This Friday, February 21, Equality Florida will host its annual Tampa Gala, an amazing event we have been a part of for several years now and are proud to sponsor. We strongly support full equality for the LGBTQ+ community, which is why we decided to proclaim this week (Feb. 17- Feb. 23) the week of equality at Sparxoo. And to kick it off, we sat down with our Vice President of People & Culture, Amber Caraballo, for a deep dive into equality in the workplace and the value it brings to the Xoo.
Describe your role at Sparxoo.
I lead People Operations, which essentially includes all traditional aspects of Human Resources. What makes it different from some traditional HR roles is that it’s focused on the employee experience and leading the company through culture. I work very closely with the leadership team to ensure our business and people decisions are aligned. I also work with managers to ensure they are supported and challenged to be incredible leaders to their teams. Finally, I work directly with individual contributors to ensure we are all being impactful and appreciated members of the Xoo.
What is your definition of equality in the workplace?
To me, equality in the workplace means ensuring all team members have the opportunity to be amazing. They have the opportunity to join the Xoo, work hard here and be fairly rewarded for that work. It’s about taking race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. out of the equation and focusing on all of the unique skills they bring to the team instead.
What value does equality bring to Sparxoo? Would you say it’s vital to the agency’s success?
Equality is who we are. Our leaders are wired to be that way, simply because it’s the right thing to do for each of us and for the business. Our CEO is an openly gay man who is married with twins. We all talk about that in the community and in interviews because we support him fully. If you have an issue with that, Sparxoo is not the place for you – period. Acting deliberately and communicating boldly brings us value as we are finding the right people for the roles. The fact that they come to us open-minded, unbiased and passionate automatically makes them better strategic marketers and incredible client advocates.
How do your talent acquisition efforts help build an equal workforce?
Hiring all the same people would only work if all of our clients were the same, and they are different as night and day. Sparxoo starts with an inclusive strategy and intentional targeting to make sure we are attracting the right people to round out our current team. That might be making sure our engineering roles are reaching women or ensuring our writers come to us with different life experiences and backgrounds, so they can pull from that when the project calls for it. I get excited when I see a qualified minority candidate and might even push them through with more follow-up. However, we never hire a candidate just because they are a minority: we are not that type of company. The most ideal candidate gets the job, of course, but it’s our responsibility to ensure that a diverse group sees the opportunity.
How have your personal experiences in Diversity & Inclusion led you to who you are today? OR How has your role in HR serving as an equality leader impacted who you are outside of work?
I wasn’t always as passionate and tenacious as I am today about D&I. I learned to be socially aware and act as an advocate for minorities from my personal life and career. My exposure over the last 15 years to different people, cultures and companies molded my outlook in an incredible way and I’m really proud that I’ve been able to help others become more aware of disadvantages, struggles and inequalities that still exist in the world. Not all people are malicious. They might simply lack certain insight into others’ perspective. It’s about education and getting that light bulb to go off with them. Some don’t think gay marriage is important because they have never been close to a gay couple that were legally unable to get married. Some don’t know the struggle women face in the workplace because they didn’t have a sister cry to them about terrible experiences they faced. I believe exposure to different types of people is the key, followed by non-judgmental talking. However, sometimes I think it’s important to be the “bad guy” and shut down discriminatory conversations. We still have a long way to go, but I like to celebrate the wins when we can (i.e. an LGBT female coach in the Super Bowl – SCORE).
What is the most common mistake in an organization’s thinking about diversity?
Each organization will have different strategies and capabilities based on their size, financial capabilities, current team makeup, etc. I believe the most common mistake is having a blanket goal or mandate that doesn’t align to your passions or reality. For us, we are a smaller agency that truly believes in equality. We use that in how we talk about ourselves and that helps up attract diverse followers on social, applicants to jobs, and so on. I find that when you approach these things honestly, you’re more likely to have genuine supporters.
How is Sparxoo’s leadership team committed to equality?
I’m thankful to have a safe and open leadership team where we can talk about these ideas and issues. Gender on the leadership team, color in the office, parental leave, diverse team makeup. It’s all things that we talk about openly to ensure we are all course-correcting when needed. The best part, I’m not usually the one who needs to bring it up, which is a big round of applause to our Sparxoo leaders.
What efforts are you making to make sure everyone feels included and equal at Sparxoo?
Diversity is crucial. Making sure you’re advertising to and bringing in the right people to compliment your current team is key. However, I believe inclusion is slightly more important as it ensures long term success, not only for our Xoobies (a.k.a. new hires), but for the company. Don’t invite someone to the party and then have them sit in the corner.
If you’re going to bring in a strong, diverse team, work on making them feel welcomed and connected to the company and their co-workers. My goal is to create a culture that welcomes all team members that share a set of linked personal and professional values. That same team must also celebrate the things that make us happy and unique.