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As Medallia’s Inclusion Practice Lead, Lauren Jackman spends her days working with internal stakeholders to give candidates and team members alike an experience that makes them feel more visible and more valued. In the spirit of introducing Medallians to the world of Diversity and Inclusion work, Christy Lake, VP of People and Culture, recently sat down with Lauren to discuss what’s different about inclusion at Medallia, how our cultural onboarding program sets the tone, and how Lauren’s Ph.D. in social psychology informs her work.
First, let’s chat about your title. Why “Inclusion Practice” instead of “Diversity and Inclusion”?
Lauren: Even though I think a lot about how to bring more diversity to our teams, for me inclusion is the heart of this work. If we can get that right, the rest will follow. I chose to call it a practice because “practice” suggests we know we’re not going to get it right immediately. It’s a commitment to keep working and making improvements over time.
What was the impetus for creating an Inclusion role at Medallia?
Lauren: I started at Medallia leading our onboarding program as part of our Growth and Development team. During that time I started holding a recurring workshop on unconscious bias. I was interested in social psychology in the workplace, and I wanted to highlight how we often unconsciously reinforce stereotypes and behaviors we don’t actually endorse.
My first audience for the workshop was Medallia’s Operating team, and it grew from there. Medallians had a huge appetite to live up to their best intentions and treat each other fairly. A cross-functional team grew out of those workshops, and one of their first goals was a full-time Diversity and Inclusion role. They made the case to our leadership, and the role opened in early 2016.
Was the move from Growth and Development to Inclusion an obvious next step for you?
Lauren: I actually didn’t apply right away! I loved my Growth and Development team, and Diversity and Inclusion was an emerging space with a lot of uncertainty. But the recruiter for the role reached out and said I should go for it—I’m so glad she did.
As Medallia’s first Inclusion lead, how did you decide where to start?
Lauren: First, my manager and I created a framework to address the complete Medallian lifecycle—retaining and developing, as well as recruiting. Then we tried to see everything through the candidates’ and team members’ eyes: “How do I find out about roles?” “What’s my interview like?” “Do recruiters ask about my previous salary?” “What’s my first week like?”
We also began collecting data where we hadn’t previously. For example, our employee surveys weren’t asking demographic questions; we had no idea how Medallians’ experiences differed based on things like gender and race. So we added that, and our surveys now give us some of the most meaningful data we have.
Are there things that differentiate Medallia’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion?
Lauren: We take a broad view of what it means to be inclusive and we think beyond hiring to everyday experiences. Lots of companies ask, “What percentage of hires come from a certain demographic?” That’s important, but the rest of the lifecycle matters too. You can have great hiring numbers and still have people join the company, have a bad experience, and leave in six months.
We’ve also made a conscious choice to look beyond gender and racial diversity. People tend to focus on those because we see and code them almost immediately as human beings, but other types of diversity—including those that are less visible—are important, too.
Medallia has many great communities, including an accessibility community and Q-Field, our LGBT community. Q-Field’s talent show this year was one of my favorite Medallia events ever. The Medallian who emceed it is a drag performer and brought incredible energy to the stage. We had people do stand-up—someone even did a yo-yo performance! Q-Field is our longest-standing community, and I think one of the reasons they’re so strong is that it’s not just about work for them. They have fun together.
That said, our community groups are a huge source of professional support, too. Women@Medallia, for example, connects female employees, supports career growth and development, and gets leaders involved in the progress they want to see. They’re organizing a speaker series right now featuring members of our executive team.
Lauren speaks about Medallia’s inclusion programs at a recent talk held by the Women@Medallia group.
Do you also work with external groups to support Diversity and Inclusion?
Lauren: Definitely. Medallia has three main Diversity and Inclusion partnerships. We’ve worked with BreakLine for two years; they help military veterans transition into the workforce by introducing them to prospective hiring managers. We also partner with Path Forward, for caregivers returning to the workforce after taking time out for their kids or elder care. We’ve added great Medallians to our team through both those programs.
Our third partner is Year Up, which bridges the opportunity divide for low-income youth. It’s an intensive, six-month internship that gives them professional and technical training. We have two Year Up interns on our Customer Support team right now, and they’re amazing.
Do you think about Diversity and Inclusion differently now, compared to when you started?
Lauren: I’ve heard you say, “Facts are friendly.” And I agree; it’s important to look at data. But when I was new to this role, I think I gave it too much attention. The story isn’t just data; numbers are more powerful when you’re focused on the human beings behind them. When someone can personally connect to the experience you’re sharing, you’re more likely to inspire them to change their behavior.
Have you always been interested in human behavior?
Lauren: I’ve always liked solving problems that don’t follow straightforward rules, and people problems fit the bill. I got my Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Stanford, where I worked in a moral reasoning lab. Part of my research was on emotion expression; I published a paper on how we make moral judgements about people when their emotional responses differ from what we expect.
I also did some research on how cultural context shapes the way people interact, and I studied growth mindset, which is the belief that no matter who you are or where you’re starting out, you always have potential to learn and grow.
How did you make the leap from academia to tech?
Lauren: I spent an extra year at Stanford on a teaching fellowship, and during that time I saw a lot of my friends graduate and get great, stable jobs outside academia. Plus, my husband had joined Medallia a few years earlier and was so proud of his work. He was eager to talk about his job in a way he never had been before.
But he actually wasn’t the one who referred me! One of my friends from grad school interviewed with Medallia and told me, “You should really talk to them.”
I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a conversation. It was supposed to be 30 minutes but we talked for 90. I was excited about the opportunity to lead the onboarding program, and I knew this was a place where I could build a meaningful career. And here I am!
Let’s talk more about onboarding. How is it different at Medallia?
Lauren: Onboarding at Medallia is not job training—it’s a bonding experience. Our onboarding helps people incorporate diverse aspects of themselves into their work life by inviting them to share both what’s hard and what’s meaningful for them. That might be challenges, failures, loss—but also what makes them proud and brings them joy. People surprise you all the time with what they share. At the end of the day, these things make us more human to each other.
We teach some of the same concepts in onboarding that I studied in grad school, like growth mindset, emotion expression, and resilience. It’s so exciting to me to have a program that brings those ideas to life and uses them to create a better workplace.
Back to your current role—what’s challenging about leading Inclusion?
Lauren: There’s often a fear of saying the wrong thing or people failing to empathize. We have to push past that. That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for Medallia’s onboarding program; it helps people understand where someone else is coming from.
And I hold onto the wins. When I get thank-you notes, or hear how this work has affected someone, I keep those in a “rainy day” folder. It’s easier to deal with challenging moments when you remember the joyful ones.
Can you share something from your rainy day folder with us?
Lauren: Sure! I remember one note from a woman on our Engineering team. She’d tried to speak up in a meeting and got cut off—twice—then someone else brought up her idea. She said, “I was really discouraged, but then one of our male engineering leaders spoke up, acknowledged I’d originally voiced that idea, and gave me the floor. I felt like I really belonged on the team.” Those are the moments you want to create more of.
What will success look like for Diversity and Inclusion at Medallia?
Lauren: The dream is for everyone to have a great experience, and feel equally able to contribute and equally valued. It’s less about, “Do we exactly mirror the makeup of the U.S. workforce?” and more, “Are we attracting the best people?” We’re interested in both mirrors—someone who understands where I’m coming from—and windows—someone who challenges me and shows me a new way. Each one of us is better when we’re exposed to diverse beliefs, behaviors, and cultures.
This story was created in conjunction with Job Portraits, a San Francisco-based creative agency that helps teams scale using culture-focused content.