Inclusive Leadership Insights to Build Successful Teams in 2020

Inclusive Leadership Insights to Build Successful Teams in 2020

On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Flockjay CEO Shaan Hatharamani and Senior Sales Trainer Teila Evans sat down for a riveting fireside chat with two powerhouses who shared crucial insights on the power of inclusive leadership and teaming up if you want to be successful.

Our speakers Bonita Stewart, VP of Partnerships at Google, and Jacqueline Adams, who launched a second career as a communications strategist after more than two decades as an Emmy Award-winning CBS News correspondent, joined forces to co-author the upcoming book, ‘A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming up to Lead, Empower, and Thrive.

As part of this, they surveyed 4,005 American women, so-called ‘desk workers’, across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian, white) and four generations (GenZ, Millennials, GenX, Boomers).

In this post we’ll recap some of our top takeaways, but be sure to watch the full recording on-demand to reap maximum benefits from this energetic and inspiring conversation. Thank you to our panel for sharing their wisdom and to our attendees for their participation and feedback.

“This is one of the most honest curated conversations about being BIPOC in the workplace that I’ve seen.
” -Ashley Taylor


“This panel was extremely empowering, inspiring and engaging. Overall it reinforced the power of exceptional leadership.” -Karen Chong

About “A Blessing: Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive”

Fun fact: A group of unicorns is called “a blessing.” At the start of the chat, Jackie shared an explanation for how the authors came to this title and what this project means to them. 

“In our careers, Bonita and I have often been the only person – the only woman – of color in a room. We have been firsts. Bonita was the first African American female vice president at Google. I was the first African American female correspondent whom CBS News assigned full time to the White House,” Jackie said. “Given that we were firsts, we have often been considered ‘Unicorns’ — rare and valuable beings.”

Bonita said their book is for everyone, but “particularly leaders who are interested in activating the competitive advantage that will come from winning the race for talent” in addition to, “the leaders of the future, younger people, who want to be prepared to meet the opportunities that are here today and in the future.”

Hearing our speakers share personal stories about their experiences as women of color in the workplace was incredibly powerful for both leaders who are hiring their first (hopefully not only) BIPOC employees and diverse job seekers who may find themselves in a similar “only” situation.

Understanding Generational Diversity, Inclusive Leadership, and Winning

During the conversation, Bonita and Jackie, fellow Harvard Business School alumni, shared three central themes discussed in their book: Generational Diversity, Inclusive Leadership, and Winning.

Generational Diversity 

What is important for business leaders to understand about Generational Diversity is that the demographics in America are changing. Some noteworthy data Bonita mentioned:

  • “By 2027, people of color ages 18-29 (GenZ and Millennials), will be in the majority according to the Census. This will be a critical tipping point and begins to shape the future of the US and global economies.”
  • “From our research, we found these GenZ and Millennial workers are mission-driven, innovative, confident, and demanding workplaces that provide the support they need to thrive. Yet in many cases, they are the ‘only.’”
  • “47% of Black women told us that they are frequently or always the only person of their race in professional situations. 73% of white women, by contrast, are RARELY the only person of their race in such a setting.”

Leadership Takeaway | It’s important to be aware of and avoid tokenism, especially as growing companies ramp up diversity hiring initiatives. Bonita said, “To attract, and more importantly to retain workers of color, business leaders need to approach talent with a desire to hire in multiples vs hiring for ‘tokenism’ or the classic – I’m one and done.” 

Check out this article to learn more about how “Tokenism can hurt individual performance and the business overall according to an analysis of 80 studies over the past 25 years.”

Inclusive Leadership 

Tokenism occurs when you implement diversity without inclusion, so what’s important for business leaders to understand about Inclusive Leadership is that you must actively create an environment of belonging, hire inclusive leaders, and continuously foster allyship. Jackie said:

  • “While we surveyed all generations, it was eye-opening to see that across the board within GenZ – 92% of Black women, 93% LatinX, 96% Asian, 95% white – said that they feel that guidance from managers and supervisors will be helpful to their making progress at work.”

Leadership Takeaway | Managers reading this – embrace these folks with guidance, support, and provide opportunities that will help them foster community and succeed. Bonita shared a quote from Nelson Mandela, an inclusive leader she admires:


“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the frontline when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”


Here’s a win: Did you know that more Black women are earning college degrees than any other slice of the US population? How about the fact that women of color control more than $1 Trillion in consumer purchasing power? The buying power of Latinx and Asian Americans is also on the rise.

Women and BIPOC are winning across a wide spectrum of fields, but we are a long way from closing systemic gaps. Jackie said, “We have a hunger for entrepreneurship,” citing that:

  • Women-owned businesses grew by 58% from 2007 to 2018, while firms owned by Black women grew by 164%

Not only that, Jackie said, “Black women had this explosive growth in entrepreneurship despite receiving zero dollars in venture capital, on average, according to McKinsey research. Historically, in the Black community, we are used  to ‘making a way out of no way.’”

Leadership Takeaway | Invest, hire, nurture, and welcome women of color into your workplace, or you’re missing out on serious talent and opportunities to strengthen your business. Jackie lives by the following words from Toni Morrison, and Flockjay agrees.


“When you get those jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember your real job is to free somebody else, as you have become free. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.’”

Look for Inclusive Leadership Traits, Character Traits, and Superpowers

Bonita and Jackie read through piles of significant research in preparation for writing their book and found six signature traits (as researched by Deloitte) that best encapsulate an actionable way forward for leaders. 

According to Bonita, “We are all at different levels of our leadership journey, however, this next phase of leadership will be a talent differentiator for every brand, every company, and every board. The complexity of leadership will move to understanding IQ + EQ (emotional intelligence) + CQ (cultural intelligence).”

Are You An Inclusive Leader with These Character Traits?

Make yourself an inclusive leadership traits checklist and evaluate yourself or the person you’re considering hiring for the following traits: Commitment, Courage, Cognizance of Bias, Curiosity, Cultural Intelligence, and Collaborative.

You should also consider character education traits when assessing talent pools rather than being hyper-focused on skill sets, as you could be excluding a large number of candidates who have the traits to excel and can be taught the skills.

Jackie said, “We address this subject in our first chapter, which we call ‘Our Natural Grit.’ We cite non-cognitive skills and character education, the work of U. Penn Professor Angela Duckworth, author of the book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Hear from Angela on TED Talks Education.

There are 23 major characteristics, but the top are: Zest, Grit, Perseverance, Curiosity, Optimism, Gratitude, Social Intelligence, and Self-control. 

There are countless ways that people come to harness these traits, and it can be challenging. Watch the full recording for deeper insights on the meaning behind each of these traits.

What Are Your Superpowers?

A special moment was when Jackie shared that, “My first memory is of my father saying: ‘When you’re Black in America, you have to be superior just to be equal.’ That recognition fueled my quest for excellence, in education and in every sphere I entered. I considered this feeling of superiority – even if I’m the only person who sees it – as a Superpower!

Jackie said the truth is that we ALL have Superpowers, so she encourages you to ask yourself what yours are and own them, “Be proud of those Superpowers! They are very, very real.”

Parting Advice for Hiring Managers Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion

When Shaan asked Bonita what other traits or insights hiring managers should take away from this, she said:

“We just need hiring managers to take off their blinders, to look beyond the Ivy League and traditional sources of talent, to be humble and courageous and stop looking for people just like themselves to find these superheroes!”

She added that hiring managers should know that talent is the new frontier. Those who look widely for people, like those who hire diverse Flockjay graduates, are going to be the winners!

We’ll close with a personal story Bonita shared that really stuck with us. She said:

“My paternal grandfather was a very wise man…and almost 100 years ago, he wrote that ‘the future progress of the race depends on education and unity.’ We are, indeed, making tremendous strides in education. Next up–Unity. For me, for us, that means Teaming Up. No one should go on this journey alone. There is an African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Let’s go together and Team Up!”

You can visit to learn more about their book and pre-order your copy that is set to be released on October 15, 2020, listen to the full fireside chat here, and email if you’re interested in hiring diverse pre-trained tech sales talent.

Team Up with Flockjay to Hire Elite SDRs

Flockjay sales reps already love to sell. They are trained by the best, onboard faster, perform better, and stay longer. Interested in diversifying and strengthening your sales team with pre-trained talent?

6 Tech Sales Job Interviewing Tips from an Expert Recruiter

6 Tech Sales Job Interviewing Tips from an Expert Recruiter

You can’t put a price on insight, especially coming from Flockjay fireside chat guest speaker Allie Covarrubias- Clapp, Director of Recruiting at Plenty. She recently shared actionable tips with our students, also known as Tech Fellows, on how to strengthen and sell their own candidacy when interviewing for tech sales jobs. 

Muhammad Elfaham, a Batch 5 Flockjay Tech Fellow, shared this takeaway:  

“With her outstanding experience at Box and as a veteran at Salesforce, Alison has lived to see many companies start-up and exponentially grow. It was refreshing to listen in on her wisdom and transparency sharing some secrets in the hiring process, whether with a recruiter or a hiring manager. My favorite quote from her last night was: ‘You are interviewing these companies just as much as they are interviewing you.’”

If you’re a jobseeker, soak up six interviewing tips to help you land your next role. 

1. Bring Virtual Presentation Ability to the Interview

As you begin focusing on the interview cycle, know that interviews are very dependent on the actual environment. Right now, that environment is completely online. This makes it incredibly important to have some type of presentation ability prior to interview day. Yes, knowing how to operate Zoom or similar video conferencing software is a baseline – but this goes beyond that. 

Do you know how to sell yourself to a virtual audience? Sometimes this requires over communicating your emotions, almost like an actor on a stage. What about how to quiet the other distractions? It’s not acceptable at this point to not be able to get online or have consistent WiFi crash issues. Get a connection booster if possible.

2. Don’t Say You Can Do it, Tell Them How You Have Done It

You might think you don’t have any relevant experience to talk about, but you probably do. For instance, maybe you worked in the food service industry. Did you come up with a plan to improve guest seating, expedite order delivery, or clean the kitchen faster? These are all great examples to highlight your abilities. 

Even if you haven’t worked at a startup, it’s important to show that you can handle a potential startup sales environment (read: chaotic, ambiguous, challenging, rewarding). 

3. Track Your Recruiting Adventure and Job Interviewing Process

What are your goals? What metrics would you set for yourself? Sales people are numbers people – they want to hear about processes and numbers. Do your best to speak their language by talking metrics and goal targeting. If you’re thinking, “But wait… I don’t have that data.” Start collecting it.

Track your recruiting adventure as a point of reference, considering: 

  • How many companies have you targeted?
  • What is the number of LinkedIn InMails you’ve sent? 
  • How many follow up emails have you sent?
  • What actions did you take in between interviews to get to the next stage? 

As Allie said, “Notice your process. Notice what you’re doing to get to where you are.”

4. Demonstrate Your Grit—It’s an Employer’s Market 

Allie shed some light on her experiences as a recruiter, noting that we are currently in an “employer’s market.” What does this mean? In short, given the unemployment rate, hiring managers have a lot of quality resumes to sift through. You need them more than they need you, which is why these interviewing tips will prove valuable. With encouragement, she said:

“You’ve really got to demonstrate your hunger, your ability, your persistency, your style, and your passion for the company to get those coveted spots.” 

5. Make Friends with the Gatekeeper: the Recruiter

Allie says job seekers shouldn’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager questions like, “What is the manager’s style like? What is the time frame of your hiring process? How many other people are you interviewing?” Some common language in the recruiting space that she mentioned is also the question, “Are you still calibrating candidates?” Slide that one in and your recruiter might pick up on the fact that you’ve done your research. The more information you can get from the recruiter in that first discovery call, the better advantage you have. The worst thing to feel coming out of an interview interaction is not knowing where you stand.

Being authentic about who you are and communicating that effectively will help the recruiter make their decision. For Allie, she said, “I personally hate questions that have no soul to them.” 

6. What’s Important to You? Do a Forced Stack Ranking Exercise

Allie mentioned that the exercise of forced stack ranking has helped her career path in terms of working with people. From the jobseeker’s standpoint, she says to force yourself to stack rank the most important elements in this role to you. What is important to you in this next move? Start with that question and work backwards to uncover the answer, using Allie’s suggested 12 factor exercise.

It’s going to sound simple, but don’t underestimate how impactful this exercise can be. Our Tech Fellows reported this as one of their favorite interviewing tips from Allie.

Allie says the first step to figuring out what really matters, is to write down the 12 most important things to you in your next career move. Whether you think that number seems like a lot or a little, Allie found that “12 has been this sweet spot.” Think about everything from what you want personally to what you want within your role and the company itself. Then put them in order.

Don’t get bogged down thinking about forever, though – approach this by thinking about the next five years. Based on your experiences, what do you want more of that you have now? What do you want more of that you’re not getting? If you don’t want to get real with yourself about those answers, your uncertainty will come through to recruiters when you’re talking.

By the end of the exercise, you end up with your true compass of what matters to you in the workforce. Maybe you learn that the ability to work remotely is more important than your title, maybe you do some thinking about the importance of company culture and mentorship and find out it ranks higher than your salary goal, you won’t know until you force yourself to rank these factors. 

Flockjay Tech Fellows Learn from Weekly Expert Fireside Chats

Big thanks to Allie for taking the time to share her knowledge and expert interviewing tips with our Batch 5 Tech Fellows. Weekly fireside chats with industry experts are a core element of our online tech sales program here at Flockjay, because we believe in the power of learning from those who came before you. 

Are you a jobseeker who is ready for a change? Join our flock!

4 Leadership Lessons from Microsoft Chairman John Thompson

4 Leadership Lessons from Microsoft Chairman John Thompson

Listen up, leaders! Flockjay had the honor of sitting down with John Thompson, Microsoft Chairman of the Board, to discuss the importance of leadership stepping up to take action and build diverse and digitally fluent teams. John started his career at IBM where he built their software sales business over 28 years, before becoming the CEO of Symantec and Virtana. 

Today, John is the Chairman of the Board of Microsoft following Bill Gates’ departure, and is an active startup investor and advisor. Our CEO, Shaan Hatharamani, and Senior Sales Trainer, Teila Evans, hosted this fireside chat, joining John for an incredibly relevant discussion. 

Many leaders are navigating uncharted territory in these times of economic and social unrest, but they’re not alone in facing these new experiences. As John put it, “This is the most unusual business environment I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been on the planet, much less been in business.”

We encourage you to listen to the full fireside chat, but here’s a quick recap. (more…)

Training Flockjay Tech Fellows Amid a Pandemic

Training Flockjay Tech Fellows Amid a Pandemic

Ten weeks ago, Flockjay started its fifth Cohort of Tech Fellows. On March 2nd, 70 ambitious, gritty, and inspired individuals from across the country committed to logging on to their computers for three hours a day, four days a week. A feat that would soon be mandatory for the rest of the world… 

Our advice to them when they started was simple:

Trust the process: Our class is made up of building blocks. Make sure you have a solid foundation before you jump to the next level.

You will get out what you put in: Sales is the same. If you are looking to get the most out of this course, give it your all. You are here for a reason. You have taken the time to invest in yourself and your future.  Give yourself every ounce of time and attention you can—you deserve it!

Be proactive: Reach out to your Trainers, your Flock [classmates], and the support team!

Support your team and your Flock: Classes are broken up into groups of 25 and within that, you have a group of five. The next 10 weeks will not be easy and you don’t get any points for going through them alone. In fact, if you are going through it alone, you are missing the point. Use your peers to help you practice, learn, and grow. They will be depending on you to do the same.

When we gave that presentation, the world looked very different.

We weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic. Not even the earliest of tech companies had instituted work from home. It was three weeks before the shelter-in-place order was implemented to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Now, in May 2020, large tech companies like Twitter have gone so far as to announce that they will let some employees work from home ‘forever.’ 

Looking back, there are a lot of things that have changed, but some that haven’t. 

4 Things that Have Changed for us at Flockjay

1. We are more supportive of Tech Fellows starting their careers remotely.

Previously we recommended relocating. We did and still believe that the best opportunities for growth and network building happen when you can be in person, so we highly recommended non-remote jobs.

For obvious reasons, we have loosened up on that and even considered several more hiring partners who only have remote positions available.

2. Flockjay is not in the office!

This may be obvious but coordinating the educational journey of 70 tech fellows was a little easier when we could have weekly meetings to go over how you did on your weekly certifications and what the most helpful content would be for the upcoming weeks.

Our training staff is packed with top sales experts so we always say that we practice what we preach in terms of sales and interview skills, but now we had to practice what we preached in terms of over-communicating also.

3. We are at the bottom of the stairs, not at the top of the elevator.

During a team meeting, early in San Francisco’s Shelter in Place order (3rd week of class) our CEO and Founder, Shaan Hathirimani, gave us a metaphor that will stick with me:

Economic crashes are an elevator ride down, but economic recovery is (many) sets of stairs. There is no elevator ride back up.

No one knows when recovery will happen, but something that is certain is it will be a slow build to get back to the number of job openings we saw when this class started. 

4. The chance for tech companies to fix their “pipeline problem.”

It is true we are at the bottom of the stairs, but there is an opportunity in that, for both tech companies and any industry. Taking the stairs is more difficult and time consuming, but it also gives you more time to be present and reflect on the journey. I went to business school to learn more about how we can reduce workplace bias and increase opportunity.

The lack of diversity in tech isn’t because of any fundamental ability gap (on the side of hiring teams or job candidates), it’s just the elevator. And when hitting your quota of hires for the month and financial incentives are on the top floor, there is no reason to take the stairs. But now, we are forced to. 

Every flight of economic recovery will be a chance for companies to rethink their hiring practices, reflect on their “pipeline” and stand behind the comment on their careers page that says they believe in the Business case for diversity. 

3 Things that Have Not Changed for Flockjay

1. Our belief that Tech Sales is a future-proof path to upward mobility.

Flockjay was founded with the belief that tech sales is a lucrative, yet well-kept secret. In the 2008 recession, companies were forced to lay off their internal tech teams and expedite their adoption of cheaper, cloud-based software. This will happen again. Tech companies will need great salespeople, and will pay them a lot for being good at their job. 

2. Flockjay Graduation

At the end of each course, I plan a structured yet remote graduation program. Our CEO and Founder Shaan comes on to say a few words, in addition to Kelly Schurr, our Head of Sales, and Quenton Stevenson, our Product Manager. Each shares what it means to them to see the way Flockjay has grown. I say thanks to our awesome internal engineering and marketing team and then say a few words. 

It always starts as a pretty conventional and by the end, without fail, I have chills on my arms and tears in my eyes.

Unlike so many people who are graduating this spring, we knew our ceremony would be conducted via Zoom. And yet, thanks to the incredible work of our trainers and Tech Fellows, we might as well be Kevin Durant’s thank you speech to his mom when he won MVP or Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address: filled with chills and tears—but the good kind. 

To our newly graduated Flockstars, you are the real MVP.

3. The potential of Flockjay Tech Fellows to change their lives and an entire industry.

In fact, our grads are more prepared now more than ever for the world that lies ahead. When COVID-19 happened, our Tech Fellows did not miss a beat.

Whether it was supporting each other when a family member got sick, creating their own Zoom sessions for extra reps, our hounding us about when we would get into interview practice (guys, #trusttheprocess, remember?!) the changing state of the world and then economy strengthened their bonds with each other, their belief in themselves, and their confidence that they are on the right path. 

So, Congrats, Flockjay March 2020 Tech Fellows

It has been a difficult, unnerving, energy-sapping, support-needing, inspiring, practice-heavy, resume-editing, office hour booking, Zoom-link sending, wonderful ten weeks. And yet, you have adapted, trusted the process, proven how worthy you are of your own time and dedication, shown up for each other every day, and kept working hard to reskill and achieve. 

Your journey is far from over, but you made the decision to invest in yourselves and your future, and I can’t wait to see you at the top of the stairs.

Your New Career in Tech Sales Starts Now

Sales is the best kept secret in tech, and Flockjay will show you the way. With online classes and live instructors, Flockjay teaches you everything you need to know to be job ready in just 10 weeks.

Ready for a career change?