How we are building a culture of belonging at thinkPARALLAX

Jean Okamoto
December 20, 2023

How we are building a culture of belonging at thinkPARALLAX

thinkPARALLAX’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program has a lofty mission: “Equip tPXers to practice embracing parallax.” 

Alongside traditional DEI staples like training and interrogating our HR systems to better facilitate equity, in 2022 we launched the tPX Culture Share program. The ongoing engagement effort consists of a series of regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year where each individual at tPX has the chance to practice leading the DEI conversation in their own way.

Season 1 of tPX Culture Share provided an opportunity for everyone to creatively answer the question, “How did you embrace parallax?” The format was open-ended and encouraged responses in any form: photography, storytelling, song, or poetry. Beyond a summary of facts alone, individuals were encouraged to share their personal learnings, and how the experience expanded their perspective. Although the prompt was broad, the tPX DEI Committee was available to help steer folks who needed more direction, or encourage those who were unsure they had anything to contribute. 

We know one reason people avoid having DEI-related conversations is because they’re difficult or uncomfortable. The purpose of Culture Share is much like any other practice: the more we do it–in a safe, controlled arena–the easier and more natural it will become.

During this first season, more than 90% of our team chose to take part in leading their own session. Topics included learnings from books and films, as well as personal experiences with race and ethnicity, religion, disability, sexuality, and more. Our team expressed how valuable it was to learn about each other’s background and what made them who they are.

Below we share three reasons why this program worked:

#1: The initiative is rooted in our company values, and built on an existing program the team was already familiar with. 

The Culture Share program embodies our “embracing parallax” value both by creating space for individuals to be courageously authentic in sharing their stories, and in amplifying voices that might not otherwise feel empowered to speak up–especially at work. Instead of creating something totally new, we surveyed what programs already existed, but no longer provided value. We maintained the spirit of a previous program aimed at empowering people to educate the rest of the company in an informal environment, while reworking it for a more DEI-focused perspective. 

What our teammates had to say: 

  • “This experience provided me with an opportunity for self-reflection on my upbringing and values, allowing me to revisit some repressed feelings tied to my identity of being a minority. Openly sharing during this process became the initial step I needed to embrace vulnerability and lead a more authentic life.” 
  • “It was a moment when we all took some time to learn, and to be present listening to our colleagues. Some conversations left us speechless, moved, in tears, or fully inspired. Each of the perspectives was appreciated and heard, it made some of us feel like we can show up as our true selves in this company.” 
  • “It was valuable both to think about what was important to me for my presentation and incredibly insightful for what other people found meaningful to them.” 

#2: The format provided structure and consistency–but also freedom and options

Culture Share meetings were offered on a regular cadence throughout the year. The structure of each session was the same: starting with ground rules shared by a member of the DEI Committee, and then passing off to the leader of the session.  There was also plenty of freedom built in: not only to opt out of sharing entirely, but also in the choice of how personal to get, what topic to focus on, and what format to use.

What our teammates had to say: 

  • “I chose to do a podcast format and the experience and result was something very personal, authentic, comfortable, and fun. I interviewed my mother about her upbringing and immigration experience when moving to the U.S. from the Philippines…I loved that I could execute this share my own way, that was comfortable for both myself and my mom.” 

#3: The learning is based on storytelling, not didactic teaching.

Don’t get us wrong, we do the didactic part, too! But storytelling serves a different, necessary purpose in the DEI journey. By telling and hearing each other’s stories, we connect on a more human, personal level; moving beyond individual knowledge acquisition and towards a collective experience of understanding and belonging. 

What our teammates had to say: 

  • “When we learn about the stories and experiences that shape who we are, we not only build empathy and connection with each other, we develop new frameworks for understanding and working with each other. This impacts how we collaborate, support, and show up for each other, as individuals and teammates working toward successful outcomes.” 
  • “The more awareness we have of each other's backgrounds and perspectives, the greater our ability to work together effectively. It may also be a contributing factor to why the culture of tPX is so special!” 
  • “The Culture Share allowed me to learn from a range of outlooks and stories of rising from adversity through resilience, and gave me a new appreciation for how everyone's diversity is truly empowering.” 

Season 1 of the tPX Culture Share proved the value of the program by creating space for the facets of ourselves that might not feel welcome at work, and promoting a deeper understanding of our colleagues’ perspectives and worldviews. We’re now well on our way with Season 2, and a new question: “What is the story of the land you’re on?” We look forward to continuing to share our learnings, and invite you to reach out with any thoughts. And if you missed it, take a look at our conversation about the “how” and “why” of measuring the success of corporate DEI programs.

How we are building a culture of belonging at thinkPARALLAX
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