We bring you another installment of our employee spotlight series with DEI Program Manager Shelby Reaburn. Part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team reporting to the CEO, Shelby shared with us how her career got started at BenchSci and she discovered a passion for DEI work while on the job.
What made you choose BenchSci?
I stumbled upon BenchSci by chance. It wasn't really an intentional thing at the time. It was my first job out of school. I had just graduated with a major in biology and a minor in psychology and I didn't really know what I wanted to do next but I wanted to get involved with mental health or workplace policy, public health, or something along those lines.
I came across BenchSci when I was applying for whatever jobs I could find. It was my first job offer, so I said yes. I never really anticipated being here for this long but in the last five and a half or so years, there's been a number of different opportunities that I've presented themselves that have kept me here.
Tell us more about the different kinds of work you’ve done during your time here?
I started as an Operations Manager five years ago when we were just under 20 employees. At that time, I did a little bit of everything from payroll to IT. I managed our office spaces, including two big renovations, planned team events like our annual retreats, and helped develop our first set of company values.
When we hired our first Head of People and Culture, I became a part of our People team and continued to work on initiatives related to our culture. That's where I first got started with work related to diversity and inclusion. We hired a consultant to help build out our strategy a few years ago, and I really loved the work we were starting to take on. One of our consultant’s recommendations for scaling DEI was to move it outside of our People team and over to the Office of the CEO. When we did that, I applied for that role and I've been doing this work now officially for about two years.
Shelby at a meeting on the construction and design of BenchSci's Toronto office
What are three words you would use to describe our culture?
I want to say ambitious, ever-evolving, and human-centered.
How does BenchSci approach diversity, equity, and inclusion now and where are we going?
BenchSci takes an intentional approach to DEI, and our strategy is something we're still evolving. I think even as a field, it's something that is still evolving. There's still a lack of clarity around what success looks like for DEI within an organization, and who’s doing DEI “right”. So I think we have a lot of ingredients to do something really great. We have dedicated resources and a great team, and we have leadership who cares and wants to do the right thing for the right reasons.
We’re proud to say that company-wide, our gender representation is close to 50% women and over 50% from racialized groups. But although we’re close to 50% women overall, it’s not true for all the groups in our organization, especially in engineering. In 2023 we will be focusing on continuing to improve our representation in areas where the numbers aren’t as strong as we’d like. This year we launched our first Employee Resource Group (ERG): BenchShe+, to support the professional development of women at BenchSci. Next year, we’re looking forward to adding a few more groups to our ERG portfolio.
We are also looking to kind of expand the footprint of our team to include not only internal diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, but looking at our social impact as well to encompass more of our corporate social responsibility strategy. We want to have a really integrated approach to how we approach both of them next year.
From left to right: Chelsea Omel, Director of Strategic Design, Shelby, and Christopher Guest, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director
How do you collaborate with and stay connected to the team in a remote-first organization?
My manager is working out of Tennessee in the United States. We are in the same time zone and that really helps us. It makes it a lot easier to coordinate our schedules. We also try to get together in person when we are in the same city whether for a planning session or for a Happy Hour. As part of the DEI team, we’re also often called to help run sessions for other teams’ offsites and meetings whether virtually or in person which gives us a chance to connect. Beyond that, I keep up with the teams via Slack, different group chats, engaging in all company channels, and things like that. When the Toronto office is open, I try to go in somewhat regularly so I can keep up face time with people.
Where do you see the role of a dedicated conversation channel about mental health in the workplace?
I think that having space to talk about things like mental health at work is super important. Showing up at work every day is really hard—harder than we like to admit a lot of the time—especially working at a hyper-growth company. I think we all need regular reminders that it's okay that showing up might look different every day. It's important to put yourself and your well-being first if you want to be successful at work.
Shelby at the former BenchSci office in Toronto
What is your hidden talent?
I grew up dancing, which is something that not everyone knows. I recently took the first dance class I've taken in a while. It was a few weeks ago, and I'm inspired to get back into it! I did a jazz funk-type class but I grew up doing a little bit of everything, jazz, tap, ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, hip-hop, and Irish dancing.
What’s your biggest goal?
One of my biggest goals right now is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. My biggest focus currently is thrifting for furniture and clothes. So I try to buy a lot of things secondhand as much as possible. When I maybe have a bit more space in my apartment, I want to get into more upcycling and DIY furniture and stuff.