Of BenchSci’s six-year history, 2021 will be a year to remember. We grew by more than 100 humans and transformed into a remote-first work environment. Transparency is one of the core values that has guided us as we have grown, and our Culture Deck has encouraged much discussion internally and externally. We’ve begun making a splash in our efforts to create a company where team members from all backgrounds feel like they belong and are able to do their best work.
Before we published our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 2021 Year in Review (Inclusion and Impact Report), I (SR) sat down with Christopher Guest (CG), Director of DEI, to reflect on the year and what’s next.
CG: Shelby, how did you find yourself in this role—in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space?
SR: I've been at BenchSci for about four and a half years—I started as an Operations Manager within the People Operations team.
I didn't exactly know where I wanted my career to grow, but I always enjoyed contributing to the employee experience. As a person, I'm deeply curious about the human experience, and my core values are community and authenticity.
When BenchSci first started investing in diversity and inclusion as an area of focus, I found it really energizing and loved the discussions that came with the big questions and problems we were trying to solve.
So when BenchSci created an internal role focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, I applied, and I've been in this role for just over a year now.
CG: I love that your core values are community and authenticity, which really matches working in a space that's all about people. What are some of the learnings you’ve had in this role?
SR: One of the big learnings I've had since we've gotten more intentional about our DEI work is that this work is hard and can take a lot of time. Ultimately we're trying to shift behaviors within a culture, and those changes don't happen overnight. So we can be fast at executing things, but sometimes the impact won’t be experienced for months or sometimes even years down the line.
CG: I hear you there, and that's also a huge part of the work that we do because it encapsulates not just systems internally, but systems, processes, and mental models that have been in existence in the places where we live. Often, coming into the workplace, we bring all of those things—all of those cognitive biases—with us, and it informs the way that we think and how we make decisions.
SR: Christopher, you've been at BenchSci for about two months so far. What made you choose BenchSci when you were evaluating potential companies, and how do we compare to your initial impression in reality?
CG: That's a good question. I will say that I wasn't really looking for opportunities, but I was intrigued when BenchSci reached out, so I started digging. Everything that I found was really in line with the type of team that I wanted to join, and it had the added advantage of the fact that it's a startup and it's growing very quickly.
I talked to several of my mentors, people in my network, and, you know, they were all saying the same thing. If you have an opportunity to work for a startup and to truly build with equity at the center, and it aligns with your career path, that's really an opportunity that you can't pass up.
Since joining, there are definitely a lot of positives. I’m enjoying building a relationship with senior leaders and reporting to our CEO, Liran. In most organizations, DEI lives under a People or HR function, and here just having that access to be able to look across the business, I think, is going to be a major unlock for the work that we have ahead of us.
Now, I have a question for you! So, I came in at the very end of 2021, but you were here the entire year. What are you most proud of?
SR: There's definitely a lot to be proud of! One of the things I'm really proud of is being at a company that really cares about this work and understands its importance. I feel like we have all of the ingredients to do something really special.
One of the projects that I'm really proud of was the development of our women's ERG (Employee Resource Groups), which is BenchSci’s first-ever ERG. There's a lot of excitement at BenchSci around inclusion, but there haven't always been clear ways for people to get involved.
I'm excited to take the learnings from “BenchShe+” and build on them to see what else we can do to get more people involved this year.
CG: What do you think were our biggest opportunities, or our biggest misses?
SR: I think one of the big opportunities we have is to continue to spread accountability beyond the DEI team. How do we engage our leaders in these conversations and also create opportunities for all BenchSci-ers to be a part of conversations and projects that will impact them? We have an opportunity to continue to increase the representation of marginalized groups, specifically in senior positions, and to get a better pulse on how BenchSci-ers are feeling and experiencing our culture so that it can better inform the work that we have to do.
Can you give us a sneak peek at what you have planned for us in 2022?
CG: Well, we are actively writing our roadmap and strategy for 2022 which will include building understanding within the entire BenchSci population that inclusion is a shared responsibility. We are accountable for the experiences that we create for ourselves and the people around us, and I think that's going to be a huge go-get for us.
One of the ways we can do that is through increased action learning. At BenchSci, we abide by the 70-20-10 model, in which about 70% of our learning comes from the experiences that we have each and every day.
It will include some facilitator- or instructor-led training but will focus on how we connect those dots to what we experience and how we relate to each other, each and every day. We’ll be exploring how we define inclusive leadership as we continue to grow, empowering our leaders to cultivate a culture of inclusion amongst a diverse team.
I also would love for us to be able to evolve our existing partnerships and foster relationships with more relevant organizations and agencies externally as we expand our footprint.
If you are curious, have a look at our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 2021 Year in Review (Inclusion and Impact Report) to dig a little deeper into our progress last year. We look forward to keeping our community updated with our initiatives, events, and progress throughout the year. (And if you're feeling inspired to join us, learn more about careers at BenchSci!)