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A conversation with DigitalOcean’s Afro Sharks Employee Resource Group leaders

Posted: June 16, 20224 min read

At DigitalOcean, we are committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone. As a values-driven organization with love at our core, we want to make sure individuals feel respected, supported, and connected at work. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are places where communities can come together to find and offer support. We spoke to the leaders of DigitalOcean’s newest ERG, the Afro Sharks, about why coming together as a Black community is important and the work they plan to do. Below is our conversation with Admas Kanyagia, Andrea Evans, Christopher Gibson, Makeissah Robinson, and Thandi Muno. 

Q: How did the Afro Sharks form into an ERG?

Admas: When I joined late last year, I was so excited to see a company that embraced the values of community and love. I immediately wanted to extend those values by building a community with Black Sharks at DigitalOcean. We put out a call out for interest to convene an Black ERG, and got a great response from the community. So we decided to move ahead, with the leadership of my colleagues here and the support of the company.

Christopher: Here at DigitalOcean we’ve successfully launched four ERGs which is great. We saw this as an opportunity to launch our first ethnicity focused ERG. With Afro Sharks we wanted to have a space where we can share our authentic voices. We wanted to have a place to keep evangelizing this both inside and outside of DO which we hope will increase our community as the organization grows. 

Q: Why did you feel it was so important to create this community within DigitalOcean?

Andrea: Having a space at work where people of color can comfortably express themselves is not something I’ve experienced at other companies I’ve worked for. So I jumped at this opportunity to be able to join people like me at work in this ERG. DigitalOcean has demonstrated that it is a company that is forward-thinking in supporting ERGs like Afro Sharks.

Christopher
: Social stress on top of all of the other normal stress can be a lot for some. It’s important to have an outlet to speak up, and share your voice where there is a community that will both listen and support you.

Thandi: It’s also about celebrating the diaspora experience within Blackness and the differences we have within our community, so we can learn about each other and our different cultures. 

Q: How does this ERG plan on supporting the larger community throughout the year?

Makeissah: We want to reach out to our youth and expose the careers that are available in tech to us. Through partnerships with organizations like Black Girls Code and others we can show what a career in tech can look like.

Christopher: We want to do things that go beyond the surface. As a company that has a focus on community, it means we will have to go beyond surface work for true community engagement. Leveraging this group will help us drive towards living out our community is bigger than just us value. We want to use this as a platform to partner with different events, communities, and organizations to grow our community within DO. 

Q: How has DigitalOcean supported you in creating this space? 

Thandi: DigitalOcean has helped by getting out of the way and saying there is a space for this. They have also facilitated tools that have made it easier to share with all the Sharks that we’ve created this group–we already have forums and our Diversity and Inclusion committee, and the support from the other ERGs and DO and the people team in general has been huge.

Admas: A lot of other Sharks have reached out and said what can I do to help, how do we make space for this as a company, and what resources can we offer. For us, the ERG leads have a lot of energy and the passion to do some of the work ourselves but what’s great is that we don’t need to pull others along. Everyone is supportive. 

Makeissah: DigitalOcean had given us a holiday for Juneteenth even before it was a national holiday, so that showed their support for us and the creation of this ERG as they understood the importance of it. 

Q: Do you have any message for the wider tech community or others who may be looking to form similar ERGs? 

Makeissah: It’s ok to have these conversations, they won’t always be about tech but they will be about us as people. Creating a space where we feel comfortable with having those conversations is important. 

Admas: Tragic events like the racist attack in Buffalo impacted the Black community at DigitalOcean, so having that space to connect and grieve together is critical. Afro Sharks creates that space for Black employees to bring their whole selves to work, which is so critical when we experience tragic events like that.

Christopher: DO it! We are growing a diverse DO community. And ERGs are a way for diverse communities to amplify their voices, and partner with others who have shared backgrounds and interests. 

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