Career Nav #57: Think Like A Founder: Creating Inclusion Within Company DNA

Career Nav #57: Think Like A Founder: Creating Inclusion Within Company DNA

Written by WWC Team



Cait Sarazin, Trauma Informed Somatic Coach, sits down with Marie Roker-Jones, Chief Curiosity and Innovation Officer, Curious Culture LLC. They discuss the importance of DE&I being inclusive workspaces versus only diverse hiring practices, how boundaries are a part of self-care, and how to avoid imposter syndrome.

Can you walk us through how you got to where you are today?

Most of my career has been a little bit eclectic. I’ve taken different routes, and mostly, it’s because I’m a military spouse. My husband’s done multiple deployments. I’ve dabbled in different industries, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve always had an interest in social impact and making a difference. Every job I’ve had in my career has focused on how I contribute to making a difference and how we continue to bring others into the fold so they can be part of a social impact movement.

You shared on Twitter how inclusion and belonging need to be ingrained in a company’s culture and values and how diversity is great, but are companies ready to focus on inclusion? Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?

Many companies start with a thought about creating a DE&I initiative, but the focus is usually on diversity and who they will hire. The emphasis needs to be on inclusion and belonging. Once you hire someone, what will you do to ensure they feel like they’re included? What will you do to ensure your team creates a trusted and psychologically safe environment for that person? What are they doing to look at the intersection of the different types of diversity? It’s not just a Black woman or Black man or a Latina. It’s people with disabilities and those who are LGBTQ. It is about being mindful of what inclusion and belonging look like for them.

Do you have any examples when this has been done well?

I don’t know all companies, but in my personal experience, no. I haven’t met a company that nailed it on inclusion. I’m sure there’s some out there. I would love to hear how they’re doing it. It’s not about measuring metrics but how they create that space for people.

Do you think part of the reason for that is that often, DE&I work is thought of as an afterthought versus the core of how companies are built?

Yes. I think that’s a significant part of it. Lately, there’s been this talk about DE&I being great for business and innovation, but it has to be part of a company’s DNA. It’s got to be ingrained and really part of their mission and values and not just an afterthought.

What has your experience been like as a woman in tech?

Being a founder in tech has been very interesting because, in one way, I’m in a place where I’m listening and hearing from other women and their experiences. It helps me as a founder to be more intentional and mindful when speaking to hiring managers and other tech companies about why it’s important to create these inclusive work cultures. I get to speak to these women and understand how they feel. Even though I’ve been in different industries, it’s always the same story about feeling like an outsider or as if you’re not valued or respected. For me, it’s thinking not just about myself as a founder and as a Black woman but also about the women trying to get into tech and find these jobs. How do I help them?

How have your community, advocates, and supporters impacted your career?

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had a great support network and system. My co-founder is now a White male and an ally. I feel comfortable enough to be myself. I feel comfortable enough to share my truth. I’ve felt that for many years starting with the Goodman Project. That built the foundation for me to really feel that I can own my space. I can be true to myself without having to think about how others perceive me or the assumptions they’re making about me. I’m thankful for that. I’ve had different experiences with maybe clients and customers, but I have to say that the work I’ve been doing has been good.

How do you keep yourself from running on empty and taking care of yourself?

Setting and enforcing boundaries and this is not something I always knew how to do. I had to really learn. There’s something great about getting older and being more mature, and being able to speak your mind. It’s great I can say to my co-founder, “I’m going to take a couple of hours because I’ve had a long day and a rough day, and I need to just disconnect.” I do not feel bad about it. Also, being honest with my family. You can’t help anyone if you’re running on empty. Just be mindful of what I need, whether it’s an emotional or mental health break. I need to give myself back some of what I’ve given out. Otherwise, there’s nothing for me to give, and I won’t be effective and unable to be the leader I want to be.

Are there any women in tech in history or today that have inspired your career?

Arlen Hamilton and that’s because she’s a VC. I think her story is so unique. To see how she’s moved up and created a space for overlooked and underrepresented founders. It gives hope to other Black women. I love reading her stuff on Twitter. I think she has a really great sense of humor. I would say seeing her career trajectory and writing the book and everything she’s done is inspiring.

 Do you have any advice for other women in tech?

Write down your accomplishments and know that these are things you’ve done. If you write your accomplishments and look them over, you’ll be astonished at all that you’ve done. It’s not bragging. You won’t have imposter syndrome if you could back it up with your accomplishments. It’s so funny how even for myself, imposter syndrome creeps up. Just keep reminding yourself and have something you can look at, that you can go back to and say, nope, I did all of these things in the past. 

Show Notes


Guest: Marie Roker-Jones, Chief Curiosity and Innovation Officer, Curious Culture LLC
Host: Cait Sarazin, Trauma Informed Somatic Coach