Better Together

How We’re Building a More Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Domino Data Lab


Just as Domino Data Lab values data and metrics over anecdotes or assumptions, we know that actions speak louder than words.

But since not all of our actions are highly visible, we decided to share some words about what we’re doing in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

First, tell us about the moment Domino Data Lab is in right now, from a DEI standpoint.

Donald: Since I joined, what stands out most to me is that we’re moving from a primarily employee-led effort to the company’s leadership starting to take the baton. A year ago, a lot of our conversations around DEI were happening in our Slack channels. And those are great; we definitely want team members engaging with each other. But leaders have to be just as engaged and really show that this is important to them. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is that the Executive team now understands the need to make a huge investment in development and training, and they see this as a major component in our success as a company.

Of course, we all want progress to happen more quickly. But I do think we’re trying to move as fast as possible. In the last year alone, we’ve seen a lot of change. We have new voices starting to speak up for DEI at the highest levels. And compared to a few years ago, it’s night and day.

Chief People Officer Michelle Arieta (left), and Head of Global Talent Donald Sanchez.

Michelle: Absolutely. We haven’t always gotten this right, and honestly, when we first launched the work we’re doing now around DEI, there was some hesitation. But that’s normal. I’ve seen it at multiple companies. It’s not that people aren’t supportive; we all fundamentally believe no one should be treated differently at work because of things like race and gender. But there’s a natural fear of vulnerability—of people seeing how much you have to learn, of getting something wrong, of not knowing how to have these difficult conversations in an authentic way. I’ve felt that myself! We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and that takes time. But it doesn’t mean we wait. We have to just jump in.

I’d describe this moment as a tipping point in what will always be a journey. One of Domino’s company values is “iterate to excellence.” In terms of DEI, I think that means we iterate to understanding. You can’t just check boxes and say you’re done. You have to constantly learn and move forward, and keep getting better together.

Can you share some of the work each of you is doing to make the company more diverse and inclusive?

Michelle: One thing that’s been super exciting recently is implementing Gem, which was Donald’s idea. It’s essentially a tool that allows us to set and track diversity metrics. We’re a data company—we all understand that if we want to hold ourselves accountable and improve something, we have to be able to measure it. And diversity data can be challenging to gather, so it’s important to have the right tools and strategies to get the insights we need. Then we don’t have to rely on anecdotal information to understand how we’re doing in terms of diversity, because we have concrete numbers.

Some other partnerships have been really helpful, too, including a large strategic project with People Runway. We’re also doing trainings through MindGym on things like unconscious bias and microaggressions. Every team member goes through those trainings. And we recently built out a whole new framework for manager training. Right now there are three modules, and we’re building out three more, on everything from interviewing to giving feedback to creating psychological safety and inclusive leadership.

Donald: That interview training alone has been so helpful, and we’ve been able to move very quickly there. About 80% of the team went through it in the first few months. We’ve also added more structure to the interview process itself. This is relevant to diversity because, without standardization, unconscious bias is more likely to creep in.

We are also working to be more intentional about surfacing the voices of employees from underrepresented groups. When we give someone a microphone to share their story, that not only attracts diverse candidates, but also helps current employees understand each other’s experiences.

Tell us more about how Domino is collecting data about DEI with People Runway.

Michelle: The first phase was assessing our culture. We wanted to make sure we understood, from the team’s perspective, where we are now. People Runway looked at our engagement surveys and our attrition data from Q2 of 2021, they did interviews with employees, and then they compiled all of that information and pulled out insights by demographic. One finding, which of course we knew, is that Domino is disproportionately white and male. Another was that the typical female employee here has a different experience compared to their male counterparts—they had more concerns about things like career growth, and were less often asked for their opinions.

That was hard to hear. But when the data, along with specific examples, is right in front of you, it’s clear you need to act. So the second phase, which we’re in now, is designing and implementing strategies to address those findings. One change we’re working on is an inclusive leadership workshop for all executive-level staff and managers. I’m also meeting with each leader to establish specific goals and strategies for increasing female and BIPOC representation in every part of the company. There’s more to do, but these actions are a start.

What are some of your specific DEI goals right now?

Donald: For my team, we’re focused mostly on two metrics: the number of diverse hires at the director level and above, and the percentage of diverse representation at the top of the hiring funnel. The first is a different goal each quarter, depending on the total number of hires, but always a minimum of two. Our current goal is to increase BIPOC representation at the top of the funnel from 20% to 25%. 

Michelle: Those are great examples. Like a lot of companies, we haven’t tracked these metrics from the beginning, and I think the more data we gather, the better equipped we’ll be to improve. Part of the work right now is helping each other understand what’s realistic and what progress looks like. In a recent quarter we greatly increased our female representation—still, it’s not exactly where we want to be, but we are now moving in the right direction. 

The other thing I’d say in terms of goals is that they have to be multidimensional. Hiring and retention are definitely key. But we’re also looking at everything from promotions to internal communications.

What’s the best way for team members to get involved in DEI work at Domino?

Donald: Be vocal. Michelle sent out a note a few weeks ago that I think is a great example. She shared some of the things she’s doing to learn more about DEI and asked for people to share their own learnings, suggestions for trainings—anything we can do to embrace this growth as a community. To move Domino in the right direction, everyone has to get involved. It’s a partnership. Each of us has something we’re trying to improve on, and when we share that information with others, it makes the whole company better. 

Michelle: Another good option is getting involved in an employee resource group (ERG), or even just attending one of their events. We have a lot of growth to do on this front, setting up new organizations. We have a LatinX group starting up this quarter. But our women’s group is already pretty active. We did a panel on International Women’s Day with women in data science, and about two-thirds of the company showed up. That was pretty cool.

For leaders, I think one important step is creating a sense of community on their team and embracing people’s differences. For example, one of our executives added a regular feature to his team meetings where an employee shares about their culture. If you’re not sure what to do or how, ask. I think that’s really the most critical thing—asking questions. When managers are vulnerable, they help create an environment where it’s okay for their team members to be vulnerable, too.

What are you looking forward to right now in terms of DEI? What makes you optimistic about the future?

Michelle: What’s most exciting to me is how many people want to be involved. The last year was about figuring out how to move the needle on DEI. It’s been a learning experience, and sometimes, it’s been messy. But now I’m getting emails every week from someone raising their hand, asking to help.

That includes members of our Executive team. I think we’ve evolved a lot, at every level of leadership. Managers have so much hiring to do. They’re moving quickly. But they clearly understand the value of a diverse workforce and continue to hire through that lens. Ken Tacelli, our new president of Global Field Operations, is a great example. He’s quadrupled female representation in Sales in six months. He hired the team’s first female regional VP. He’s very passionate about building an organization that represents our customers, and he understands that this is how we win. 

For me, the big project now is leveraging all of these leaders and other force multipliers on our team to amplify this DEI work as much as possible. As Donald said, it’s a partnership.

Donald: I think we have a real opportunity to expand the way we build our community in this new, more remote environment. Before COVID-19, it was easier to connect people who might not otherwise meet—I could use things like Lunch and Learns and dinners to introduce leaders to diverse talent. So what can each of us be doing now to get beyond our own networks? Our first step was seeking out job boards and other digital platforms that can help grow our reach with specific affinity groups. Next, we want to get more involved with those groups—have people speak at our events, or present at theirs.

As far as what makes me optimistic, I think every company really has to do two things around DEI: acknowledge its importance to both the business and the team, and put up a mirror to the gaps in the organization. Domino is now doing both of those, and that’s what gives me hope that we can continue moving the needle.

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