Introducing NextRoll’s New DE&I Team
Innovation and inclusion have always been priorities at NextRoll. Our goal is not only to set an example for the tech industry as a whole but also to set the bar high for integrating and applying DE&I programs in the workplace.
In the last several years, NextRoll’s DE&I leadership and programming have taken different forms and shared responsibility across the business. At this stage of our company’s growth and evolution, we need dedicated DE&I practitioners with deep roots and experience – personal and professional – in diversity, equity, and inclusion to take the baton and lead these efforts as we enter the next phase of growth and transformation as a company.
We’re excited to introduce Ngozi Okeh, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Aja Sullivan, Program Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who both joined NextRoll in 2021, as our new DE&I team.
“There has been a great DE&I foundation laid out for Aja and me, and a lot of thought has already gone into reporting on data, delivering training, and supporting Employee Resource Groups,” said Ngozi. “Our goal is to level all those things up.”
Personal Passions for DE&I
Both Aja and Ngozi have personal connections and motivations for wanting to move the needle on DE&I in the workplace, which influenced both of their careers in full-time, diversity-focused roles.
Ngozi and her family immigrated to the US from Nigeria when she was just four years old.
“My father’s first job was at a restaurant. When he worked there, he trained people for the same role he had there,” she said. “Many of them were not Black and were paid immediately more than him. My dad, the most hard-working man I know, shared many other stories of his challenges and resilience as a Black man and immigrant in the United States. That’s when I started understanding the dynamics in this country around race.”
“At a young age, I developed an awareness and a desire to understand the inequities we see in society and yearned to address the challenges faced by underrepresented people,” she added. “I understand what it’s like to be marginalized. That level of empathy was instilled in me at a young age, and as a result, I was always drawn to community work.”
Aja grew up as a young Black person in many East Coast suburban areas that lacked diversity. She said her life experiences and understanding her different identities continues to drive her personal passion and desire to make an impact for people like her.
“I have many intersecting identities, which are both visible and invisible, and depending on my environment I may be impacted by one or more of them, ” said Aja. “So walking into a room and knowing that I belong and knowing that I’m comfortable and feeling though I’m not an ‘other’ is important to me. And that goes hand-in-hand with allowing others to walk into that same room and be comfortable sharing who they are – personally and professionally.”
Advocating for DE&I in the Workplace
These personal experiences are what initially prompted Aja and Ngozi to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the workplace, and ultimately led them to their dedicated DE&I roles at NextRoll.
Aja’s DE&I career started three years ago after having the opportunity to transition from talent acquisition. By changing teams, she chased her passion and desire to make a change and impact in people’s lives.
“I always knew I wanted to be in a helping field, I just didn’t know in what capacity. Then I found diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I realized the desire to belong was not just something in my personal life but in my professional life. I was able to have an impact on the environment others were working in.”
When Ngozi began working in DE&I, she didn’t always have “diversity” in her title. Her exposure to diversity and inclusion work started first in politics, then in the nonprofit sector with the NAACP, and finally within the corporate world.
“A lot of what I did was around community advocacy. I worked with women-owned and minority-owned businesses – and with organizations that empowered those businesses – to understand the systemic challenges they faced,” she said. “Being in a position to advocate on their behalf gave me a sweet, beautiful taste of the work I love, which is understanding the challenges of marginalized groups and working on systemic solutions.”
Progressing DE&I at NextRoll
Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs have deep roots at NextRoll, as our People team created a solid base for Ngozi and Aja to build upon in the years ahead.
One of these early initiatives was setting focus areas and creating key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and determine diversity in hiring, promoting, and retaining talent at NextRoll. Since our People team has historically collected this data, Ngozi and Aja will use it to ensure NextRoll is moving forward and leveling up.
“I am a very data-driven person, so I like that I’m able to use my data background to understand where we are, where we’re heading, and making true business outcomes,” said Aja.
Having two dedicated DE&I practitioners also means we have expanded bandwidth and expertise to host regular trainings around unconscious bias and microaggressions, and to support external-facing DE&I projects like our Minority-Owned Business Badges program for AdRoll customers.
“We’ll be working closely with leaders to see how each individual and team can make an impact on DE&I goals,” said Ngozi.
In addition, since NextRoll has eight established Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Ngozi and Aja will continue to assist the ERG leaders with events, membership, and more.
“We’re supporting and empowering their work to create a culture of inclusion and space for Rollers to call home, and where allies can learn and grow,” said Ngozi.
What’s next? A lot! Soon Rollers are receiving and completing an internal survey, as we’ve done for seven years, to provide feedback and insight on current DE&I goals and areas for improvement or expansion.
“We’re paying attention to where Rollers are in their DE&I journey and meeting them where they are,” said Aja. “It’s important that we bring everyone on board to show how they impact DE&I companywide.”
Want to learn more about NextRoll’s commitment to diversity? Learn more on our Culture page.