June 16, 2022

Taking Pride in Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work

People Operations Manager Helen Galarza unpacks OpenFin’s Pride month initiative and how the company works to create an inclusive culture.

Please tell us more about OpenFin’s June Pride initiative, and how this important work aligns with OpenFin’s mission and culture?

One of the things that OpenFin prides itself on is the fact that we invite everyone to come as they are. We are a particularly tight-knit group, one of the closest I've ever seen, and we always make sure that everyone's voice is heard. When new joiners come on board, they don't have to prompt anyone to introduce themselves – they just do it naturally. That openness translated very easily to designing an initiative around diversity and inclusion.

When it came to Pride, the most important thing to us as a culture was making sure that we were doing something that was meaningful to the community. Sure, celebrating is great – everyone loves to get together and have fun. And changing your logo is a nice sign of alliance. But our main question was: how do we support minority communities in a way that is truly impactful?

As a native New Yorker, I had known about The Ali Forney Center for a long time as being a safe place where homeless LGBTQ+ youth could go to for refuge and to get the tools they need to leave a life on the streets for good. I knew that the OpenFin team would be open to the idea of chipping in to help, and  we were overwhelmed by the immediate positive response. This month, OpenFin team members are invited to donate to The Ali Forney Center, and the company will then match up to $5,000 in funds to top off the team's generous donations. We have already gotten input from the team about other causes we can support in the future. It's very exciting!

Day to day, how do you and your team work to ensure that OpenFin fosters a culture and environment that empowers people to bring their whole selves to work?

We try to create as many spaces as we can to let people freely share their ideas with the team. At the start of the pandemic, we began to have daily “Small Hands” meetings, which are a more condensed version of the typical weekly or monthly company-wide meetings that a lot of organizations have. Now, over two years in, the Small Hands have evolved from rundowns of company updates to sessions where thoughtful team members can share insights on things that interest them outside of work or exciting developments that are happening in our industry in real time. I love that it gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better.

With a hybrid workforce, it can be difficult to feel connected, but a 15-minute touchpoint every day is incredibly helpful. We also have a number of Slack channels dedicated to different ERGs (employee resource groups) within the company. For example, we have a women's channel for female-identifying employees, where they can talk through issues that are important to them and host events to bring important discussions back to the broader organization. We also have great social events. Last month we made pizza!

Can you share what this initiative and the work you do to make OpenFin an inclusive space means to you personally?

In the past five years, I've seen a huge cultural shift around people feeling more and more comfortable expressing who they truly are at work. Companies that are able to nurture that have been proven to be more successful, not only from a business perspective, but more importantly from an experience perspective.

People are increasingly staying away from environments where they feel like there might be negative consequences if they share too much about who they are or are made to feel uncomfortable by showing up as their true selves. This was already happening before the pandemic, but it was exacerbated dramatically once we had to literally bring work into our personal space.

Professionally, it's incredibly important for me to make sure that we are not discouraging anyone from being who they are. From a personal perspective, I've had firsthand experience with feeling as though I wasn't safe at work, which is incredibly anxiety-inducing and can lead to a host of other stress-related consequences. I don't want others to feel that way.

If you are spending up to 40 hours a week working, you should be able to bring your true self – and, in turn, your best self – every day. Ultimately, it will translate to being happy with the work that you are producing.

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