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How to Improve DEI in Customer Support


Jordan Pedraza, Vice President of Global Support at Handshake


Jordan Pedraza, Vice President of Global Support at Handshake, has worked tirelessly over the last 5 years to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within Handshake’s customer support organization. With the help of some key tactics across hiring, onboarding, career development, policy, and customer experience, Jordan has seen clear results:

  • When Jordan first joined Handshake, the support team was about 95% white and 90% women. Now, 54% of the team are people of color (24% Latinx, 19% Asian, 14% Black, 41% white, and 2% are another race), and 54% are women.
  • There is more representation from other communities, including veterans, people identifying as non-binary or LGBTQ, and neurodiverse people.
  • The leadership team is about 90% women and about 50% people of color.

Here are a few things Jordan and her team do internally with hiring, onboarding, career development, and policy to improve DEI:


  • Intentionally seek out the communities they want. Jordan and her team used Handshake to create campaigns and send outreach to candidates based on what schools they go to, what different regions they’re living in, what interest groups they’re part of, how they identify, etc.
  • Use candidate surveys. Jordan uses candidate surveys to get feedback from candidates about their experience in Handshake’s hiring process. Because it’s not enough to get a diverse group of candidates in the door. She wants to make sure the entire process is inclusive.
  • Prepare the team to interview and assess candidates fairly and equitably. Jordan makes sure interview panels are representative, and the team goes through interview bias training. They also ask consistent, structured, and behavior-based interview questions so every candidate is evaluated on the same things.


  • Hire and onboard in cohorts. That way, there’s already a built-in community and safe space for new hires. They can learn the product, get to know the company, and get used to a new tech stack together.
  • Pair new hires with experienced employees. This allows new employees to have access to tenured colleagues and community knowledge, and it’s not dependent on being socially savvy and knowing how to network.
  • Set clear expectation for onboarding. Jordan makes sure every employee knows exactly what’s expected of them during their onboarding, including metrics, a rubric, and a timeline. Everything is documented, and new hires are given transparency into how they’re progressing.

Career development

  • Be transparent with career level framework. Jordan maps out the different job types within Handshake’s support team, along with the different levels of competency or skills required for each. That gives the team a roadmap for how they can grow, and it helps Jordan and her managers assess performance and compensation.
  • Establish a mentorship program. Knowing that not everyone knows how to network, take initiative, find a mentor, etc., Jordan set up a rotating mentorship program to give employees a chance to learn about other support-related career paths, like trust and safety, documentation, technical support, hiring and recruiting, onboarding, and training.


  • Be consistent with compensation. Jordan created compensation ranges for each job within Handshake’s support organization based on job type, level, location, experience, and more. Instead of allowing negotiation, which can lead to pay discrepancy, everyone is compensated based on the same structured framework.

Watch, read, or listen to Jordan’s full episode for more details! And don’t forget to rate Beyond the Queue on Apple Podcasts. ⭐

See the episode’s transcript

Meredith Metsker: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond The Queue. Today I am very excited to welcome Jordan Pedraza. She's the Vice President of Global Support at Handshake. Thanks for being here, Jordan.

Jordan Pedraza: Thanks for having me, Meredith.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I'm really excited to talk to you today. We have a really important topic on the docket. So basically we are going to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion within customer support, and specifically what support leaders can do to improve DEI within their organizations, and what it means to be an inclusive leader. So Jordan, I know this has been a big focus for you at Handshake in your five years there so far. And I know you've seen some amazing results, but before we get into the specifics of what you're doing at Handshake, can you give me a high level overview of what support leaders should be doing to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, absolutely. And I got to thank you again for having me. When you first reached out, I've been following the Beyond the Queue community and conversation. So I'm just honored to be here, especially on this important topic. So the first thing I would say is I think oftentimes people and support leaders can be hesitant to dive into DEI for support or their team. Sometimes I've heard people feel, "Well, I'm not qualified. I haven't experienced a lot of the issues at stake firsthand. I don't want to say the wrong thing. I don't want to offend anyone." And that's totally valid, like we all have that, but the worst thing you can do is nothing. Or the worst thing you can say is nothing. Because then otherwise there will be unintended things that could happen on your team and how you operate, and it can go against what your beliefs and values are.

So it's definitely not something we want to be passive about. And the other thing I've learned, I think sometimes people think, oh, well, this work should be done only by DEI consultants or people officially in that role or field, or maybe the people are HR teams or other departments. And it definitely takes a village, it can't just be all one person. But I think we have a very critical role to play, because ultimately this is all made up of people and you are building your team, you're building what it is. I think we can think about DEI as any other competency, just like how we need to learn how to forecast or pull reports or budget or negotiate or figure out the right tools and systems to use. I think it's just like any other competency that we can learn. We can learn the language around. We can learn best practices around and we can always execute.

So that's what I would say at a high level, kind of to evolve how we think about it. And then what also has helped me and I hope helps the community is breaking it down into specific buckets. I think that's another thing that happens with DEI work. Maybe that might be a loaded term. Maybe people might think of it in different ways, and there's a lot of components to it. You don't have to tackle everything all at once. You can start small. You can focus on one at a time. It's an ongoing living, breathing thing. So I think that, and that's something we see in our work already with support. So I think the same applies here. But some broad buckets that can help to think about it, I would say you got hiring. You got onboarding. You got team development and growth. You got policy. And that's pretty broad, that can be policy for your team like how people are compensated, how performance is evaluated.

But also your company policy and how your team interacts with customers and what other things the company does to support that, not just your team and then the customer experience. And that's more on the external front. So yeah, those are kind of the broad buckets that I think about that we can make a difference. And then I think it makes it more tangible and more accessible when we drill down into, "Oh, here are the specific things I can focus on and do across each area."

Meredith Metsker: Right. Yeah. That makes sense. Like breaking it down into more actionable buckets as opposed to just being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, just saying, "Okay, we're going to be a diverse team or an inclusive team or we're going to do DEI." Okay. That's intimidating.

Meredith Metsker: What does that mean?

Jordan Pedraza: That's overwhelming. What does that mean? Yeah.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. So now I want to dig into how you're doing this at Handshake, and I know you're doing things with each of these buckets. So can you walk me through what you and your team have been doing to strengthen DEI within Handshake's support organization?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, absolutely. So as I was talking about the buckets first, that's kind of how I'll walk through what we've been doing. And if you want to bucket in even broader groups, I think there's what you do internally and what you do externally to make it even simpler to understand. So first I got to talk about the internal because that's frankly where we've done the most. I think it's not a coincidence. It starts from within, starts with you as a leader, as a person, then expands to your team, maybe other leaders on your team, if you have them and that can be people managers or not. And then that can expend to your company and then that will translate to how it's brought to life for your community that you're supporting. So I actually realized that when I was thinking about this conversation, I was like, "Oh, we've actually done a lot of work internally." Maybe not as much externally, but you have to do that work first. So it begins with you.

And specifically within the internal piece hiring, and I think that's one of the first places people go to. I see this in the community, "Hey, I'm posting for this role. I want to make sure I have a diverse pipeline. I want to add diversity to our team." So I think that's one of the common ways people get started, which is awesome. It is one of the biggest levers we have, because it's how you build your team. And if you don't take intentional steps to make sure you are having a diverse team when you're bringing new people on board, then how are you ever going to change that? So it makes sense to start there.

So particularly for my team and my experience at Handshake, when I joined in 2017, I noticed that the team was pretty homogenous. It was majority white, majority female, and then mostly folks in their mid to late twenties. So I observed like, okay, how did we get there? And it looked like most of our hiring was done through referrals or networks of existing Handshakers. And I think we hear about that all the time. I mean, I think there's a stat saying over 50% of hires from a company come from referrals. So if the communities and networks of your employees or team are homogenous, then that's going to be reflected in their referrals. Even if you're incentivizing referrals, even if you're encouraging people to branch out, it's just something that happens. So then that was one thing I set out to change to make sure we reflected the community that we're serving, so that we'd be a stronger team and have more perspectives and backgrounds to tap into. And then also specifically for Handshake, our mission is to level the playing field. So we got to walk the walk, like that's what we're kind of selling and promoting out there. Right?

So that was also important to me, for us to live by what we're kind of encouraging other organizations and companies to do. And we can talk more about the results we've seen in a bit, but eventually I just sought out to, "Okay, I don't think we want to have a homogenous team. That's not how our world looks. That's not mirroring what we're putting out there and the tools that we're building to solve." And so I wanted to aim for more balance in gender representation at all levels, not just agents too management and leadership, and then same for other demographic factors. So things like race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, languages or country of origin, veterans, LGBTQ community, neurodiversity as well. So I really wanted to make sure we just had a broader set of perspectives represented on the team.

So to do that, one of my favorite analogies I've heard is, you can't fish at the forest. You got to go to the lake. And so you can't expect to just post and pray and hope everyone will come to you and find you. That's one way to get candidates. And that's fine. You can keep doing that, but you're going to have to intentionally seek out the communities you want. And ideally over time, as you've kind of kept doing this work and you tell your story proactively, there's already more awareness about you and what y'all are about. And that's something else we can talk about later, but for now you have to ago and meet them where they are. So that prompted me to look at well, what tools are we using if we're just relying on referrals and if they're just coming inbound. And I thought of using our own product Handshake.

And I swear, I'm not trying to just promote what we do because frankly there's a lot of other tools out there you can use. You can use LinkedIn, WayUp, JobWell, Canvas, like lots of other wonderful companies and missions that are looking to solve similar problems. But I thought, well, it would be a good opportunity to dog food. Whatever we're kind of supporting our community with, let's use it ourselves. And that might also give us another perspective and better understand what our communities are trying to do. So I started to use Handshake for the next class of agents that we had to hire. I think we started doing this in like 2018 or so, late 2018. And that's the beauty of, especially if your company's in a hyper growth phase. So you may come in and it may be in one state, but if you have to do a lot of hiring or there's a lot of movement's, that's a good thing, because then that's a shorter window to make some change. And we were able to see results even within a year or two.

So really with sourcing, that's what you have to be more intentional about. And again, I mentioned we used Handshake, but I think you can do this in lots of places. We did it by creating campaigns and sending outreach to candidates based on what schools they go to, what different regions they're living in, what interest groups they're proud of, how they identify. So we proactively made sure to go to them and made that a priority. And again, a lot of the other tools I mentioned have ways you can do that too. But that's what was unique to Handshake. And I wanted to, we should at least try to use our own tool to do that.

But it's not enough to just source, so you have to make sure you keep monitoring your pipeline at every stage. And there's tons of applicant tracking system tools out there that will give you to do that. So we use Greenhouse and they have great analytics on monitoring that.

So obviously at the top of the funnel, you want people to apply and be coming in. But then if you lose them at any stage, that's where you want to dig in further and try to see what's happening. I don't know if everyone does candidate surveys, but that's a way to get some feedback or kind of have people reflect on their experience and where we can make it better. So it doesn't just stop with sourcing and then, oh, okay, I'm done, but you got to make sure it falls through end to end of the cycle. And then also preparing your team to interview and assess candidates fairly and equitably I think is huge. So making sure you have a representative panel. Work with what you got, you got to start somewhere, but candidates notice. I've had candidates tell me like part of why I responded is, "Hey, that means a lot to me to see you as a black woman leader in support. I want to know more." So yeah, make sure you have those perspectives represented on your panel too.

And then we've done interview bias training. So whether that can be your talent team running that, your people team. You can consultants. Or there's plenty of free materials out there, but that was something we've invested in. And then making sure you have consistent, structured and behavioral-based interview questions. So sometimes I've seen on panels, people want to wing it, go off in different directions and asked candidates different things. But the problem is it's not fair if you're not asking the same thing of every candidate. So another common thing I see people say, "Oh, so and so is personable." They talk about their personality, but personality is not behavior. So that's another important distinction to make. And then the other thing with hiring I'll say is, for us we do take home exercises and there's definitely some very important dialogue on that.

Some have said, well, you're asking people to do work, but you're not compensating them. So it's important I think if we do those kinds of things, we keep it very short, concise, set clear expectations, or find other ways to accommodate their needs if needed. So we have a written like pre-exercise you can do, or you can do a live one with us. But what's cool about that is I think it kind of helps to democratize support in a way, because we actually hire plenty of people that have never done support before. That's one of the things I love about support. It's a gateway into different industries and the tech sector. So really it's just about, can you be curious? Can you problem solve? Can you be creative? Can you communicate? So whether you have a degree or not, no matter what you've studied, no matter what you've done, even for those that have had to overcome adversity, I feel like that's an advantage. If you have different abilities and that's something we could talk about more later, everything, it can be a benefit.

So I'm a big fan of exercises because it lets people just show how they would do something and gives them a realistic sense of what the role might be here. But you want to make sure you scope it so it doesn't take too much of their time. Make sure it's accessible, make sure like for us, we don't have a requirement of having to have a camera on. If you don't have a camera, it's okay. If you have to do it from a tablet or even a phone, like we make sure it's relatively accessible no matter what device you have. So I know I've talked a lot about hiring, but those are just some of the things we've done and we can get into the results we've seen from that later.

But just quickly on some of the other buckets. So once people are coming on board, how you set them up for success, I think is also very important. Again, not just from a broad sense, but how you do that, especially if you're hiring people that are either new in their careers or new to support or new to tech, I think the biggest mistake we can make is assuming everyone has the same knowledge or background or experience. And even some basic things like that we would take for granted, Slack, email, or learning new tools like Zendesk, Guru or whatever reporting tools you have.

So what we try to do is a few things. First, we try to hire and onboard in cohorts, so there's already a built in community and kind of a safety space. We encourage people to create your own private Slack channel, maybe do a Zoom together or just hang out, get to know each other. We have found when people join in cohorts, they just have more safety and like people to run ideas around and ask stupid questions of each other. We all have them. But we encourage that. We're like, no, please get to know each other, have fun. We don't need to be super strict and formal about it.

We also have onboarding buddies. So we try to pair newbies with more experienced people. So they get that access and it's not dependent on people knowing how to network and be savvy, but everyone gets paired with someone. And then as far as onboarding people too, either our tools or product, we always try to make it interactive and fun and accessible. So even with Slack, when we post little updates to the team for people that are just using it for the first time, we say, okay, confirm this with your favorite emoji. Here's how you do it. So then it just makes it light, a quick, easy thing you can do. You get confidence in the hang of little features and you get to personalize it. So little things like that.

I remember one of my managers experiment with that and people loved it and it was a cool way to get people engaged and make Slack not as intimidating or scary. I know when I first learned Slack, it was intense. So we try to do that with any tool we have. Okay. If you're learning Guru, make a sample card, put whatever the heck you want on it. So kind of give some people some space to make it their own. Some other things that I think are really helpful with onboarding, especially when it comes to, if you're converting people to full time or evaluating people for other roles, or this can also go into the performance bucket. But just have a very clear expectations metrics, a rubric and timeline and have it all documented. So people kind of clearly know, "Okay, here's what they're looking for. Here's how I know how I'm doing." And give people transparency into how they're progressing.

So that was a big thing we learned, because otherwise, if you don't make the implicit explicit, people may make assumptions. People may have the wrong understanding or not be aligned. Maybe your team won't be aligned and that's not a good thing. And you have to be very specific. So even saying things like, "Oh, have good communication or concise communication or be empathetic in your tickets or calls." If there's room for interpretation, because everyone has different thoughts on what empathetic looks like or good, clear, concise communication looks like. Is that bullets? Is that just a few sentences? Should you use bolding or not? Italics. There's lots of ways you can go in that. So we try to be even more specific with what's the template of what we're looking for. It kind of goes into QA to like provide a greeting, acknowledge the question or issue, provide an accurate solution with resources and then have a closing. So that way it kind of makes it a little bit more structured and consistent. Still gives room for people to personalize it, but we're making it a little bit more specific about what we're looking for.

So that was actually really critical for us to do. And then if you ever have people help an onboard or shadow or review new people as they're getting onboarded, have them meet each other socially first. Like just build the relationship, build trust, and help your new team members understand how did they get to where they are, what's their background? How do they approach the role? What's their wisdom and advice? To just make it safe and feel more collaborative, because that can be intimidating to kind of get started and have a more experienced agent reviewing your stuff or a manager or QA person or whoever. And especially make sure you're training any reviewers on bias and giving feedback too, because that can come up a lot when we're doing QA and giving feedback on each others work and then really quickly on some other buckets.

So as far as team development and some of the things I mentioned overlap with that. You got to have a very clear and transparent career level framework. And every company has different policies around this, but basically it's kind of mapping out what are the different jobs or job types in your department. And then what are the different levels of competency or skills that are required in each job? And so that does a lot of things. That gives a team, a roadmap for how they can grow. That's a tool to help you assess performance and then ultimately compensation. And it also is a good source for career development and just helping people understand where they're at and where they can go from there. So that every team needs to have, if you don't have it. And then some other things we've done.

So what you want to do is you have to kind of build in repeated structures and process for people to get exposed to new things. Because what can happen is let's say again, some people may come in and know, okay, I need to schmooze. I need to network. I know how to kind of find my way around an org or a team. And maybe I know how to take the initiative and take on some projects or do some extra fancy things. Okay. That's cool, but then there are going to be people that don't know to do that, that don't know about mentors or sponsors or shadowing other people or doing informational interviews. So what we've done, we've done rotational and mentoring programs on our team and those are near and dear to my heart. It's kind of like your elective wheel in middle school. So whenever we have quieter queue times, we have a lot of different paths that people can dip their toes into, trust and safety, documentation, technical support, hiring and recruiting and onboarding and training. Like really you name it, we got it.

And what we do is we give people designated time and mentor for them to pair with and learn from, to see how they like it. Learn more about a different function or area. So that has been a cool way to expose people to what they can do. And then it's equitable because everyone gets to participate. Then there's other sessions and exercises that you can keep doing with team to keep the conversation going. I think that's also really important. Don't wait for HR. Don't wait for people team. Don't wait for a consultant. You can dig into the content yourselves. You can have conversations yourselves. You can look at how you operate your own data and make that an open thing. So we've done this. We had a session where we've formed breakout groups and everyone had to come up with scenarios where bias could come up in our work, whether internally or externally in supporting our customers and then what we'll do about it.

So that was really empowering because that way people had to draw on what they've already seen or think of what could happen in the future and then be proactive with taking action. And then to get more made with it, you could also put in some rules, like if you have breakout groups, managers can't be captains. So that invites individual contributors to step up and be a leader there. And then after it's done, you ask people, how were your captains selected? And what we did notice for us, sometimes people from more marginalized backgrounds ended up being the captain. So we talked about that and again, that same feeling of, "Well, I'm not qualified. I haven't experienced this. I'm not as knowledgeable and I don't want to offend or say the wrong thing, so I'm going to step aside."

But then what happens is it's the burden on the communities that are already, were heavily impacted and having to do that work. So that came to light and people were like, "Oh wow. Yeah, I see what happened here." So you kind of almost have to take a magnifying glass and look at, as you're doing this work together, where do these things perpetuate? Let's see. Gosh, sorry, I know I'm going into all my buckets-

Meredith Metsker: You're fine.

Jordan Pedraza: The last other things I'll say, oh, internal transfers and applications. That's one other thing about development, I want to call it quickly. So every company has different policies around this, but we found having an internal job board has been really great, because then there's just transparency and clarity on what's available. You don't have to just know who's in the know or know what's coming down the pipeline, just that's the policy. If there's a role that's open to internal applicants, we have a designated job board for that. So that's really huge and everyone's allowed to apply. Now, sometimes we may need to set expectations on what we're looking for. Oh, this time we are going to be looking at external candidates, but you're still welcome to go through the process. It's a great learning opportunity. And hopefully this might help you prepare for in the future when we may want to hire internally. So that has been really helpful, giving everyone the opportunity to see how a potential role could go for them.

That kind of segues into policy. And this can again look differently. But I think first, with us interacting externally with customer, I'm a big fan of having kind of an abusive customer policy. I think it's another way you can provide safety and back up your team in case there's customers that just get out of line with them. It happens. And so we have one. We've barely had to use it, but there's been a couple times where we have, and the feedback we've heard is just very positive. Like at least we know where our team stands, what will be tolerated or not. And you don't have to put the burden on them to make the call. It's like, no, here's the policy like step one, this happens. If it happens again, you're banned. So that is really powerful. I think it's very common for companies to have their own company values these days, which is great to remind the team of.

But I find it's also helpful to make your own team values or kind of shared agreements. It's kind of a way to have guardrails in place for your team on what do we want to really stand for here what matters to us. And what do we all agree to hold each other accountable to? And so a couple years back, we did a team exercise where we came up with our own team values and it was based on our real experience working together, what we want to stand for, what we want to have our pillars. So that's something else I recommend doing. And that can look differently from team to team company, to company. But some things like in our own team values are things like earn it. We put in the work and time in our core role first before we look at ways we can extend our impact.

Another one we have is no triangles. So if you have some feedback or a concern with someone, you go to them directly. You may lean on others to help prepare or think about the best way to communicate it, so it lands well. But ultimately we encourage people to just go straight to who they need to connect with, because otherwise again, that's where silos can happen, mixed messages can happen and other weird dynamics can creep up. So it has to be specific and relevant to your team, but those are some other things. And then what's cool is as you build these values, you can do lots of fun things with them. We do awards around them. You even see people call them out in the wild like, "Hey wait, no triangles." Like actually I'm going to connect with Joe over here and make sure he knows where I'm coming from. So over time it really gets reinforced on its own through your team, which is awesome.

Compensation is a huge one. My goodness. So I highly recommend, and again, this can look differently at companies but creating bands for each job, family and level. I think when you don't do that, you're just opening yourself up to more discrepancies and less parody. So what's nice is you want to have like a consistent structured framework to apply how you compensate your team. And so for us, we have it for individual contributors and managers and then for each job family and then each level, and then we have a band for different locations. So that way, when anyone's coming in, like let's say you've had X years of experience for this job family in this location, here's your band. And we start everyone at the same starting point. So that way there's really no negotiation there no, "Oh well, here's my unique circumstance or what have you." And that's again, there's a lot of interesting debate and discussions on that. I know some companies that have a no negotiation policy. I know others that will say, "Oh, but you'll lose that on great talent." You have to make a stand and call, but it's worked well for us.

It just makes it consistent and it minimizes discrepancies. But that said, it is not done there. You still have to keep monitoring it as like, I don't know, promotions happen, increases happen, the team evolves over time. And then also hopefully we have people teams that constantly audit how compensation's done to make sure it's in parity with the market too. I think that's where we could be proactive as support leaders do our own research. Well, what kind of support are you doing? Is it enterprise or consumers? Is it B2B or B2C or B2B [inaudible 00:28:59] C. What industry is it in? What's the nature of the role? Things like that, and then educate and inform your teams that are working on these matters as well. So I've made sure to share and put together documentation for my people team whenever they're doing audits. So they really know what's unique about support at Handshake and that's accounted for.

Meredith Metsker: So, sorry, really quick. So just to confirm, so with each of those levels, job types, and all of that, there's like a specific range, but you always still start people, like you start them in the same spot.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah.

Meredith Metsker: Very cool.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, and that's something I think, again as I've said before, we always have to be open to evolving and iterating on our practice. But I'm a fan because it's consistent, it's easier to understand and it just, in my opinion, mitigates bias, which can totally happen in that process. I mean, we've heard some of the statistics and studies on who's more likely to you negotiate or ask for more. And yeah, it doesn't mean that that still can't happen, but we have to be willing to potentially lose talent if we're not allowing for that. So thankfully that hasn't really happened, but yeah that's kind of how we've gone about it. And then the last thing I'll say around policy and then customer experience. So performance reviews and calibrations. That's another one, especially for smaller, more emerging companies I think to watch out for.

So this is where a career level framework is really helpful, because you can use that to determine ratings and ground your discussions around. And then for calibrations and that's a loaded term people get kind of feel a certain way about it. Like I've heard of things called stack ranking. I don't recommend that. That's terrible. But what this does is it just kind of groups everyone to, okay, these are the folks doing the same job in the same level. And we account for how long have they been here? What's their tenure? What are all their accomplishments? What are their strengths? What are areas for growth? So that way we're just looking at the same things across all the people. And then there's other ways you can make it even more structured and consistent. So for us, like we have the metrics from our career level framework.

So we put in what everyone's was in their own slide and then use that consistently. So that takes some of the subjectivity out of it, where someone can easily say, "Oh yeah, like this Sally was really great this past quarter or two." Well how? Like show it and let's calibrate it and use the same criteria across everyone. So then you can say, "Oh yeah, Sally took like 20% of the queue. Joe took 5% of the queue." But then what were the other things that maybe Sally and Joe were working on, so we can get a full picture of what everyone's doing. So just makes a little tighter and then less kind of bucket customer experience. So I already talked about having a clear policy for when your agents are interacting externally, kind of having their back if things get it kind of not align with your team's values and company's values. Another cool thing and I feel like I haven't seen this, this much in support. Adding pronouns in your signatures. So that was something we did a few years back.

Someone did an internal session about that and I thought, "Well, oh, this can hit a lot of things. One it's just spreading awareness and education about that with our community and customers. Two, it's a nice, personalized way for our team and our agents to identify how they want to be identified. And then three, this is a little selfish, but I have a unisex name and I've definitely had my experiences where people assume I'm a guy. So I was like, oh cool. I get to benefit from this too. It's not the like initial spirit or intent of this, but hey, like that's actually kind of cool. So that was some then we started doing and we weren't sure how it would go, but it was so cool to see the response. We had people write in, "Whoa, this makes me feel seen and just even more safer working with y'all. And now you've inspired me to go spread the good word about what y'all are doing."

Meredith Metsker: That's amazing.

Jordan Pedraza: So you never know. Just those little things you can do that send them message to your team internally and externally. I love those. Some other things that we do that I think can translate to other places, product equity. So whatever we build, people are going to be using it, it's impacting people's lives in one way or another. And so how do we just stay aware of the impact our products and what we put out there can have on our communities? So for us, we have a product equity council that meets regularly and we review certain product updates that kind of have implications on frankly the livelihood of people. One of the latest things we reviewed is how do students identify in our app in terms of gender and pronouns and race and ethnicity. We do our usual like customer and user research as well and work with other consultants, but also leverage the internal expertise you may have, especially those that are customer facing.

So we're represented on that. And that's just another way to, again, just think about what are the consequences of what we build and just really having measures in place to, not reinforce the things that we don't want to. So that is I think a cool way to do that. Another one I get really excited about is documentation. So if you got your help center or knowledge base internally or externally, how do you make that accessible? Can that work with screen readers? Do you have alt text for images? How do you organize your content, your information architecture, what terms do you use? That is really powerful, especially if you're relying on that for self-service and really scaling your org. So that is something, our documentation manager, she's done a lot of work to kind of look from that lens in our help center.

We've even like looked at having a day where we blindfold ourselves and see if we can use and contact support. So wherever you can kind of put yourself in the shoes of others and making sure our team is still accessible, our content's still accessible. That's a lot. I'm going to stop talking now.

Meredith Metsker: Oh yeah. That was all amazing. I was thinking to your last point, as a neurodiverse person myself, I have ADHD, the thoughtfulness and how you present your documentation.... that's huge because I know I'm going to struggle reading a really long block of text. It's going to be really tough for me. And I know I'm not the only one.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, we learned that. I mean our help center from five years ago, it was a link farm. It was just a lot of text. So for even anyone, it just wasn't as usable. So the terms we use, and I think that's where it gets interesting depending on the types of customers you're supporting. It's another way to meet them, where they are and call out the language that they know and love and appreciate. So yeah.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I'm curious. For that, do you like look at tickets or do you just kind of like make note of what language your customers are using?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. There's all kinds of ways to do that. So tickets are a great source. Whatever they're writing in initially about how do they call certain things, that's my favorite go-to. Another thing is to think about as far as representation on your team industry background. So bonus points, if you can try to have some folks on your team that have come from the industry you're serving. So for example, we are working with student, career services, professionals and employers and recruiters. And I'm proud to say we have all three represented in our team. We have someone that's been in career services. We have someone who's been a recruiter and we hire a lot of view grads. And so they have a very hot take perspective on our product when they're coming. But then we lean on them, hey, what's the of mother lingo we should know about how do we educate ourselves? One of our specialists just did a fun session a couple weeks ago with our team on translating career services lingo and support. And here's some sample tickets you may have seen. What do we think this means?

But breaking it down in an accessible way and they used another game called Mad Gab. I don't know if people heard about that. I learned about it, but it that's another powerful training tactic is draw parallel to another concept or topic that maybe nothing do with work or tech or support. And then we brought that into, okay, here's how we can apply this and use different tools, maybe fanatics or visuals or other ways that we can try to understand where the customer's coming from. So yeah, so that's the benefit of trying to also have that represented on your team so that they can give a unique vantage point and, oh, this is what they're talking about. So we can use that in documentation. We can use that in training. We can use that in tickets and calls. And then that makes them feel seen and like elevated. I think wherever you can tap into what people already know, that's so powerful. And so always finding ways to give people to stage, to do that.

Meredith Metsker: Oh, very cool. That was just like the best overview. Yeah. That was amazing. So now that we kind of talked about what you've been doing, across hiring, onboarding your policy, customer experience, career development, all of that. What results have you seen from strengthening these DEI efforts?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah, absolutely. So going back to our team representation, because that was one of the first things I really wanted to focus on. And this happened, I would say over the span initially of one to two years. And we were lucky in that we had to do a lot of hiring and we were grown rapidly. So took advantage of that. So when I first came on board, I would say the team was about like 95% white and like 90% female. And we had a couple folks that hadn't gone to college, which I thought was really cool actually like, oh, okay. But other than that, that was about it. Now, today over half the team about 54% are people of color, 24% Latinx, 19% Asian, 14% Black, and 41% white, and then the remaining kind of multi or other, 54% women. So kind of more balance there. And then we also have representation from some of the other communities I was mentioning. So we have a veteran. We have people that identify as non-binary or LGBTQ. We have some neurodiverse representation on our team, which I love.

And then on our leadership team as well, I think we're at like, I want to say 90% women and then about almost 50/50 people of color. So yeah, that's kind of where we've gotten over the years and I'm very proud of that. It's an ongoing living thing of course. But yeah, those are just some of the results. And again, I promise I'm not just plugging Handshake, but frankly, whether it was handshake or any tool, but I think the big changer in that was we had to proactively go out and source and like reach those communities where they are. So that is what got us there. Let's see. Onboarding, I mean we hired almost a record number of people this past year. I want to say like around 40, if you include contractors and our BPO. And we basically, most people ramped up in our kind of standard metrics in terms of like handle times and satisfaction. And so that to me, you've hired people from all these backgrounds.

The majority of the people on our team have not done support before, have not worked in tech before, might be their first job or they're transitioning from other things. But yet we've still built an amazing team that onboarded quickly. And we hear amazing things from our customers, 99% retention rate for our higher ed partners.

Meredith Metsker: Wow.

Jordan Pedraza: We've been like doubling our revenue year on year on the employer side and let's see NPS has been strong. And then the qualitative feedback we hear now. That's the biggest thing for me, what we hear from our community and other teams we work with, sales, success. We do an annual internal stakeholder survey too to get feedback. So that to me also signals, okay, not only have we been able to make our team look like the way it is, we've still delivered amazing results. If anything, we've improved over this too. We're more responsive, higher quality and the way our product has grown and how we've gotten better at how we learn, how to support that and enable our community on that. So that is something else I'm really proud of. Development, we have sent our team almost to every department in every role you could imagine. We've sent people to engineering, product, sales, success, ops.

So the only ones left are like marketing and finance and we're coming for them. And then in our team too, there was a point where almost half of the leadership team were internal promotions. We've sent people on documentation, trust and safety, tech support. So that is another thing for me that I look at is, are we actually a platform for people's careers and livelihoods? And if I look at the demographics of that too, like we've pretty much maintain a lot of that parody even in those new roles. So that is really exciting to me. Yeah. Those are probably some of the highlights I would mention. We're one of the most diverse teams at Handshake.

Meredith Metsker: Nice.

Jordan Pedraza: I like to always compare how we're doing it across the whole company too, and share that with the team. I get a little competitive there. And then team engagement. So that's another thing, and this can look differently at different companies, but every quarter we ask a set of questions to the team on how do they feel about the company, their role, their manager, all those things. And then we do a deeper dive survey once a year too in the fall. So we have over 80% engagement and those are things that I always want to keep monitoring closely and keep using as a tool to see how we can keep getting better. And then also our team or sorry, our company pulls those results by different demographics as well. So we're also keeping a pull sign. Okay, are there any differences by gender or region or tenure or type of department or race and ethnicity. And so that's something else in addition to the data, but then there's the qualitative, have the conversations, keep a pulse with your team.

So yeah, but overall I joined when we were a team of seven and including all of our contractors and BPO we're around 50 now. And a lot of times we have a new cohort of people joining at least every year, if not multiple times a year, but still maintaining the standard of excellence we have, having the representation we have, having an engaged team that that is always looking for how can we make things better? That is what I'm really proud of.

Meredith Metsker: Awesome. Those are amazing results. Earlier you were talking about how you like to kind of keep track of what the rest of the company is doing, see how your team compares. So on that note, how do you measure success as far as DEI efforts, and what metrics are you tracking?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. That's another good one. So for hiring and kind of team representation, there's a lot of ways you could go about this. I think a good place to start is, well, what's the community we're serving. So just kind of knowing at a high level, what's the breakdown of excuse me, core demographics in your country or region or what have you. So that's where I wanted to start. I was like, "Well, at least I wanted to kind of mirror what our world looks like." So that's kind of how I started with goals, but then I wanted to take it a step further. One thing we've used at Handshake is 50% of new hires add representation to your team. And we keep it broad because representation can mean different things depending on the team. So like for in my case, we actually had, it was predominantly female.

So representation would mean, well, want to have more men on the team or other folks that identify in a non-binary way. Whereas other teams like maybe they have mostly men and so representation looks different. So it depends on the makeup of the team, but we found that has been a good a goal to work towards. What else would I say? I think, it's interesting to look at your core support metrics too with this. As you are doing these other initiatives, how does that make an impact to your bottom line? How does that make an impact to the experience you're providing? Because that's a powerful story. I mean, there are studies showing that, that this benefits the company in bottom line. And so not as a means to justify, "Oh, see, we're doing well. That means we should keep doing it." It's not just about that. But I think it almost strengthens the point of, "Well, here are some of the other benefits we see too, aside of it just being the right thing." So just monitoring like, okay, do we maintain those same metrics?

Or maybe let's aim to improve them, even if we're opening up what kinds of backgrounds people may have, especially if they haven't done tech or support or what have you. Like no, we can still take anyone and empower them to be able to do this role and then some. We actually had some goals around team development too at the company level. I'm forgetting the exact metric right now. Sorry. I think like maybe it was either 25 or 50% of internal transfers have [inaudible 00:48:37] representation of the team too. So it's like, is there movement happening? And is that being maintained? Which I think is an important one to keep on top of. Yeah, for going back to the documentation piece, I think as you make updates to your information architecture, what language you use, how you package all that, continuing to monitoring things like bounce rates, pages procession, time on pages and self-service rates.

And then ideally if you can break it down further by your different user types, maybe by different regions, whatever data you got. But that's another way for us to kind of make sure, oh, as we're trying to make things better, is it working or are we making it worse? In addition to kind of qualitative customer feedback as well. So yeah, I think that's where it can get intimidating and tricky. There's not like a standard playbook or set of rules or metrics out there that are universal. And I think, especially in support. We're just starting to benchmark other things, maybe compensation, maybe like what different roles and titles look like. But I think that is something I would love to do more of in the community is sharing, "Here's some other goals that we have. What do you guys have and keep sharing." So, yeah, but one of my other favorite sayings is what gets measured, gets managed.

Maybe it doesn't sound as inspiring, but it's kind of direct in that you need some way to just consistently assess where you're at and if anything's changing or not, and use that as a starting point. So yeah, those are some of the things that we've looked at. And then the last thing I'll say is sharing it with your team. Again, every company's different, but if the data's there and hopefully it is, it should be there or whatever, you can find whatever you have available, share it with your two team. That was so cool to do. And just share. I showed my team, the history of how our representation has changed over time or, oh, here's all the backgrounds we've been hiring for and how we've still maintained these results and gotten this great feedback. So bring them along, bring others along with it too. You don't have to keep it to your chest. You don't to wait for the people team or a consultant or whoever to give you permission. Go do it. Just like you would go grab any other data, this is no different.

I think that builds a lot of trust and accountability. And again goes back to that I think spirit of this is another competency and openly talking about, yeah, here's how we're progressing in this area and showing the work. That was one of the terms that one of our team members actually came up with that we like.

Meredith Metsker: Nice. And it seems like other departments within Handshake must be doing something similar, because you said earlier you were able to compare how your team is doing.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. We're at different stages, honestly. And I know I'm probably biased here, but I think I've wanted us to be a pioneer here and show there's a lot you can do and learn on your own. I am by no means not an expert, but if I can learn how to forecast, if I can learn how to lead, if I can learn how to negotiate, I can learn this too. And everyone has something to contribute. So yeah, I know it's looked differently across teams, depending on where they're at. I've been honored to help other teams think about how they could bring it to life with theirs. Like one other example, this was our marketing team because of our platform we're helping people transform how they do their recruiting process. And make that more inclusive and have a more representative workforce.

And so for me, it's like, okay, well what terminology are we using? What are we recommending? We got to have integrity and be ethical about that. So that's another way that I've enjoyed helping other teams think about how they approach this work. So yeah, I'm trying to think of, like I know for engineering, they have particular goals on representation by squad at the squad level. So they're really because as you keep growing, I think just trying to tackle it from a large department perspective, you have hundreds of people or thousands, one day that's a lot. You got to kind of scope it down. So I thought that's been cool. I've inspired by that. And I think I might think about our team in that way as we grow. Some teams have done apprenticeship programs. I think that's really cool. I kind of think of support like an ongoing one. So yeah.

But that said, I think what I am encouraging my colleagues and other teams to do, I think it's interesting to think about how DEI intersects with your function, like as a business. So for support, what does that mean for how you hire people and interview inclusively and onboard them and how you support customers. I think it's going to look differently for customer success or sales or marketing or finance or what have you. So that is where I kind of geek out. It's like how can this specifically in uniquely show up in our line of work and our discipline. So yeah, so for example, I know our success teams, if they're working with education partners or employers and they're grappling with how to also work in a line with our mission. Okay, what knowledge can they equip the sales with to better advise and support and help them think through that?

I think that's where it gets really interesting is how can you make it your own and translate it into your work day to day. So yeah, and that's where I get proud for my team too. And it started with the pronouns and her signature. That was just one little baby step, but it's like we're putting a message out there. We want to model what this can look like.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. And it's a very tangible step too. Like you can see it and you sounds like you started getting feedback pretty quickly.

Jordan Pedraza: Right away.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. And more than ever, I think whether you're hiring, we got Gen Z coming through, that's their bar. Like they are very aware of what company's values are, what they stand for, what they look like. But also even more broadly, I think there's more awareness around that now. The great resignation, it's not enough to just have a paycheck and have a job. So it's incumbent upon all of us to think about how do we make what we do meaningful and give people that agency and support to make it meaningful for them. So yeah, there's all kinds of things that I think we can make a difference around and that's what inspires me to always be thinking about this with my team.

Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I love that. And like, and not only because it's the right thing to do, like we've talked about that, but because like you said, it's going to be necessary. If you're a support leader and you want to compete in the coming decades, I mean, you have to do this. You have to focus on DEI.

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. Well even if just the demographics of this country too, and we continue to be more globalized. I mean, just to be competitive for talent, like I was talking about Gen Z, but I think this cuts across all levels. That's something people are paying more attention to now, which I think is great. And I think we're all capable and if we're all doing it and sharing and pushing each other to keep getting better, oh man, what things will be able to do then? And I'm really hyping our function here, but again, I just think about the platform it can give to people in their career. That we're privy to a lot of those conversations, given our mission and line of work, but that I think is really important for us. Like we have an opportunity to really change the trajectory of families and people and communities, and for better, for worse.

It's like, I don't know, there's something special about being on the front lines, no matter what support you're providing, no matter what company or solution it is. In a way, I think we are kind of a little therapist, we're healers. I think a lot of times when people are getting stuck or need help, yes. It may be about a certain tool, whatever, but we never know what else is going on. And giving people some sense of control back in this COVID era. So I don't know, I'm probably stretching here, but I think there's something bigger that we do. So I don't know. I think about like some of the cool tools and evolution I've seen on like the ride sharing apps and how they make it easier to share your status or make you feel safe. I've had interesting conversations with colleagues about that. So no matter what we're working on and how we support, like being there for people and in more extreme, vulnerable moments, or like un-tenuous moments that, or it could just be something that's helped me get into my account, whatever it is.

But I don't know. That's I think we should never forget that and what that means to people. When I've heard students say, like we had this one student who's international and it's been a rough go, especially for them the past couple years. And they wrote in saying, "Thank you for saving me."

Meredith Metsker: Wow.

Jordan Pedraza: Right. And so how do I make sure I'm building a team that shows up for them? Okay. I'll stop talking again, but, oh man.

Meredith Metsker: Well, I'm glad you said that because that's just what I was thinking too. The more diverse your team, the more backgrounds that are included, the more you can fully show up for a more diverse customer base. Yeah, that makes sense to me. Well, I know we are over time a little bit, so I'll start wrapping us up, but what advice do you have for other support leaders who want to improve diversity, equity, inclusion on their teams and be more inclusive leaders?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. So honestly, I think the power of community can never be understated and there's so many out there. Obviously like I'm in support driven, I'm in elevate CX and there's so many others for different functions, not even just support. But I think that's just the most powerful step we could take is just always staying abreast of what are other teams and people thinking about. What are they doing? What are they struggling with? And then seeing where you can help and share some advice. And then maybe you'll be in a position where you need some advice. That has been so helpful for me. A lot of things that we talked about that we've built career level frameworks, job descriptions, interview processes, compensation, policies, all those things, benchmarks, ugh, that comes from the community. So that like if you're not already connected to whatever community and it can be big or small. It's okay to have small one too.

You don't have to be part of the really large ones that can be intimidating, overwhelming. I have a small SF ed tech support leaders group, very niche, but it's helpful too. So yeah. Don't be shy like even just starting to connect with just one person out there and having that sounding board, you never know what impact you can have on them and how they can help you out too. So starting there. Oh man, it sounds cheap to say Google, but I swear, like there's so much content out there. There's a lot of free stuff. HBR, Harvard Business Review, I think they have a series on DEI. And so I've read a lot of their articles. They have one on inclusive leadership and they have like five pillars of what it means to be one. I've talked about that with my team. That's always part of the conversation. So that's one place to start, definitely not the only but that's been really helpful. I think the last thing I'll say, if you really just want to identify where to get started.

We talked about some of the broad buckets here, hiring, onboarding, team development, enablement policy, customer experience. And even if you just did like an audit of, okay, where are we today? What do we think? And maybe that's an open conversation with the team and why does this matter to you and your team and your company and the community you're serving. And maybe just picking one place to focus on and then you can help yourself find more specific things. Okay. How should I go about hiring? How should I go about interviewing? How should I go about development and access? Because then I think you could do a broad Google search for just DEI and you're going to get lots of stuff. But maybe if you try to pinpoint and focus on what area you want to start with, that could help. And then asking other leaders again, power of community. Like what are you focusing on and why? What things are you working on? How does that look like?

So yeah, I think that those are kind of the three things I would recommend. The other, one other thing I forgot. I mentioned at the beginning, I've been surprised at how a bulk of our work has been internal. And I think even just starting with yourself, there's a lot of tools out there. There's one, there's an implicit bias test. You can Google it. It's free. Anyone can take get, but it just helps to give you a starting point of what might your biases be and how could they show up in your role and what you do. And there's other tools out there I'm blanking on some of the names, but that could also be an even smaller step to start with. I've just taken to an account, yeah, what might be my default thinking or ingrained things I may not be aware of or maybe some things I am aware of. And that's okay. But yeah, maybe even starting there because I think that's the other interesting thing I've learned.

There's a lot of this content we've talked about already, but even in some of the smallest ways I saw this recently, like we have different stages of our lives with our families and some people have kids, some don't. And I've definitely observed where someone says, "Oh, so when are you going to have kids? Like, oh, well boys are harder than girls or whatever vice versa." And yeah, on the service level, trying to make a connection, show support for that. But on the other hand, unintentionally saying, "Oh, this is what the norm is, aren't you going to do it too?" And then if you are a leader, when we say and do things like that, what impact does that have, even unintentionally? So that's what I'm getting at. It's like just really being honest with yeah, what are some assumptions I have?

And maybe checking those or seeing, oh, how can I be more aware of that next time? So there's lots of layers and levels to which to think about this stuff. There's absolutely things we could do more systemically and holistically, but sometimes even just at the micro level, that can also make a big difference too.

Meredith Metsker: I love that. That's great advice. Okay. Before I ask you my last question, the big one, is there anything else about our topic today that you would like to add that we haven't covered?

Jordan Pedraza: I think we've covered a lot so sorry if [crosstalk 01:05:58] I went on and on.

Meredith Metsker: It's a big topic.

Jordan Pedraza: But maybe that's the best thing I would say. Like be open to all that could be relevant for you with this and your team. And you don't have to tackle everything at once and we're never "done." So even if you're not proud of where you're at today, maybe you've made mistakes. I know I've made them. That's okay too. What's most important is we keep going and we keep trying and do that. So that's probably the last thing I would add and let's continue the conversation, and I need to do it too. I need to hold myself accountable more, like I should be sharing more of what we've done here. So yeah, I've seen us when we do that with each other, oh man, that's the best. That's where the magic happens. So yeah, that's the last things I would say too.

Meredith Metsker: Okay. Well, then I'll ask you my last question here. In general, what advice do you have for up and coming support leaders?

Jordan Pedraza: Oh my goodness. I remember, brings me back when I was a baby. Again, I already said this, but knowing yourself, I think, especially when you become a people manager, because like leader, anyone can be a leader, doesn't matter, your title manager or not. And I think that's important to call it too. But if you're especially kind of like people manager, I think I was very surprised at how much it would be a window into me, my stuff, like how did I get to this point in my life now? And then how does that show up in how I work with and lead others and support others. So whatever that looks like for you. Me, I've gone to therapy. I talk about it with friends, mentors, my manager, with my team. I learned, I had to be more open and vulnerable about that, because at the end of the day, this is all run by humans.

I think it's so easy, especially if you're coming onto a new team, new company, new role project, try to manage everything, metrics, projects, initiatives, all the tools. Yeah. That's cute. But like it's people at the end of the day. So never forget that. Another one of my favorite quotes from an engine leader, like if you have a spreadsheet or something, never forget that's a human. You're just looking at a cell and those numbers, like I don't know, Zendesk, reporting charts, like these are humans. So that's another thing I would really hit home. So know they self, remember they're humans and just keep learning, like it never stops. You're never going to be perfect and that's okay. Just always being open and humble to getting feedback, to reflect on where you could do things differently or better and just kind of keep stepping up. But another one of my favorite things, a mentor said, "You lead people, you don't manage them. You manage projects, you manage work, work streams tasks, but you lead people." That stuck with me too. So yeah.

Meredith Metsker: I love that last quote. That was great. All right. Well, thank you so much, Jordan, for taking the time to talk with me today. This was amazing. I think our audience is going to get so much value from this.

Jordan Pedraza: Thank you for having me. It's been an honor and there's so many others that are doing important things with this too. So I just hope my contribution helps in some way out there.

Meredith Metsker: I have no doubt that it will. If anyone watching or listening wants to contact you or learn more from you, what's a good way for them to do that?

Jordan Pedraza: Yeah. I think I'm on the internet. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm in Support Driven. My email's Jordan@JoinHandshake. I'm on Twitter. Any of those places. I love building community. I love talking shop. I love helping wherever I can. I wouldn't be where I am without the community. So I'm happy to talk more with anyone through all those channels. There's other ways you can find me, maybe don't come to my physical address, that might be creepy. But otherwise let's do it.