HR Tech Interview With Markita Jack, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Iterable

Journey into Tech

Hi Markita, please tell us about your journey in technology. How did you arrive at Iterable?

I spent the last 21 years in the banking industry, gaining invaluable experience as an HR Business Partner, SVP of Corporate Recruiting, SVP of Talent Acquisition & Employee Relations, and SVP of D&I. I loved my work and felt empowered and championed by my colleagues and leadership. But, 21 years in one industry is a long time! When you get to know a business intimately, it’s harder to take chances and separate yourself from the brand.

First Horizon is an incredible company with some really amazing people, but once I was introduced to the team at Iterable, I knew I’d found the exciting and challenging opportunity I’d been waiting for!

It’s with this open, emboldened and empowered mindset that I made the decision to join Iterable, which is a company that, I believe, has an incredible opportunity to make a difference in this world. Iterable has long been outspoken about its commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging, and we are not afraid to take a stance publicly on polarizing political and social issues. I loved Iterable’s passion and unwavering stance on social justice and knew that this was the opportunity that I had been waiting for.

Could you tell us more about your role and responsibilities at Iterable? How is it associated with the company’s global identity?

Iterable’s mission is to connect people to the products that bring them joy. In my role, I’m responsible for expanding this mission to encompass the global community. I work to connect people to careers that give them purpose.

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Purpose, of course, is extremely hard to define. It’s a very unique and individual concept. At Iterable, I work to build a strong foundation for each Iterator to find purpose, and setting the stage for future Iterators to find purpose at the company. We’re responsible for fostering a culture at work that allows diversity to thrive, through initiatives that promote inclusivity and programs that foster a shared sense of belonging. It’s important that we hold ourselves accountable to the progress we are making in our work.

With leadership championing the company’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I have all of the tools I need to enact a robust and effective DEI strategy! We’ve already made strides in driving in a more equitable future of work, by:

We’ve already created programs that help us achieve our DEI goals, like:

  • Allyship Training: Interactive workshops to teach managers practical techniques to build allyship within the organization.
  • DE&I Office Hours and Focus Groups: Regularly scheduled office hours and focus groups to gather feedback from employees to inform the company’s DE&I strategy.

Iterable’s employees are the reason for our success—they are the driving force behind the incredible platform and products. My goal is to continue to empower Iterators to do the best work of their careers, building on the success of DE&I programs, campaigns, and initiatives already launched by the Iterable team.

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How has the global DEI definition changed in the last 2-3 years? How has the pandemic influenced this development?

I’m not sure the definition has changed. The intention of DEI programs has always been to ensure every employee can show up each day to work without fear of being their true selves. Ensuring your workplace is diverse, and your workforce has all the resources and tools it needs to succeed, helps to create a supportive and inclusive culture. And an equitable culture has higher degrees of engagement, productivity, and innovation. This, of course, results in higher revenue.

While the definition of DEI hasn’t changed, the tangible value of DEI has really come to the forefront of the conversation, especially in tech. It’s now implicit that organizations that don’t implement DEI practices miss out on opportunities to tap into their employees’ potential. Harvard Business School, McKinsey & Company, Edelman Consulting, and others have all published articles converting diversity to dollars. Put simply, diverse teams are more innovative and make better decisions, and diverse companies have better shareholder returns.

The pandemic really set back the progress made in the field of DEI, exacerbating opportunity gaps in teaching and learning, exposing discerimination  in healthcare access, and disproportionately affecting women and underrepresented minorities in the job market. It’s incumbent on business leaders now to regain lost ground, and accelerate efforts and investments in this arena.

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Why is creating a thriving remote work community a prerequisite for growth?

Good business necessitates examination from every angle to uncover new approaches and discover new opportunities. Different perspectives lead to better innovation and create more relevant and creative products, and a more interesting world. That’s why there is a correlation between diversity and business success. It’s pretty simple: diverse companies challenge the status quo, and, as a result, are more likely to financially outperform their peers.

But diversity isn’t the only ingredient businesses need to succeed. Inclusivity is also required. It activates the innovation and energy of a diverse workforce. It allows for a culture that empowers, emboldens and excites. It’s what transforms a work culture from “good to great”, from “typical to thriving”.

One way for businesses to ensure inclusivity is to build it into their future of work plans. The fact of the matter is that, for some employees, remote work is about much more than flexibility and productivity. It’s about the ability to work at all. At Iterable, we embraced a flexible future of work model, and implemented a geoneutral pay policy, to build a more inclusive workplace that meets the needs of everyone, wherever they are located, attracting talent from a variety of locations, circumstances, and environments.

The option to work remotely is not just good for employees, it is a major step toward enabling a thriving culture.

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What are the major challenges for any organization in adoption of DEI strategies? How does it influence the ongoing hiring and onboarding processes?

To be effective, DEI strategies need to first have support at the top. It’s integral that a business’s decision makers are as invested in DEI programs in order for the initiatives to be most effective! Once DEI strategies have executive buy-in, there’s a natural trickle-down effect that happens within the organization. If a CEO prioritizes DEI programs, the entire enterprise will likely follow-suit.

Of course, diversity and inclusivity are in many ways tied together. An organization that is perceived to be more inclusive will attract diverse talent which will induce a more inclusive workforce. The challenge is in kicking off that cycle. Employers in this state can start by listening closely to employee feedback, and generating programs based on the needs of the current workforce.

Do you think DEI efforts truly reflect the company’s overall employee branding?

Organizations with a positive employee brand often have an engaged, motivated workforce that’s willing to advocate for the company’s brand, products, and services. It’s about getting employees on board with the values that your brand stands for and the type of business your company engages in.

If you look at employees like the consumers of an organization, it’s easier to tackle this question.

Earlier this year, Iterable conducted a broad consumer poll (in the US and UK) to explore the true psychology of brand engagement and examined how specific marketing messages really make people feel.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they’re more receptive to a brand’s messages if they know the company’s beliefs and values. As to why this resonates so well in consumer psychology, respondents said knowing a brand’s beliefs and values makes them feel more trust toward the brand (62%), better know the brand’s authentic identity (44%) and better believe the brand’s purpose (34%).

The marketing messages respondents considered most essential were diverse imagery, inclusive language and setting varied price points/payment plans to accommodate different socioeconomic groups.

Consumers also shared similar priorities when asked about their representation in advertisements: 75% agreed that they’re more likely to purchase from a brand when people who look like them are represented in their ads.

These answers indicate that increased conversations around DEI have made a substantial impact on consumer priorities for brand marketing. Brands that are more inclusive in their messaging will be more successful.

The same logic goes for employee branding.

How can technology enable organizations in meeting DEI goals? What kind of tactics do we need to ensure these DEI goals are compliant with global standards of HR practices?

It’s really important that organizations hold themselves accountable to the progress they are making in DEI. And technology really makes it possible for us to easily collect substantial data around diversity, equity and inclusion, analyze that data and help measure and track progress. It allows companies to see how they are doing with their own DEI efforts and internal benchmarking over time. With access to this data, companies have the information that they need to get very specific about their interventions and programs developed based on that data.

Of course, technology enables data collection. But it’s important that thisata is broken down, and analysed. With employer data, for instance, we’re looking at the systems, policies and procedures that are in place at an organization.  Where does the hiring process stand? What’s the current process for promotional advancement? How often are processes communicated to employees? How accessible are communication? With this data (and these questions) you have a sense of where a company is on its DEI journey. This is important because a lot of times we see these biases creep specifically into the policies, the procedures and the systems that exist at a company.

Technology in this sense enables us to track and prevent barriers and biases from taking hold.

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Businesses have had a harder time manifesting the same level of collaboration that existed while in-person. Could you elaborate more on this from your own personal experience?

This is another arena where technology really plays an important role in enabling progress. Communication and collaboration technologies, like Slack, have really taken off in the last year because they are effective in manifesting a level of community that has  only existed in in-person environments.

In fact, I’d argue that remote work has made business a little more human and accessible. Meeting with remote colleagues over Zoom has exposed so many dimensions of our personal lives—how we live, the colors of our walls, pets, family members, messes, etc. This new way of work presents an amazing one-of-a-kind opportunity for leaders to set a new cultural tone, and build a stronger community.

By displaying vulnerabilities (for instance, having their kids on their lap during weekly Town Halls) and incorporating more conversational “Ask Me Anything” segments  businesses can build a strong remote culture that more explicitly values individualities and oddities.

It’s incredible how remote work can bring us together if we are intentional about investing in culture and community.

Thank you, Markita! That was fun and hope to see you back on HR Tech Series soon.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

A native of Memphis, Markita is a proud graduate of the historic Hamilton High School.  She earned her Bachelors of Science and Master of Business Administration from Bethel University.

Previously SVP of DEI with First Horizon Corp. Served in human resources leadership for the past 17 years leading transformational teams. She holds an MBA from Bethel University.

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