Dalana Brand, VP of People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Twitter, is no stranger to typecasting in the workplace. When questioned early on in her career about being a woman interested in a male-dominated industry, she vowed to do her part to ensure no other woman felt the same way she did that day. She said, “that was the beginning of my journey toward workplace advocacy for equality, diversity, and inclusion.” As part of her ongoing efforts, Dalana is actively engaged in the community and currently serves on Adweek’s DEI Council, committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion across the entire marketing ecosystem.
Read on to find out more about Dalana’s commitment to open doors for other women, the importance of investing in and speaking kindly to yourself, and how to tackle those tough compensation conversations.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I serve as the Vice President of People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Twitter. I lead many of the critical, global functions that create and support what is truly a unique experience for our flock‐this includes Analytics, Benefits, Compensation, Diversity Partnerships, Inclusion & Diversity, Talent Mobility, Policies & Standards, Services & Systems, and most recently Accessibility. It’s all about trying to do my part to create that #LoveWhereYouWork experience for all our Tweeps globally.
I am also actively engaged in my community. I am currently serving on the Board of Compass Family Services and the Board of Enterprise for Youth. Both organizations speak to my commitment to create opportunities and resources that will empower people.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have so many great people in my life that have encouraged me– my parents, husband, and children are my biggest supporters. Mentors and people who worked on my behalf when I didn’t know they were. There is also a moment in my professional career that continues to fuel me even today:
“...It was at that moment that I vowed to make sure I open doors for other women and commit to doing my part to ensure that no other woman felt the way I did that day.”
In the early stages of my career, I was interviewing for my dream job and the interviewer asked, “Why would a woman be interested in this male dominated industry?” Despite my skills and experiences, the only thing he seemed to be concerned about was the fact that I was a woman. I remained calm and aced the rest of the interview because I believe in the old saying: “Never let them see you sweat!” Not only did I get that job and get my foot in the door, I blew the doors off of it! I learned everything I could and earned recognition for my capabilities and contributions. That moment has always stuck with me... because it was at that moment that I vowed to make sure I open doors for other women and commit to doing my part to ensure that no other woman felt the way I did that day. That was the beginning of my journey toward workplace advocacy for equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Women often attribute much of their success to the support from the people they surround themselves with. How do you foster strong professional relationships as you grow in your career?
Trust is at the core of all strong relationships both personal and professional. Trust is created by being honest and forthright in every interaction even when you have differences. When colleagues know that you are trustworthy, they are willing to share information, experiences and opportunities. The strongest relationships that I have are with people who know we can respectfully disagree and [still] we will advocate for each other when we are not in the same room.
In addition, I value the importance of actively cultivating relationships to ensure they flourish and grow. Prior to COVID, I made a point to actively schedule regular coffee chats and lunch/brunch dates with professional mentors and industry colleagues to maintain connections. Now, much of this activity is done via Zoom or social media, but I still make it a point to stay in touch.
What’s one way you’ve invested in yourself that’s had the most impact over the course of your career? What about within the past year?
I invest time for myself to learn. I am an avid reader and enjoy reading both for pleasure and career growth. One book that has a lasting imprint on my life is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book was a beautifully written (almost poetic) fable that teaches you to embrace the power within you and to learn how to never let the obstacles in life stand in the way of the pursuit of your dreams. The essence of the book is about not losing faith or hope, and never quitting. More relevant than ever in these very trying days.
How do you view work-life integration, especially now, and what advice can you share with others who may be struggling with it?
I TRY to be present. When I am at work, I am at work and then I need to shut it off and be in the moment with my family. When I get short on patience, that’s typically my 1st red flag so I try to unplug even if it is for 30 minutes‐walk away from the phones and the laptop and try to be still and quiet. I am trying to not allow myself to get exhausted so just remembering to ask for help. I also started a “no-meeting-Fridays” which has been a lot of help to reduce stress and avoid exhaustion.
“It’s ok to rest and recharge because the plain truth is you can’t be your best self when you are fatigued.”
My advice...be easy on yourself! Speak kindly to yourself! It’s ok to rest and recharge because the plain truth is you can’t be your best self when you are fatigued.
Best advice on how to overcome typecasting in the workplace?
Unfortunately, this most often occurs with women and people of color. My advice would be to operate like the giraffe and keep your head above it all. Don’t be afraid to take risks and push your boundaries professionally. Always bring your most authentic self to the world, both personally and professionally. Focus on work that inspires you and fuels your passion because that formula always produces the best, most impactful work. Finally, also focus on what you can do to create opportunities for others being limited.
What’s one tip you can share or something you’ve learned on how to handle salary negotiations or raises?
Know the value you bring to every organization and go into every negotiation knowing you will not accept less than that! Dig into market research, talk to peers, be clear eyed about your capabilities and your passion and then create an offer that you want. Remember to use all available levers that create a great package‐for example base salary, equity, bonuses and leave nothing on the table!
For raises, start the discussion in advance. Specifically, incorporate the ask for a raise with the goal setting process that happens at the beginning of your review cycle. Identify one or two stretch goals with your boss and tie the goals to an increase in compensation. If you were to accomplish those goals, they would be reflective of high impact and justify a raise, positioning yourself better for performance conversations at the end of the review cycle.
Who has helped you in your journey (any mentors?) and how did they help shape your career?
“...I take my inspiration from several people because I believe you can learn something new from everyone. Each person we interact with can add a little bit to our career toolkit.”
While I do believe in the power of formal mentoring, I take my inspiration from several people because I believe you can learn something new from everyone. Each person we interact with can add a little bit to our career toolkit. My personal practice that has helped is journaling. Each day I ask myself critical questions like, “What did I learn today and from whom?” or “How can I get better at X?” My reflections often prompt follow-up with people to get new information or to read a book on a topic I need to learn more about. Over time this has allowed me to successfully grow my career.
If I had to specifically call out people I really admire however, it would be the Black women trailblazers in Corporate America like former CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns. She broke ground for Black women like myself who aspire to reach new heights in Corporate America. She did it without role models herself because sadly there have only been a handful of Black women have ever led an S&P 500 company.
What’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Dare to be different! As a young girl my father would always encourage me to not only be comfortable being different but also actively seek opportunities to forge my own path and do things on my terms. This advice has served me well and given me the confidence to trust my instincts and hear my own voice louder than any others. You can courageously take the road less traveled and that is so freeing.