great programs locally in North Carolina really focused on, you know, training and upskilling and preparing people for careers in tech. So that’s kind of that that first bucket really is like on our hiring and how we’re doing and being intentional about what our pipeline looks like and representation in that pipeline. 

And then the second bucket really is our internal culture, and that I could go on forever about, you know, it’s huge to me. You can attract talent, but do you have a culture where people feel like they belong and they can grow and they can thrive? And that’s huge, and I think a lot of leaders in the space are really trying to focus there, but there’s not enough conversation. So much, we focused on just recruiting talent and that’s, you know, that’s, then you’re done and that’s not, not the end of, of the work. so that’s that. 

Jackie: Absolutely. Just to stop there because that is so important. And you said, you know, that’s what you’re really passionate about is the culture. But a lot of leaders make the mistake of focusing on recruiting diverse talent without laying that foundation of, you know, what happens when they arrive. Are you prepared to make sure that they’re feeling valued and welcome in the situations every day as they, you know, navigate their work experience?

And if you’re not, then you’re not ready to do the recruiting part without laying the foundation in your organization of what that looks like for them when they get there. So I just wanted to stop and point that out because it is so important, 

Jessica: That is such a good point, and something I’m constantly, when we’re talking about these pillars and can talk more about later and then I’ll just go through quickly.

So we have, you know, talent & representation. We have that culture bucket, but the next bucket is really our external community. How are we partnering? What are we doing in the community to make sure that, that we’re being thought leaders, that we’re helping other companies who are trying to figure this out? And that looks like working with, we just joined this coalition that’s around investing in women, Wake Women in Tech and how do we invest and make sure we have more women locally in the tech space here. It’s like doing that external community work. 

And then the last one, and I think it ties it all together. And this is kind of a pillar that goes across is data and accountability. You have to be able to understand and measure what’s happening, and I mean measurement, not saying, oh, you know, how many people, like, what does our representation look like? That’s one way to measure, but this work is more than just like measuring. 

You can’t put it just into like, you know, representation numbers. It is truly trying to find those metrics. That’s a lot of what we’re doing now, when you talk about the belonging piece, like what are, when we talk to our employees and we do internal net promoter scores, what are we hearing when we’re seeing people exit?

What does that data saying? When we’re looking at who’s getting promoted or, you know, looking at pay equity, what are we seeing? Where are the, are there gaps and are there trends that we have to fix? And so that data and accountability piece I think is critical on all aspects, but especially when you’re talking about that belonging piece to truly understand, you know what the employee experience is, and to have those data points, to kind of validate and figure out where their pain points, where you really need to focus. 

Jackie: Absolutely. And Jessica, one of the things, as you talked about the third pillar around the community is I know that you do work with 321 Coffee, and they’re your coffee supplier.

And I had Lindsay Wrege on one of my earlier seasons, and that’s just such an amazing organization and love that, you know, you’re intentional about how you partner in your supplier diversity because that’s part of it, right. You know, we all as organizations have money that we have to spend, being intentional about where those funds go is part of the process. So I, I love that and just wanted to point that out. 

Jessica: Yeah, and I have to shout out our broader, we have a, you know, an office experienced employee, you know, culture team. And that is a lot of partnership we do is like, thinking about that intentionality and then thinking about how are we showing up where we work and live and are we being intentional about that?

Jackie: So Jessica, Pendo has a great reputation for its culture, and certainly you shared that when talking about the culture of being one of the main pillars. Tell us about creating a culture of belonging, why that’s important and what it involves?

Jessica: I think creating a culture of belonging is so important. It’s personal even to me. I remember my first job feeling like I didn’t belong and I wasn’t bringing my full self to the workplace, and I had a little bit of imposter syndrome and I’ve taught so many other women of color and Black women who have gone through that. And I wasn’t my best like self as an employee because I was quiet. And I was like, I don’t really think I fit here. I don’t do the same things after work. I don’t share the same lived experiences. 

I think critically a culture of belonging is so critical. Like one it’s the right thing to do, but two, if you want your employees to thrive, if you want them to come to the workplace and to be them, their best, you know, they need to feel like they belong there. They have psychological safety. They, you know, can have conversations around who they are and we respect each other and our lives outside of the workplace. I think that’s so critical, especially the amount of time you spend, you know, engaged and plugged in and working with your colleagues. And I love Pendo because, you know, I say all the time, if a company says, oh, our culture is perfect, then like you’re not doing the work.

And I love that about Pendo and our leadership team. We just went through this whole refresh and looked at our values. It’s been a nine-month process, but we recognize we are growing and we really need to like, do that gut check to say, do the values that we say are important to us match who we want to be, and it’s more than just values that are on a wall.

Like this has been work where our C team, our CEO has spent hours with a group of, you know, employees, a working group, you know, really, really diverse group across the globe, across tenure, across level. And we’ve gone to the step of not only saying like, here are our values and here’s how we want to change them and the definitions, but what are the behaviors look like?

How are we accountable to it? And I think that’s important too, when you just talk about broad culture work is like, are you examining and seeing, are you doing it? Do you have ways to stay accountable to it? And that’s, I think a huge piece that has made Pendo, you know, have that strong culture and continuing to just do the work beyond just doing like a one-time exercise.

Jackie: Now, Jessica, over the past two years, there’s been a surge in hiring DEI leaders at organizations, but often professionals that are appointed don’t have the skill set, right? It’s very often the culturally diverse person in HR that gets appointed in the role, and whereas they might have the passion for the importance of the work, they don’t necessarily have that skillset and that understanding. Let’s talk about the skills needed to lead DEI for an organization successfully. 

Jessica: Yeah, Jackie, I think this is a great question because I often have people who say like, I’m interested. What skills do I need? And I don’t think we really unpack that enough.

You know, I talked about our pillars. I was just laughing with one of my colleagues on our, on our people team, but I do so much work with data throughout a week, a given week. I am looking at data, not just in a historical context to say like, how have we done, but to drive decision-making. So that I think is a piece that we don’t talk enough about in the DEI world of if you are really doing this work and staying accountable to it, you have to be data-driven, and being able to understand how to find insights and how to look at information and how to measure and say, like, what is really happening beyond just like a gut feeling. Like, how do we actually see what’s happening at a systems level? I think that’s huge. And I don’t think we talk enough about that skillset and developing that in the DEI space. 

I think another piece is just being able to work with different stakeholders and having empathy and being able to like have the humility to not throw your opinion on anyone, but to listen. So much of my work is listening to different perspectives. And that was a lot, you know, prior to Pendo I led a consulting firm and I would come in and I would, you know, listen to community members and listen to then a C team trying to figure out a problem and having to just like sit and listen and take it in and say, hey, we’re not all on the same page here. But like, where are we trying to get, despite our differences, or despite what we think might be differences? And so having that skill, and being able to translate, you know, often different perspectives. 

And then I think the third really is a lot of my work is being able to analyze and plan strategically. So this broad bucket of like strategic planning and having KPIs and measurement, because so many of my colleagues who are in the DEI world. If you don’t have that skill, it’s like, where do you even start? How do you even begin? You know, there’s so much work we need to do in corporate America, but being able to say, okay, here’s my strategy. Here’s what I’m doing. 30, 60, 90 days. I’m constantly having to do that and to be agile and to figure that out. And so I think those are key pieces, just like fundamental skills that are needed really to lead a DEI strategy to execution. 

Jackie: Absolutely. So Jessica, I’d like to talk a little about mentorship. Did you have a mentor that really invested in you? And can you talk about what you gained from that relationship? 

Jessica: Yeah, Jackie, I have a mentor. Her name is Nell Tahad . She’s a former mentor, and I like to say her name because she’s just amazing. I don’t, you know, we don’t talk often, but she was so pivotal at a point in my career.

I mentioned, you know, being at a large consulting firm where early on, I was questioning if I belonged. And part of that was like, you know, you walk in, you know, you’ve gone through this interview, you have the job. And I, I was the only woman. I was the only person of color, only BIPoC person on the team.

And I remember being like, hmm, I don’t think I fit. Like I just need to sit here and be quiet and try to like shrink myself, you know, try to get in because I’m different. Like, it’s just that I can’t hide that. I remember Nell, she was kind of one of the partners and one of the leaders. So, you know, she had multiple teams, but she like observed and pulled me aside and she was like, you belong here and not only do you belong, like you bring value and you deserve a seat at the table. 

We were laughing because she literally meant a seat like in our conference room. I would join meetings and I would kind of go sit in the back and I would say, let me, like, I’ll let the more senior you know, men and on our teams sit at the table and, you know, I’ve, I’m junior, and I would physically sit in the back of the room. But she also meant so much more, like my presence there, like that I had a different perspective, that I could bring value and I had a voice. 

And just, that really challenged me to never shrink in a space and never feel like, hey, just because you’re different, like doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a seat at the table, you actually deserve it, and you probably are going to bring so much perspective from your lived experience that other people might not bring. And so that mentorship was really helpful, helped me early on, recognize that in my career and also see cultures where that wasn’t the case and trying to just help other people recognize that and have that level of empowerment.

Jackie: Thanks for sharing that because you know, it’s so important to have someone to speak up for you, to advocate for you, and to just give you that push that sometimes we need especially as culturally diverse people that, you know, feel maybe a little bit of imposter syndrome or insecurity with taking that seat at the table.

Jessica, why do you believe that so many of us need that push to self-empowerment in the workplace, and what advice would you give for taking that step? 

Jessica: I think that, we’ve talked about this so much. Our affinity groups at Pendo are really, really active and I have to shout out all of our, our affinity group leaders.

We recently one of our affinity groups called mosaic is a community for our BIPoC talent and allies. And this was a conversation around like, why do you need that push, you know, ask for the promotion or why is that? And we dug into a lot of reasons, and honestly, I don’t have the one reason. We talked about just like our own cultural experiences of like being told get the job, put your head down, don’t cause any problems, just do the work and how that has been so many people’s experiences from different generations, whether it was, you know, because of their family immigrating here and that being, you know, part of just assimilating with culture, or whether that’s just, you know, recognizing you know, differences and trying to figure out how to, navigate with those.

But we’ve talked a lot at, at, at Pendo around just owning your career, like asking for feedback, like being that self-advocate, and then also how to be an ally for others, because it’s just as important if you see someone with hey, they’re getting passed over for a promotion or in an interview, someone says something that you’re like, wait a minute, it seems like some bias there. Being the ally to check that too, and that’s like the culture I think that, that we are working to get towards, where not only do you have to, you can you feel like you have that safety to promote yourself, but also you have allies who are going to help do it for you and they think something’s wrong.

So, I mean, I think that there’s so many aspects of why that doesn’t happen, but why we need to do that in work. And it’s so, so complex, but I think that has been a big piece at Pendo is like, not only what does that look like for employees that might come from, you know, traditionally underrepresented groups in tech, but what is the role of allies to actually help in those situations?

Jackie: I love that, you know, that’s such an important point because so many times people think they’re allies when after the conference room meeting, they pull you aside in the hallway and say, you should have had a chance to speak. Give them that chance in the room, right, not whispering after the fact, but being an ally is to stand up and say, Jessica, do you have anything that you’d like to add, right, and giving them space in the room, speaking up for people in the room, not afterwards where you’re pulling them aside and whispering in our ear. That’s not support, and that’s not allyship. So I love that, that you brought that up. That’s so important. 

Jessica, what are your recommendations for us to invest in up-skilling underrepresented individuals? 

Jessica: This is something I’ve thought a lot about and we’ve started to really dive into this at Pendo because in, you know, like I said, we have offices all over, but specifically, if we’re talking about the Southeast. We have so many tech companies coming to, to the North Carolina area coming to the Southeast, and at the same time you have so many people who maybe there’s a mismatch in skillsets where they, there are under-skilled or they don’t have the correct skills, you know, for certain software roles or for certain sales roles. And so we have just started to, you know, really talk about what that looks like as Pendo grows and how we can position ourselves as a leader in that space. 

There’s so many great programs that already exist, and it’s a matter of building out that marketplace in my mind. And I say marketplace saying, you know, we have an amazing community college system in North Carolina, but in so many places across the country, we have a great university infrastructure here. At the same time we have so many. Alternative programs like bootcamp programs, kind of reentry programs for people that are looking to reenter the workforce for, you know, career switch programs. And these are national, some national programs and we started to like explore partnering there, that are actually providing the training, providing the services.

And the other part of that marketplace is companies like Pendo, and I think that where we really have to focus is getting everyone in that marketplace to communicate more. So what I have found often, and this is not at Pendo, but in previous experiences, is often maybe the curriculum of a course or the curriculum of a bootcamp doesn’t really match maybe like the tech stack and the coding, you know, requirements that engineering roles have at a particular company.

Figuring out, like just having that conversation of like, hey, we really are looking for engineers that can use that, know this code. I’m not a tech person, so I am not even going to pretend, but you know, being able to have that communication between people in that marketplace is where I think we have to invest more.

We’ve started talking about that at Pendo of how do we partner and how do we do that partnership early enough in the pipeline, even starting at like high school, when people are thinking about careers in STEM. How do we, you know, give the direct feedback of like, hey, here’s the skillsets that we’re looking for? Right? 

In technology, this is what we need when we talk about coding and how do we make sure curriculum’s up to date and is like real time. So I can go on about this. It’s a huge passion for me. And thinking about, you know, over the next couple of years, what does that look like? Not just at Pendo, but even in, in companies across the Southeast.

Jackie: Absolutely. You know, and it’s so important to be able to see people who look like you in these roles. Because very often what happens in the many conversations that I’ve had with people over the past few years about this topic is they don’t feel that they can aspire to something when they don’t see anyone that looks like them in, you know, that or a similar role, there’s no one they can talk to about what that experience might look like. And so I love that. It’s so important that we continue to upskill and give opportunities to underrepresented professionals so that they can grow into those roles so that the, you know, those coming after can see, you know, the progression and they can aspire to that. I think that’s wonderful. 

Jessica, let’s talk about working with purpose. So you talked about this at the beginning of, you know, finding your purpose in your work. And that’s so important for all of us, because so many of us work hard and we want to feel like we’re doing something that matters, right. What does that mean to you and how do we begin to evaluate and discover our own purpose?

Jessica: This is such a great question. I know for me, it’s really an important aspect of, of my career, and so I think that first step is figuring out, you know, how much does that matter? You know, do you need a job that’s very purpose aligned? For me, that’s really a big aspect, more so than, you know, other aspects around like, you know, there aspects of compensation or flexibility. And so that has been a big piece for me. I’m saying, I know this is important.

I then think like understanding, you know, actually it was the same mentor I mentioned, I remember being in consulting and I had pro bono projects. I wanted to spend all my time doing pro bono work and not actually like billing for our company.

I got the feedback of like, they’re going to be points in your career where you’re not going to get a hundred percent fulfillment from that role, and that is okay. And that is something I try to tell to people cause I think often we think every aspect of my job is going to be something I am passionate about and I love, and there are aspects of my role now where it’s like I don’t really like this. I don’t get energy out of, out of it. And I think that’s understanding what balance is right for you. So that’s been a big piece of like knowing there places where maybe 50% is like purpose-driven, 50 isn’t or is that matched? Do I need to be closer to 80 20? Like what is my personal balance? 

And then I think the big piece. I recommend this book all the time called Designing your Life. It’s really based on like, you know, user design principles and its professors, I believe Stanford professors that wrote it. There are tons of real-time exercises, but what is interesting is the one thing they say there is like figuring out where do you get energy in your day?

And I realize for me, it’s that purpose element. If I’m like, hey, this is impactful. This is helping people. Like, I feel energized. I can keep going. I’m like, let’s do, you know, four more hours of like solving this. And then where you depleted, you know, what depletes your energy? And I think that’s often really, really important to have that and be in touch with that around your own time.

And then I think the last thing I’ll say, and I tell this to people I work with all the time and people who are trying to get into this space. I often think too, you have to look for purpose outside of your role. And that looks like being civically engaged in your community. That looks like, you know, volunteering or figuring out, you know, how do you, how do you define community beyond work?

And so I think I try to say that just because, like I said, you might not always have a hundred percent purpose with your role, but you could get that other 30% from your involvement and what you do outside of your nine to five. 

Jackie: That’s so great. And you know what I heard that I need to just think about as you schedule your day, right? As you think about your day is where are you getting your energy and what’s depleting that energy. And as you know, especially with a fast-growing company like Pendo is, like The Diversity Movement, sometimes you get like swept up in all of the things, right. And really stepping back and understanding where are you gaining energy and where is it being depleted?

It doesn’t mean that you don’t do those things that deplete your energy, but you’ve got to have a good balance or you find yourself at the end of the day feeling exhausted, unfulfilled. So that is so important in whatever role you have at any organization, just to understand what’s giving you the energy and what’s depleting that. I love it.

Jessica: Yeah. And even to the point of like, I try to adjust and schedule my days based on it, right. Like, I know I’m like, this is like high energy for me. So let me do that, you know, end of day, like I can jump right in versus sometimes, you know, and it’s like, I have to edit or like read and, you know, attention to detail and like work on a blog post.

To me, that’s more of my energy. So I’m like, let me do that early while I’m like fresh with a cup of coffee. That has been like a trick or hack that has helped me, like trying to adjust even my day, our work times based on knowing, you know, what is fulfilling or depleting energy-wise. 

Jackie: That’s such great advice, thank you for that. Jessica. I’m going to ask my favorite question. I ask this on every single podcast. Tell us something about you that not a lot of people know. 

Jessica: So I will say I am a silly, goofy person outside of work. My husband knows this. I, and I say that because so often the work and the DEI space and the work around, you know, that you all are doing at The Diversity Movement, anti-racism work. It is heavy and it is hard, and it is hundreds of years of work that we’re now trying to say, hey we need to address these obstacles and barriers. 

And so I say that to say, like, I try to take some time to just like, be light outside of work because burnout is so real and especially with, you know, this, the pandemic and checking in on people’s mental health. And I’ve talked to so many colleagues who were just burnt out and who are, who are trying to figure out how to create those boundaries. 

So something about me is like, I am a silly person. I watched like the worst reality TV after work. And I need to just sometimes like cut on music and have a dance party in the middle of the floor. I just, you know, recognize that the work I do is so serious and I am so passionate, but it’s completely okay to unplug and to have that boundary so I can start the next day fresh. And I really think that’s important and something I’m still working on and, and I’m evolve and like trying to remind myself as I grow in my career.

Jackie: That’s awesome. Jessica, what message do you want to leave our listeners with today?

Jessica: Yeah, Jackie, I would just say, you know, we started talking just on the journey and really being introspective, like understanding where you come from your identity, and that can start with.

You know, looking at your history, understanding, you know, what are the components that make you “you”, but then as you’re going through your career journey, like doing that introspection, doing that work around, like what brings me joy in what I do, what brings me energy in what I do. And I just encourage listeners to do that because in this space of DEI, like there is so much work to be done and often you can lose that time to reflect and say you know, how has this, how’s this relating to my journey and like, how am I feeling? 

And I think that that’s just so important, you know, that self-care and community care aspect of this work to be the best practitioner in this space and to actually be able to really, you know, put your all into to DEI work. So that’s my takeaway, you know, take that time, carve out that time to do that, that searching for yourself. 

Jackie: That’s fantastic advice, Jessica, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. I loved everything that you said around the work that you’re doing at Pendo, how to think about our own purpose. So thank you so much for taking some time with us. 

Jessica: This has been great; Jackie and I really have enjoyed it. It’s been such a pleasure to talk with you and love the work that you’re leading at The Diversity Movement. So thank you again for creating this space. Yes. 

Jackie: Thanks, Jessica. All right. 

Full Episode Transcript

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.  For sponsorship options, email

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