Building AlphaSights’ diversity, equity, and inclusion foundation
When I first joined AlphaSights in 2014, I was excited about the opportunity before us — the high-growth nature of the firm and the level of autonomy was unparalleled. But at the same time, I was nervous about joining as a gay person. Countless questions ran through my head as I prepared for the next step in my career.
- Would I be the only one with a boyfriend (and now husband) at office events?
- Was I going to find other people like me?
- Would others care?
- Were my coworkers going to not just acknowledge our differences, but accept and celebrate them?
To set the scene, we moved into our new NY office in Times Square just before I joined and only had enough people to occupy about half the floor. This would be the space where we grew into 100+ New York team members if we kept our growth rate. As a friend of mine said then, “it constantly feels like we’re on the edge of something that’s about to implode or take off like a rocket.” Our focus was making sure we took off like a rocket — as a collective, we worked to deliver superior, consistent service and value to our clients to make what we all felt was possible into reality.
Nearly eight years later and we are proud to continue that growth rate and are preparing to scale into several thousand team members. Fortunately for me, I could be out and open about who I was — Jacob, my now husband, came to many of our early events. While our early environment was (and continues to be, I hope!) warm, and in my opinion, welcoming and open to all, we did not intentionally craft an open atmosphere toward DEI the way we should have and are doing now.
Here’s the good news — over the last decade we’ve built a strong airplane that we can work on while it flies and AlphaSights established itself as a force in the market. We can always be better, and we work every day to make sure we constantly push ourselves and each other to be the strongest firm we can be.
From the beginning, AlphaSights has focused on hiring great people — not only talented and intelligent, but who possess the core values we all live by here: drive, results-orientation, adaptability, humility, and empathy. Luckily with that combination, we were able to build an inclusive and collaborative culture from the beginning and continue to build on the best parts of our culture today.
Despite this focus, addressing and discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) explicitly is of the utmost importance and we’ve made large strides over the last five years to improve. In those early days, we “benignly neglected” explicit DEI efforts. We had some diverse team members, but we weren’t making DEI the priority it needed to be to become a real leader in the knowledge economy. Fortunately, at that early stage of growth, small changes to our talent infrastructure can add up to big changes over time — so we acknowledged we could do much better and we got started.
Like anything we take on as a team, we forged into concentrated DEI efforts with gumption — determined to build a sustainable, strategic plan. We used our own service to talk to experts in the field about how to best build a foundation and what our first actions should be. Looking internally, we also spoke with employees who are part of minority groups to discuss their experiences, challenges, and feedback. For the strategy to work, we needed the right perspectives in the room from the beginning.
While we aren’t there yet, I’m so proud to see and have been a part of the major strides we’ve taken over the past few years. We now have a vibrant community of employee resource groups that serve as a way for employees to support one another, access resources, and learn from each other. We’ve built a DEI strategy, validated by industry experts with stronger data collection. We have a structured mentorship program in place with over 125 successful pairings between associates and senior talent to bolster their careers. We’ve launched sessions for everyone on unconscious biases, for managers on creating inclusive team cultures, and for interviewers to practice inclusivity when interviewing candidates. Our dedicated Campus Diversity Recruiting Manager focuses on building out diverse pipelines so we tap into both traditional and non-traditional talent sources to recruit the best people. Most importantly, these efforts are making tangible improvements in our DEI efforts, and in turn, making us better as a firm.
It’s a slow process, but we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure our efforts are sincere and impactful, rather than just vanity changes. Most importantly these efforts have led to more diverse and successful new hire classes. There’s plenty of work to continue scaling and improving the ‘airplane’ that is AlphaSights and with our continued efforts, I’m confident we’re building the best ‘flight crew’ in the industry.
Future blogs in this series will highlight the thoughts and experiences of various employee resource group members at AlphaSights. We’ll also share the training and recruitment strategies we have in place to ensure we continue building a talented, diverse, and inclusive team. Learn more about our employee resource groups here.
Sloan is the Senior Vice President of San Francisco. He joined AlphaSights in 2014.