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Listen to Episode 121

Josh and Ashylnd Johnson, Client Success Manager at Dude Solutions, talk about how we’re taking steps as a company to be more proactive about supporting racial equality. They discuss the seven actions Dude Solutions is taking, as well as how our Hues of Dude resource group is helping. 

Show Notes: 

Show Script:

Josh Peach  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

Hello Operate Intelligently listeners. This is your host, Joshua Peach, for another episode and I am really excited to have Dude Solutions team member Ashlynd Johnson. Happy and welcome to your first podcast episode, Ashlynd.

Ashlynd Johnson  
Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Josh Peach  
Good. Well, Ashlynd, we're gonna dig right into this one. This is one of the harder topics for us to talk about. But over the last course of the last couple of weeks, we've had a lot going on and a lot of people have reached out to us, you know about what we're doing. And you know, first and foremost, the duties of taking a very strong stance of racism is wrong all together, 100% no room for it. Our CEO put together a letter that is open to the world, to Dude Nation as well as outside with seven steps that we're taking. And some of them we've been taking, already in action. So I'm going to go over those seven steps, Ashlynd, then I want to dig right into, you know what you're doing and some of the exciting things that you've been doing for a while and and let you take it from there if that's all right.

Ashlynd Johnson  
Absolutely.

Josh Peach  
Great. So from The Dudes perspective, what we're doing right now, we're taking seven concrete actions. With the first one which we just did this past Friday, which Ashlynd is going to go in more detail on is we're sponsoring an ongoing Lunch & Learn which is organized by our Diversity and Inclusion Committee and employee resource group, Hues of Dude. And the first one was on how to be an ally. We're doing unconscious bias training. Which is required of all people leaders and is open to all employees. We're going to annually sponsor three historically black colleges and universities for internships at Dude Solutions. And we will start with programs this year. We're going to continue working in supporting a national group called Blacks in Technology, which actually you're going to get us into some more detail on that for a recently approved Raleigh Durham franchise that's being co-sponsored by several Dudes, Ashlynd being one of them. We're going to co-fund an initiative specifically aimed at supporting the black community through our internal philanthropy program, the Good Dude. The Good Dude is where we give back 1% of our time, profits and our efforts by every employee, and we're going to do some more great programs with that. We're going to broaden our scope or our executive and senior leadership team mentoring program to include a wider and more diverse audience. And we will ensure the diversity inclusion committee is well funded, well resourced and given frequent air time, through company communication channels and meetings to ensure it stays at the front of our minds. I share that with the listeners because one thing that a lot of folks that have come to me anyway, over the last two weeks has asked is, you know, what are you doing? How are you doing it? And I think the most important thing that you do is whatever it is put it in writing, stay committed to it and, and that you stay involved in it. And don't make this just a one and done or a short game. This is gonna be a long game effort. It's gonna stay front of mind, long past protests, long past justice being served, it's got to be this has got to be changed. This has got to be changed for the future. So you know, with that said, I talked to Ashlund a couple days ago, I wanted to learn more about the Hues of Dude, and because I didn't know myself enough about it. So Ashlynd, you know, tell me about the Hues of Dude, where did it come from? How did it come about? Give me some details.

Ashlynd Johnson  
Yeah, absolutely Peach. So Hues of Dude is the first employee resource group here at Dude Solutions that's solely focused on the development and inclusion for people of color to transcend all odds into the best work of our lives. And that's kind of our mission statement that we kind of set for our group. And I'll give you some background. I know a lot of people are curious of how did this start, who started it, when and where. And I want to say it was either December of last year or January of this year, we just had one of our quarterly sales conferences, where part of the conferences we all eat lunch. It's just in like a big conference room. There's a bunch of circular tables with chairs, and the meals are catered. So me and some of my black friends at the Dude all just happen to be sitting at the same table. There was also one I want to say just maybe one white coworker who decided to sit with us and that was completely fine. She was listening into our conversations and stuff. And we could kind of tell that a lot of people in the room were probably looking at us. We're kind of used to that. I've been at a few tech companies and it's just kind of the norm, the level of minorities at most companies, I feel like all over the country, it's just a very small percentage. So when we're all together in a place we just sometimes like to socialize, hang out. Say how are you guys doing? Talk about life, sports, things going on at home, things besides work. But the to get to the point, Ed came--Ed is our CEO-- and he came and sat at the table with us. And that was shocking to pretty sure all of us at the table. We just kind of looked at each other, like is this really happening? Okay, let's see where this goes. So Ed sat down. This was the first time I think I've had a conversation with Ed. And we're just talking about life. I remember I started a conversation because Ed runs the ultra marathons and I was reading a book by David Goggins. If you don't know who that is definitely YouTube him. He's a crazy inspiring marine. He's done it all. You just have to look him up. So we talked about that, some other things, life and then of course conference went on. We didn't really think too much of it. And then a few weeks later, I got an email from a co-worker who was at that table saying that Ed wanted to take us all out to lunch. And I was like, okay, I've never had a CEO want to sit down and have lunch with me. So let's do it. So we all went to lunch together, and it kind of set us down. And he just wanted to, like, talk to us because he was genuinely concerned. He wanted to know, like, Hey, I know, I sat at that table of all you guys. But did you feel comfortable? Like, do you guys feel comfortable enough to interact with like, obviously, Dude Solutions is the majority white people. So he's asking like, Hey, did you guys feel like you had to sit together? And our answer was absolutely not. We're spread out through different teams of the Dudes. So we're always I love we got no problem with white people. I have white friends, white coworkers that I deal with every day of the week. So sometimes it's just nice for us to have a space. And one of my teammates made the point of it was really interesting. He said, if you saw a group of white people at one of those tables, you wouldn't go up to them and say, hey, is something wrong? Do you not feel comfortable? It's just the fact that we're such a minority at Dude Solutions that it would seem like something may be wrong when there's nothing wrong at all. So Ed brought up the suggestion of like, Is there any type of clubs already established or anything we could do to help promote and ensure diversity of the Dude? And we kind of thought about it. And we're like, okay, well, we can absolutely make something happen, but we're going to do some research. So internally we founded, it's now called Hues of Dude, which is a group, like I said, the first employee resource group at Dude Solutions, focused on inclusion and development. And then we're still so that's been established. And then outside of that, we want to start, there's a bigger charter called Blacks in Technology, and they have different chapters across the country. So we've been in talks with them of how we could get an RTP chapter started, and Dude Solutions would be behind it and funding it. So that's going to be awesome. Darrell Johnson, he's no longer with the Dude but I got to give him a shout out, him, Dom Jones and Gary Blunt. They helped start Hues of the Dude, but they're no longer with Dude Solutions. So we're still in talks with them about how we could still get Blacks in Technology up and going. But that's how we started. I'll give you our vision statement, too. That's going to be to thrive in a culture that fosters diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, where people of color can reach the crest of our achievements and inspire future generations. So we've been working on getting this up and running this year. COVID has kind of slowed down our charge because we'd love to have bigger events in person where we can have these conversations and dialogue. Our first we're really excited we met today talking about our first event was last Friday, where we did a lunch and learn and we had the chance to meet with the executive team last week before we threw that lunch and learn. And I very bluntly let the whole team know that I appreciate the fact that Ed didn't just come out and say, Hey, everybody, our club Hues of Dude, is throwing the event. I want everybody to be there because I generally, when it comes to conversations about race and stuff, they're not easy conversations for anybody to have. And I'm not going to open up to people who don't want to really have this conversation. So I thanked him and definitely suggested that to make this as authentic as possible, I want our first luncheon learn to be with people who voluntarily sign up. So we were all just curious if anybody was going to show up if it was just going to be 20 of us, 30 of us. And the day of I was watching, we're all on the Zoom and I was watching the number go up. I'm pretty sure we got up to 144 employees here at Dude Solutions. And we got to have our first conversation around what it's like. So we brought in Dr. Olele and he kind of talked about all the emotions that blacks are feeling when they come to work. Like there's a lot of stresses and stuff going on in the world. And sometimes it's really hard for us to just watch what's going on in the news and be a part of all that and then just come in Monday, pick up your phone and say hey, this is Ashlynd with Dude Solutions, how you doing, the weather is beautiful here, like we're still, we can't just turn off one and turn on the other. So we talked about the stresses and stuff, and also allyship, what everybody else can do to kind of help out. This isn't what's going on this country isn't a problem just for black people. And it's up to you guys to keep fighting for equality. This is this is a problem that everybody should be, everybody should be mad about, talking about. So it's really cool to see all the conversations that we're starting to have in and out of work. And we're going to try and put on more events like the lunch and learn we had Friday where it's okay to talk about things like this in the workplace. You know, sometimes it's just you don't know the right thing to say. And it was really cool to see us come together and have a safe space where people can ask questions, give their opinions, and really talk about what we can do to make the change like you said more than just protesting. What's going to be the next step? And I really feel like that seven things you listed are definitely part of that. One thing I just want to say about the seven things, I also mentioned this to Ed, but the thing that like stuck with me the most was the fact that we're going to have internships for historically black college and universities. Why I feel like that's huge is because do select in, in the triangle, there's a bunch of big tech companies that everybody knows about Cisco, Red Hat, all those bigger names. But Dude Solutions, I feel like we're still so small people just don't even know we exist. And I was working at Cisco before coming to Dude Solutions. And the only reason I ended up here is because one of my black friends left Cisco, came to Dude Solutions and was texting me like, Hey, man, there's a startup, I'm sure you've never heard of it, but you should absolutely apply, because he knew he was interested in getting into sales. So I feel like it's going to take those kind of interactions for us to help not only promote, but also grow diversity within the company itself. So if we're getting out there into the colleges and HBCUs and saying, Hey, we want you to come learn about our company. They're going to go back to school and tell their friends like, Hey, I know you applied to Cisco, but you should also check out Dude Solutions. They got a lot of cool stuff going on. So that's definitely what I'm excited to see moving forward.

Josh Peach  
Well, I have to thank the friend that told you to come work here because like I told you beforehand in the been going on six years that you've been here, since the first time I met you you've always had a big smile on your face, you've always been just an absolute great ally and friend to me. The allies webinar I think as I shared with you last Friday was one of the most powerful hours I've ever experienced and to listen to fellow Dudes that have walked the same halls as I do. And me looking and seeing, feeling like there's no tensions or stresses or worries or anything and hearing you know, some of our team members that say, Hey, I put a lot of effort and thought into what I put on to wear every day. You know, I have to have difficult conversations with my with my five year old and I had him and you know, that gave a lot of awareness and understanding for me and I'm sure for others And you're right, I was amazed. I was excited to see how many of our Dudes, you know voluntarily did come to the come to this webinar. Because this is emotional. It's a hard topic. You never going say all the right words, we're always going to have something that's going to be looked at as you didn't say enough, you said too much, you didn't do enough, whatever it is. But you guys just knocked it out of the park. The Blacks in Technology group that's something that anybody anywhere, and we've got listeners from all over the place, and this is why we're doing this podcast so that others hopefully can look at our playbook. It doesn't need to be replicated completely but maybe things for consideration. Blacks in Technology is something that anyone can essentially anywhere can apply for a chapter and try to because it looks like we got about 13 or 14 chapters currently. That sound about right?

Ashlynd Johnson  
Absolutely, yes, sir.

Josh Peach  
Okay, so then that's and we'll put this in the show notes, but it's blacksintechnology.net is is where you can get more information on that. How many members are in the Hues of Dude?

Ashlynd Johnson  
So let's see. So we've been meeting weekly to get things up and going and right now we have our executive board, our first interest meeting. So let's see. Let me back up. Our board is made up of Rosa, she's the president. Rosas in HR, Eric in applications, he's the VP. I'm the Executive Financial Officer. And Tunisha Cruz is our marketing specialist going forward right now. So right now it's kind of the four of us meet on a weekly basis to try and plan events. Next thing going forward. So our first kickoff event is going to be on June 19. For some people don't know, Juneteenth is a huge African American holiday, because that's when the last slaves were notified that slavery is ended. And it's kind of like our Fourth of July. So we figured that would be fitting to have our first like, kind of kickoff meeting. So we have, I can share with you the registration, we have that open, and we're hoping to have a lot of people show up to that. So we can finally get some committee members going and see how people can get involved. And we don't want people to think this is just a club for people of color. We definitely need allies and people can always volunteer to help. And we'd love to include people in our events and conversations because nothing is going to change if it's just us having the conversations of the struggles we're going through or Oh, did you see that? We obviously want to make this open dialogue, like we had Friday, going forward. So we'll definitely be having more events like that lunch and learn and some other cool stuff we have planned moving forward. We're going to work on also getting a community calendar so people can know when events are happening and sign up.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, that's cool. And you're right, you want to cast a wider net and open it up to everybody to get involved and get the buzz going and talking about it. Talking about what you guys are doing more. Just that just out of curiosity, you know, from the time that you sat down at the table with Ed, and had your lunch and discussions, you know, how much work have you guys put into, you know, organizing and getting a framework of whose responsibilities and then actually putting on that first webinar, you know, how much how much heavy lifting does it take to get something like this started? And what's the commitment look like?

Ashlynd Johnson  
Yeah, so that's a great question. I feel like it worked because we had enough people. So we started with, I think there was about five or six of us, and we were all just kind of on the same page of, we know what we want to do. Let's just establish our mission statement, our vision statement, and then let's just start talking. So we started back when we were able to meet in the office. So I'd say we were meeting maybe every two weeks or once a week to just kind of talk about for an hour, the different ideas we have. Okay, when are we going to be able to have a first event? Who's going to be there, who's going to take care of what? And luckily, I'm not the most organized person. But we do have a lot of teammates who are like, okay, let's just delegate this out, Eric, you handle the marketing, you already know, some contacts on IT, I'll go reach out to leadership and Ed and see what's going on here. So we just kind of delegated the work out and make it a lot easier. Because I feel like the hardest part of all this is we'd love to just throw these events and stuff. But at the same time, we're still full time employees, so finding the balance of, Okay, I have to get my work done. But at the same time, this is, this feels like the most important work I could do at this company. So just the balance of having that all going and just kind of dividing the work evenly and having people all with the same goal, same mission. I feel like anybody at any company could absolutely get something like this going. It is hard work. But I feel like if you just have a big enough support system that you can say, Hey, I'm not gonna be able to make the meeting today or I can't do this. Can I rely on you? Can I email you call you real quick to get that handled? And then the rest just falls into place.

Josh Peach  
Well, I have to tell you, you guys have done a great job. It's amazing what you've accomplished in a short amount of time. And like I said, you know, my dialogue with you the other day was, you know, trying to understand because it seemed like, everything just happens, everything's just been kind of fluid with with COVID coming. And then when everything happened on May 25, to now it's just been, you know, it seems like everything's just kind of moved along and come into place. But the reality is, there's all this work in the background that was being done, you guys just got expedited on having to put some events and put some ideas into motion probably a little bit sooner than you would have liked. What do you foresee, I guess you get a crystal ball. Take a crystal ball. What do you look to see a year from now? What do you think you'd like to see accomplished? What do you think you'd like to see? We're obviously going to hopefully have a number of internships that have already hopefully gone through our doors or virtually through zoom, but what would you like to see? You and I have this conversation next year, you go ahead with all these great things we accomplished or what's on your next to do lists of making that happen?

Ashlynd Johnson  
Yeah, sure. Well, I think personally, what I would like to see is just people at the company just know the main use of it just be like, Oh, yeah, Dude Solutions, Hues of the Dude. We have that like just everybody to know, I'm not saying I want every single person at the company involved. But I want people to be able to be aware and, you know, like, just be able to know who we are, what we do. And not only us internally, but I feel like I love the fact that today in our meeting, we went and we met with our marketing team to help create some logos, some information and kind of us collaborate about how we're going to talk about events and different things. Because I want not only for people to know internally, but then let's say I've never heard of Dude Solutions. I want to be able to go to the solutions website and know that instead of, I feel like with a lot of tech companies, if you go to a website, they'll say, we promote diversity. Diversity is great. We love it. Here's a picture of some diversity at our company, I want Hues of the Dude to be like, we promote diversity. Here's Hues of the Dude, here's some events they've done. Here's how we're staying involved in the community, just a little bit more. I actually attended UNC Wilmington and before my freshman orientation, they had like, a whole weekend where I was like, hey, diversity, we care about it, we promote it. And then I was like, Okay, awesome. I knew the demographics of the school, but I love the beach. So I was like, alright, let me go check it out. Then I get to campus freshman year, and I'm in my orientation meeting the first day in my dorm and I am one of two people of color in a dorm of about 500 students. So just kind of looking around like, oh, okay, well, I'm not saying you lied to me. But you know, this isn't as diverse as I thought. So I want I want to be able to say that Dude Solutions doesn't just talk the talk, we're walking the walk and we have concrete examples of doing what we say we promote what we're going to do. 

Josh Peach  
Yeah, no, that's great and it's spot on. I think that a lot of people are saying diversity and inclusion and they're including it in their conversations and you're right. You know, a lot of people out there say it, but they don't do it and sometimes it's that they don't have the applicants or they don't have the people that are you know, but they can say they have diversity because they have one you know, whatever their percentage breakdowns are that they give but actually putting action behind it where you truly are building a more diverse environment, whether it's where you go to school or where you work. So I'll tell you what, anytime you want to do a Hues of the Dude special awareness podcasts on the Operate Intelligently channel, it's all yours. You can take the mic and do it. Let people know we can do a quarterly, we can do it weekly, whatever you want to do, because I'm really excited about everything that you're doing. And I admire your passion and your team's passion for putting this on. As you say, you've got your full time job, this isn't a position. This isn't like a something you applied for. This is an add on top of your full time job that you guys are committed to. So anything I can do to help you in your mission, I want to see it and I want to see 100% of our dude nation to no excuses do this. Not just internally, I want to see our clients, you know, I want our clients to all know what we're doing and how we're doing it. So you just let me know when you want to put that on.

Ashlynd Johnson  
Absolutely. We will be reaching out to you. 

Josh Peach  
Good, good. Well, I think that this is great. I think that, you know this, these are the tough conversations that we have to have. And I think these are the things that people need to be thinking about to move us forward to get the change. You know, I had a great conversation with a speaker that we've had come in David Cooks, who is a great friend of mine, I don't know if you met him, but he's the author from paralysis to purpose. But we were talking yesterday and you know, his thing is, you know, there's justice and there's change. We got it, we got to go to the change part, because we've seen justice. And it's just it just repeats itself. But when we see change, when we see actionable things happen that get past justice and past, you know, the protests, that's when we're going to see some real, some real differences and opportunities for folks. And that's what we want it. That's what we want to do here at the Dude. So appreciate you for getting on this podcast and sharing with us what you're doing and excited to see Blacks in Technology chapter opening up in the in the Raleigh Triangle headed up by you and your team. I'm just really appreciative of everything that you've done so far. I look forward to the future webinars and events that you guys have. I'll be at every single one of them. Had me sold in the first minute last Friday, so I'm in. So how do people get ahold of you? How do they call you? How do they email you if they listen and if we have internally or even externally, if somebody wants to learn more, get more or connect with you on social media, email, phone number, whatever you're comfortable giving out to share with the world. Yeah,

Ashlynd Johnson  
Yeah, sure. Let's see if you're internally I feel like the easiest way to contact me shoot me a Teams message. I'm just Ashlynd Johnson, that's going to be Ashlynd. I'm pretty sure I'm the only Ashlynd at the company and in the Raleigh area, so not too hard to find. Feel free to shoot me an email if you prefer that avenue. My cell phone numbers 919-219-3682. I'm always open to any and every conversation anybody wants to have about how we got started at this company. Any advice I'm here to talk, my personal email address is going to be ajj13300@gmail.com Feel free to message me, text me, call me I'm always open to talk, if I'm not busy doing some other stuff on the customer success side of things here at Dude Solutions, but absolutely happy to help anybody get involved or anything they might need from the Hues of Dude side.

Josh Peach  
And professionally you're on LinkedIn as well connect with you, follow you put some good stuff out there on LinkedIn, just look for a handsome guy with a big smile on his face. So I think that the only one it just did a search and you're the Oh, you're the only one with a big smile. So welcoming, so make sure to connect with him. Well, appreciate you taking the time here today and educating me and educating our listeners that look forward to having you on and get more updates and sharing with the world. And always in your corner, my friend. Appreciate you and appreciate everything you do. 

Ashlynd Johnson  
I appreciate you too. Yeah, we'll be in touch. 

Josh Peach  
All right, sounds good. Well, that will do it for another episode of Operate Intelligently. Really appreciate everybody listening. This has been arguably some of the hardest times in our lives. And I know that it's going to get better and it's because of initiatives like what Ashlynd and our teams are doing, and others out there that are doing, that are going to make the difference for a better future and change. So let's look forward to getting back to taking care of one another a lot better. So have a great day everybody. Thanks for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions.com or check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

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