In February, we hosted our first Life Development Program of the year, Celebrating Diversity at AMP.
This webinar provided an opportunity for employees to learn through shared conversation and to grow both as individuals and as an organization. Through this panel we opened an honest dialogue about minority experiences in life and the workplace, and how we can create a culture of opportunity for everyone to thrive at AMP.
We invited a great group of sales leaders to participate in our Q&A panel, including three featured presenters: Raphael Weaver, Vanessa Walker, and Krysten Gardner, as well as four discussion leaders: Cliff Johnson, Juan Almaraz, Kye-Won Doyle, and Yoshie Fuentes. The event was moderated by Marketing Coordinator, Jessica Arends, who introduced each panelist at the start of the event and posed the question, “What made you want to participate in this discussion?” Each panelist spoke specifically to what drew them to getting involved, but overall, everyone agreed that they were grateful to spark a conversation and connect as a community.
Raphael Weaver, District Manager for Chicagoland Digital, spoke to his experience as a Black man working in Advertising Sales for over 20 years, and how his race impacted his growth. Throughout his career, Raphael worked at organizations with varying levels of diversity. He shared that he often found a striking lack of equal opportunity for growth at these companies. When Raphael joined American Marketing & Publishing in January of 2018, he was hesitant at first, and was reassured by sales leaders Brian Franczak and Luke Wasowski that everyone had an equal opportunity to grow in our organization. After starting with AMP, Raphael was comforted by the culture of equity and inclusivity that propelled him to endless growth. He recalled his first year at the company, all of the success he was able to achieve, and how encouraging his teammates were along the way, and after only a year at AMP, he was promoted to his role of Digital District Manager. He shared how important this milestone was to him and how he didn’t take it lightly. He stepped up and took on his new role in stride, knowing that he had the chance to inspire other people of color within the company. He had the opportunity to show them that high levels of success and growth were possible, and he did. Panelist Cliff Johnson, Senior Digital Sales Representative, echoed Raphael’s sentiments, expressing that he too has felt that unspoken responsibility to step up for his community and show others like him what is possible despite adversity.
The second presentation was led by Vanessa Walker, Assistant District Manager of the Tennessee South/Alabama District, who spoke to her experiences as a Black woman in Sales and the obstacles she has faced along the way. She shared stories of her time in rural Alabama, and how her experiences differed from her teammates, noting that often times in areas with a lack of diversity there are stark cultural differences. Vanessa talked about working tirelessly to remain positive in the face of adversity, and how she leads with kindness and compassion to bridge that cultural gap. Kye-Won Doyle, District Manager of the Pittsburgh District, also spoke to her experience of bridging the gap as a women of color working in different minority communities. She shared her experiences working through cultural differences and language barriers, and the importance of listening to and learning from those around her.
Krysten Gardner, Senior Assistant District Manager for the Central Region, led the final presentation of the event. Krysten shared her experiences as a Black woman and how she’d lost out on opportunities by being prejudged on her race. She talked about how she was grateful to grow up in a diverse community but as she branched further out into the world and started her career, all that she thought she knew about the world began to shift. She shared her struggles with being judged and how she often felt obligated to change the way she presented herself to break through false assumptions. Krysten expressed how empowering it was to find American Marketing & Publishing, and to be able to live authentically and be supported by her peers, management, and executive teams. She shared how important it is for all of us to work past our unconscious biases to give everyone a fair opportunity. Mentorship Manager, Yoshie Fuentes, and Assistant District Manager of the Chicagoland Digital District, Juan Almaraz, both shared their own experiences of being prejudged and working through assumptions. Yoshie talked about how she had been judged and made to feel shamed in the past for speaking another language, even though she sees her bilingual capabilities as an asset to strengthen her connection with her customers. Juan echoed that sentiment, saying that he does his best to always ask questions and connect on a deeper level with those around him.
In the final 30 minutes of our event, everyone broke off into small discussion groups led by our panelists, allowing us to continue our honest discussion at a more intimate level. These conversations focused on opportunities to move forward and ways to implement more diversity, equity, and inclusion into our culture at AMP. It also allowed for everyone to connect on a deeper level and learn from each other in new and meaningful ways.
This event is a continuation of our dedication to promoting diverse voices and leaders in our organization, and we’re excited to continue our efforts by creating a minority mentorship program that will debut soon.
This event was highly regarded by attendees and a few share their thoughts below:
“I was thrilled to witness AMP execute a fresh and innovative approach during our ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Life Development Program. The company took the time to create an environment, a moment, and a platform where our colleagues from diverse backgrounds could recount their personal narratives about their past encounters with various organizations and society in general…I commend AMP and every person who spoke for their courage and ability to seize the opportunity. I hope that in time we will inspire others to use similar methods in their own organizations.” – Tara Jenneman, Assistant District Manager
“To be able to be a part of this LDP was amazing…It has certainly brought awareness to me and probably a lot of us. These are situations that so many of us do not go through or even think about on a daily basis. There was such great interaction with the panelists and the attendees on asking questions, expressing feelings, and supporting one another.” – Jane Brammer, Senior Assistant District Manager
“We all know that these issues exist out in the world, but it’s the companies that want to help and want to do something about it that will make a difference. I was moved to tears by some of the stories and life experiences that were shared. As Krysten and Cliff shared ‘we want our story to be shared, not for you to feel sorry or pity for us, but for you to understand us and still give us an equal opportunity.’ We hear you, we see you, and we stand behind you as a company.” – Halle Hecker, Assistant District Manager