Main illustration: Joshuah X. Miranda
Inclusive workplaces are created. They don’t materialize out of thin air, and they aren’t a guaranteed byproduct of financial success. A welcoming office is sparked by a sense of wanting to belong, one that must be nurtured.
We foster belonging at Intercom by celebrating our differences. We believe in giving expression to our full depth as human beings – both in and outside of the office. And as a result, we’ve created a welcoming environment to explore things that might be unfamiliar to some of us but important to our colleagues.
Our workplace experience team and our employee community groups, Inter-Diversity and Inter-Women, have been champions of this work. Through thoughtfully curated events, we provide opportunities for learning and growth. It’s these experiences, grounded in better understanding each other, that help to create a more inclusive office for us.
Here’s how we fostered a deeper sense of belonging through recent events.
Starting the year with inclusive storytelling
Stories are powerful. By transporting us into someone else’s world, they introduce us to new ideas, cultivate empathy for those who are different from us and ultimately help build bridges across that difference.
“It’s a time to remember the past and nurture hope and good fortune for the year to come”
We wanted stories to be at the center of our Lunar New Year event. Lunar New Year is celebrated by nearly one-sixth of the world’s population, and for many of us at Intercom, it’s a time to remember the past and nurture hope and good fortune for the year to come.
Inter-Diversity invited our colleagues to share their family traditions as part of a slideshow for the event. People recalled big family dinners with lots of food – noodles for longevity, fish for prosperity and oranges for abundance. They told stories about returning home, passing out red envelopes, or hong bao (红包), and making offerings to their ancestors and deities.
We even practiced bringing those big family dinners to life. In our San Francisco office, we invited people to gather family style in the canteen and brought in Chef Henry Hsu and his team to make dumplings, which signify the transition from the old year to the new one. The office buzzed with chatter as people added their own stories to the mix. They puzzled over Lunar New Year trivia – did you know that the most fireworks in the world are set off on Lunar New Year’s Eve – and enjoyed tea-infused mocktails and cocktails.
Honoring the past and inspiring the future
Our history, and how we remember it, informs our present and our future. Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of Black History Month, once said, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
For Black History Month across our offices, we wanted to pay tribute to past generations of powerful Black men and women, and to those shaping the current generation. Inter-Diversity organized an homage to Black food and wine, and we invited Black-owned businesses to share their stories and their food with those of us in Intercom’s San Francisco office.
Chef Nigel Jones of Kingston 11 brought savory Caribbean food to remind us of the African diaspora. Jaynelle St. Jean of PieTissirie shared her sweet potato pies, which have long been beloved within the Black community. Precious Stroud and Fern Stroud of Black Vines supplied wines from Black-owned and operated vineyards.
We even held a raffle of books, pies and wines so our colleagues could continue celebrating Black History Month. The books – including Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child and Angela Davis’ Women, Race & Class – shed important light on Black people and their experiences. For the parents at Intercom, we bought children’s books such as Gaia Cornwall’s Jabari Jumps and Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace to take home to read to their families.
Raising awareness about intersectionality
As people we are infinitely complex, shaped by our relationships to those around us and the environments we live in. Some of those complexities can be distilled into useful, if also limiting, categories like race, class, sexual orientation and gender.
For International Women’s Day, we wanted to call attention to some of this intersectionality, or the interconnected nature of our various identities. For many of us, we are not just women, but we are also women of color, gay and trans women, birth and non-birth moms, survivors of assault, immigrants and women with mental and physical differences in ability.
Inter-Women partnered with our brand design team to create Intercom on Women’s Day – a microsite that celebrates women at Intercom. In the spirit of this year’s theme #BalanceForBetter, we used the artwork to highlight the diversity among women and emphasize the importance of achieving gender parity for all of us.
We also hosted 16 events across our global offices. We invited powerful women at Intercom, such as our COO Karen Peacock, SVP of Sales & Support LB Harvey and Director of Engineering Maria Gutierrez, to engage in fireside discussions about their experiences competing in male-dominated fields.
A workplace that works for everyone
Creating the space to showcase diversity makes all of us better and makes Intercom better, too. This work is crucial in making underrepresented groups feel fully valued and comfortable bringing their best selves to work.
Inter-Women, Inter-Diversity and our workplace team know how important these spaces are and together, we’ve been able to better create and champion belonging and inclusion at Intercom. The work is not easy, but it is so meaningful. We’re excited to see what comes next and thankful for our colleagues who showed up and shared their stories.