AppianHeritage: Then, Now, and Looking Ahead
Welcome to the first blog of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Series where we will focus on the steps that we’re taking at Appian to improve on an ongoing basis when it comes to all things DEI. Throughout this series, we will highlight various initiatives that we are working on across numerous departments within our company.
In this blog, we’re sharing some information about our AppianHeritage Affinity Group, directly from the group’s president, Nisha D’Amico.
Meet the author
Hello! I’m Nisha D’Amico, and I’m a Senior Sales Engineer at Appian. I’m currently based out of Chicago, Illinois, and have worked at Appian for close to four years. I am the president of AppianHeritage, where my mission is to help others who feel marginalized to amplify their voices and provide allies with support and education on what it means to be an ally.
As a woman of color, I have some unique experiences to share. I grew up in New Jersey, born to an Indian mother and Italian father. However, I grew up in a predominantly Indian household and spent a lot of childhood summers in India with my extended family so I identify more closely with that part of my heritage.
It’s always been important to me that I use my voice and express my perspective as a woman of color. And I’m passionate about helping other people to find ways to use their voices too! This is why I became involved with AppianHeritage in the first place. I’m really motivated by this group’s purpose and I’d like to share more about our history, our mission and current focus, and what we have planned for the future.
AppianHeritage: A brief history.
AppianHeritage is one of the AppianLife Affinity Groups. These seven groups exist to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Appian by supporting the needs of different communities; advancing social, education, and outreach activities; and fostering partnerships by educating allies. The other AppianLIFE Affinity Groups include: AppianWomen, AppianPride, AppianGreen, AppianWellness, and AppianRise.
The first two AppianLIFE Affinity Groups were AppianWomen and AppianPride. Then, in 2018, a few months after our former president Indraja Karnik joined the company, she saw a gap in providing a space for employees of color, and founded AppianHeritage with support from our VP of HR, Dawn Mitchell.
The AppianHeritage mission is to celebrate and foster an environment of support and empowerment amongst employees of all races, cultures, and ethnicities to amplify their impact on the Appian community.
In the past, we’ve focused on running events with the intent of bringing people together to talk about a common theme and get to know one another. Here are some of the events we’ve put on:
● Diversity workshops — we originally hosted in-person, small group workshops that allowed employees to understand more about their fellow colleagues’ backgrounds. We hope to bring these back in a virtual setting!
● Black History Month — we hosted a Black Panther screening in our first year, a poetry night in our second year, and had a themed trivia night this past February with food catered by a local Black-owned business.
● Hispanic Heritage Month — we hosted a salsa night two years in a row led by Appian’s Will Robinson and Vanesa Perez.
● Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — we hosted an event capturing multiple Asian countries, featuring a make-your-own-kimbap station, a henna station, and assorted snacks such as samosas and bubble tea.
At the start of the year, our board was still quite small — but come June 2020 the board grew tremendously from nine to 27 board members! This was around the time of George Floyd’s death, when the Black Lives Matter movement began to really gain traction, and people wanted to find ways to support their colleagues and become more active about racial justice issues. Joining AppianHeritage as a volunteer provides a great way to do just that.
In addition, employees from across the organization wanted to learn more about AppianHeritage and what we were doing to support our diverse employee base at Appian. These conversations made it clear that there was a real appetite for the programming we wanted to run and, with additional board members in place, we had extra capacity to do more of it!
Given the increase in volunteers, we decided to create a more official board structure at the start of 2020. We now have official board positions, including a marketing chair and an allyship chair, alongside chairs for each of our goal committees as follows: education, leadership and professional development, recruiting and networking, and community. Here are the new goals each of these committees has set:
- Educate our peers — we wanted to focus on programming that helped to share information about allyship and being a person of color with the wider Appian employee base. Some of the programming we developed here includes discussion sessions, movie nights, and a book club (you can learn more about our book club and our most recent read, Ijeoma Oluo’s Let’s Talk About Race, in this blog by Appian team members Samantha Wettasinghe and Parmida Borhani).
- Support career development for employees of color — we wanted to provide more leadership and professional development (PD) opportunities for people of color working at Appian. To kick things off here, we recently worked on a survey in partnership with HR to see how much time employees are currently spending on PD activities, and if they felt all employees were receiving equal access to these opportunities.
- Recruit more diverse employees — we want to attract more talented people of color to come join the Appian team! To do this, we’ve been partnering with Appian’s campus recruiting team. This team had two events with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) earlier in the month, including a resume workshop and a career fair. We are planning more events with universities for October. In addition, we’re helping to reevaluate job descriptions regularly to ensure they’re appealing to a range of prospective candidates from different backgrounds.
- Get involved in outreach activities with our local communities — this goal is still in development, but the aim is to extend our education and DEI initiatives to the broader community outside of Appian. There is a pretty incredible initiative already in the works here near our HQ in Washington, D.C. We’ll be sharing more about this in an upcoming blog though, so I won’t say too much now!
Looking ahead: AppianHeritage plans for 2021 and beyond!
The AppianHeritage board is really excited for the near future — and for our longer-term plans too. Ultimately, our goal for 2020 and beyond is to keep increasing engagement because the more members, volunteers, and allies that we have participating in the group, the more impact we can have!
If you’re currently working at Appian and have suggestions for a new event or initiative, let us know. We’d love to hear your thoughts and we’d also love for you to consider becoming a member of AppianHeritage. We’re always looking for fresh perspectives and ways that we can help advance DEI at Appian. And while we know that change doesn’t happen overnight, the more people we have in our group, the more impact we’ll be able to have over time! We hope you’ll consider getting involved and helping to drive positive changes within our work environment and external communities.