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Airtable is Taking Bold Steps in its DE&I Recruitment Approach

Listen to our full podcast episode with Airtable's Albrey Brown on iTunes or Spotify

Albrey Brown, the head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Airtable, is no stranger to taking a bold approach when it comes to opening up the software field to underrepresented talent. After all, he created his own opportunities for himself first. Despite not having a college degree, he was able to parlay a three-month coding bootcamp—where he worked 11 hours a day, six days a week—into a thriving software engineering career where doors quickly swung wide open for him.

“Knowing I had no college degree, that was the only way to empower myself to move into tech,” Albrey explained in the latest episode of “Untapped” podcast, hosted by Chief People Officer Tariq Meyers. “And three months later, here I am, someone with no college degree getting offers from companies to go work as a software engineer—and making more money than I ever thought I would make coming out of school.” 

But even though Albrey was able to create his own opportunity as a software engineer, he found himself quickly becoming disillusioned because he wasn’t seeing other people from his community getting these same opportunities—and he wanted to do something to change that. In order to open up similar opportunities for other people, Albrey created his own bootcamp—and his idea was wildly successful.

“I had some funders who were also excited about that vision, so I raised about $500,000 to start this coding bootcamp, ran it for about 18 months, and took it to acquisition,” he said. “We ended up teaching 450 people how to code in JavaScript and build fully functioning applications, and got most of them—90 percent of them—jobs in the industry, therefore creating a lot of wealth.”  

Now he has brought his innovative spirit to Airtable, where he is a perfect fit for the company’s mission to democratize software for everyone. In order to accomplish this, Airtable has taken the following bold steps in its DE&I recruitment approach.

3 Things Airtable is Building their DE&I Foundation Around

Prioritizing job referrals of underrepresented talent

In order to open up the referral pipeline to more diverse talent, Airtable is testing a program where employees will receive premium compensation for referrals of potential employees from underrepresented groups. Although the company believes in this idea, Albrey recognizes that it’s just one step toward tackling the larger issue of diversity in the workplace.

“This will lead to a much better understanding of the world, and it’ll give us access to more underrepresented talent. It’s really simple, it’s not a panacea, it’s not a fix,” Albrey said. “But the simple action that people can take to solve these really, really big problems is us collectively saying, we’re going to stop being lazy. We’re going to stop lazily hiring into our company and we’re going to start actually identifying what the best means. And I very, very much believe that if you started to identify what the best actually means, the more underrepresented talent will rise to the top.”

Leveraging data to measure the new initiative

In order to ensure that the new referral policy has effectively attracted more diverse talent to its workplace, Airtable plans to closely monitor data.

“We’ve been building that foundation to make sure that we have a year’s worth of candidate data that tells us what our referral pipeline looks like from a demographic perspective and what our other recruiting channels look like,” Albrey explained. “That way, we can adjust our strategy and make sure that we’re not getting to the point where, for two months in a row, the number of women has gone down, let’s say by a percent each month, which means we’re not trending in the right direction.” 

Creating a culture of accountability

Airtable wants to make its diversity efforts an all-hands-on-deck affair, so in order to encourage workers to contribute quality referrals of diverse talent, the program is being tied to employee performance evaluations.  

“I think moving forward, we are building accountability for both leaders and individual contributors on the things that they need to do to make sure everyone contributes to the strategy itself,” said Albrey. “So that means things like adding it into performance reviews, which we’re going to be testing in six months, or building out a DEI plan that’s specific to each function and each hiring manager, so we can hold people accountable to very specific goals, rather than just having a companywide goal. We want to make sure everyone is participating, we have the data that allows us to hold people accountable, and we want to be radical and innovative about the way we implement it.”

To find out more about Albrey’s experiences and how Airtable is increasing diversity in the organization, listen to the latest episode of “Untapped”, where Tariq Meyers has frank DE&I discussions with recruitment professionals. 

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Airtable is a low-code platform for building collaborative apps. The company is dedicated to democratizing software, starting with its own workforce. Their mission translates into a culture that prioritizes transparency and respects everyone’s contributions to making the team work—from engineers and salespeople to recruiters and operations staff.

Albrey Brown

Albrey has a decade of experience building Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) strategies for Bay Area companies and communities. At his core, Albrey is a software engineer, and entrepreneur, currently leading DE&I for the leading cloud collaboration service Airtable. Prior to corporate DE&I, Albrey founded the best software engineering bootcamp for Black and brown folks, backed by the White House's TechHire Initiative. 
Albrey is committed to serving others. He finds purpose in helping ERG leaders and executive leadership co-design inclusive and equitable workplaces. In his free time, Albrey is a basketball fan, pseudo DJ, writer, and investor. You can read about his most recent work in Fast Company, and Protocol.

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