It’s Not Enough to Accept — We Have to Welcome
How do you bring your whole self to work? AlphaSights Vice President and member of the LGBTQ+ community Sloan Danenhower ventures to say that it’s only possible if your workplace welcomes your whole self — no matter who you are, your background, or how you identify. We sat down with Sloan to get more insight into what he means and how AlphaSights embraces that mentality.
It’s only possible if your workplace welcomes your whole self — no matter who you are, your background, or how you identify.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Sloan and including my time at AlphaSights, I’ve spent the last seven years in the market research space. I first got into the field because I played the stock market game when I was a kid. That’s where I was first exposed to Morningstar reports which were so impactful that I wanted to be a part of them. I even flew to Chicago in college and chased them down until they gave me a job! After three years, I knew I wanted to move back East and take on a different adventure. I searched for a role that blended both sales and leadership and I was excited to come across AlphaSights which offered exactly that. The opportunities in Chicago were either pegged to sales or leadership, not both, so I took a leap of faith and joined the team.
In four years, I’ve completed two “tours of duty” at AlphaSights and I’m currently starting my third. “Tours of duty” are multi-year mandates to contribute to a specific team or goal. For my first, I managed some of our private equity accounts and for my second, grew our corporate client base. On my third tour, I’m scaling our client acquisition function. I’m most passionate about this tour because I’m helping scale AlphaSights’ impact by acquiring more clients through sales and marketing. Our clients do important things to make people’s lives better. For example, one client is developing new medical devices, another is designing a 911 telecommunications system, and a third is building infrastructure in Africa. We’re helping our clients do their work better, and through my work, I’m able to scale that impact.
As a newly-elevated VP, my remit now extends beyond commercial asks and is partly why we’re chatting today. I want to do my part to keep AlphaSights one of the best and inclusive places to work, especially as we continue to grow. When I joined, there were only 60 people in the New York office and now we have 250! It’s an entirely new set of challenges to keep our people happy and engaged.
You took a step towards that goal a few weeks back, right?
Yes. As a company, we pride ourselves on the initiative our people take to identify gaps and take action to fill them. While we do have sports teams and groups for community service, office culture, and women’s inclusion, we haven’t had one focused on diversity and inclusion for the LBGTQ+ community. One of our interns this summer noticed this gap. His manager directed him to me and as we talked, it became clear that this was an idea he was particularly excited about. He began spearheading the initiative and I took on more of a coaching role. He reached out to WIN and with their help, coordinated a panel called Let’s Talk Acceptance to jumpstart the conversation across the office. Through the event, we hoped to see who else was passionate about the community and would be interested in starting a group within AlphaSights.
Tell us about the panelists. What did you discuss?
We had three terrific speakers; all successful in their fields and active members of the LGBTQ+ community. Alex Stein from Forrester had experience in leading employee resource groups and Tony Altimore launched similar groups in three other companies. Matt McDonald, who’s African American and gay, was from Google and offered a dynamic perspective on inclusion overall. The conversation addressed coming out in your career, general challenges around diversity, personal stories, and how to be an ally of the community.
They shared incredible anecdotes and I was especially impressed as I thought about how to shape a group like this for AlphaSights. They talked about what these groups should be focused on, how to best handle monumental things like marriage equality, and even how to talk about modern milestones like Black Panther coming out.
From a programming perspective, it was helpful when they shared the importance of putting on purely fun events to get the entire office involved in addition to running initiatives that drive commercial impact. At TIAA, for example, a group produced financial planning guides on how to work best with LGBT clients for internal use and training.
What else did you take away from that night?
Two main things. The conversations confirmed our beliefs that first, companies who want to succeed in diversity and inclusion need to focus on four key areas, which connect in a self-sustaining cycle:
- Retention & support of existing employees
- Onboarding & mentorship;
- Interacting with clients;
- And recruitment
Second, succeeding in all four areas is a big effort, but with a commitment across the company, it’s possible and worthwhile.
What do you hope to happen at AlphaSights with regards to employee resource groups?
To keep developing and scaling! In our ten years, AlphaSights affinity groups have formed organically based on people’s interests and hobbies like community service or sports. Now that our population is rapidly growing, I’m excited to see more opportunities for other types of groups, as an LGBTQ+ resource group, cultural/ethnic groups, and so on to form and really take life here. My ultimate hope is to continue backing ideas like this to inspire and remind people that AlphaSights not only accepts — but welcomes, supports, and encourages people of all backgrounds to succeed.
My ultimate hope is to continue backing ideas like this to inspire and remind people that AlphaSights not only accepts — but welcomes, supports, and encourages people of all backgrounds to succeed.