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S4 Sp1 | Moments that Matter with Shelia Gray

A new and special podcast series where leaders and talent professionals share their own experiences with varying aspects of discrimination and inequality. Here we’re dedicated to creating dedicated conversations around those specific moments – the moments that matter.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 0:21
I did two virtual conferences this week the one that I spoke at was okay, because because they did an avatar and you actually went into a room, you got to choose your spot and stand where you wanted to look at the screen or going third. That was an interesting conference,

Chris Hoyt 0:42
But I want to talk about the logistics that I would pick the avatar with …

Shelia Gray, Quadient 0:44
Oh my gosh, it was so cool

Chris Hoyt 0:46
With the biggest giant head. And then if I got to pick where I could stand, I was standing the very front.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 0:52
Mine, you couldn’t be a person of color. So when I would choose my avatar, the hairstyles With a ponytail a high ponytail, and then when you chose the skin tell it color it only did your face not your neck or your hands. It was weird thing on there. And then your clothes. I gotta wear some tight jeans and some sneakers. So I was like, Oh yeah, okay, we’ll call it

Chris Hoyt 1:16
I haven’t worn pants and months.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 1:19
Not long pants.

Chris Hoyt 1:22
Alright, so look, I have with me, Shelia Gray. Shelia, you have been a force, you’re one of my favorite people in our industry space. I have known you I always try to figure this out. Because, you know, I think we take for granted the time that we spent in the space at the time that we travel, you know, for those of us who were power travelers for so long and who just you know, bumped into each other in Ireland or Amsterdam or where all the other places we might have been? I want to say it’s probably been seven years, eight years that we’ve known each other.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 1:55
Oh gosh. Um, I think I met you I may have met you before, but I met you at a CareerXroads meeting in New Jersey. I think it was BASF

Chris Hoyt 2:08
Operations.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 2:10
It was the first operations meetings when I met you. I was with Mark and Jerry a lot longer than that. But I think that’s the first time I met you.

Chris Hoyt 2:19
Yeah, maybe so yeah, in fact. I don’t I think that was summer. It would have been roughly

Shelia Gray, Quadient 2:26
Summer or spring.

Chris Hoyt 2:27
Yeah, yeah, I remember that. Absolutely. Remember that. In fact, that was one of the meetings where I was sitting, I was sort of more of an observer than I was a participant that day.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 2:37
Yes.

Chris Hoyt 2:38
Was one of the final meetings before I was making the final decision if I wanted to buy half.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 2:42
Oh, it was okay. Yes, that was the first that was a really good meeting. That was my that was the first operations meeting. And so I don’t want to say we went off on tangents, but we covered a lot of stuff in that meeting. We did everything from recruiter performance to technology, and we covered the gamut and called it operations. It may have been one of those meetings where as a result, we did an we’ve now started doing subsets of that meeting, because I don’t remember us doing a technology meeting before.

Chris Hoyt 3:13
Right? That’s what we did

Shelia Gray, Quadient 3:14
Subsets. Yeah.

Chris Hoyt 3:15
Yeah, it’s fine because we carry the operations piece. And sometimes I think it acts as a catch all.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 3:21
Yes,

Chris Hoyt 3:22
But we’ve pulled other pieces out full blown meetings and disciplines and now we do technology showcases that came out of that. Yeah, that was pivotal.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 3:29
You know, it’s funny, because as a result of that meeting, I really saw like, when organizations asked me what’s the bare What are those job families with those jobs, you got to have in TA I used to say, you know, recruiters and sourcers. I don’t say that necessarily more because I can outsource it. Right. I could outsource it. I now say I need I need recruiters. I need an ops person and I need employment marketing

Chris Hoyt 3:54
Oh interesting

Shelia Gray, Quadient 3:55
Are the three jobs categories I need because I need The operations person cuz Let me tell you something on outsourcing contracts, you know, analytics and metrics, you know, I have folders now that I call things to follow up. Those are people that contact me. And there’s shiny objects. And I don’t have time to do that. And there was a woman last year when I went to Ireland, she did a really cool thing with shiny objects I’ve started doing when people call her about a shiny object. She said, she says to them, send me a video of your elevator pitch. And tell me where you go in the tech tech space, my tech stack, and then I will put your my library and if I when we get there, I’ll call you.

Chris Hoyt 4:39
Yeah, well, there’s a whole whole other conversation involved in that and how you get something past the gatekeeper.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 4:46
Yeah, but the operations person is one of those people that ideally in my you know, in an organization, some shiny objects get to me because they’re on my radar, some shiny objects. So now I’ve made them. I made shiny object teams within my recruiters. So every month I say, who wants to be the shiny object team? I give them the three vendors that are sitting in my folder and I say, set up a demo. Tell me, you know, where we fit doesn’t solve a problem, and what’s the pricing model? And so you know, cuz, but an ops person kind of manages that kind of stuff.

Chris Hoyt 5:19
So well, I gotta tell you, so it takes experience to get to that point. Yeah. and discipline, a little bit of experience. So how long have you been doing this? This talent thing?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 5:30
Oh, my gosh. So dating myself. So I started my undergrad and grad were in labor and in business. So I came out of undergrad with my first HR job, and this was the name. Okay, let me just put it this way. I’ll put it in time. I went to college with Michael Jordan. And we were the set we were supposed to be the same class. So that will give you my era. Okay. So when I came out, I went straight into to HR as a journalist, and I did journalist work for about three years, and then I specialized in diversity for two years. And then I did college recruiting. And then I only did TA and then I moved me I lived in Boston for like 12 years. And then I moved from Boston to Phoenix to work for Allied Cignal and that’s when I became what I say as a TA professional because it was not transactional recruiting. It was not file folder, candidate collection, it was technology, it was metrics. It was all of that stuff. And it was also the consultant piece that that moved me from transactional recruiting to consultant with the client. And then and and when I came there, my my leader, I don’t know if you’ve ever met Mark Strifer. My mentor one of the greatest Mark Strifer is there. And under Mark, we did transformation work and they created one of the first company COEs for TA. And from that point on, I only did organizations that did transformation. So you had to be going through chaos and change and that was what drove me to a company. I have a type.

Chris Hoyt 7:16
Well, it’s not a bad type to have

Shelia Gray, Quadient 7:18
Every time. You got to be going through something catastrophic that you’re sitting there needing to do it, because I realized my gifting is problem solving. And the type of people I hire, I hire, you know, control people, I hire all kinds of people. Some of the people I hire people, like, why did you hire them? They seemed really quirky, because they’re problem solvers. And they think in a different way. So there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s just how do you logically think through a problem? That’s what I like.

Chris Hoyt 7:43
So you’ve essentially been in talent or in in human resource, umbrellas.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 7:50
Yeah

Chris Hoyt 7:50
Your entire career right out of college,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 7:52
My entire career, but I’ve worked in every industry, except pharmaceuticals. I’ve done manufacturing. I’ve done to high tech, I’ve worked for three companies that were not us owned. I’ve worked for companies that have been over 300,000 employees, and I’ve worked for companies that have been smallest 50.

Chris Hoyt 8:12
Okay,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 8:13
So I’ve worked in all kinds of stuff. So I love the space. I love this love, love the space because in someone’s mind, Elaine royalists said this a long time ago, HR moves at the speed of the business TA moves at the speed of the market. Yeah. So, you know, I never forget I went to a meeting or Gosh, many years ago, when, when LinkedIn was still less than 1000 members. And the ER conference was in Boston, I was speaking at that conference. And LinkedIn had a little tiny booth. And at that point, it hadn’t figured out how to monetize what it was doing. So it’s just trying to get people to sign up for LinkedIn and are thinking about maybe they can be used for like employee referral. And recruiters, then we’re thinking about what what you know what, how can we use LinkedIn?

Chris Hoyt 8:59
Sure

Shelia Gray, Quadient 8:59
You know, Way back then. So recruiters always thinking about whatever’s in the market and where the candidates are, how we use it. That’s why I love recruiting.

Chris Hoyt 9:08
That’s interesting. So, so you’ve been in the space a while you’ve been an HR and in these umbrellas the entire time.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 9:14
Mm hmm.

Chris Hoyt 9:14
And it kind of brings kind of brings me to why we’re chatting today. So there’s a lot going on in the world.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 9:22
Oh, yeah.

Chris Hoyt 9:22
Right. It’s not a boring time. It’s certainly not a boring time to be an HR professional. We’ve got obviously the pandemic, which is changing the way we work and the way we consider working and the way we even think about work and talent and how we manage talent. Okay. But we’ve also got a little bit of a societal unrest issue that’s been brewing for years and years and years, hundreds of years, but that is now sort of coming to head and really from a, I would say, a business imperative moment, like we just wrapped up a meeting this morning, with executive recruiting. And each of the each of the groups were challenging it Do the breakout rooms virtually. And they were challenged to come up with three things that are really top of mind from a C suite recruitment and hiring standpoint. And then they were challenged to know which of those three that that group agreed upon which of those three were now bubbling to the top or had floated the top just in the past year and why? Right, and there was a lot of talk around diversity. And there was a lot of talk around cultural fit, which I, I always push back on, I think, I think the term cultural fit is kind of a lazy way to empower bias or unbias, conscious or unconscious bias. And I think that’s, you know, sort of an easy way for an executive say, Oh, they just weren’t a fit. And you got to drill down on that you got to quantify that as a dq is experienced, that aligns with our global mission, etc, etc, etc. But my point, these are making tough conversations a reality and actually, I think, in some cases, empowering our teams to have tough conversations with leaders that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 10:58
Yes.

Chris Hoyt 10:58
Would you agree with that, like push pushing conversations up.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 11:01
I think conversations are being pushed up, I would push back a little bit on cultural fit. And I’d say that because I think this because I believe that at the lower level of jobs, he’s spent a lot of time on technical fit. And that’s because you’re hiring for today. recruiters are really looking at beyond the managers looking at today, when it gets to the executive level. The assumption is, is if you’re not technically strong, and you’re smart enough to leverage your team, you will be successful. The question is, will I feel comfortable sitting around the table with you? Will I trust you? And will others trust you? And I’m going to tell you some of i’ve you know, I’ve actually been on panels where people have had all of the credentials, you know, patents, everything, but they’re but they’re, but they’re, they’re square peg in a round hole. You won’t work in my environment because I see one, you work through people instead of with people. Right? You delegate too much. You’re style is around delegation. You know, there’s many, but I think that there’s something about a culture that you can bring in the wrong leader. And, and it affected. And I said that because remember I work in organizations where there change. And a lot of times because I work in organizations where they’re change, we I brought in and one of the things they want me to do is come up with that executive recruiting model. And a lot of times when they talk about how they want me to sell the job and talk to the agency, they’re selling aspiration, not where we are, right. So we are this, you know, aging organization. The reason we’re getting rid of people because we’re upscaling whatever, but they talk about in all these aspirations. So the headhunter, firm offline, I have a real conversation. That’s where we want to be. But if you bring someone in today, that’s not who they are. They’re going to have to work with people who have never worked anywhere else. They’re going to have to work if you if they’re saying they’re going to bring a female and they’re gonna have to understand they’re going to be the only one on the leadership team. And that’s not a bad thing, but they just need to know that. So I think a lot of times, organization sell people things on cultural aspirations. And then there’s reality of where we work. So I do think cultural fit works. And when it comes to people of color, a lot of times if we are having an offline conversation, I will share some things if they ask about what it feels like to be a person, You know, smart Pete smart diversity candidates will say to me, what does it feel like for me to be there? Or what is it going to feel like for me be on the other side of my manager? And I try to be balanced with that.

Chris Hoyt 13:41
Yeah, I think well, I think that’s very interesting. I think sometimes we use that that that cultural fit it’s used as a blanket that’s just a little too broad and there’s a there’s a cautionary piece in there that Yeah, that’s a little bit scary and sort of empowers a problem.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 13:54
Well, sometimes people use it awaited you know what to do weed people out. I never forget an interview with a with a I was in my environment and I agree, but interview with a company. It was a, it was a chemical trials company of a medical trials company. And I interviewed with them, I don’t know, 15 years ago, and I got to the meeting, and I looked around and something felt funny. And I was with the security guard at the front desk, and I said, many people look like us work here. And he went, he just smiled. And then the day was funky to the day was funky. The people I interviewed didn’t seem to be assessing me on what the job was. They were trying to feel if they liked me, you know, and so when I left the security guard stopped me and said, Now do you know the answer?

Chris Hoyt 14:47
Interesting,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 14:48
Um, and and I did and later I got the I got the feedback from exact search firm, that they don’t think you’d be a cultural fit for them.

Chris Hoyt 14:58
So as in the spirit of you the vein of this is we’re talking about moments that matter, right? So this is sort of a series that, that we drummed up with a couple other folks that I’m excited that are going to be part of this and that segments will continue this. But the idea was that we wanted to talk a little bit about moments or realizations or times of clarity around an issue or even an experience of inequality, that you’re realizing that you’re living it, you’re going through it or that incurred, and it’s sort of like a light bulb goes off.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 15:27
Yes,

Chris Hoyt 15:28
It’s a what the heck are how have I been normalizing that and it’s now occurring to me that that is not normal and not okay. So what would be an instance for you? I mean, that sounds like a wonderful moment of clarity of like,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 15:40
Yeah,

Chris Hoyt 15:40
Right where the light bulb goes off, but you have one or two, that might be sort of a, that might really resonate with people that maybe they’ve been normalizing or maybe they’ve just accepted and that otherwise you know, that it didn’t realize that maybe that that should have been a moment or could have been a moment for them to maybe enact a little change or speak out.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 15:58
Well, I will say that I, the there’s a couple things one is I’ve had more aha moments about being a person of color than I’ve ever had about being a woman. And maybe I just don’t recognize the woman moments. Or maybe I don’t care as much about the woman moments, but I don’t notice those as much

Chris Hoyt 16:18
Would you say across the arc of your career? Would you say …

Shelia Gray, Quadient 16:22
The whole walk in my career? Interesting, right? So I’ve never felt out of place as being a woman in any situation. But I felt out of place as being a person of color in most situations not.

Chris Hoyt 16:36
Okay.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 16:37
And I’ll give you a give you an example of what I mean by that. I had a wonderful manager, he and I still close to this day, he considers me his African American experience. He was from Syracuse, New York, did not grow up with any African Americans. And I was probably the most unfiltered person he’d ever work with. Right. So I was doing, I was young in my career, I was doing diversity, all this other stuff. We would go to meetings, everything. And I was a company where women were not there not one a lot of women, but there were definitely I would be the only person of color that I would see in a lot of buildings. It was It was a defense related contractor. So there was an event that I was doing it was with the Urban League and it was in San Diego. And I said to him during my career said, You know what, I think it’d be great for you to come with me on one of my diversity recruiting trips, I was doing college recruiting, I was doing a bunch of stuff. So he came with me to the Urban League. And we had a job fair booth and everything. And you know, if those kind of events, the Urban League, some Hispanic groups, they’re not really job fairs, they just chotchke things and you really just doing brand marketing. So and we would have dinner together every night, we’d separate during the day, but have dinner night. And so there were two things he learned the first day, the first day, he went around, it was getting the free giveaways for his kids and stuff. And he went back to this one booth and they said haven’t you been here before? And he was like this 10,000 people here. How would they have recognized me? Right? That was the first thing he got. Right

Chris Hoyt 18:06
Must have been. It must have been his jacket.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 18:08
Right, right second because he was taller. The second thing was, he said to me everywhere you went, you introduced me when I was with a new when I met someone I’d never met before. Because he said from day one he felt out of place at the event. He said, and I recognized, I never do that with you. And after that, we were back in the halls of my office in the company, if we ever went to a meeting, he was first stopping say, if I was invited to a meeting, he’d say, you guys, I don’t think you know Shelia, let me introduce you to her. Right? We stay in touch. It’s been like 20 some years and he sends me notes everything and he always asked me some some you know, complicated Shelia is it okay to do this in a blackboard people send me questions. I the blue sometimes. I just remember.

Chris Hoyt 18:53
It sounds like your colleague had a moment that mattered of his own.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 18:57
It wasn’t moment to matter, because he’d never And Tom said, he said, I’ve never ever been anywhere that I was not consciously recognized that I was not dominant. And I did not know how to act.

Chris Hoyt 19:11
That’s facinating

Shelia Gray, Quadient 19:11
Right. There was a lot of that was one of the best trips for him. As an aside every year at the Urban League, it used to be that the Navy would do a party on the last night for the, for the corporate, for the corporations on an aircraft carrier or something in the harbor. And so we went and you know, just as a thing, people would break into electric slide or some type of dance, and he didn’t know how to do it. And so I pulled him on the floor. I said, you’re gonna be immersed in everything this weekend. And two weeks later, to a wedding and he said, I jumped up because I now know how to do it because he said, because no one knew me at that event. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to but he recognized what it what it felt like to be different. By being immersed in a situation that was different,

Chris Hoyt 19:56
And so Shelia, those are those are pretty, those are light hearted and Yeah.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 20:02
So you won’t want to my experiences

Chris Hoyt 20:04
I want to know when you have a moment you said that what what just like you kind of like get gobsmacked with something that yeah, that you had not expected?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 20:14
Well, I’ve had I had, I’ve had three of those that stand out my life. The first one was and this is probably the reason why I pulled away from diversity as my sole specialty. I did it for a while back in the day when diversity was coming, but it wasn’t here. So I was always having to do the business case it by the year 2000 what’s happening, but back then I lived in Boston and Boston was very progressive. for same sex benefits. Lotus Corporation, first daycare center strike, right? First work life balance stuff was at Boston University. At the time digital was doing walk the talk. It was a very progressive environment with certain companies but not all. Okay, so for many of us, we were struggling With people realizing it was a business issue, because a lot of people didn’t get it as a hard issue. And so I did diversity. And I would do focus groups everything. A lot of times I was sitting in leadership meetings where we’re talking about very difficult issues, promotion, succession planning, training, all of that in Boston also had sexual orientation was a protected class. And I just remember sitting in more than one meeting, but several meetings where people forgot that I was a member of diversity group. And so it felt like I was in a locker room, and I’m cleaning up and you don’t recognize that I’m there. So you feel it’s a good thing you feel comfortable, but then you start sharing things that I feel are really offensive, really offensive and I can take my ethnic group and substitute it for any other group.

Chris Hoyt 21:52
Can you can you share one of those?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 21:54
Like, you know, one of my one of my remembrances of one thing they said was, we would We had diversity groups over a lot of different things, ERG’s whatever. And wanted and and so the gay organization had come to me but it wasn’t it wasn’t the initials then it was just the gay organization to me gay organization and it was very controversial in Boston because sexual orientation was a protected class but there was always problems with things like St. Patrick’s Day the gays what a march and all the stuffs anyway, on the gay group who came to me and they wanted to put table tents in the in the in the cafeteria and break room around at that time. It wasn’t glad. I think it was glad I think they had glad at that time and put things around and one of the leaders said, I’m not going to honor pedophilia. I’m not going to support or honor pedophilia. And I’m sitting there going, how did we How did we get to how do we get to pedophilia I don’t even understand how little leap occurred. I just don’t get it. Or you know, I don’t know We shouldn’t when we think about so we had a certain type of very technical discipline or employment group. And there were a lot of Asian Americans in that group. But my issue was it wasn’t a feeder pool for anything else. So that group was not coming out becoming managers and I was challenging them, and they’re response was well, that’s all they know is numbers. Asians, all they know is numbers. They can’t present or they wouldn’t do well with their clients. We were also consumer interfacing company. And there was a part of the business that was involved in selling directly to the to the clients wasn’t all these ads and internet then a lot of it was knocking on doors, flyers on sale. And they felt that that people of color could not sell their products because people would not open the door to them. It was a very, it was a very, it was a very eye wakening. Like, you think people talk that way, but you’d never think they talk that way. kind of thing. That was one eye opening when and that was the last time that I specialized in diversity. And the reason it was very hard for me, because it’s hard for me to be a part of an ethnic group, here your truth. And you know, and you really think about it, they probably thought it was a safe environment to be who they are. You know, it was a couple of years later that Pepsi got not Pepsi, it was one of the oil companies got nailed for, you know, frank conversations. in a room remember that years and years ago, there was a conversation where someone was talking about ethnic groups disparaging in a corporate environment, someone taped it, and it came back to haunt them. So you know, they felt very comfortable talking about it, but I didn’t feel very comfortable in change management around their perceptions of it. And I remember there were two people in one of my discussions that came to me later, two senior leaders or vice presidents, and say, Shelia, what are we going to do about that? And I said, what, what am I going to do about that? You were in the room. You were their peers. And you didn’t feel comfortable of of saying something and the CEO was in the room. And he said, Well, the CEO change the subject changing the subject is not taking away the conversation.

Chris Hoyt 25:13
So that the person that’s talking to you, your colleague, recognize the issue when it happens,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 25:17
Oh, absolutely recognized it. Because I was working with him. I was over a diversity task force. He had come around I had, he was he was already half there. But he came around on the work I was doing. So he recognized that that conversation was wrong, but felt like I own fixing. And I’m like, I don’t own your problem. You know, I own helping you recognize it as a problem. So that was one of my that was one of my times where I felt like the work is too emotional, too personal, that I will get more offended in those type of conversations. I’m in a different place in my career. I think I could probably go back now and deal with it very differently in terms of coaching them, but at that point, I felt like I couldn’t coach them because I was in a vulnerable situation for my job.

Chris Hoyt 26:02
Well, and I was gonna say that. So this is when you were when diversity was your role?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 26:06
Yes.

Chris Hoyt 26:07
Your and your focus. So this is pretty early on in your career.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 26:11
Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Chris Hoyt 26:12
So So that was my next question is going back now, if you were to sit in a meeting like that now, like what do you do, but

Shelia Gray, Quadient 26:21
First of all, I don’t think I would have had the conversation in open space. I think I would have had the conversation one on one with the person. And I think I would have started it off because I’m not a judgmental person. So would have started off by asking the question, why do you think that? Because I think most people are based in data rational, some kind of thought process, even though they watch politics to their question that sometimes, but I want to think that most things are based on some type of philosophy. And and this is something I did learn when I did diversity, which I’ve used with every CEO. You cannot change the values of a person nor should you want to you change their behavior because you rent it. So if I grew up valuing, so if I didn’t grow up, valueing, if I grew up valuing abortion or believing in abortion, if I grew up, you know, I’m in the south, and I grew up believing in the Confederate flag, because of my ancestors. I am not in a corporate environment, and then eight hours a day going to try to deal with stuff that is locked in a safe, it’s been there for your 20 years before you came here, nor should I ever touch that. But when you’re in my house, as you would see a parent would say you’re in my house, then I can govern your behavior here. And that’s what I think we need to focus on, as opposed to the Oh, we can change values. I’m not a value changer, I don’t believe I can do it.

Chris Hoyt 27:46
So it’s not so much about trying to figure out how to change the minds or change the beliefs or even enlighten some of these folks who are a little bit challenged or who might be a little bit ignorant or a lot ignorant about this say two things, so much as it is making sure that you help alter their behavior bit. In other work space

Shelia Gray, Quadient 28:06
Because I’ll give you examples I look at today, there are many people who have politicized wearing a mask, for example, there’s there’s many reasons some people say they can’t breathe. There’s many reasons that we do not have a national standard for wearing a mask. But if you walk into Costco, they can tell you to wear a mask and you will put one on you won’t get served. Diversity is very similar to me in that way. I can’t control your thought process your value system, but if you want to be promoted, rewarded and recognized in my organization, you need to understand we have a set of core values and you need to live them

Chris Hoyt 28:44
That’s sort of brings us back to cultural fit a little bit doesn’t it?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 28:47
Well, but but but here’s the thing, you should not want to work anywhere where you don’t feel comfortable. Now here’s the other thing like you know, this happens in people in the media all the time. They have to sign pledges that they can’t take, you know, their social media platforms and be who they are. Okay? That’s a choice that they make. And I’m gonna say if I choose to work for athletes do it to athletes on these non disclosures that I won’t ride a motorcycle bike, and I won’t to do certain dangerous sports. It’s not about you, not who you are, but you choose for the job and the career that you get funded for that you have to take on a persona that aligns. And that’s the same thing I believe in diversity.

Chris Hoyt 29:29
Do you think that, do you think that fixes because it sounds to me like perhaps that fixes the behavior and the treatments internal to an organization? And we draw a line and say, look, it’s not our it’s our company’s job to change the culture at large. We’re under my work,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 29:46
Correct, but I believe that I do believe this is that people can only keep up a pretense so long. So when you bring a first grader to first grade and you start them off by saying the Pledge of Allegiance everyday to the flag, and you tell them to say, you know, you know certain things every day, and you got can’t say no, and you got to share your toys. By the time they get out of high school, some of that unconsciously becomes their value because they see the benefit of doing it. Right, the benefit of doing it working on diverse teams with diverse, diverse pieces of thought, Well, I would not have had women on my team before I had a bunch of women who we got it done quicker, faster, more ideas, and I believe it changes you doesn’t you know, but I’m not trying to change you. The environment has changed you. If you’re open to it, some people will never will never change, but they will be able to model the behavior very well enough to survive.

Chris Hoyt 30:42
So sincere reminds me of something so you know, I spent 10 years at AT&T and various levels of of talent acquisition and talent acquisition leadership. And I would say that when I left AT&T great organization, and when I left at&t and I went to work for PepsiCo in the first 30 days I was exposed to more diversity than I had been in the entire 10 years that I had worked within AT&T. And And by that, I mean diversity of it was both of working with folks of different age, different gender and of course of different ethnicities. And that was powerful for me, because I hesitate to throw the word woke around. It’s like, I had no idea. I thought I was in a diverse organization. I thought I was working with love.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 31:34
Right, but you didn’t really know. And that was a moment for you. Right?

Chris Hoyt 31:37
It was it was eye opening, because I wasn’t really sure at first what was happening, and was changing how I worked. But

Shelia Gray, Quadient 31:44
Yeah,

Chris Hoyt 31:45
You know, it clicked in about the third week. I’m like, Holy smokes, here’s what’s going on.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 31:49
That is true. In my organization. I was on a call this morning about diversity. And we were talking about inclusion and this is the first company I’ve ever, ever had to feel. ask myself, why am I not in cluded by 12 o’clock any given day, I would have been on a phone call or video chat with people at least five different languages. Yeah. You know, I, anytime I do anything in TA, I’ve got to translate the languages and then also feel like ask the question of a peer, will that translate culturally if we do that, like for example photos in America, we’re used to now doing photos that are very informal for for marketing. My German team, no professional done studio, whatever, you know, so I it’s it’s it’s the inclusion part is now who I am. But you know, me early in my career, I didn’t feel that I always felt like how do I figure out how do I figure out how to play the game, and the game is a win win. And so you got to figure out the game. So that was, so that was my first experience doing diversity. My second experience and a friend of mine told me about this and I used it, which was, I was a lot of times asked and I’ve been asking organizations to sit On the Diversity Council, I sit on the Diversity Council and I’m like, why do I need to sit on the Diversity Council? I’m already diverse. What do I need to be on the Diversity Council I realized that he’s on Diversity Council cuz when I get to Diversity Council, they need diversity people on there, right? Am I talking about ERG’s, I’m talking about a Diversity Council. So am I going as a race representative, whatever. So a friend of mine told me they did this and I did this too is the person who asked me to sit on the Diversity Council. I asked them, where does diversity lie in my bonus eligible goals? And in your bonus, eligible goals? And it didn’t exist?

Chris Hoyt 33:37
Yeah.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 33:38
And so I said, I’m sorry, I really don’t have time for that

Chris Hoyt 33:42
Good for you, and how’d that play out?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 33:46
Red face, you know, red face. And couldn’t couldn’t deny it because they weren’t sitting on the Diversity Council. Right. Right. And into the backed up off of it.

Chris Hoyt 34:01
That’s a powerful thing that you did, though. I mean, you know, sort of draw that line and say, Look, we got it, we got to talk about prioritization,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 34:08
Right? It’s just a committee. It’s just a committee that’s going nowhere. But the third experience that was for me, it was a ha moment was, um, I’ve always believed when you do diversity events, you should be real. So don’t pull out that list. I got a Native American conference. And and when I was early in my career, and they would go look for someone who was Native American and tell Shelia, maybe you should take them to the conference. And I said, How many managers in their work group are going to be Native American, you know, how many people gonna be there. But I’ve worked in companies that did that. So I worked in that organization. And they did that for we were doing a diversity recruiting event. And I put out the notice I’m doing this diversity recruiting looking for hiring managers. And so this woman was sent to me as one of the people that I should bring to the event. So she came she was quite pleasant. She worked the event. I did not know her. She was new at the end. She came to my office a couple days later. And she said, I don’t want to ever be invited to that event again.

Chris Hoyt 35:05
No.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 35:06
And I said, Why? She said, because I don’t want to be a black woman at this company. I want to just be an engineer.

Chris Hoyt 35:17
That’s powerful

Shelia Gray, Quadient 35:17
And she said it. And then I had another week where I worked at a company where our CEO was a female, and she was newly hired. And then the women’s group invited our CEO to come. And she said, this is the last time I will come to this meeting, at your invitation, because I’m a CEO and I happen to be a woman and I’m not showing preferential treatment to any group. And when I heard it from someone else, I realized the impact of some people not wanting that to be their, who they are. It’s not who they are. They’re not bringing that to the to the location, because they don’t want to be seen as different. They want to assimilate in a different way. Those were those were experiences that I just like, Okay, I get it, I see something different.

Chris Hoyt 36:04
Well, there are a lot of factors, a lot of identities that make up who we are as a whole.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 36:08
Yes

Chris Hoyt 36:08
It’s really, really interesting how how we have the opportunity now to sort of, or the ability, maybe we’ve always had the opportunity, but we have the ability or the empowerment for some of us to stand up and say, Look, this is how I want to be.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 36:21
Absolutely, absolutely. But I identify, I understood what she was saying she, she was new to our company, she felt like, you know, I’ll always be that African American female, when needed, and I don’t want to be that person. I want to be seen for my current achievements. You know, it was a very, it was a very different, it was very, very different, but a very good conversation. And when she shared it with me, I understood,

Chris Hoyt 36:45
Yeah, socially, I look, I always learn something every time that we connect, and we talk about some stuff whether we talk offline, or at a happy hour in Ireland or wherever we may be.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 36:56
I know, good times. Good times.

Chris Hoyt 36:58
Well, I want to close with one question. For people who might be earlier in their career or who might be in organizations where the the culture doesn’t necessarily support them standing up, standing up straight and saying, this is how I want to be identified, or, or pulling someone to the side just yet and saying, like, I want to know why you feel that way that made me uncomfortable, you know, addressing it head on, and who are having their moments now or beginning to have these moments that matter these enlightening moments. What would you tell them? Like what would be your advice to them? What should they do next?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 37:33
So, you know, it’s interesting having some conversations because I talked to my peers, who are African American and organizations, we’ve all been addressing this very differently. Some people have felt the chance and taken the opportunity to invite all minority employees in a room to get real and be safe. And I said to them, so a couple things I answer your question, one, you’re not safe until you feel safe. You’re not safe with your with your so no matter how you feeling today, unless you feel safe, don’t don’t don’t don’t assume, don’t assume, because some organizations if they are really looking at what they can do differently. They’re trying, they’re doing all of that, and some organizations are not,

Chris Hoyt 38:18
Right.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 38:19
And so and so you got to know the DNA of where you work on the safety piece to share what you feel. That’s the first thing. The second thing is I’m a strong believer that everything has a reason. And whether I understand it then or not, it’s there for a reason. So some of my most, you know, one of my favorite tennis players asked him if he remembered his wins or losses the most. And he said, I remember my losses the most because they’re the most painful. And so I truly believe that there are some things in our organization that we go through that are very, very painful. And at that moment is painful for me, but I know that I’m going to at some point because I’m a personal reflection I’m going to it’s going to be an aha moment that it was done. And maybe it was done to me because I’m stronger than other people. But there’s something about that moment that I’m going to try to figure out why I went through it. And then the third thing that I’m going to say is that I do believe that there is more change. I will tell you when I thought there was change, I lived in Boston for 12 years. I came I went to Boston for high school, went to boarding school in Boston for high school. When I went to Boston High School was racial unrest. It was the it was the busing. It was the busing issues in Boston, when I saw yesterday that they put black lives matter on, on on Fenway Park, when I would not even go to Fenway Park. I knew a moment had happened in Boston. Okay. I believe this is a very big opportunity to push things that you’ve never pushed before. And I also believe inside of organizations, you’re not the only one feeling it. I’ve been doing work at this organization and I’ve been asking because I work for global company, all we’re going to tackle race because it’s the prominent issue in the US. Or we’re going to talk about diversity in the bigger concept in the bigger context. And so are waiting for the pause and my assumption was race for the US gender for everywhere else. This is the moment and I had someone send me a private note saying, I am a white female in Paris, race an issue here that we don’t talk about and don’t track, let’s go for it all. never would have thought she had that opinion. never would have thought she’d have pushed it. Several other people after that and wait for the pause. Other people jumped in and said, let’s go for it all. Well, it’s not an issue that is publicly talked about. If our employees find it important. Let’s go for it. So I’m going to say don’t feel that you’re isolated in your organization. It is okay not to be okay. Because people would say to me, those early days, are you okay? And I felt like saying are you okay? Because I have always been angry you are now understanding my anger. So are you okay? Because you see my anger now. So I feel like don’t ask, you know, if we’re okay, ask if we’re safe. And ask if we’re able to process this in a way that’s being positive for us because I do believe that’s the situation. The other pieces that I’m in when I did diversity, we talked about diversity, and there’s, you know, going to be military, sexual orientation, whatever. It’s very hard in this country to talk about diversity and talk about one group. And at this moment, we are talking about one group, African Americans, and I would say to others, give this moment and this group their moment, it’s not to say that these other issues don’t matter. But right now, we’re dealing with an issue that’s been there for a long time, and that it’s never been dealt with and the same things that my grandparents told me about the police, I’m still would still have to be telling my grandkids about the police. It’s never been dealt with and so everybody has their a moment and we’ll deal with a multitude of issues. But this is a moment and don’t feel that you’re on the you know, you’re being left out. You’re not, because there are a lot of other issues that we need to talk about. But at this moment, this is the issue on the table.

Chris Hoyt 42:12
I think this I think this is a momentum piece that we have to take advantage of.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 42:16
Absolutely.

Chris Hoyt 42:17
From a larger picture. And you’re right, it does not diminish the challenges of

Shelia Gray, Quadient 42:21
Yeah

Chris Hoyt 42:22
That they’re going through. But But certainly, if we can focus we keep from watering down the effectiveness I think we can have and the push that we’re starting to see at every level within society, hopefully,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 42:33
Yes. And I also feel like what I’m looking for, it’s just like there’s a black lives movement out there. And I’m a part of HR organizations. I’m a part of black HR isn’t as natural as African Americans HR. I would love to see groups of us try to problem solve, how we deal with the corporate issue. See there are people dealing with you know the the disparity in homeownership in education and healthcare, but we’ve never as a collective group HR who I think are the people keepers, right? We’re the consultants, whatever, we’ve never dealt with the corporate issue to really be able to as a as a, as a group, figure out how we deal with this. And it’s going to have to take a couple of things it’s gonna have to take just HR and it’s gonna have to take people of color, willing to come into that HR circle to have some very difficult conversations.

Chris Hoyt 43:33
Yeah, well, the people, some people and in some organizations more than others, they’re gonna have to take some risks.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 43:39
Take some risk, and I’m going to see how much walking the talk is involved because I think everybody’s marketing PR firm took this as an opportunity to say, not me, not me, I’m different. We’ve met we’ve we’ve always said I’m like,nah, not not so much.

Chris Hoyt 43:56
People of color in my social media posts. Shelia it is Isn’t that enough? No, that’s not. I’m hoping the sarcasm comes through.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 44:05
That’s like me saying. That’s like me saying, I understand all white people because I’ve got grown up in a predominantly white environment from school to work. I know all white people know, I don’t know, Becky and I don’t know, Karen, I don’t know them.

Chris Hoyt 44:19
Nobody wants to know Karen,

Shelia Gray, Quadient 44:21
Becky and Karen. You know, it’s Mariah Carey with you, I don’t know them. Um, so you can’t know everything. And I also feel like, this is becoming I’ve seen this twice now in the last 10 years. canceled cultures.

Chris Hoyt 44:35
Yeah

Shelia Gray, Quadient 44:35
We’re very quick to cancel. We did this with me too. We cancel out. And there’s some people that should be canceled. And there’s some things that were on the periphery. Was it wrong? Yes. Was it illegal? Was it immoral, whatever, questionable, but we cancel people out because they were on the fringes. And I think that there’s some people today that are trying to get their arms around stuff right now. Trying to understand stuff right now. They’re managers, they’re gonna ask you the dumbest questions. But they don’t know they’re dumb. And their honesty and their trust to come to you is a sign that they want to learn and grow and whatever, they should not be canceled. I should not be, you know, posting, I but guess what, my dumb manager asked me today? No, this is a chance for you to help a coworker or someone else who’s struggling, maybe wanting to have a conversation with their kids or somewhere else. So I don’t I’m taking and I actually do sit there and figure out you know, was it racist or ignorant? But most times I believe it’s just ignorant.

Chris Hoyt 44:35
Yeah, well, and I think, you know, as we mature in our in our, you know, roles and as human beings, hopefully we’re learning that there are two elements to something

Shelia Gray, Quadient 45:42
Oh, absolutely.

Chris Hoyt 45:43
There is ignorance, of course, but then you have to look at intent. Right? And is that is it something that is malicious intent or something that came from just a dumb place and there needs to be some education there.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 45:54
Well, be careful on that because we teach sexual harassment, we say doesn’t matter what the intent is it’s the impact. Right? So you tell me my dress look pretty today, if I don’t respect to the sexual harassment, so the interpersonal back kind of matters. So you may unconsciously say something. Or last year I had to call when my girlfriends and I just laughed because she worked for a food service company that does the cafeterias. So her company did the food service at one of the colleges and for Black History Month, which is February, they had watermelon. The cafeteria decided to a menu of watermelon fried chicken and something else. I called her up in a second issue question. Where did you get watermelon in February? Where did you get watermelon in February, you had to consciously consciously decide to do that menu and she said our client was ignorant and we did not give enough coaching to the client.

Chris Hoyt 46:57
Right

Shelia Gray, Quadient 46:58
You know, we missed it. We you know, they are In this

Chris Hoyt 47:00
I lean back on the intent was good but just riddled with ignorance.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 47:06
We want to celebrate black history month we want to have ethnic food, but the watermelon where did you get watermelon?

Chris Hoyt 47:14
Yeah, okay.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 47:16
We all gonna make mistakes. We’re gonna make blips somewhat but now with social media, it can become viral, and it can harm you.

Chris Hoyt 47:23
It factors up tenfold

Shelia Gray, Quadient 47:25
And people losing their jobs every day because of ignorance, which you know, what were some of it can just be you know, you don’t get I saw a kin move today where a guy stopped a woman because she was biking in California in his gated community. And I think he thought he was being helpful like, I’ve never seen you before. You know, what are you doing my neighborhood but when she said, it’s not your place to ask me, that’s when you move, move aside. He went the other and then felt to call the police and I feel like anytime you call the police over something stupid, you should pay taxpayers back for your dollars.

Chris Hoyt 48:01
But yeah, well, you’re not. Look Shelia, here’s the thing so we started this series out this this moments that matter thing. This is the we’re kicking it off with you and I but we’re doing something a little different with this podcast series that these segments and I will not be conducting the next interview it will be you.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 48:18
Yes. Excited.

Chris Hoyt 48:19
Yeah, I’m excited about it too. So you’ll, you’ll conduct it probably around a couple days following this one, but you’ll conduct the next one. And then whomever you interview, you’re going to pass the baton and they will then conduct the interview with someone else. So I think that’s a little bit different. And I’m looking forward to that. Do you want to share who you’re doing your interview with or do you want to surprise everybody?

Shelia Gray, Quadient 48:40
I’m doing my interview with William correct.

Chris Hoyt 48:43
That’s right. William Wiggins.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 48:45
I’m doing my interview with someone I don’t know. And when I don’t know someone, I am all ears to hear their story.

Chris Hoyt 48:52
Will is a fantastic guy. He does some writing for CXR. He is an HR professional in the healthcare space. In Seattle, yeah.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 49:03
Oh, Seattle be interesting to hear about that.

Chris Hoyt 49:06
So yeah. So yeah, fun guy. I’ve known him for a handful of years but he is the many may not know this, but he is the spouse of Carmen Hudson. So an industry and

Shelia Gray, Quadient 49:18
I love her. She’s just so dynamic I every time I hear her speak, I love the tools that she creates. She’s just a gem in the in the recruiting space right now.

Chris Hoyt 49:27
Yeah. And she is in our chain of interviews that are planned.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 49:29
Very good. Very good. Well, I get to interview her husband because she knows him I assume by now.

Chris Hoyt 49:35
I’m not sure if he’s gonna interview her or not. We’re gonna see how we mix that up that might interest

Shelia Gray, Quadient 49:40
He’ll probably learn something new,

Chris Hoyt 49:42
I sure hope not. So you thank you so much for being part of this. Welcome. I can’t wait to hear your interview with William.

Shelia Gray, Quadient 49:50
Okay, cool. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to it.

Chris Hoyt 49:54
Good stuff.

You’re listening to Moments That Matter a special CXR podcast series where leaders and talent professionals share their own experiences with varying aspects of discrimination and inequality. Here on Moments That Matter, we are dedicated to creating connected conversations around specific moments. These are moments that matter.

S4 Sp1: Moments that Matter with Shelia Gray

Join Chris Hoyt in this first of a special series of interviews where he connects with Shelia Gray of Quadient.  Gray shares her “moment” where she realized that something had to change in regards to equality and equity within her personal world and on her career path.