Trier Bryant (Just Work): Implementing Your DEI Framework

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This is a podcast episode titled, Trier Bryant (Just Work): Implementing Your DEI Framework. The summary for this episode is: <p><span style="background-color: transparent; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Tech companies love a good framework, and there seems to be frameworks abound for every aspect of company building except diversity, equity, and inclusion. Enter </span><em style="background-color: transparent; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Just Work</em><span style="background-color: transparent; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">, a book from Radical Candor’s Kim Scott. Kim is launching a company with the same name led by Trier Bryant. It’s all about recognizing, attacking, and eliminating workplace injustices. In this episode, she draws on her experiences leading DEI efforts in The United States Air Force, Goldman Sachs, Twitter, and beyond to share tangible steps the tech ecosystem can take to improve DEI.</span></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
From Air Force to Astra
03:04 MIN
Kim Scott of Radical Candor and Trier team up for Just Work
02:28 MIN
Why there hasn't been a framework for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) yet
01:33 MIN
The difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying in the workplace
04:49 MIN
Where to begin the conversation about DEI efforts
03:30 MIN
The importance of both goal setting and language
02:59 MIN
What VC firms can be doing better to support DEI initiatives
04:13 MIN
The need for data around DEI
03:45 MIN
Giving radically candid, direct feedback
02:12 MIN
Has there been meaningful progress made when it comes to DEI in the tech ecosystem?
02:58 MIN
The future of DEI
01:57 MIN

Kaitlyn Henry: Welcome to the OV Build Podcast, Building To Boss. I'm Kaitlyn Henry, an investor here at OpenView. This month, we're releasing a special mini series with women leaders across the Enterprise SAS industry who know that the path to leadership can be really challenging, but they aren't willing to let that stop them from building something great. Today we hear from Trier Bryant, the co- founder and CEO of Just Work. Just Work as a company dedicated to putting DE& I frameworks into practice. Trier founded the company with Kim Scott, an author who's widely known for her fantastic book, Radical Candor. Trier actually started her career in the air force where she was first introduced to her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion during her senior capstone project. She highlighted the lack of diversity across all of the service academies in the air force and the broader implication that that had. She spent seven years as a combat veteran in the air force before transitioning into Goldman Sachs, where she continued her work in DE& I through town acquisition. After Goldman, she moved to the tech world where she led recruiting functions for Twitter, and most recently she started her own company Pathfinder, which consults with companies on their own DE& I efforts. Just Work builds on a lot of the fantastic work Trier has done through Pathfinder and expands it even more to make DE& I frameworks accessible to companies of all shapes and sizes. In today's episode, we'll unpack the DE& I framework outlined in Just Work and how tech companies can actually put that into practice. We'll go through the importance of language and goal setting when it comes to DE& I, and how technology companies venture capital firms in the broader venture- backed ecosystem can take meaningful action on DE& I. All of that more in this episode of the Build mini series Building To Boss. Let's dive in with Trier Bryant. Welcome back to Build. I'm Kaitlyn Henry, investor at OpenView joined by the incredible Trier Bryant, CEO, and co- founder of Just Work. Trier, thanks for being here today.

Trier Bryant: Thanks for having me Kaitlyn. Really excited to be here with you.

Kaitlyn Henry: Sure. I'm really excited to have you on the podcast and especially excited that we get to chat, right, as you're starting off this new adventure with Just Work. I know you and I haven't known each other for super long in the little bit of time we have spent together, it just totally seems the purposed next step in the arc of your career. But for listeners who may be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how that is a stage for this new adventure?

Trier Bryant: Yeah, absolutely. Kind of an interesting one and, I don't know. Been all over, done a lot of things, but I actually started my career in the air force after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy, go Air Force, sink Navy, bee army. And I actually majored in systems engineering with a focus in human systems. But my first assignment, I was able to stay at the air force and implement my senior capstone project, which really highlighted the lack of diversity of all the service academies and the implication that has of the lack of diversity of officers and the officer corps with all the service academies being the largest feeder of officers. And so that was really what, I think, introduced me to my passion of diversity, equity and inclusion. So I did a combination of special projects and assignments in the air force for that coupled with my engineering deployments. So I'm a combat veteran, I've deployed all over. I've literally stepped foot on every air force installation base globally and have touched their infrastructure and their communication systems. And then after that, after seven years, over seven years of playing in the sandbox, as we like to call it with my deployments, I transitioned to Goldman Sachs. So I had the opportunity to work on wall street at Goldman and continuing my work in the DE& I space particularly with talent acquisition. So that was a really amazing place for me to transition as a veteran and really understand what it's like to be a civilian, right? I was very comfortable as Captain Bryant in the air force, but then what did it mean to be Trier Bryant, the professional civilian sector? So after three years at Goldman, I really started to see that that's when there was a lot of conversations around the lack of diversity in tech, it's a pipeline problem and it seemed to me that tech as an industry wasn't even really doing the bare minimum low hanging fruit that I would think when it came to strategies and initiatives to really make their workplaces not only reflect diversity, but also to be very inclusive so that professionals could really thrive in those environments. And so I came out to tech on a whim, had different offers from different organizations, but landed up at Twitter. So I was at Twitter where I led several of the recruiting functions and got to work on some brand strategy projects as well. The one that I'm most proud of is the Black Panther activation with Twitter working with Disney and Marvel Studios which was super exciting and fantastic. And then post Twitter, after being there for about two and a half years, I have really started to consult with a lot of different companies and then take on people leadership roles as the VP of people or chief people officer at various startups including the last one, Astra. They're doing some really exciting things, launching rockets into orbit, and then some really exciting things going on with them from a company perspective and so my last role was a chief people officer there at Astra.

Kaitlyn Henry: Awesome. That's a super interesting path, again, just the variety of experiences that you had. No wonder you've got such a well- rounded view on DE& I as a practice. I think what's super exciting is last week, Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor, released her new book, Just Work, and announced that the two of you are founding a company based off of some of the concepts. Can you tell us a little bit more about what Just Work is and what mission you're setting out to accomplish with the company?

Trier Bryant: Absolutely. So I am super excited about this new endeavor that Kim wrote the book, Just Work, and so we've co- founded the company, Just Work the company. But what Kim does incredibly well for those of you who have read Radical Candor, I know a lot of folks are real big fans of that, and the framework or two by two and Radical Candor. Kim is just so exceptional at taking really complex things that it's hard to name and putting a framework around it so that you can name it and then solve for it, the issues that are stemming from it. And so after she wrote Radical Candor, she actually started getting feedback from underrepresented professionals that were like, " Look, Kim, we know it's probably difficult for you to have Radical Candor amongst your male peers, but I, as a non white woman..." particularly it was a black woman CEO in tech where we know that there are just too few of, and this black woman CEO said, " As a black woman, it's even that much harder for me to have Radical Candor in the workplace, without someone putting the angry black woman stereotype and tagging that with me." And so this really got Kim's attention and Kim was inspired by this because she had this frustration that, " Hey, people aren't able to equitably and equally use the tips and pointers as she provides as framework in Radical Candor because of workplace injustices. And so that was really what inspired her to write Just Work. How do we have more Just Workplaces and get rid of all the crap, get rid of all the noise and just work. That's what we all want. And so when I read the book and started talking to Kim, I was just like, " We need this right now, this framework in organizations, how do we get this in companies?" And she was like, " Trier, I'm all about the theory, but you're about how do you put this into practice. So let's start a company where we can do that." And so that's what we're doing and it's been incredibly exciting and it's just so powerful.

Kaitlyn Henry: Yeah. I absolutely love the framework approach that we've seen in Radical Candor and there's so many other areas of our lives where we've applied different frameworks. And like you said, tech in particular, I know we were having this conversation the other day, tech loves frameworks. Why hasn't there been a framework for the DE& I yet?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. That's a great question and I would say that maybe, for example, with Pathfinder, we use the framework of really understanding the employee life cycle from start to finish, right? Attract, hire, onboard, develop, engage, retain, and off- board. And then what are all the ways that there's DE& I initiatives or programs within that? So that's a framework that we use, but if we really think about it, there's not a go- to framework when we talk about workplace injustices or inclusion in the workspace. And so I don't know why there hasn't been one, but I'm excited that as more people use the Just Work framework, which I'd to get into in a second, that others will be inspired to create more simplistic frameworks that we can really just stick our teeth into and have as a guide, as an anchor, as we're continuing to do this work. As an industry, we need to just get away from talking about all the problems with diversity and all the ways that we've" tried to move the needle" but it hasn't worked and really start getting actionable, getting tactical and doing some actionable solutions. And so we know that frameworks, like you said, startups and organizations who love frameworks, there's frameworks for leadership, there's frameworks for product and engineering, literally everything else that organizations are doing. And so that's what's really exciting about the Just Work framework. For me is to get this into organizations for leaders to understand this and start using it.

Kaitlyn Henry: So tell us a little bit about the Just Work framework. I don't want to give away too many of the surprises in the book, but at a high level, how does the framework work and how do people begin going about applying it?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. So there's a couple of different aspects to it, but high level. When we're talking about workplace injustices, it's really hard to name our experiences. What was really interesting for me is I've had a very different perspective on even my career and things that I've gone through as a professional, or even how I've shown up as a leader, understanding and being able to name what's happening. So the Just Work framework is very easy. There's a lot of layers to it, but at a high level, it comes down to bias, prejudice and bullying. So bias is when someone doesn't mean it. Prejudice is when someone means it and bullying is when someone is just mean. Now for me, Kaitlyn, bullying was the really aha moment as my auntie Oprah likes to say, because I had never thought that I had been bullied in my career. If you would have said, " Trier, have you been bullied?" I would be like, " Have you met me? Of course I haven't been bullied," right? Air force officer, Air Force Academy grad, I've worked on wall street, I can roll with the toughest in the workplace. But when I really started digging to this framework and learn more about it with Kim, I was just really shocked and kind of just off- centered. It really just pushed me to say, " Wow, Trier, you actually have been bullied a lot in your career." So let me give you a couple of examples to contextualize what these three things mean. So for example, bias happens all the time. I remember once I was in an Uber on my way to work at Twitter because I walk nowhere and the driver was asking me where my destination was and I told them, " Oh, Twitter HQ. I work there." And the driver responded with, " Oh, Twitter has a call center?" And I was like, " No, Twitter actually doesn't have a call center. And I'm a recruiting leader, I work on the people leadership team and this is what I really do at Twitter." And so after I explained to him what I did in particular with recruiting, he was very eager to work at Twitter or work for me. So what's interesting about that, the difference between bias and prejudice is had he not wanted to work with me because I was a black woman, that would be prejudice, he would be meaning that, but it was bias because he didn't mean it and I had to call it out, right? I think it's important to show up and call that out so that we can grow and learn from those type of situations. So prejudice is meaning it. So I worked at a company once where I was interviewing for another leader on the team and I had the opportunity to interview this black woman. And when she walked in for the interview, I was just captivated by her hair. She had the most beautiful healthy hair I've ever seen. I asked for her hair care regimen, everything. At the end of the day when we did the debrief for this candidate, the hiring manager said, " Yeah, great feedback. We would to hire her, but unfortunately we're not going to be able to hire because we can't put her in front of the business." And so I really dug into that and I pushed the hiring manager to understand, and the hiring manager doubled down and said, " Well, Trier, we can't put her in front of the business with that hair. Her hair doesn't look ours." Now, Kaitlyn, at the time I had my extensions in and I wasn't wearing my natural hair out, but my natural hair looked just like this black woman and this woman did not ultimately get that job. And this is an organization that is known for hiring people for their talent and nowhere in the job description did anything call out how you wear your hair. But that's an example of prejudice, right, because that hiring manager meant that. They had a bias, but they meant it and they double downed on it. And ultimately that person didn't get hired. Versus bullying. Goodness, I could tell you all kinds of bullying stories and I'm sure that if we all think about it, just instances where people are just mean have happened in the workplace. And so one that really just stands out to me is there was a very large conference where we would go and make a lot of hires at a company that I worked for and a senior woman engineer came to the debrief where we wanted to get feedback, but she brought five other people to the debrief that actually didn't go to the conference. And before coming to the debrief, she told them all the bad feedback that she wanted them to say in the debrief. Now it wasn't until after the debrief that my team called out, " Hey, those five people that were talking a lot about that negative feedback that they so called experience, they didn't even attend the conference." And so that was really bullying because this senior woman leader was really just trying to make it seem as if my team hadn't done a good job, that I hadn't done a good job, and really just infiltrated my debrief with these other five people with negative things that they didn't even experience or didn't occur. So that's the high level simple framework of bias, prejudice, and bullying. And then there's another layer when you add power on top of it and then that is where you have discrimination, harassment, and then a violation of physical touch.

Kaitlyn Henry: So as I'm listening to you describe the framework, it sounds like the thesis is really that none of these things exist in a silo, right? It's not just about addressing bias or addressing bullying or addressing prejudice. Really, it's a moving thing. And they all work together, which makes a lot of sense, but admittedly, it can be super intimidating for someone who's really just setting out on their DE& I journey. When you're talking to someone really in the early stages of that, where do you tell them to even start? Where do folks begin the conversation knowing that it's such a complex full- fledged issue?

Trier Bryant: I think that is the power of the framework is you have to name it because as Kimberle Crenshaw said, " Who is the creator of intersectionality?" She says, " If you can't name it, you can't solve for it." So I think one of the problems with workplace injustices is that we don't know how to name it. We don't know how to name bias. We don't know how to name prejudice. We don't know how to name bullying. And so by saying, " Hey, bias is not meaning it, prejudice is meaning it, bullying is just quite frankly being mean," now we can name it. And then once we name it, then in the book, we go into detail of what you do with it, how do you solve for it? So as a leader showing up, you know that there's bias, then you need to interrupt bias, how do you call it out? And if you're a person who is being harmed in that moment how do you respond to that? And so we talk about using I statements. So using I- statements with bias and then for leaders to have bias interrupters to interrupt bias. With prejudice, the solution around prejudice and how you combat prejudice is you need to have what we can call a code of conduct. But basically what that means in the workplace is that we need to articulate and communicate where the line is. We need to manage people's expectations as far as how to behave in the workplace and then what happens if you cross that line. We have to make sure that people know where that line is in their conduct and their behavior so that people can believe what they want, but there's a line of pushing what you believe onto others where it may cause harm. And so also, when prejudice, if you are again the person on the receiving end being harmed by that prejudice, that's when the moment where you can use an it statement. And so you can call it out if you don't know what to say by using an it statement like, " Hey, it's unprofessional or it's not okay to not hire someone because of their hair, and actually in the state of California, it's illegal." California was the first state that passed the Crown Act that protects people, that protects employees and professionals from being discriminated against because of how they wear their hair. With bullying, right, there has to be consequences. That's how we solve for bullying. And we know that that's challenging. Look, I know that that's challenging even as a previous chief people officer, it's really hard when you've identified the bully in the organization, but sometimes that's the person that may be driving the most impact, do the most work, really high performer. But if they're harming people along the way of doing their work, you have to get them out of your organization. There has to be consequences, and those can be consequences, conversational consequences of taking away their platform, those can be compensation consequences, right, of compensation like bonuses, or they could be career consequences. Career consequences are when you end that person's career, termination, right? Or demoting them or taking away a team, but there has to be consequences. And if you're on the receiving end of the bullying and the person that's being harmed, a you statement is something that we recommend to say. To say, " Hey, you can't say that to me. You were being in professional in that moment. You need to correct that behavior." So those are just some of the things, and we go into much more detail in the book of how we provide solutions and tactics for not only leaders and those who need to think about how do you prevent this from happening in your organizations, but then also for the person being harmed as well.

Kaitlyn Henry: That makes a lot of sense. I know you and I have talked before about this idea of specificity when it comes to both language and even frameworks for DE& I, and just listening to you talk, I can definitely see where there would be room for specificity in this framework, right. It's very easy to perhaps say, " Hey be nice to your colleagues," right? Or, " Don't use racial slurs." There's some really high level things that folks can do, but this idea of specificity honestly is where at least in my own life I've seen a lot of people kind of fall apart when it comes to really taking DE& I initiatives to the next level. Can you just talk a little bit about the importance of specificity when it comes to both language and goal setting for DE& I?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. So it's a great question and thank you for asking it Kaitlyn because we see this too often, especially with language, right, and we've talked about this with OpenView. Language we find is the number one barrier to these conversations that make some people feel uncomfortable, these uncomfortable conversations in the workplace or even at home. And so once we can get comfortable with language, it really opens the door to just have much more transparent and empathetic dialogue. And so what we know is that language like, " Do I say black? Do I say African- American? Hispanic Latinx? What does the Latinx mean? LGBTQIA? What does all that mean?" And so what I would encourage folks to do is just, step one, is to get familiar with language and to name it right? One of the things that we actually discuss at Pathfinder and we talk a lot about with organizations that we work with is not using the term people of color or women of color. I know another term that has become more prominent is BIPOC. And so people of color, women of color or black indigenous people of color, we prefer not to use those terms and don't use those terms because to your point, it's not specific. So to say, " Oh, we're going to hire more people of color." Well, what does that mean? Be specific. So for example, in tech, Asians are absolutely people of color, but some Asians may not identify in that way. And so there's a company that said, " Hey, over 30% of our organization are people of color." But when you dug into the numbers, 90% of that 30% were Asian professionals, right. That's not a diverse workplace or workforce, so let's actually name it and talk about it. So if you are talking about nonwhite professionals, then just say, nonwhite. If you're talking about black professionals, Hispanic Latinx, indigenous, Middle Eastern, whatever it is, just name it and get comfortable with that. Same thing with I think in this space with the LGBTQIA community, one of the things is just there's a lot of nuance there. And if you don't feel comfortable and you're not familiar with all of it, just know that queer is the umbrella term, not gay. Gay is actually very specific to mean someone who identifies as a man having attraction to someone else who identifies as a man. And so it's really not inclusive. And so a lot of people will say, " Oh, we have a lot of gay employees." Maybe you do, but that's different than someone who may identify as being queer or lesbian or transgender. And so it's really important to just name it and be specific with language. And if you aren't familiar with that, there are resources out there that you can get educated and be informed and also to have those conversations being specific. So again if you want to invest more in underrepresented founders, what does that mean? Does that mean women founders? Does that mean Latinx founders? Does that mean first- generation founders? Does it mean Asian founders, right? It doesn't matter, but be specific when you're setting your goals and when you're having these conversations.

Kaitlyn Henry: I want to dig in a little bit more on VC specifically since you mentioned it there. You've been working with OpenView to help us improve DE& I. In many aspects of our business, from the founders we back to the investors we hire to the LPs we support. I think you've mentioned before that VC is in an interesting position in that we both have our own team of investors who can practice DE& I in many ways, but we also interact with a number of startups and support a number of startups financially where there perhaps could also be impact there. In your mind for VC, what are some of the things that VC could be doing a lot better to support DE& I?

Trier Bryant: Yeah, there's a lot of things. Look, it's layered. There's a lot of things that VCs can be doing, but I think the first part is you have to measure it, right. And what's so interesting is there are so many people that will tell themselves as being, " I am very data- driven. I am very data- driven," but then so hesitant and reluctant to actually measure bias. To measure the inclusion or lack there of. To measure the diversity within a portfolio of the conversations that you've been having, right? And so like I think OpenView, you all track all types of data and so it was really easy to dig into that data and then actually look at, hey, where there's areas for improvement. So that's the first place to start? What is the data telling you, right? Then the second thing is that what we found with a lot of organizations is that it's not what do, it's how you do it, right? And so when it comes to strategies and initiatives, there's nothing that I could tell an organization that I'd be like, " Oh, I've never heard that," or" We've never thought about that," but it's really about how you do it. The intensity in which you do it, the commitment, the level of how you show up and do it. So for example, if you want to do an event and invite underrepresented founders and start building those relationships, think about who are the speakers that you're going to put in front of this group. Hopefully in this post COVID world, when we get back to being around each other closer than a six feet distance, right, if you're going to have catering, what's the catering that you select, right? Who are the speakers that you have show up? I'll give a very specific example where there's two different companies that had a recruiting event during black history month to build relationships with black professionals. Each of the companies served fried chicken. Except for one company that served fried chicken, people tweeted about it and it went viral a little bit about how it was racist, that they were serving black people fried chicken at this event and they also didn't have black leaders show up and they didn't have a panel with any black people speaking. So black professionals walked into this company organization, they didn't see any faces that looked like them and you served fried chicken, fine, and people were offended. However, there's another company that basically did the exact same type of event, but how they did it was very different. Yes, they served fried chicken, but they actually partnered with a well- known black chef and bought copies of his cookbook, gave it to all the attendees, had the chef there present talking about his recipe for fried chicken, and then how they were going to start using that recipe to serve it in the cafeteria for this company. They had all of their black leaders in the organization show up also including non- black leaders and be present. And the panel actually had people that were black professionals that worked at the company talking about their experiences. So this is an example where two companies both did a recruiting event, did similar things, but it's how they executed that made it different. And the fried chicken at the second organization, that went viral too, and now people want to go to this company because they know when they have events, they have their signature fried chicken and waffles dish that people absolutely love. So there's a tax to it and there's a sensitivity to it and there's an inclusive way to do these things. And so what I would encourage VCs to do is to one, start with the data and measure it, but then two, it's not what you do, it's how you do it. And to be thoughtful and intentional when you're looking to make improvements within inclusion and also diversity.

Kaitlyn Henry: Trier, that definitely resonates with me. I mean, even just last week, I was talking to a group of aspiring investors and I had to look them in the eye and say even though 23% of venture rounds in 2020 had at least one female founder on the team, when I looked back at my own pipeline and the investments I looked at this year, only 7. 9% of those had a female founder. And that's coming from someone who feels qualitatively that I champion female founders and make a point to do that. It just was so stark to me that the data says one thing and your own feelings can say and other, so I totally agree, it's incredibly important to focus on the data.

Trier Bryant: Yeah. And the first exercise is, as I said, OpenView is in a great place of tracking that data, but a lot of organizations say, " Okay, well, let's go look at the data." The data doesn't exist. Does that mean that you just tap out and say, " We don't have the data?" No, you start collecting the data, right, because you can't hold people accountable if you're not measuring that. So start collecting the data, ask the questions of, " Hey, three months from now a quarter from now, six months, a year from now, what stories do we want to be able to tell and what data do we need to tell those stories?" It means we're tracking that data.

Kaitlyn Henry: Yeah, definitely. One thing you said is that as an organization, you really need to commit to these initiatives and I think something that I hear from my peers in VC, in tech companies, especially honestly, smaller organizations, is that the level of commitment for these initiatives can perhaps vary. You often have folks who maybe there's a group of just a few people who are really excited and want to do something about this, but another group who says, " Hey, this may not make it to level one, two or three on our priority list." In those situations where there's perhaps a group of people who are really excited and want to do something about DE& I but perhaps that enthusiasm isn't shared equally across the company, what do you recommend folks do? How do you gain momentum in that sort of scenario?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. One of the things I'm so appreciative of, Kaitlyn, is that I started doing this work in an organization that had a business case. So starting in the military, right, a lot of folks want to talk about diversity and equity and inclusion because it's the right thing to do. Yes, it is the right thing to do, but let's be serious. People are focused on the bottom line and so you have to understand your business case. And in the military, there was a very strong business case for why diversity was important and why they wanted diverse officers because they had diverse, enlisted troops, and they wanted them to lead those enlisted troops. And there was others as well. And then pivoting to Goldman where Goldman doesn't just have one business case, they have multiple business cases for diversity and inclusion across the board. I will give you an example. I remember the first time when their private wealth business came and they said, " Trier, we are losing business in the South with the casinos where a lot of the casinos are on native indigenous reservations." And there was other banks that actually had native private wealth advisors and Goldman didn't. And Goldman said, "Trier, you need to go find native private wealth advisors," and we did because they saw that they were missing the business because they didn't have people that could relate to them and understand culturally what their needs were from a private wealth advisor perspective. So I encourage folks to what is your business case behind DE& I. And if you're not familiar, there is research. There's research, after research, after research, that just talks about the importance of DE& I, and the impact that it has to revenue. More innovative teams, stronger performances, right? So the data and the research is there, but you should get specific, right. And I just think that there's too many opportunities. There's too many examples, I think, of founders that have just been overlooked, underestimated, and that need to really have an opportunity to just be invested in and take a look at. One of the things I think that Kaitlyn and I, you and I have talked about is I find it so interesting that in a lot of black and brown communities, if you want to start a business, it's a small business, right? You're like, " Hey, I'm thinking about starting a business." You bootstrap, you scrape up some money, but no one's thinking about it being VC backed because there's a lack of education there, right? But yet out here in Silicon Valley, out in the Bay Area, out in Boston, in these kind of centers as ecosystems for tech and VC, when someone has an idea instantly, you're going to start thinking about, " Hey, how do I get the funding? Where do I find my angel investors? And then when can I start raising my series ABC so forth and so on." And so I think that there's actually a huge opportunity there. How do we get in those communities and educate people about what being a VC back company is, what it means. What it means that people will give you money just for an idea. I have so many friends that will come to me and say, " Oh, I need to have a product first." Are you kidding me? Do you know how many people out here, right, in the VC tech ecosystem that get funding because of an idea and then they take that funding and then they can actually go and build that product? So there's a gap in education and awareness where people can really, I think, do some work and really make strides to be helpful in this space, but I would really just start with the business case as to why you're focused on it, because the good thing to do, the right thing to do will go out the window the first time you have a bearish quarter or a bearish year. When you focus on your bottom line and your business case, that is a solid anchor that you can consistently hold folks accountable too.

Kaitlyn Henry: Absolutely. I think I heard someone mention the term inspiration capital one time as a way to talk about the fact that there are certain communities within the VC world where this idea of a venture backable startup, and taking something to be a billion dollar exit, that's really well known because you've seen people around you who have talked about it, who have said it. But to your point, when there's lack of education and when VC in particular does a really purposeful job of closing off their practices and what they look for and everything that, when you keep it close to the chest, you really just discourage the ability for this information to spread across a wider variety of people. So that absolutely resonated with me.

Trier Bryant: Yeah.

Kaitlyn Henry: I have a question I'm thinking about asking, and let me know if you think this is relevant. It's come up a couple of times, even in my own mentorship relationships with people specifically, as it relates to your point, really making a point to stand up when you see behavior that is not okay and enforcing that. And there's a group of personalities who I would say are more forward, more aggressive, more type A, whatever you want to call it, for whom that's a really easy task. And then there's groups of folks who perhaps are just by nature of their personality, perhaps a little bit more passive or a little bit more timid. And I've always personally struggled with how to mentor and advise those in my circles who are perhaps a more passive personality type just because I think they are pretty hard conversations to have and while it may be natural for someone like you or like me, Trier, to say, " Hey, here's what I saw from you, here's why I didn't it, and here's what I think you could do better next time." That's actually really challenging for a lot of people if that call it forwardness doesn't come naturally to you. Is that relevant? Is that something that you've thought about before?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting that he would ask the question because when I typically get these type of questions, I point to Radical Candor, I point to Kim Scott's first book of just giving you the tools and the framework of how to provide that radical candor. How gives you the language to give that feedback and to have those conversations that some may find difficult. Look, I think that the big thing that I focus on is I remember the first time I was a second Lieutenant, I think I was two years into my air force career and I had a colonel pull me aside and just give me some very direct feedback. And I was incredibly appreciative and I said, " No one's ever told me this." And he was like, " Well, Trier, a lot of people are intimidated by you." And he was like, " And people are going to continue to be intimidated by you as a black woman who is very comfortable of giving their opinion and can be very direct in their communication as well and feeling confident of my area of expertise." And that really just made an impact on me. And what I took away from that is that I have to take it upon myself to make sure that I'm getting the feedback that I need. So when I meet with people, before you even may have an opportunity to be like, " Oh, I want to give Trier feedback, but I'm not quite sure. Oh, she's intimidating, how will she take it?" If we're going to start a project, before we even start a project, I'll say, " Kaitlyn, hey, really excited to work on this with you, by the way, I really value and appreciate direct feedback. In the moment feed time, tell me what I may be doing well so I can reinforce that, and then areas where I can get better and grow and develop." So how would that make you feel if we're entering in a project or entering in a relationship, and I opened up the relationship like that? It's going to make you feel more comfortable to approach that person and to give that person feedback. The other thing is that when I work with people that might be a little more introverted and aren't saying a lot, I have found that the way you ask questions is very powerful. So, for example, I know a lot of people, if you do workshops, you facilitate and teachers, if you notice, if someone says, " Hey, does anyone have any questions?" A lot of times people won't ask them. But making a small change in your language and saying, " Okay, now that we've gotten through that slide of that content, what questions do you have for me? Kaitlyn, what's the question that you have?" It's much more inviting for people to ask questions and engage with you in that way.

Kaitlyn Henry: Do you think there's been real progress when it comes to meaningful improvements in DE& I in the tech community and maybe even corporate America more largely? I guess it's hard to really answer that in a totally binary way, but in what areas do you think there has been progress, in what areas is this progress still remaining?

Trier Bryant: Yeah. Well, I think that we need to continue to do this work. What I tell people is that as long as there's a majority, there will always be a minority and this work is not a sprint, but it's also not a marathon. And for those of us who have run a marathon, we know that a marathon ends, right, which is a good thing, but it's a journey. And so it's work that we have to do every day. We have to do this work every day. We need to be committed to it every day and you have to show up, right? It's the same thing that I would love to just go to the gym one day a year for three hours and just knock out that workout and I'm in shape, but it doesn't work that, right? You workout every other day, multiple times a week, and it's your constant commitment. And so it's the same thing when we think about the work that we have to do when it comes to DE& I. Now have we made improvements? We've made strides, we've taken step forwards in some areas and we've taken step backs. I think though is again, if you think about your employee life cycle, what I encourage folks to do is there are organizations that are absolutely getting it right when it comes to hiring and attracting talent, right? They're doing some very exciting things and they're really winning when it comes to top of funnel and employer brand is a place where underrepresented professionals may want to work. However, there might be a different organization that's really getting retention rates or maybe getting engagement right or developing right. So I don't think that there's an organization that I point to that says, " Hey, we're getting it right in every area." But I do think that depending on where your priorities are and an assessment of what's going on with your employees, where you need to really double down and spend time with a targeted group, where you need to make that commitment, getting it right is important. And so it needs to be a phased approach. We're not going to win if we're trying to boil the ocean, right, and I think that a lot of companies, they try to do too much and then say, " Oh, we try to do all these things, and then the numbers didn't move. But hey, we're trying." I feel like diversity reports, annual diversity reports, and some companies do them quarterly now is a annual and quarterly report of all the things we" tried" but to me, trying is lying. I was raised in a family where my mom always said, " Trying is lying, just do it." And so we need organizations to say, " We're going to start here. We're going to have a phased approach. We know where we want to commit. This is how we're going to measure it. This is how we're going to hold ourselves accountable and then we're going to continue to do more and more as we progress. And then to start showing real results where they are going to put the time and energy so.

Kaitlyn Henry: One of the reasons why I love working with founders is founders in my mind have some vision or thing they want to manifest in the world, and they're really playing an active role in going out and being that change they want to see in the world. For you as a founder yourself, what does the future of DE& I look like?

Trier Bryant: Yeah, I think going back to Just Work, when I reflected on my career, whether it was in the military, on wall street, even here in tech, we all want the same thing that companies want, right? We want to be able to show up and do our best work and perform and do great work that we're passionate about, that we care about, that we're good at. And organizations want us to do our best work, right? And it's so interesting that how the company and a professional both want the same thing, but something gets in the way, and those are workplace injustices. And the sooner that we can prevent those things from happening the better off that everyone will be because everyone has a role. So whether you're the person being harmed or what we call in the book and upstander which is a bystander who actually intervenes because a bystander is passive and upstander is active, a person who causes harm or a leader, everyone has a role. And so my vision and my call to action for everyone is to understand what's going on in the workplace, understand your role, and then step in and act. So choose a response if you are the person being harmed, intervene by being an upstander, listen and address if you're the person who's causing harm and someone's giving you that feedback. And then as a leader, prevent these workplace injustices from occurring. Because the sooner that we do that, the sooner that people will be able to optimize for people's performance. People can come and show up holistically as themselves at work and really just do best work, because that's what we want is to Just Work. And we can get there. I'm confident that we can get there. It's not going to be easy and we just have to commit to it.

Kaitlyn Henry: Well, Trier, this has been such an incredible conversation. I know this is really difficult stuff, but there's a lot here that I think we can all take away and hopefully do better in our day- to- day lives. Certainly here at OpenView, a lot that we want to incorporate. Before I let you go, we've got a couple of slightly more fun, quick rapid fire questions that I just want to ask you.

Trier Bryant: Okay.

Kaitlyn Henry: All right. Who is your female role model and why?

Trier Bryant: Beyonce.

Kaitlyn Henry: Why?

Trier Bryant: Because everyone has 24 hours in a day, but look at what she does with it. Now, granted, yes, she has a team, but that should also just motivate and inspire you to build exceptional teams around you. Beyonce.

Kaitlyn Henry: What keeps you up at night?

Trier Bryant: What keeps me up at night? More recently, the mental health of black women. I think that it really is concerning to me of things that I feel like I have seen my close friends go through myself, go through, and my mentees. Especially people who are starting out in their careers, maybe five years, less years work experience, but particularly mental health in the workplace, how it shows up, how we ignore it, how we don't see it, how we choose to just look the other way. But the mental health of black women, it keeps me up at night right now.

Kaitlyn Henry: What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Trier Bryant: Best piece of advice that I've gotten and I think this is important in sharing. Best piece of advice that I got from a white male general when I was in the air force is, " Trier, you should have three types of mentors. You should have a mentor that is a technical expert of whatever it is that you're doing. So whatever your role is from a technical perspective, find someone who is an expert of that. The second one is to find mentors who look you so that you can get real feedback from them and advice from them that will resonate with you." So for example, if I feel like I'm experiencing a workplace injustice because I'm a woman, if I go to a man and ask for advice on that and they say, No, Trier, it's not happening because you're a woman," I'm going to be like, " You can't relate, right?" So go find mentors that have the same intersections and identities as you. So for me, I have mentors that are women. I have mentors that are black. I have mentors that are black women. I had mentors that are vets. I have mentors that come from wall street, financial services. So find mentors that have the same intersections and identities as you. And then the third is to have mentors that are where you want to be. Success leaves clues, so I knew that I wanted to be a CEO one day. I knew that I wanted to found my own company. I knew that I wanted to be a thought leader in the DE& I space, but I have mentors that are doing all those things. And I know how they got there and not to say that that has to be my journey, but success leaves clues. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. Learn from people's successes, but also learn from people's failures. So that's one of the best pieces of advice that I've ever got.

Kaitlyn Henry: I love it. Last question. What would your superpower be?

Trier Bryant: Oh, if I had a super power, my super power would be to dismantle white supremacy.

Kaitlyn Henry: I love it. Yes. Best super power ever.

Trier Bryant: I would take that and I would go to work. That would be it.

Kaitlyn Henry: That's amazing. Well, Trier, thank you again for taking the time and chatting with us, this has been amazing.

Trier Bryant: Kaitlyn, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Kaitlyn Henry: Thanks for listening to this episode of the OV Build Podcast, Building To Boss. We hope you learned as much as we did. We'd love to hear what you think about the show. Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and subscribe to stay up to date with all the new episodes. If you're looking for more OpenView content, feel free to follow me, Kaitlyn Henry, on LinkedIn. See you next time here on OV Build.


Tech companies love a good framework, and there seems to be frameworks abound for every aspect of company building except diversity, equity, and inclusion. Enter Just Work, a book from Radical Candor’s Kim Scott. Kim is launching a company with the same name led by Trier Bryant. It’s all about recognizing, attacking, and eliminating workplace injustices. In this episode, she draws on her experiences leading DEI efforts in The United States Air Force, Goldman Sachs, Twitter, and beyond to share tangible steps the tech ecosystem can take to improve DEI.

Key Takeaways:

[2:29] Trier shares about her background.

[5:50] What is Just Work? What mission is Trier setting out to accomplish with the company?

[8:11] Why hasn’t there been a framework for DEI yet?

[9:53] How does a framework work and how do people begin going about applying it?

[10:15] Trier explains the difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying.

[14:39] Where do folks begin the conversation about DE&I, knowing that it's such a complex full-fledged issue?

[19:17] Trier talks about the importance of specificity when it comes to both language and goal setting for DEI.

[22:53] What are some of the things that VC could be doing a lot better to support DEI?

[27:01] Trier and Kaitlyn talk about the incredible importance of data.

[28:05] The level of commitment to DEI initiatives can sometimes vary, where there's a group of people who are really excited and want to do something about it, but perhaps that enthusiasm isn't shared equally across the company, How can momentum be gained in that sort of scenario?

[34:08] Trier talks about the case of people who find it harder to confront others and call out on their unacceptable/offensive behavior.

[36:42] Trier shares her thoughts about the progress when it comes to meaningful improvements in DEI, in the tech community, and even in corporate America more largely.

[39:50] What does the future of DEI look like for Trier?

[42:04] Rapid-fire questions.

Today's Host

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Blake Bartlett

|Partner at OpenView

Today's Guests

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Trier Bryant

|CEO and Co-Founder at Just Work