My name is Alexandra McCoy, and I am a Black Woman with ADHD working as a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) specifically on our Tanzu Software as a Service (SaaS) Reliability Enablement Team or TSRE.
Normally, you would expect to read an opening that leads with ‘Being an Engineer at VMware…’, but at VMware, I am allowed to wear my blackness, ADHD, and womanhood first, and identify as an Engineer second. As a 35-year-old (I know, women aren’t supposed to tell their age) African American woman in 2022, this is extremely important to me. Yes, VMware gets all of this “Black Girl Magic”. From my waist-length braids to my bright colored nails, of which one of my teammates has complimented over Zoom – shout out to Brendan Winter *flips hair*, I am 100% comfortable being me. This hasn’t been the case throughout my career, unfortunately.
Throughout my career, I have worked at startups, midsized companies, and companies with a global presence in more than 100 countries and my experience with each differed regarding diversity, equality, and inclusion. For many companies, DEI initiatives were just buzz words without internal experiences to back it up. Or simply another method to gain some monetary value.
At VMware, I am allowed to wear my blackness, ADHD, and womanhood first, and identify as an Engineer second.
Now, when I first started at VMware, I didn’t feel as comfortable as I do now. I am an extrovert who is introverted in new environments with new people or when I simply don’t feel safe. I prefer to absorb my surroundings for some time, at least until I feel comfortable. But then Black@VMware entered the chatroom!
Black@VMware is one of many minority PODs at VMware. PODs represent internal “Power of Difference” communities and exist for various minority groups. But of course, there is also a POD for women, as well as a POD for individuals with disabilities. I haven’t made my way to the disabilities POD yet, but I plan to.
Anywho, Power of Difference Communities, or PODs, are internal employee resource group communities used to provide safe spaces and support for professionals within minority groups.
Some PODs have what we refer to as “allies”. Allies are individuals that do not fall into the category of the minority group but advocate and provide support for that group. This is a great alignment as it is an additional method that educates “allies” regarding issues, topics, offenses, cultural traditions, etc. that they may not be aware of. It also provides the minority group with an opportunity to educate others.
The Black@VMware POD is structured into separate work streams that work together to Develop, Connect, and Represent. Within each of these workstreams are the following pillars:
- RETAIN – creates learning circles, opportunities, and training to keep diverse talent
- RECRUIT – supports the strategy, identification, and hiring of diverse talent
- DEVELOP – guides career planning/growth through coaching, executive engagement & sponsorship
- CONNECT – promotes engagement, health & wellbeing, networking internally and externally
Benefits of being a Black@VMware POD Member
Since joining the Black@VMware POD, I have expanded my network through meeting other members, joined many events, and I have really felt the impact of the “Retain, Recruit, and Connect” pillars. And If I am being transparent here, the only reason I am writing this blog is because I attended a specific ‘Blogging for Beginners’ internal training session organized specifically for PODs that was shared on our slack channel. This session encouraged me to write about my own experience.
I have also had the pleasure of attending a Virtual Career Fair with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) for college students. This allowed me to combine my passion for career guidance with my passion for educating minority groups about the many opportunities available to them in technology.
Add to that the recent guidance I received from Gregory Green and Keysha Williams regarding a nonprofit that I volunteer with, Underdog Devs, and the wealth of knowledge I gained from them in such a brief conversation. (That is also the VMware culture. We are heavy on community and collaboration.) Right now, we are attempting to sync two nonprofits that team members support together. Collaboration at VMware by itself is a separate blog post.
That is the thing, it is about seeing color or differences and realizing the “power” and innovation that comes from it.
I suppose it just feels good to be yourself at work and connect with like-minded individuals to support causes you are passionate about without feeling awkward. I hear people say often, “I don’t see color.” That is the thing, it is about seeing color or differences and realizing the “power” and innovation that comes from it.
I could honestly go on for another page or two, but I am positive my manager, James Wynne, is looking for me to do some work. Typically, a blog post is supposed to end with some summary, but anyone who knows me knows that I do not follow the rules all the time. At VMware, we are not expected to. I also know you are wondering why there are so many contributors listed on this sort of post. Here, we collaborate with purpose and show appreciation for one another. Each one has contributed in some way to me coming out of my shell at VMware, whether physically or simply being a working example. And I just want to thank them for that!
Contributors: Aaron Bento, Brendan Winter, Feargus O’Gorman, Gregory Green, James Wynne, Jason James, Jesse Dearing, Kam Kyrala, Kimberly Embry, Robert Tindall, Ross McBride, Sanjay Kumar, Supraja Narasimhan