Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) have become increasingly important topics in workplaces around the world. Companies are recognizing the value of building inclusive cultures that celebrate differences and empower underrepresented groups. CrowdStrike, a global leader in cybersecurity, is one such company that has made DEI&B a priority. In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with CrowdStrike’s Global Lead of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Sheree Haggan, about how the company celebrated this important occasion, the role of resistance in shaping DEI&B initiatives, and the impact of inclusive leadership on creating positive change. Here’s what she had to say.
How CrowdStrike approaches Black History
As a Black woman raised in Southern Idaho, Sheree explains that she grew up in a place where people struggled with discrimination and misinformation, which shaped her perspectives and experiences. “We all have a way in which we see the world, and our experiences frame that,” she explains. At CrowdStrike, Sheree notes it’s important to continually acknowledge one’s own personal experience, but also the experiences of others, especially experiences that touch any DEI&B topics.
“Black History Month is so important because it gives us the opportunity to recognize our history in a way that reminds us and empowers us to invest in creating the world that we really want to live in, that is more equitable and inclusive.” -Sheree Haggan
CrowdStrike celebrated Black History Month with several initiatives organized by their employee resource group (ERG), Team BELIEVE. Team BELIEVE is an acronym for Black Employees Leading in Inclusion, Excellence, Vision, and Education. With a mission to cultivate an inclusive and progressive atmosphere that promotes Black diversity, culture, and advancement, Team BELIEVE’s cross-company engagement runs deep. “They’ve got custom swag they’ve built out that we’re sending to employees and they’re partnering with another internal group called Embracing Equity, which is an allyship group to read and discuss the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. We also have some trivia game nights happening to make sure folks know their history, and we’ve got a workshop on Black health and wellness, which is really exciting,” Sheree adds.
The word “resistance” headlined this year’s Black History Month efforts at CrowdStrike. To Sheree, it’s a powerful reminder of respect and fortitude, with a nod to the past and future. “If we look at the true meaning of resistance, to oppose or withstand or fight against, the origin of it was meant to relate to a positive repelling of hostility or negativity,” she explains. “It’s a word that really represents courage. What I respect about the Black community, my community, is the way that we relentlessly challenge the system to become better.”
Resistance & its impact in early-career
For early-career professionals, Sheree believes in the power of curiosity and critical thinking. “Discomfort is a prerequisite for growth,” she says. “When you’re early in your career, there is no status quo - everything is novel and exciting. Rather than accepting every process as-is, I encourage you to ask questions as you’re learning. Remain critically curious,” she advises. Sheree believes that challenging the status quo is healthy as long as new employees can understand the context in which they operate within their workplace, role, and responsibilities. “That’s how you’ll be able to identify when something that’s happening is unintentionally having a negative impact,” she concludes.
Challenging the status quo can be uncomfortable, but breaking that mold can lead to huge career gains, says Sheree. “If you’re a person who’s able to recognize roadblocks and challenges and problems that are impacting other communities around you, not just your own, then it helps the broader team, the broader company, the world,” she explains. It’s about zooming out, thinking inter-sectionally and advocating for change.
“I believe that when we talk about equity, it’s equal access to opportunities to be successful. And when you look at your career, it’s not just about you being successful and having those opportunities, but everyone around you because we all win and grow together.”
Effective leadership and reputations are also built off of resistance and challenges: “It’s essential for innovation because you’ve got to do something different to create something new,” she adds.
How to enable resistance in the early-career space
The goal of resistance is incredibly simple, according to Sheree. “It’s justice, it’s equity, it’s equal access to opportunities to be successful,” she says. Creating the best opportunities for everyone, addressing roadblocks, and keeping an open, unbiased mind anchor this sentiment. “When you recognize that something is preventing us from that, that’s a good time to resist,” she identifies.
Having a strong understanding of who you are and your self-worth is crucial to enabling resistance and navigating the first few years of your career, Sheree explains. Despite changes in your work environment, managers, colleagues, work responsibilities, and more, “you’ve got to really understand who you are, what you anchor to, and what your skills and qualities are,” she says.
Identifying and aligning your skills, values, and goals with a company’s is key; and standing up for what you believe in is even more important. “I’ve had to not work with specific companies because they don’t align with my values and the work that I do…it’s just a reminder that I trust in my abilities, I trust in my skill set,” Sheree reflects. Resistance can take many forms and doesn’t always need to be public-facing. “If society says you’re not smart, or you’re not qualified, or people like you don’t work in this profession, challenge that.”
“The first and the most efficient form of resistance is betting on yourself and believing in yourself.”
Despite massive strides being made in the acknowledgment and honoring of Black History, we can always do more. Observes Sheree, “The Black community has been in a situation where they’re experiencing oppression and injustice. You’ve seen a long history of challenging that. Historically, we can think 100 years ago, but we can also think just a few days ago.”
The topic of resistance has been a great motivator for Sheree as she looks to future efforts with CrowdStrike. Enabling, empowering, and championing new hires to think about resistance, DEI&B initiatives, and investing in their careers has proven fruitful for Sheree and her team at CrowdStrike.
“When something is unjust, we have a duty to challenge it.”
With investment in and focus on equity and creating inclusive opportunities, career pathing and development, plus rapidly growing, cutting-edge technology, CrowdStrike provides candidates with an exciting career step they’re not likely to get anywhere else. For more insights like these or to learn more about a career at CrowdStrike, visit their website here or listen to our live conversation with Sheree here.