In 2020, diversity and inclusion has been brought into the spotlight for all businesses. Quick Base brought on Andrea Forsht to lead all diversity and inclusion initiatives and put an action plan to this meaningful work and engage our community in vital conversations. To be the most inclusive community in software, we knew we had to start at home. We sat down with her and talked about her first few months, and her plans moving forward.
Andrea, can you tell us a bit about your background and the work you did before you came to Quick Base?
I’ve spent the last 10 years working in corporate philanthropy working in foundations or leading corporate citizenship initiatives. Around 2015, I expanded my scope to include employee experience, focusing on how organizations create inclusive cultures and building initiatives that inspire engagement. Most recently I was at Thomson Reuters working on community partnerships and alliances primarily in the Twin Cities, where I am based.
Can you tell us a bit about what brought you to Quick Base?
Deciding to leave one job to start another is always a complicated choice. This one was particularly challenging given a global pandemic, the civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder, joining a new company remotely (from over 1000 miles away), oh, and being about 30 weeks pregnant. Timing is everything!
I was initially drawn to the goal of becoming the most inclusive company in software, but what really excited me was the opportunity to have an integrated approach to D&I and social impact work. I have done social impact and culture building work for more than 10 years. In many of the organizations I have been a part of, the work was often segmented and sometimes seen as a “nice to do” rather than a business imperative. At Quick Base, because our product is inherently inclusive, the connection between the work was undeniable and seen as interconnected even before I got to the organization. I didn’t have to sell it to anyone which was refreshing!
What are your main priorities?
Before I arrived at Quick Base, the organization did a deep dive to understand and share our current levels of diversity and inclusion. The survey gave us a clear picture of the diversity of our organization and captured an understanding of the degree to which various subgroups of employees feel when it comes to belonging, feeling valued, safety, equal opportunities, and the overall commitment of the organization to D&I initiatives.
The team did a great job at examining the data and breaking it down by different dimensions of diversity. We are starting to do the same thing with various teams and departments so in addition to building an organizational strategy, we are looking to the senior leadership team and other functional leaders to take their data and build initiatives to address challenges unique to their teams.
When it comes to our overall strategy, we are focused on creating more equity within the organization and looking at additional data related to pay, performance reviews, and career development for women and BIPOC employees. We are finding ways to be more intentional when it comes to our talent pipelines, taking steps to assemble more diverse interview candidate slates and setting goals for growing our talent across different dimensions of diversity. We are also refining our social impact strategy by mobilizing our employees and products in ways that are impacting minority owned/run/founded small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Could you expand on the social impact element of your role?
I have touched on this already, but I think it is important to reiterate how lucky we are to have a software that is inherently inclusive. Often times company’s philanthropic efforts are less connected to the business or driven by marketing and brand strategy. We are fortunate to be able to leverage our product and people as our biggest assets in our social impact work. It is more than just writing a check attending a gala. It is building strong, long-lasting relationships and upskilling the community for greater professional and economic opportunity.
What have you learned in your first few months in your role?
Now that I am a couple months into the role, I have been most excited about how engaged employees. I have had such a warm welcome and though I am a team of one, it is clear that I have a great group of colleagues ready to do the work with me.
Where do you see our greatest opportunities lie?
While I am always excited about the opportunity to build strategic partnerships externally, I think our greatest opportunity will be internal. Intentionality around how we are building an inclusive environment, ensuring that employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work and eliminating bias from internal processes like performance reviews, promotion/internal mobility will go be foundational for attracting and retaining diverse talent and spreading that commitment externally.
What impact do you think Quick Base can make investing in D&I?
Quick Base has a goal of becoming the most inclusive company in software. Our low-code technology is well positioned to close the opportunity gap in technology and reach people who traditionally have not had access or exposure to code development. We have an opportunity to not only create a community of app developers and builders that is diverse and inclusive, but also an organizational makeup and culture that reflects that community.
The tech industry is not historically looked at as a leader in diversity and inclusion – what do you think organizations need to keep in mind to create true diversity, equity and inclusion?
This is really difficult work, and it is not going to be an overnight fix. We have been talking a lot about having a dual–track approach to D&I where we focus both on short term gains and long term goals. It is a balance when it comes to showing sustainable impact. Another thing to keep in mind is that we don’t have a lot of examples of companies who have gotten it right, especially in tech. I think we need to be flexible, try new things, fail fast and reset quickly. It is going to be an iterative process.