“When I go in and I’m working with companies, I tell them you have got to design your systems, your culture, your norms, your communication for the most marginalized person. If she’s okay, then the rest of the people in your company are going to be okay.”
For 25 years, Nicole Sanchez has served as a leading expert on workplace culture with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Nicole has transformed workplace culture for Fortune 500 corporations, tech startups, and mission-driven organizations. She consults globally, advising tech executives on best practices in diversity and inclusion. Previously, Nicole served as VP of Social Impact at GitHub and Managing Partner for the Kapor Center for Social Impact. Nicole earned a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where she has also been a lecturer on workplace diversity. Nicole serves on the Board of CODE2040, and has received numerous awards for her work. She is a mother of two teenagers and lives with her family in the East Bay, where she was born and raised.
Kim Crayton: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. Today’s guest is really—it’s really weird because I reached out to her after I saw her speak at Open Source Bridge in Portland, in 2017, for my last podcast, not even this podcast. And so I’m happy to say, two years later, [Nicole laughs] I have received—you have to be patient when you’re doing this work. So I’d like to have everyone welcome Nicole Sanchez. Nicole, please introduce yourself to the audience.
Nicole Sanchez: Hey, everybody, I’m Nicole, and I’m the CEO and founder of Vaya Consulting. I’ve been doing work on organizational culture—specifically around diversity, equity, and inclusion—professionally for 25 years, mostly in tech. Thanks for having me.
Kim: Oh, well, thank you for coming. So we’re going to start as we always do. Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?
Nicole: Yeah, well, I love the hashtag, as you know. It’s important to cause a scene from my experience, because I’m a short brown woman—was a girl—and a short brown girl doesn’t really get a lot of air time unless you demand it. And I think I learned from an early age, my parents were so great at really bucking a lot of the norms that they have been taught about, “be seen, not heard,” you know; they really said, “Look, you’re gonna have to advocate for yourself because there aren’t gonna be a lot of people who will.”
And so when you need to be heard, there are some points where you need to cause a scene, otherwise people will just steamroll you. And so for me, it was entirely about needing to be heard, even if it was about getting my needs met, even if it was about an injustice, even if it was just about raising my hand in class. Causing a scene meant people couldn’t ignore me.
How am I causing a scene now is… [laughs] I think I might always be causing a scene! I don’t know how to not cause a scene, you know what I mean? [Laughs] I think in tech, we have to be willing to talk about the things that nobody’s gonna talk about. And if there isn’t some subset of us—I think Kim, you’re a great person, one of your former guests, Marco Rogers, is a great person for that, there’s a whole cohort of folx, many of whom I consider to be friends—who want to say the truths about what’s going on in our industry.
And, somehow we stepped into the sector that says, “Alright, only say the good things. You don’t get to say anything about the bad things because we’re a magical—Silicon Valley is a magical, magical place where everybody gets every meal at work and there are dentists on your campus”. And then it’s like, [laughs] “PS, the custodians are making less than, you know, whatever, and they’re consistently vulnerable.”
I usually like to start with the folx—when we talk about some of the problems in tech and where we need to cause a scene—are with some of the workers that really, really don’t get talked about a lot at all, which is the gig economy folx, the custodial staff, food service staff, the security staff. These are often folx who are not even employees of the tech companies they’re serving inside, get no benefits, no guarantee of vacation days, nothing and get absolutely steamrolled, like we said, by this giant sector that just wants to put out to the world that we’re basically Disneyland, you know, “This is just Disneyland, tech is amazing, you can come and do anything!” And it’s like, well, tech is amazing, and I do love being in tech, and I do love the promise of technology, but let’s be serious now about what some of our problems are.
And so I think right now where I’m busy causing a scene is in saying things that we don’t often get to say, to make sure folx have the full truth before they either get into the sector or so they don’t feel gaslit when they’re in the sector and then fundamentally, so we can we can change the sector.
Kim: Well, I took a few notes and I love the—thankfully, I had parents who also were not fans of “be seen and not heard” because that wouldn’t have worked for me. [Nicole laughs] I woulda constantly been having to deal with that. I remember being in schools—I went to Catholic schools most of my life—when I was in school, I had to be fourth or fifth grade or something like that, and they would call my mom all the time. And she was like, “OK, hold up. If—Kim could talk before she could walk—if you can shut her up, then you let me know, because I… [Nicole laughs] Don’t call me for this anymore.” You know what I’m saying? It’s like…
Nicole: I know, yeah right?
Kim: Yeah, there’s this—are you engaging? And see that, again, ’cause—oh, that’s so about white supremacy and all these other things. Because I was not fitting what they said, and I didn’t know as a child that I was actively rebuking all these standards. I didn’t have a clue, I just knew that I was bored, my friend across the room—”Hey, what’s up?” [Nicole laughs]
You know, and it never dawned on me because it was never positioned that it’s the systems that were at fault, it was always a personal failing in myself, and I need to control myself, and blah, blah, blah. And thankfully—I can tell you, thankfully—Ritalin and such wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, ’cause I definitely, I know a doctor would have put me on that, ’cause I remember being maybe three or four, being at the doctors and being too small to get on the table. So, you know, you have the little stepladder and just running up and down on the stepladder. And he was like, “OK, she has a lot of energy.” That’s what it was, you know, a lot of energy.
And so, yeah, and then the other note I said is, just being in the space, just us being causes the scene. And people don’t get that. Just showing up every day is the scene-causer for a lot of people; this is like, “Oh, so you back?” [Both laugh]
Nicole: Back for some more? Oh, we didn’t completely shut you up and shut you out?
Kim: Yeah, exactly. Like, “Damn, they keep—what? Shit, she’s back? OK.” And then it’s just, I love how you started with the most vulnerable, all those individuals who are outsourced of these great altruistic companies who are changing the world for the better but yet will not hire these individuals to be on their staff to make a living wage. They outsource all of this stuff.
They don’t have a voice, they can’t unionize, all of these things, but yet we still wanna have this, tout this, “Oh, we’re just so great.” And it reminds me because I’m getting ready for my #CauseAScene year in review podcast. And so last year, I did quotes by Zora Neale Hurston, and this year I’m gonna do quotes by Toni Morrison. And I’m just looking, scanning, ’cause one of the quotes that I picked up on right away, and this just speaks to that, I just wanna see if I can find it, that pulled us—oh, “Definitions belong to the definers, not to the defined.”
Nicole: Mmh. I mean, that hits me right in whatever, the deepest nerve, the deepest recesses of my heart. I also didn’t realize this, and I went a different way with my schooling in that my parents were very clear that they thought that education was going to be the way to everything I want and they weren’t wrong. But the part that they did buy into, which was complicated, was that that was some panacea, right?
That education—so I do really well in school, and I have three sisters and we all went to college, and my parents did not make much money at all. And so they were like, “Look, your brains are gonna have to get you outta here.” And so we were always encouraged to sharpen our mind, sharpen our mind, sharpen our mind, be the fastest with an answer, the most thorough answer, the most interesting answer, and you had to do that in every subject.
And you know, I would ask my dad—it’s like that famous scene in Scandal that I think every woman of color said, when her dad’s telling her, “You gotta be twice as good.” Well, my dad was a math guy, and so he’s like, “OK, look, you have to be twice as good to be seen as half, which means you have to be four times as good if you wanna be equals.”
And so that is not saying I’m four times as good at anything, but it was that mentality. And I didn’t realize until much later that the problem was with the definer, like you said, that that’s what “smart” looked like, because I knew there were kids around me who were all kinds of smart, and weren’t getting into the gate, and weren’t getting into—were getting suspended for their rambunctiousness or whatever.
And we know the rates of African American kids in public schools and how they get suspended and how they get detention at higher rates, because there’s something else, the problem’s with the definer, not with the kids. The problem is with this structure that imposed this weird, white Anglo Saxon Protestant traditions on us that were completely antithetical to what was happening at home.
Kim: The thing that gets me, though, is whiteness doesn’t even hold up to the standard. So this is…
Nicole: Oh, never, never, never, never.
Kim: So this is like we’re held to this impossible standard, and then mediocre whiteness just gets to pass by and it’s seen as genius. I’m just like, we have been gaslit our entire lives: “If you go to college, this will be your ticket out.” No, it’s not. There is no guarantee of a ticket out when there’s white supremacy. If you’re not white, there is absolutely no guarantee.
And if one of the few of us—I mean, we’re in the millions—but the few of us who are, who have platforms, who have been causing a scene just by being, we’ve done it exactly counter, in direct opposition to what the status quo said was going to be successful.
And there is—I can look back on my life and say I’m where I am because I’ve always been a rule challenger, a rule breaker, like, “Why is that? Why did you say that? Why? Why can’t I—?” “Don’t go in the woods, Kim,” meant, my mom, there’s somethin’ in the woods she don’t want me to see.
Nicole: So I’m gonna go see it! [Laughs]
Kim So I’m gonna go see it anyway. All she’s gonna do is give me a whuppin’. I got a whuppin’ before, I can deal with that, so I would make the calcula—I would calculate.
Nicole: [Laughing] Like, was it worth it? Yeah, that trade-off is great.
Kim: Yes, exactly! Exactly! Literally! I mean, I would always, even when I was a high school teacher, I would say I would rather have a student who decided, “You know what? I’m gonna stay late at this party and calculate [Nicole laughs] the risk management of it,” than rather say, “I’m staying late because everybody else is staying late.”
And I was that kid, like, [as if thinking to herself] “OK, OK. If I do this, what’s the chance—? OK, so there’s a chance that that’s gonna happen, [both laugh] and then OK, well, I’ve already looked at what I think on the other variables, and then make a…” and I’ve been doing that my whole life, so people want to act like someone gave me something. No!
This is what I—when I came into tech five years ago, I realized I had some skills that this community needed and I was not gonna let it define me again. Ooh, this is gonna be a theme! I was not gonna let it define my value, and so that’s why I spent 2017 speaking at 19 conferences ’cause I was like, “I’m gonna tell you my value”. And I’ve been doing it ever since, #CauseAScene came out of my frustration of, again, whiteness trying to tell me—and I didn’t understand it at the time, because to me, it was just like, “What is going on? Why is this industry saying welcome, welcome, welcome, but putting up every barrier in my face and saying it’s me. What is going on?”
But I have had the wherewithal and the luxury and the privilege to create us my world so that OK, I’m not gonna work for somebody else because they’re gonna—I don’t want them to have any control over this, I’m not gonna—all these variables that I had to figure out for myself so that I could be in this space and to be talking to you right now. This didn’t just happen. This has been bucking white supremacy, even when I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah, and I wanna add something to that. There’re two related evils here: one is white supremacy. But the thing I find is a non Black POC is I know that I am afforded the opportunity to say things that my Black friend might not be able to, that my Black colleague might not be able to, and that’s—do we swear on your podcast?
Kim: Oh god, yeah, yeah, Fuck yes. Fuck, fuck, fuck, yes.
Nicole: To me, sometimes that is the most fucked up thing to watch, is that I will carry the banner of something that a Black woman already said, right? And I’ll go, wait a minute, they just dismissed her, let me try something. Now, I’m not white, but I’m white adjacent, right? And light-skinned Latina, they’re like, “Well, she’s less scary,” right? About me. So I say it again, and then sometimes I get ignored too, then some white person’s gotta bring it up, gotta carry that banner.
But occasionally, and more often now as I get older, someone goes, “That’s a really good point”. And then I go, “Yeah, she just said it,” right? So I’m constantly making sure I’m referencing the original thinker or sayer or scene-causer on a concept, but anti-Blackness, I find, as a non Black person of color, I am also trying to navigate in ways that I didn’t ask to do! That’s just stupid, I just really want everybody’s ideas to be taken at face value and be valued and look at it, and we can all hold it up, and we don’t have to get incredibly distracted by our own biases.
Kim: And people don’t understand—well, mm-mm, they choose not to understand why I’m very clear when I say, “Call thing a thing,” when you mean Black women.
Nicole: Call a thing a thing. Don’t say women of color. That’s right. That’s right.
Kim: When you mean Black women don’t say women of color. When you say Black people don’t say people of color, because the minority, the—what is it? The minority myth?
Nicole: Oh, yeah, the myth of the model minority?
Kim: Yeah, model minority myth is a thing, and it has burned all of us.
Nicole: And it has burned all of us. Even—yeah.
Kim: And I see it, and this is why it’s so funny when I get where I am not moving, where I am—because people, I’m so discounted that people don’t understand that I’m a researcher at heart, I’m a educator at heart, and so if I’ve said something, it’s because I’ve thought about it. Unlike many people on Twitter and elsewhere who just have some gut reaction or something, they’re in their feelings.
I have fundamentally sat down and processed and come up with a, “OK, how do I want to articulate this?” I’ve done all of that, so when I open my mouth, trust me, I’ve done that. But it gets so discounted so that now it’s just at a point where I don’t budge and they think it’s because I’m being obstinate or angry. No, it’s because I refuse—again—to allow you to define me. I said what I said, and that’s what the fuck I meant! [Nicole laughs]
And this comes from—OK, I come from two Black men, my grandfather and my father. There was never a time that you had to, you know, they weren’t passive aggressive anyway. What they said is what they meant and I remember my dad said something and I was like, “So what do you remember?” He said, “I said what I really meant.” And I really did think about that because my grandfather was the same when people say it’s simple, but they make it—but with white supremacy, whatever, they throwin’ it off as simple as in simple minded—no, it’s simplistic.
Nicole: Right, no, no, no. It’s genius! [Laughs]
Kim: It is. So when Kim says something, that’s what the fuck I meant, I don’t want you read shit into it, ’cause you read stuff into it, you’re gonna fuck that up. I need you to be very clear; now if you have questions, that’s fine, but trust me, I know what I’m saying. And so people take it as, “Oh, you’re just being, you know, like…”
Like I have the shirt [that reads] “Fuck Civility.” I’m saying “Fuck Civility” for a reason. I am not civil in situations that you want to quiet me, you want to silence me for your feelings when—we’re not even talking about the thing anymore, because now we got to talk about your feelings.
Nicole: This is what I mean when I talk about these very unfamiliar to me, white Anglo Saxon Protestant norms that we inherited in our systems, which value politeness and civility above truth. I don’t get it. I don’t get it! And I think—and I train managers a lot and coach leaders a lot—and they’re like, “Well, how do I tell a person that I’m not satisfied with their work performance?” I’m like, “You say, I’m not satisfied with your work performance. But then you back it up with the facts.” And they’re like, “Yeah, but I’m gonna offend somebody, I’m gonna…” You’re offending people by withholding information from them; stop withholding information that is important for people to have, just say what you mean.
Nicole: …withholding information that is important for people to have, just say what you mean.
Kim: And that’s a double-edged sword though, because if you’re a Black woman…
Nicole: Oh yeah, I don’t have to do that coaching with Black women! [Laughs]
Kim: …’cause if you’re a Black woman, the—and I keep bringing this up—the lengths that someone has to go to to create a email for a subordinate…
Nicole: Oh, ugh. [Laughs]
Kim: …if it’s a white person, just so their feelings aren’t hurt. You fuck up on the job, I spent 30 minutes creating a email to try to tell you so your feelings don’t get hurt, but yet, and still, no matter what I say, how I say it, the manner of words or whatever, you’re still offended. And now we’re in HR ’cause you got offended.
Nicole: Because you think I’m being aggressive.
Kim: Mhm, yeah. So this is where I lay at. I’m not gonna be the only one uncomfortable, so if you’re uncomfortable, then I’ve done my damn job, and I’m going to do everything I can to make you even more uncomfortable. This is what people don’t understand. I want you to be as uncomfortable as possible, because until you become uncomfortable, you don’t do shit.
And you—and knowing that, that’s why I created my life this way ’cause I intentionally want to get you uncomfortable so you could start reflecting. You could start thinking, “Well, fuck. Hmm”. And if you don’t start reflecting, well fuck, then I’m gonna make you, my job is just to make you uncomfortable. Then this is a game for me at this point. So I’m just like, “Oh OK, let me sit back and enjoy this ride as you implode, because you don’t have these skills…”
Nicole: [Laughs] That’s right.
Kim: “You’ve never had to develop the resiliency and coping skills that Black women have.”
Nicole: I certainly have not, and anybody who isn’t a Black woman has not. And when I go in and I’m working with companies, I tell them, “You have got to design your systems, your culture, your norms, your communication for the most marginalized person. If she’s OK, then the rest of the people in your company are gonna be OK.” And we’ll take it another step further, we’re like, “Look if Black trans women…”
Nicole: “…who have the lowest life expectancy by race and gender at about 30 years old right now, right—due to violence, either self-inflicted or via homicide—lowest life expectancy, most vulnerable by race and gender in our society; if she is comfortable in your company, everybody else is OK.”
Kim: Everybody else is. And that’s the whole—that is why I created the guiding principles, the #CauseAScene guiding principles. They start with, first of all, just goes back to your original point: “tech is not neutral,” and we need to just own that. This altruistic kumbaya bullshit is harming people. [Nicole laughs]
So, that’s the first thing. And then from that, we go into strategy, I mean, “intention without strategy is chaos.” That’s just it, because your intention, if you don’t have it, you’re gonna—the impact is what all that matters. Then we flow into “lack of inclusion is a risk management issue.”
Nicole: I’m with you.
Kim: And then that flows into the most important thing, that’s “prioritize the most vulnerable.” Because when the most vulnerable is prioritized, then your lack of inclusion is less than the risk management issue; then you have a strategy which doesn’t cause, which minimizes pain and impact. And then we understand that tech is not neutral and we act as if we understand that.
Nicole: OK, when is SiriusXM gonna give you your own station or whatever? Whatever comes next, I don’t know what your goals are, [Kim laughs] but I’m realizing, I’m your guest, but I’m just like, closing my eyes and listening to the sermon. [Laughs]
Kim: Maaan, I tell you. On my bucket list is to speak at the World Economic Forum.
Nicole: Ooh! And did everybody hear that? Kim Crayton to the World Economic Forum.
Kim: ‘Cause the book that I’m writing next year is “Redefining Capitalism Without White Supremacy”. And the subtitle is—and I always forget this, give me a second—so it’s “Redefining Capitalism Without White Supremacy”, and the subtitle is “The Economics of Being Antiracist.”
Nicole: OK, I’m ready to read it. I’ll read—consider me in. I’m gonna read, I wanna read this book…
Kim: [Chuckles] OK, good!
Nicole: I wanna read it now.
Kim: And so this is again where people discount me. They think that Twitter is the thing that I do. No, Twitter is a means to an end, that is not my strategy, it’s a part of overall strategy. I want to fundamentally change how tech businesses are built, and how they function, and how they—who they prioritize and to minimize harm, because tech touches everything and once we get this right in tech, every other industry is gonna have to change. So I don’t have to deal with law; …
Nicole: ‘Cause they will follow. That’s right. That’s right.
Kim: …that is antiquated. I don’t have to deal with medicine; that is antiquated. We’re gonna force all this stuff, so when we—going back to the gig employees, the custodians, the food service industry, all these people—once they have, we figured this out in Google and and Amazon and these other companies, these hospitals that doing the same thing, you’re not gonna be able to do that because now they’re gonna be like, “Oh, there’s an example right there. We know how to do this. We have something because representation matters, so oh, I know how to do this.”
Nicole: Yeah. You know, I stepped out of tech for a short period of time. I tried my hand in some other industries. This is why I come back to tech, because it’s like how I feel about this country. I will eviscerate it, intellectually, because I love it, because I love its potential. Same thing with tech. We could be getting clean water into everybody’s house by now, given the brain power and the resources that have gone into getting people food to their door.
Kim: [Chuckles] In an hour.
Nicole: Right? On demand. Yeah, I’m like, OK, that used to be just—I’m 46, almost 47 years old. That used to just be the miracle of Dominos. It was just like they could get you a pizza in under an hour, and then under 30 minutes, you’re like, “Whoo.” Now, that’s just how we expect our food, which is problematic for a whole other supply chain [Kim laughs] instead of reasons. But that’s where we put our brain power. We put our brain power on convenience and on solving the problems of very few, very well…
Kim: If I see one more damn scooter company… Hmm. Mm-mm-mm. [Nicole laughs] Oh my god.
Nicole: And I just—and you know what? There are good people inside these companies who think that, who for some reason believe that they’re changing the world with their scooters. And I’m like, “You know, with that engineering degree, you could be figuring out how to get grain supplies to places where they have been cut off from access to food security.”
Nicole: You could use all that fluid mechanics work that you do around…
Kim: You could.
Nicole: You could.
Kim: You could.
Nicole: You could. But, but, but, 25 years ago, the group of people that figured out how to monetize clicks did not prioritize the most vulnerable. And sure, you can say, “Well, capitalism isn’t about the most vulnerable.” All right, first of all, I don’t know how I feel about capitalism. That’s another story for another day.
Kim: Oh, yes, yes. That’s the conversation I want to get into, because I think, that’s why I’m writing the book, we need to redefine—capitalism is only a theory. It is how we have implemented it, just like communism, Marxism, they’re all theories. We have implemented them all with white supremacy. That’s the problem.
Nicole: That’s right, centered on whiteness, right, and so when I think folx, white folx get exposure to the way resources flow in other communities, it’s shocking.
Kim: Oh, oh, oh my god, they’re taken aback. [Laughs, and then gasps dramatically]
Nicole: Shocking. They’re like, “So you just paid for my lunch, so then I pay for lunch next time, right?” I’m like, “Maybe, I don’t know. [Kim chuckles] I just know I make more money than you right now, so I’m good. Like, that just seems to be fair…” [Both laugh]
Or like in my company, we openly talk about, like, our budget is very transparent, and pay is very transparent, and folx are forthcoming with what their lives are actually like and what they’re trying to navigate. And we’re trying to build things like a cap table using the best of the communities we come from, not what a VC expects via centering whiteness and property ownership.
Kim: So what’s a caps table?
Nicole: So what is the cap table? So, just divvying up equity among our employees. So how much of the company do they own, right? So, if our company takes off in a certain way, what’s the upside for them, and can we be transparent about it and do we think it’s fair? And how much more should the leader get, if at all, than the bottom tier?
Kim: Mmm. Ooh, ooh, yes.
Nicole: I mean… [laughs]
Kim: That’s a question, because there’s so much ego in this, in the acronym CEO. There’s so much ego in there.
Nicole: Oh, please. And you know what? I use it very purposefully because I had a boss once who said, “You’ll never be a CEO.” Now usually, consulting companies have managing partners, they don’t have CEOs, but I put CEO on there because I hope he sees it everywhere.
Kim: Aaahhh! [Both laugh]
Nicole: I’m like, I know you’re on Twitter.
Kim: Exactly. Yeah. You see me, you see me buddy. I know you do.
Nicole: You see my title. You see me. I know you know where I’m at. [Laughs]
Kim: Yes, you see me because you lurkin’. That’s what y’all do, you’re lurkin’.
Nicole: You want to know what the next cool thing is.
Nicole: Well, I’ll tell you, and you’ll come out with it safe.
Kim: Exactly, because you’re not original as anyway, when she perform, all you do is co-opt! [Nicole laughs] Yes, it’s still… [laughs]
Nicole: Exactly, and you know, you’re just gonna poke your head up when it’s all safe and the smoke clears and you go, “Yes, I too believe in these things.”
Kim: [In a deep, serious voice] Oh, yes, yes.
Nicole: I’m like, “You know, you took zero risk.”
Kim: Oh-ho! Mhm!
Nicole: You took zero risk. The risk was on predominantly Black women’s backs. Then other folx of color. But you’re coming out now and being like, “Yes, I’ve always believed this.” Take your 500 million dollars…
Kim: And shove it where? Shove it where?
Nicole: Where the sun, you know, doesn’t necessarily show. [Laughs]
Kim: [In a whiny tone] Ohhh, but that hurt my feelings.
Nicole: [Also playing the injured party] That hurt my—how are you so, you’re so rude! You’re so—why are you so crass?
Kim: Why can’t we have just a civil conversation?
Nicole: Why? Lower your voice. Lower your voice. [Alternating between the CEO type and herself] I’m like, “Look, I don’t wanna be yelled at.” I’m like, “I don’t wanna be stolen from!” “I don’t wanna be yelled at.” “I don’t want my people to be oppressed!” [Kim laughs] “I don’t wanna be yelled at.”
Kim: And that’s so equal, oppression and yelling is a strict equation.
Nicole: I’m like, “Motherfucker, am I hurting your ears? [Kim laughs] Like, are your ears bleeding? ‘Cause I won’t stop.”
Kim: I’m that person who would get intentionally louder. [Nicole laughs] So when you tell—I’ve always been that asshole, I can say it, I’ve always been that…
Nicole: [Laughs] Thank god for people like you.
Kim: When you told me something that bothered the fuck out of you, I was just gonna do it more, just to irritate the shit outta you [Nicole laughs] because you deserve it. Fuck you. I’m just realizing why, but yes, I was definitely that kid. I was definitely that person. “Oh, you don’t like that? Oh, but you—oh, OK. Well listen, if you don’t like it now—AAARGH!” [Both laugh]
Nicole: Now I’m gonna do it when you’re not looking, scare the shit outta you too.
Kim: Yes, yeah, I’m gonna walk up behind you and scream, yell, I’m gonna do all kinds of shit. You won’t even know when the fuck I’m comin’, you’re just gonna jump out of your shoes.
Nicole: I think before I could turn it to anger, I turned it inward. I think a lot about what you said about the Toni Morrison quote about definitions are about the definer, because I have always been told I was emotional, “You’re too emotional,” because—OK, let’s just be honest. I feel other people’s pain deeply. Turns out that’s empathy. [Both laugh]
Kim: That’s a thing!
Nicole: ‘Cause I didn’t know, turns out there’s a name for it, and people generally look upon it kindly, and they’re like, “Oh, that’s a good thing, to be empathetic”. And so I’m like, “OK, well, let’s talk about the pain of the janitorial staff and the fact that you just asked me to accuse them, you just asked me to find out if they were stealing food from you. I feel their pain, but we match, brown and brown, and you’re going to send me in there and find out—and use my Spanish to find out if these people stole food from you.”
Kim: Oh yeah, you’re the overseer. So, mhm.
Nicole: Oh my god. And I just was like—so when I come back and I’m emotional about it, yes, I’m angry; I’m embarrassed for us on behalf of how we treated these people. And truth be told, I didn’t really do it. I was like, [casual tone] “Hey, did you take that food that was in the fridge?” They’re like, “No,” I was, like, “Cool.” [Both laugh]
I came back, I’m like, “Nah, they didn’t take it.” Well, it gets better. The actual white overseer, turns out he’s got cameras everywhere in this office. So he comes back and he goes, [imitates the white dude] “No, they did do it. Look, I have it on film.” Meanwhile, we’re chasing a $30 deli platter in an office that has about a billion dollars of assets. And I’m like, “Is this really, is this…?”
Kim: So you’ve got cameras fine-tuned to the refrigerator.
Nicole: Fine-tuned to the refrigerator because, you know… I was just like…
Kim: Feeding somebody is just a problem.
Nicole: Right. And, you know, we have plenty. How about if we just work into our budget that we, you know, offer some food to the people—we feed everyone else here lunch? This is at night. What if we just, like, wrapped up a couple of plates for the people who are coming to…?
Kim: Yeah. We bought a few extra ones, and let them.
Nicole: Yeah! People would just look at me like—and I’m like, “You don’t understand how resources flow in other communities. You do not understand how people will put dimes and nickels together when somebody needs something, because they know that the next time it might be their turn to have other people bring their dimes and nickels together and…”
Kim: Ok, but whiteness is fundamentally not communal.
Nicole: It’s not. It’s about property ownership.
Kim: It’s not communal. It’s not about—I could tell my friends, I have four friends, well, there’s four of us, and we call ourselves the Golden Girls, and I think we at one point, shifted or passed along the same $250 to each other through…
Nicole: Yep. Yep. That’s right.
Kim: Can I borrow 250? Yep. And then—I mean, we just, that for a year, we passed that same $250 around in each other.
Nicole: Yep, and it saved people’s lives.
Kim: Yes. And no one’s sayin’, “Hey, when you gonna give me that back?” It was, “Hey, do you need more? If you need more, can we, OK hey, can we scrape together some more for this thing right here?”
Nicole: That’s right. That’s right. I’m so grateful I’m from a community and a family like that. We used to have, my sister used to do this thing where—my little sister was really the first to be very financially stable in our family—and so people went to her for a while and you know, of course, that’s what she did.
She had this thing where she would just make the motion of stirring a pot, and she would be like, “It’s all the same pot. It’s all the same pot. It’s all the same pot. Stir it around.” She’s like, “Other people are gonna get there, we’re all gonna get there. It’s gonna be OK.” And I really think about that, about her making that motion of stirring the pot because I was like, “Yeah, in a system, if there are excess resources in one part and insufficient resources in another, you shift resources.”
Kim: And this is why we’re not talking about fuckin’ equality. We’re talking about equity.
Nicole: That is, that is absolutely accurate. We’re talking about equity. We’re talking about my fair share. Am I getting a shot? My fair share.
Kim: And then I have a problem with the word “fair,” because who gets to define what fair is? It’s usually people with power and privilege.
Nicole: That’s true. That’s true. But I think that’s right, I think—well, tell me how you think about equity, because I’m always fascinated.
Kim: So what I think about equity, I gave a good example to one of my clients recently; so I said, “Let’s say you’re—there’s a food budget and there’s $100. Both of you get $100. Well, you live in a community where you have a car, you have access to quality food, you have access to varieties of food. You have farmers’ markets, you have all these kind of things. I, on the other hand, have no car, have to rely on public transportation, and there is no grocery store close to me that matches your quality of food. So when we’re talking about equity, for me to have the same quality of food you have, the $100 is not equal to equal. So I need enough additional funds to get me in a cab or whatever, to get to the store that you go to that I am able to—if I need to get a babysitter from my kids while I go to this store that’s on the other side of town, and get back, if I don’t have the cookware, whatever it is, so that we have the same dining experiences, that’s equity.”
Nicole: Yeah, so I like what you said, and I think what I hear is that you said equity is in context.
Nicole: What I usually talk to my clients about is, what are you trying to solve for? What is the problem you’re trying to solve? And there’s that famous cartoon of the boxes and the kids looking over the fence to see the baseball game. Have you ever seen this?
Kim: Mm-mm, no.
Nicole: Well, I’ll send it over to you.
Kim: Ok, good, I’ll share it…
Nicole: Maybe you can put it in the show notes.
Kim: Yeah, mhm.
Nicole: Yeah, essentially, it talks about distribution of resources to solve a problem, right? So people hear distribution of resources or redistribution of resource, it’s like, “Oh my god, the Communists are coming,” right? And we’re like, “No, we’re talking about solving, we’re talking about articulating the problem you’re trying to solve better. Then it will inform how you distribute resources.”
So in your example, the problem we’re trying to solve for is getting everybody nutritious food in their houses. What does that require? And what I think folx who haven’t lived this way don’t understand, is that there is a high tax on poverty.
Nicole: There’s a high tax on being working class. And I was just thinking about this yesterday, because it was raining here in the Bay Area, and the traffic was a mess, and I left my wallet at home, and there’s just all these—it was just one of those days, you know? And I’m driving my car, and I start to realize five years ago this would have devastated me financially. I would have missed a thing, I would have lost out on that thing, I wouldn’t have known if I had enough gas in my car to make it there and back; my car didn’t have the greatest tires, you know what I mean? And I’d be driving out in the rain, and I’m trying not to drive in the rain, in the dark.
And now I’m in this nice car that is very reliable. All I did was leave my wallet at home. It didn’t set a chain reaction, didn’t set off a chain reaction where at the end of it, I’m gonna get a parking ticket I can’t pay for, or a ding on my license, or I missed the sale—I think folx really don’t understand the level of calculus that goes into not having resources.
Kim: So two points that you just made; the first one I wanna go even before that, when you’re talking about what problem are you trying to solve? That’s where I find the first problem. People don’t know what damn problem they’re trying to solve, and they’re the wrong people to solve the problem.
Nicole: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Kim: And this is why you need diversity, because that’s about recruitment. And inclusion is about retention, so you can get ’em in, but you can’t keep ’em there. So first, that’s the problem there, and I’ll take that back to them fuckin’ scooters. Georgia barely has sidewalks. Why the hell do we need five different scooter companies, clogging up where wheelchairs have to go…
Kim: …and everything else, exactly. So yeah, you’re not solving a problem here, but I wanna also bring up, what you just said it’s the context, it’s the environment. So, I’ve been talking about these damn bootcamps and these ISAs, and someone reached out and he wanted to tell me that they’re, you know, I need to be careful about how I put this, because [Nicole laughs] the ISA people, that students need to understand that they don’t have, that these schools really don’t have the leverage that they’re telling them about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And I have to say, “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. I’m gonna assume just by hearing your voice and your name that you’re a white person. So I’m just gonna stop right there because whether it’s the ISAs, whether they can enforce the ISAs or not, it’s the trauma of being threatened by all that other stuff that people need to take into consideration.”
Nicole: Mhm. That is absolutely accurate.
Kim: It is not about quantitative at this point, it is about qualitative. How is the impact of being threatened, even if it’s a false threat, impacting your life? And you just hit about that like, five years ago, you woulda had a totally different experience just by leaving your wallet at home.
And this is what people aren’t understanding, everything—they wanna make things so fuckin’ binary. Life is not binary. We live in shades of gray. There—I could tell you the same thing with me. That $250 that my friends and I passed around was life-giving for me, was life-giving for me. Now, I can, I don’t need, I can have money in my account right now and forget that I have it in there! That—oh my god! [Laughs]
Nicole: I don’t wake up and check my bank account every morning, which is so strange!
Kim: Yes! Yes!
Nicole: So strange. I used to check it three times a day, because I’m like, “Ooh, what went through,” right? And we’re always saying, “What went through, when’s payday? What went through? What’s, when’s payday?”
Kim: Yes, yes!
Nicole: And I don’t—not doing that frees up brain space for things like creativity, recreation.
Kim: Yes! Yes.
Nicole: I’m doing yoga again.
Nicole: …frees up brain space for things like creativity, recreation.
Kim: Yes! Yes.
Nicole: I’m doing yoga again.
Kim: Less stress, I mean, it gets on my nerves, and this is why I become so fuckin’ obstinate, is when people want to have these quantitative discussions with me. Quant is fine, but the lived experience, which is qualitative, has more value to me. And until we stop, but we’re in this tech space that everything is about—they say data, but what they mean is quanta, they wanna make data this blanketed thing—no, you’re not talking about, when you’re talking about data, you’re talking about quantitative numbers and how they—you’re not talking about qualitative or even a mixed method, which talks about the lived experience, how those numbers impact that lived experience and all these other things. You want to be very binary. Life is not binary.
Nicole: You know, for a while I was working here in Berkeley on a project to close the educational and health gaps in Berkeley public schools, in the city of Berkeley. And we could predict with ridiculous accuracy how long a person would live, what they’d likely die of, what their educational trajectory was gonna be like, how much money they would earn over the course of a lifetime by race, right?
That was the thing. And that holds true in the United States, and in a lot of the world, followed closely by the socioeconomic status into which you are born, right? But race still persists. And when I tell people this, it’s data that they really don’t wanna look at and I go, “But you like data. You like data, let me show you on this census map. I’m gonna overlay just suspensions from school, and you can see them concentrated in the neighborhood, right?”
Then they say, “Well, what about, you know, that’s a whole poor neighborhood.” I’m like, “OK, fine. What about Black kids who come from families where they have two professional parents, and they live in the hills and whatever, whatever, and their parents went to college; they don’t go to our schools any more because the word is out that these schools cannot handle them. So they’re going to private schools, often in Oakland or in Orinda or in San Francisco that are not our public school system. Because we cannot figure this out.”
And people would not, they do mental gymnastics like you couldn’t believe, white folx in particular, to go… [Kim sighs] But I would also see it in Black and brown communities too, where we’ve internalized—that’s right.
Kim: Oh yeah. Internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness is a thing. Yes it is.
Nicole: And you know, when I say, when people go, “Well, our communities, in the Latino and Latinx community, we have to value education more.” I’m like, “No, the fuck we don’t. We value education a lot. We value survival above all else. And so could we please just talk about the context in which this is happening. My parents valued education above all else. It’s fine. Yeah, I made it out. Let me tell you what it took, and I am an infinitesimal tight outlier.”
Nicole: So don’t—’cause they’re like, “You did it.” And I’m like, “Do not use me…”
Kim: Yes. I am definitely a outlier.
Nicole: Yeah. Do not use me as your marker. I’m here to tell you, this is the package, you would listen to this messaging, right? OK, I’m a middle-aged brown woman and I can tell you what my story was and I can tell you what happened now; don’t use my story as the reason why we’re not getting out of poverty. Use the data and the context to understand that we have a system overlaid on us, that is designed for our demise.
Kim: And the fact—and I say this to this—the fact that Black women still exist is only because of our own efforts. [Laughs]
Nicole: My CFO and I, he’s a Black man from Chicago who’s been a friend of mine since our college days—actually, I wanna take a little detour, tell you about how we became friends.
So, freshman year, we went to one of those “names” schools, and he knocks on my dorm door and my name is on the door, and I opened the door and there’s this Black kid standing there, and he’s like, “Hey, I’m so and so, I’m from Chicago.” I was like, “Oh, hey, nice to meet you,” he goes, “I was just trying to figure out who in this dorm might understand the—could you say—the confusion I’m feeling right now, and I saw your last name and I thought, I’m gonna give it a try, [Kim laughs] ’cause she’s probably poor like me.” [Laughs]
We’ve been really tight ever since then, ’cause he’s like, “I figured, Sanchez, I couldn’t tell who was Black, [Kim giggles] but I could tell that you were probably Mexican.” I was like, “You’re right.” So, we navigated that school together, just being, just…
Kim: To survive.
Nicole: Yeah, just being overwhelmed by the idea that—my joke is always I never knew summer was a verb until I went to this school; “Where do you summer?” I’m like, that’s not a word. [Kim laughs] That’s a noun, that’s not a verb, that’s a noun. “Where do you summer?” Like… I…
Kim: [Laughing] At the house?
Nicole: I was like, “At my grocery store job? I don’t, like, I don’t know what you mean!” [Kim chuckles] And so—but we internalize because we’re like, “Well, look at the two of you. If you did it, we can do it.” I’m like, “No, if I did it, one kid from your school is gonna do it.”
Kim: And this is what pisses me off right now about the Obamas. Oh please, shut the fuck up…
Nicole: They’re breaking my heart over and over and over, they are…
Kim: Pleeease, shut the fuck uuuup!
Nicole: …breaking my heart.
Kim: God damn, if you can’t own up to the fact that you had to be the epitome of Blackness to be in that role, not to make a mistake, that even when you didn’t, they called them mistakes, and then to turn around—boy, internalized white supremacy and anti Blackness is a thing…
Nicole: It’s a drug.
Kim: …that assimilationist is—ooh, lord!
Nicole: My community has this—[sighs] I love my people. I love my people. [Kim laughs] But.
Kim: It’s funny when you have to preface… [laughs]
Nicole: I know, I love my people. I love my people. A couple of years ago, I got really close to a student at UC Berkeley who ended up getting picked up by ICE and detained, and I helped him basically get released. So, what I learned about his experience once he felt like talking about it again, was that the guards who were the worst to him were the Latino guards.
And this is something that if you study prisons and you study, you know, you understand about that internalized thing, and it’s heart-breaking, he said the first time he saw Latino guard, he was like, “Oh, thank god, maybe somebody who’s gonna listen to me and I can…”, and no, no, they were more brutal to him, he said, than any other group of guards. And that to me is like, I don’t even know where—I have to really meditate hard on this one to think about how to tackle that problem.
Kim: Well see, for me I don’t, because it’s whiteness, white supremacy as designed. If you think about slavery, the master, slave owner didn’t beat slaves. They had a Black overseer who beat slaves and were more brutal and there’s documentation that slaves would oftentimes prefer the slave owner to the overseer.
And they’re put in those roles for a reason. They’re put in those roles so that the oppressed individuals can identify—again, representation matters—identify with the person. Like your student, he identified with other Latinx, and yet this other person has relative power, relative privilege—even though it’s being given to by whiteness and can be taken away at any moment by whiteness, it’s nothing that they own, it’s only on loan—and so it will do anything it can to hold on to that. And it justifies that. Nothing nowadays surprises me. Now the more I learn I’m like, “Oh, I’m getting answers.” I’m like, “Oh, now that shit makes sense. Yes!”
Nicole: It’s a pattern, that’s a pattern.
Kim: Exactly! It makes sense!
Nicole: Yeah, that’s a pattern. That’s right. I mean, what was Harriet Tubman’s quote? Still I think about it probably, I don’t know, every few weeks it pops in my head; “I freed a lot of slaves. I could have freed a lot more if only they had known they were slaves.”
Nicole: And that one, really—I go back to it over and over.
Kim: This is the one reason that Blacks are not my target audience, because I recognize and I can deal with—I am a consultant, a business strategist who is trying to educate their oppressor while I’m also processing my own oppression.
Kim: But I cannot do is process my oppression, somebody else’s Black oppression and get anything done, that does not scale. That’s just too much going on, I leave that to other folx, because I can’t, I can’t—when I’m educating the oppressor there’re enough of the oppressors that are in power that once they get it, they can use their privilege to leverage it to change.
I value my Black folx and I give them the support. Then when I get on the stage and I talk about our issues, I’m speaking not for them, but on behalf of them, I’m saying shit that they can’t say because they would get fired. So that’s the reason I do that. But I cannot do that work and be effective because I also have to deal with my own personal well-being.
And so I have to, this is—and working with white people makes it very clear, just like classroom management—these are the lines, I’m the educator and you’re the student. I can draw very clear lines in the sand, and so yeah, I totally get it. I see it and it breaks my heart. And then I just have to say, “You know what, Kim? But that’s not your strategy, and that’s not—you have to leave that to other folx.”
Nicole: Somebody’d better have that strategy.
Kim: Yeah. Yeah.
Nicole: I’d like to find out who’s working on that in the prison industrial complex and help them. [Laughs]
Kim: I mean, and you see that with Black police officers…
Nicole: All the time.
Kim: …being more brutal than white police officers.
Nicole: Do you watch “Watchmen”? Have you been watching “Watchmen”?
Kim: Oh, no, I can’t watch, mm-mm. OK, so this is another thing that saves me, if it’s not funny [Nicole laughs] or like a superhero, I don’t do it. Or I’ll watch…
Nicole: Well, it is a superhero, but it is rooted in…
Kim: But it’s dark.
Nicole: Oh, it is rooted in everything we’re talking about…
Kim: Nooo, nope.
Nicole: It is. I really hope every white person in America is watching “Watchmen”. That’s what I really hope.
Kim: OK, good.
Nicole: That’s what I really hope. You know, I think about how people have done these, again, mental gymnastics around giving white supremacy the benefit of the doubt. Or, “There are fine people on both sides.” Or, “We can’t kick them off of our platform because whatever, whatever,” and I’m like, “OK,” but what “Watchmen” does so beautifully in my opinion, first of all, it centers Regina King…
Kim: Yes, yes.
Nicole: …who is a goddess from above. And second of all, it reminds us that the enemy really has its roots in the KKK, really has it’s—and the KKK has a relationship with the police force. And let’s show us kicking some Nazi and KKK ass to remind us all that we used to agree on this. This used to be table stakes like, “Yeah, we hate people who do that.” Guess what? It’s not table stakes anymore.
Kim: And this is why—it’s so funny, because there was a altercation on Twitter a few weeks ago, and they boiled it down to the fact that I did not like this individual because of a MAGA hat. Two things. His history of being a dick was there for everybody to see even before I stepped in, and I make it very clear to you, as a Black woman, a MAGA hat is the same thing as a swastika or a KKK to me. I don’t see any difference, and I’m not going to sit back and say, “Is this a good white person with a…?” No, not doing that. Because that’s—and I’m like, “No, no, you’re expecting something out of me that I’m not gonna do.”
Nicole: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And I’m like, “Don’t you understand those red hats are nature’s way of telling us danger, danger, danger? You wanna wear one? You’re wearing one to intimidate people, not wearing one out of pride. Well, white pride. You’re not wearing one because you’re like, ‘I love America and it’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ You’re wearing it to intimidate me.”
Kim: And then the thing that I need people in tech to understand while you’re coming to the defense of these individuals and saying, “Well, that’s their politics,” you need to know that you’re a quote unquote “friend.” If you’re in my circle, 1 to 2 degrees away from you could be somebody who wants to harm me, so that means you need to be eliminated from my circle.
So if you don’t like, you can’t deal with that, then I don’t know what to tell you, ’cause I’m not putting, I’m not doing this work to be a fuckin’ martyr. At all. I’m here to get paid. I’m here to change the space, and to get paid. [Both laugh]
Nicole: You know, my—people are often surprised to find out my husband’s white—and I get his opinion on this stuff just to be like, “Explain to me what this is like,” and so he talks about—so he grew up very poor Boston Irish Catholic. And what I realized is the way that I grew up, Catholic working class but on the other side of the country was very similar to him.
To watch—so let’s say we started in a relatively similar point, right?—but to watch, and he’s very well aware of, to watch people bend over backwards for his comfort is extraordinary and he’ll look at me like, “Yeah, I saw that. Did you see that?”
And the one that gets me every time, which is hilarious, I used to work at a tech company that was a unicorn, and he would come visit me and he would walk in and people would go up to him like, go out of their way to greet him and they’d be like, “Oh, are you new here? Are you a new engineer? What’s your deal? How are you?” He wouldn’t get stopped by security the same way, he wouldn’t, right? All the benefits of the doubt, and he’ll be like, “I’m here to visit my wife,” and they’d be like, “Oh, your wife works here? Who is she?” And then he would say, and the faces would just drop.
Nicole: [Laughing] You could just see people’s faces drop, the cognitive dissonance and the work that they would have to do to be like, “Wait, what?” And so on my staff and with him—his name is Patrick, you won’t be surprised to find out—but we’ve been talking about new ways of whiteness, and that OK, it’s not my job to be like, “Are you a good white person?” #NotAllWhitePeople. How—you know? None. None of that.
There are white folx, which I find really fascinating, seeking to organize with each other to figure out a new way of being white in a pluralistic society, in a society that is going to be very soon majority people of color. How do they—’cause they can’t change their whiteness, their literal whiteness—what is the model of participation in systems that is not white supremacy?
And the conversations that I’ve been privy to as folx have been talking about it is fascinating to me, and I think—like, it’s not my work. It’s not my work to do. It’s not, I’m not gonna put a ton of resources there, that is for, I think, white folx to figure out. But I love this emerging conversation ’cause like, there’re some folx who want to redefine whiteness ’cause they’re living on the other side of it, but it sucks too.
Kim: And that’s why I say white supremacy is the parasite that’s finally eating on its host.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s right. And the host is going, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.”
Kim: No one escapes white supremacy unscathed. No one, absolutely no one. And this—I’m so happy you mentioned that, because this is a project that we’re working on for 2020. It’s The Alliance, and it’s the Tech Antiracist Agenda.
Kim: Yes, exactly. We’re building a platform where—’cause we can’t have these conversations online because, you know, you get the assholes interrupting and they have strategy. They meet. And so we need to learn. And so I’m happy you’re saying that because—and this again, audience, is why I say we’re at a tipping point. You don’t see it, but when the most marginalized of us see this happening, we’re at a tipping point.
Nicole: That’s right. That—I absolutely believe that. I am 100% with that analysis, because I’ve been in this sector for a long time. The first job I had doing diversity in any kind of official way in tech was in 1999, and people used to look at me like I had three heads.
Kim: Exactly. I’m sure.
Nicole: They would be like, “What the fuck are you talking about? Tech is tech, code is code, data is data.” And I would be like, “You know, I actually think,”—’cause of what I just experienced in college—”what I actually think is, the definitions are for the definer.” I didn’t say it as articulately as Toni Morrison. [Kim laughs] But I was like, “Nah, you’re missing some stuff,” and I didn’t know what it was ’cause I’m not a technical person by training. I didn’t know what it was, but I was like, “No, this is gonna go wrong.”
Kim: OK, so I’m gonna stop you, and I’m going to correct you on this. We use the word “technical” incorrectly. You have different technical skills. They have technical skills related to technology. You have technical skills related to your domain of expertise.
Nicole: I like that, I like that. I’ll take it.
Kim: Yes, we need to stop. Yeah, we need to stop using, attributing technical only to code and engineers.
Nicole: I love it. OK, fine, I’m deeply technical!
Kim: Yes, exactly. Because that devalues the work that we do, and that’s why we don’t get resources, that’s why we don’t get back-up, because no one values, because it’s a nice to have and not a requirement.
Nicole: I love it. I love that. I’m a deeply technical person in my area of expertise…
Kim: Yeah, yeah. There you go. There you go.
Nicole: …which was not code. And here’s the other thing that I’ll say—and I realize that we’re going a little bit over time, but I just wanna say—I went to college with the people who built this generation of technology and all of its ills, and we were raising red flags in 1994 saying, “This is not gonna go well if these are the people that are leading this,” because these are the people who did things like call people all kinds of epithets, who used to make school—I pause ’cause I’m just flashing back—who used to make classrooms difficult for us, and tell us that we were only there because of our race, because of affirmative action, because whatever; these were the same people who went and built the early, this past generation of tech.
What did you think was going to get built in? And so I feel like I’ve been yelling for 25 years, exactly 25 years, and this year I’ve been yelling, “This is not gonna go well,” and my point is that I want to agree with you that we’re at a tipping point, because I can feel other people saying it. I hear other people saying it, and I’ve never met them before.
Kim: Yes. Yes. Exactly.
Nicole: And I’m like, “OK.”
Kim: And everybody’s in their own little corners, and when we start coming together is when the—yep, mhm.
Nicole: Yeah, and I love it. And I love it. And I love new people who are like, “Oh, I get this now, it’s clicking for me now,” I’m like, “Great, come on, come along.” It’s gotta look different. Everything’s gotta look different, from the equity distribution to the code that we’re writing to the problems we’re solving to the investment models, to the ownership culture…
Kim: …to who we prioritize, to whose safety is more important, whose comfort is more important… all, every single thing has to be rethought.
Nicole: I’m here for it.
Kim: All right! So what would you like to say in your final moments?
Nicole: Oh, I just appreciate your voice in the space, because I do think that some days I think I go hard, but then I’ll look at your Twitter and I’m like, “Oh no, Kim’s going harder.” [Both laugh] And so I just really want to say thank you, because it matters and knowing that you’re holding that line out there while the rest of us are also trying to figure out our lines to hold, but I can always count on you to just be like, “And here’s the truth.” And then it snaps me right back into, “Yep, that’s the truth. OK, quit dancing around it, that’s the truth.”
Kim: Yes, call a thing a thing.
Nicole: Call a thing a thing. And so that’s where I wanna end, is by thanking you.
Kim: Well, thank you so much. It was well worth the two years, and I’m sure…
Nicole: I know, I’m so sorry! That was all my bad. That was all my bad.
Kim: See, I’m a person who’s learned that when the time is right, the time is right.
Nicole: The time is right now.
Kim: And so the time is right that both of us are coming together because we both see a tipping point. Think about what we can accomplish now that we see the tipping point that we couldn’t accomplish two years ago.
Nicole: I agree. I agree. I love doing this work more and more every day. I’m not burned out. I’m recharged. I’m not burned out.
Kim: Yes! And that’s what happens when you have a strategy and you know where you’re going. I’m not doing this for some emotional—mm-mm. I have a plan. [Laughs]
Nicole: I have a plan. I have a plan. I agree. I have a plan and I’m so glad you have a plan out there.
Kim: Well, thank you so much and have a wonderful day.
Nicole: Thanks Kim!