When it comes to diversity, Braintree employees will be the first to tell you that numbers don’t tell the whole story. With a dedicated diversity and inclusion program, the company defines diversity broadly.
“It’s a wide umbrella that includes things like gender, race, ethnicity and age, but also religion, nationality, work style, marital status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, personality — and the list goes on,” said Anna Johnson, Braintree’s D&I program manager.
This commitment to D&I started when Braintree internally shared its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data last summer. Based on the results, they decided to take more proactive measures to create a diverse and inclusive environment, said Johnson.
That’s when Braintree created Johnson’s position, brought employees together to collaborate on D&I initiatives and established company-wide training programs on things like overcoming unconscious bias.
We asked Braintree’s staff to delve into what it takes to buck the trend in the tech world and build a diverse and inclusive environment.
EMPLOYEES: 600 national; 500 local.
WHAT THEY DO: Help businesses of all sizes accept and process payments with the backing and security of PayPal.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago.
WHAT THEY VALUE: Employees who ask why, care a lot and solve together.
PILLARS: Three pillars uphold Braintree’s D&I initiative: recruiting, which focuses on hiring diverse candidates; internal support, which aims to create an inclusive environment; and community outreach, which measures impact in the greater community.
PERKS: Braintree’s diversity initiative extends to its health program, where they provide LGBTQ health benefits.
AJ (Anna) Johnson, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager
Johnson leads the D&I efforts at Braintree. She collaborates with other teams to establish tangible goals that ensure that this work meets the needs of employees.
BEYOND WORK: She’s an avid WNBA fan with season tickets to the Chicago Sky.
When did Braintree decide to focus on D&I? What led up to it?
Johnson: In July 2016, we released our Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data internally to hold ourselves accountable. We recognized the larger trends in the tech world, and we wanted to think more proactively about diversity and inclusion. We also instituted three pillars to initiate our diversity and inclusion work: recruiting, outreach and internal support.
We recognized the larger trends in the tech world, and we wanted to think more proactively about diversity and inclusion."
How does Braintree define diversity?
Johnson: Diversity at Braintree isn’t limited to our EEOC data. It’s a wide umbrella that includes things like gender, race, ethnicity and age, but also religion, nationality, work style, marital status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, personality — and the list goes on.
We understand that Braintree has a process to help people combat their own internal biases. Tell us about this.
Johnson: After requests for more D&I training, we created a full-time team of diverse employees who are designing a six-hour D&I training for employees. The program will provide more specific actions and tools to approach bias and differences in the workplace. We’ll have managers complete it and then roll it out to the entire organization in 2018. We also brought in the San Francisco-based firm, Paradigm, to do unconscious bias training focused on the lifecycle of the employee.
D&I goals can be difficult to measure. How does Braintree measure success?
Johnson: The EEOC data is significant, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. We are in the process of developing a roadmap for 2018, where we will define other goals. This includes having the whole organization complete training in 2018, running a certain number of events per quarter and tracking attendance. Then we’ll send out pulse surveys to see whether these steps have had a positive impact. We’re also using portions of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks assessment to help us develop our own program.
Were there obstacles to building diversity? How did you overcome them?
Johnson: Our initial program was overly dependent on “grassroots” involvement. We had no centralized way to prioritize and communicate plans, and no structure in place to track our successes or areas for improvement. As a result, Braintree created my role in 2017.
Soleil Benavides, Operations Recruiter
Benavides’ job is to find great candidates who will thrive in Braintree's operations team. She also co-leads the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts in recruiting practices, collaborating with other employees to enrich her team’s commitment to D&I.
BEYOND WORK: Benavides dedicates time each day to meditate.
Describe an ideal candidate.
Benavides: We want everyone to be themselves at work and bring their unique skills. At Braintree, we are driven by our values of “ask why, care a lot, and solve together.” We like people who are highly curious, keep the customer at heart and enjoy collaborating with others.
Tell us a few ways you are incorporating diversity in hiring and recruiting.
Benavides: We start by evaluating our job postings so they are clear and inclusive, and then we structure what we are looking for and how that is defined. We’ve updated our job postings to acknowledge the imposter syndrome and the confidence gap. I've been happy to hear from a number of candidates who said that, when they saw that in the job posting, it was the final push they needed in order to apply.
How does Braintree's culture differ from previous companies at which you've worked?
Benavides: I once worked at a place where we were banned from laughing and talking, so Braintree's flat and open culture was incredibly refreshing to me. From the office setup to the frequent town hall meetings, everyone has the opportunity to stay connected to our larger goals and ask leadership candid questions.
We are talking about real people when it comes to D&I, so we have to engage in conversations that go beyond numbers and demographics."
What should the tech sector do to improve on diversity?
Benavides: Have honest conversations, ask tough questions and, above all, listen to one another. We are talking about real people when it comes to D&I, so we have to engage in conversations that go beyond numbers and demographics. We are doing this because it's the right thing, and we want to build the best teams.
Katie Klinzing, Head of Braintree Support
Klinzing heads up Braintree’s support organization. At nearly 80 members, it is one of the largest groups in the organization. She collaborates with product teams to communicate the merchant’s perspective and finds the best ways to serve a diverse array of merchants.
BEYOND WORK: Klinzing loves spending time with her two pugs, who have become minor doggie celebrities on Instagram. She supports local dog rescues like One Tail at a Time.
Name an obstacle you or Braintree faced in building diversity. How did you overcome it?
Klinzing: Like many organizations, we’ve struggled to quantify what D&I means and how to hit the targets that are harder to spot and impossible to quantify. We’ve focused on competencies that are “must haves” as well as those we lacked or needed to bolster. It’s helped us think of new ways to source candidates, and decide which skills are required and which ones are trainable.
We heard that your team embodies the “inclusion” part of D&I. How so?
Klinzing: We never thought about “inclusion” outright — it’s part of who we are. We were one of the first teams at Braintree to have to build out multi-region support for our merchants. We decided to centralize our team in Chicago to focus on consistency and inclusion. We always keep the individual in mind and allow them to be stakeholders in the process, whether that’s in evaluations, development opportunities or rolling out changes.
We never thought about 'inclusion' outright — it’s part of who we are."
Has the company’s commitment to D&I affected your relationships or the way you do your day-to-day work?
Klinzing: Through our D&I training, I realized I had a significantly higher amount of emotional labor than others because I was taking on too much responsibility. I circled back to our values and recognized that I wasn’t giving others the opportunity to help solve these problems. I shared this with my teammates, and since we all had the same training and language to work from, they were willing and able to help.
Morgan Williams, Senior Business Analyst
Williams is the team lead for Braintree’s financial operations team, which assesses merchant profitability around the globe. They help streamline internal tools while maximizing operational efficiencies. In addition to her finance work, Williams collaborates with the D&I team on recruiting.
BEYOND WORK: Williams volunteers with By the Hand Club, an after-school program for children who live in high-risk, inner-city neighborhoods.
Tell me about your work with Braintree’s D&I team.
Williams: I work with them on university and mid-level professional recruiting. It’s really important to me that people of color have representation in the tech space. I have an opportunity at Braintree to have a seat at the table for D&I conversations without being on the D&I team.
It’s really important to me that people of color have representation in the tech space."
How did you become involved with Blavity and AfroTech?
Williams: Last fall I discovered that Blavity — a tech company for forward-thinking black millennials pushing the boundaries of culture and the status quo — was hosting a conference for black professionals in tech called AfroTech. Given that we don’t have many entry-level positions, I knew that partnering with women and historically black universities couldn’t be our sole strategy for D&I recruitment. So I attended the conference and thought it would be a great organization to partner with.
What impact has that had on Braintree?
Williams: Working with Blavity has been great. We partnered with them in their conference for women in Chicago called EmpowerHer, and we are partnering with them for AfroTech 2017. As Braintree invests more in D&I and solicits feedback from employees, I think we can continue to work with more organizations like Blavity and expand representation of people of color at Braintree.