Zoom.ai x Crescendo

Always an exciting moment in the life-cycle of a startup, pilots and proofs of concept help companies understand their user bases and product in a meaningful way. Crescendo is now piloting our platform with a select few startups across Toronto and we are excited to announce our partnership with Zoom.ai!

Recently, we sat down with Traci Cheng, Head of People and Operations at the Toronto-based Zoom.ai, to learn more about their diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIBs) initiatives. We wanted to share why they decided to introduce Crescendo to the team.

Traci, please tell us a little about yourself and Zoom.ai.

 Traci Cheng, Head of People and Operations at Zoom.ai

Traci Cheng, Head of People and Operations at Zoom.ai

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to storytelling and communications. While I am now Operations and HR, it may surprise people to learn that I come from a marketing and PR background. Three years into my career, I co-founded NannyExperts with Martha Scully (Founder of CanadianNanny) and took on more operational responsibilities and quickly learned that working behind the scenes was more of my thing.

NannyExperts was the stepping stone to my role as Operations Manager at Zoom.ai and before long, the “People” part became a growing area of importance within my role. While I’m no longer marketing to prospects, I now tell the stories of each employee through our company values and culture - ensuring that each team member feels valued and included.

Zoom.ai is a chat-based productivity tool powered by AI that helps employees automate everyday tasks, so employees can better focus on higher value tasks. While AI is the future, it is vital that the people who shape the technology reflect the diverse audiences our product reaches, to truly become an inclusive experience.

What was the thought process behind introducing Crescendo at Zoom.ai?

Our Head of Marketing, Anita, connected me with Stefan, knowing our common interest in the DIBs space. As I learned about his vision for Crescendo, I was immediately hooked!

Their idea of continuously educating teams on such complex topics, in an approachable and palatable manner, was novel and unlike anything else I had encountered in the space. No matter how informed or “woke” we may believe we are, I believe that continuous learning is the crucial for making Zoom.ai a compassionate workplace, where employees feel included and a place that creates a sense of belonging.

As well, it can be difficult to introduce DIBs initiatives without making people feel guilty about their privilege and I found that Crescendo offers a gentle approach that allows for our team to opt-in and learn at their own pace.

 
 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

I encourage people to remember the following:

“Diversity without inclusion is simply tokenism.” - Michelle Kim

Oftentimes, diversity is simply reduced to visible differences, yet not all of our diversity is necessarily visible. It’s important to create a respectful culture where we don’t rely on assumptions of one another. For Zoom.ai, inclusion is about openness and fostering a workplace where people feel safe to vocalize how they feel and be their true, unadulterated selves. The first step is to understanding the language we use and how it could be exclusionary to others.

How has Zoom.ai implemented Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging into its DNA?

When I first started working at Zoom.ai, Anita and I were the only women on the team. There was plenty of ethnic diversity on our team, but when it came to gender diversity, we were definitely far from balanced.

In just a short year, through reflection of our existing hiring processes and discussing unconscious biases, we’ve made immense strides with improved gender equality. We’ve quadrupled the number of women on the team - making up almost half of the entire team! I’m happy to share that a large portion of this is within the engineering team, an area where most tech companies fall short in gender balance. While we’re proud of this improvement, we recognize that we still have ample room to be more inclusive, beyond the binaries of just men and women.

Vulnerability has traditionally been seen as a ‘weakness’ as it’s perceived by many as a feminine quality (sexism at its finest!). At Zoom.ai, we discourage this perception - instead, we ask our team to embrace openness and use their vulnerabilities as an opportunity for learning and self-improvement.

 The Zoom.ai marching with Microsoft Canada in the pride parade this year.

The Zoom.ai marching with Microsoft Canada in the pride parade this year.

On the community front, we are sponsoring more events to ensure that we're hearing important conversations and are learning from communities we may not be familiar with. It is important for us to be better allies not just by supporting ourselves, but amplifying the voices of marginalized groups.

We recognize that it is a continuous learning process, and not something to be solved in a day. Crescendo is a platform that offers us the opportunity to keep learning and educating ourselves in a way that doesn't take up a lot of time, is delivered to our team where they are, and is enough to encourage people to think a little bit differently. It's great for stimulating discussions within our team and can potentially help us become better allies.

What are some things from Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging perspective that you hope to see implemented in the tech ecosystem?

I’d like people to recognize that you can’t achieve equality without giving equity. People can talk about equality all they want, but if they’re not willing to put equity (time, money, training, resources) into closing the gap, that’s simply a pat on their back or an item knocked off their checklist, where no true sustainable change will occur.

It can be frightful to a startup’s runway, budget or team bandwidth to give equity, but if your team truly believes they can be an advocate for change, there’s always a way to make time for what is important.

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Thank you for chatting with us Traci! We are looking forward to creating actionable change with Zoom.ai.


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Crescendo is the diversity education app for Slack and we’re on a mission to help companies create more inclusive workplaces. You can learn more here!