I had a wonderful experience of being invited to the Uber headquarters in San Francisco this past week, where I had the pleasure of meeting Darah Okeke who has been working with Uber since August of 2017 as the Senior Counsel, Employment. Her role is to ensure that whatever Uber does in connection with job applicants and employees are compliant with federal state and local workplace laws. We connected with each other straight away with both being from Maryland and having young sons. Our time began with a tour of the facility, that was where I instantly saw that there was a sense of freedom/trust towards the employees. Each person had a role to do, that was clear but they weren’t bound to cubicles; they were free to complete the task anywhere in the aesthetically pleasing venue. From lounge areas throughout the location to having the freedom to work from home; there were comfortable and functional locations throughout the office!
After grabbing coffee and tea, Darah and I sat for our 1:1 interview.
First question I was curious to ask was what the mission is behind UberHue, “Ubers employees resource group for all employees of the African Diaspora, so whether you’re African American or Nigerian or Jamaican or Black Asian living in Japan, its for anyone with African descent. It’s a tool that we use to ensure we stay connected and unified and we have the support that we need. There aren’t very many blacks in tech or even the corporate world, so having the opportunity to get together and speak freely about the win, challenges, dreams and passions is truly powerful” said Darah. I instantly began to praise this concept because it’s exactly what needs to be experienced, seen and felt throughout the working environment. “A lot of companies have struggled with the question of how do we advance diversity and inclusion and one of the clear ways to do that is to not turn a blind eye, but to be direct and acknowledge and celebrate our differences, our hues, our blackness, our interest and passion in tech for this work”, Darah shared. As a result, UberHue has empowered Darah to continue being her true self in the workplace, she believes in being authentic in every environment and knows that you cannot be highly effective or high performing if you can’t be yourself.
The future of UberHue, through Darahs eyes, is one of being proactive and taking on recruitment efforts, getting out into the community, and showing that blacks are being elevated to the next level. UberHue empowers employees by not just seeing them as a number but their is time truly being spent to show they are recognized, they strive for inclusion not just diversity. Darah quotes Verna Myers (diversity & inclusion consultant) saying “ Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance”. Darah believes this embodies what inclusion is all about. “It’s more than just diversity, we have to ask people to dance, allowing them to feel comfortable in knowing that we have company leadership that invests in us and our development, wants us here and wants to see us thrive and succeed whether it’s at Uber or elsewhere. It’s a place that gives us all that we need especially with all of the challenges that we have historically faced not only in the workplace but in the world”.
As the interviewed continued on it was apparent to me how UberHue helps blacks to be celebrated and to be seen within Uber. UberHue is not only in San Francisco, it is global. Darah has trained hundreds of executives when it comes to workplace diversity and inclusion “ I get behind it because to me 80% of your life is spent in the workplace and you spend more time with your co-workers than your immediate family. I grew up watching my Mom put in so many hours and working really long days and overtime on weekends and then coming home feeling upset or disappointed or humiliated or dissatisfied because she wasn’t treated well and a lot of times it was because she was a black woman; to witness that and to think what are my goals, what are my aspirations, what do I want to dedicate my career to?! I thought if I spend so much time at work shouldn’t it be a great place be, so I committed my time to making the workplace a safe place for everybody regardless of your background or where you’re from or what accent you have, being able to come to work and not have to worry about being mistreated or discriminated against because of who you are but being recognized for the talent that you bring and what you contribute to the team” says Darah.
This beautiful worldwide employee resource group is one full of love, support, respect, dignity and value and this is how she has chosen to dedicate part of her time – truly inspiring!
UberHue is changing the workplace and I felt honored to witness/experience the act of inclusion this company has taken time to give to their employees.