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Daisy Auger-Dominguez, Chief People Officer at VICE Media Group, joins the program to discuss her new book Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace. Daisy shares her own diversity story and the formative events that helped shape who she is today. She also shares insights about how leaders can embrace their courage and shape the future of work.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I was at AP Courses, I was in advanced placement courses and one of my classmates turns to me and he was a white man, and he turns to me, he goes, “Of course you got into all your schools, you’re there because of affirmative action.” And Jennifer, I didn’t even know what affirmative action was at that time, that’s how naive I was, that’s how little I knew about American socialization, and race, and identity, and my family was very adamant about protecting me as an immigrant.
But that was not terminology we used in my house, that was not part of our conversation. And so I remember being so deeply offended, and of course, and as a teenager who was not particularly sharp, my response was like, of course I did, I’m just smarter than you. I would have a very different comeback now.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author, and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality.
She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies. She and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertain.
And now onto the episode. Hello and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. Today’s episode features a conversation with Daisy Auger-Domínguez. She is the Chief People Officer for Vice Media Group, and she discusses her new book, Inclusion Revolution, why she wrote the book, who she wrote the book for, some of her inspirations in the process of writing the book. Daisy also shares her own diversity story and the formative experiences that shaped her into the person that she is today. All this and more, and now onto the conversation.
JENNIFER BROWN: Daisy, welcome to The Will to Change.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Jennifer.
JENNIFER BROWN: I am so excited to have you. You are… Many, many people know you and your work, and you and I know each other in a way like we’re working in parallel and we sort of high five each other virtually in social, keep on-going girl, it’s hard, but you’ve got this and you are not only Chief People Officer Vice Media Group, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, but you are going to be a new author, March 15th with your new book, and so we’re going to talk about that.
And I love interviewing authors about the process like what surprised you? What felt hard? What was easier than you thought it would be? Who you wrote the book for? Who do you hope it reaches? All that good stuff. So we will get to that. But first, for those of you who don’t know the amazing Daisy Auger-Domínguez, please introduce yourself to our audience, tell us anything you’d like to share about your perspective on your diversity story journey, influences, awakenings, anything you’d like to do to contextualize yourself. And that’s, I know a giant question, but do whatever you’d like with that to introduce yourself to us and then we’ll get going from there.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I was just struck with that, we get asked that question so often, Jennifer, and there’s the core story, but there’s also what you’re feeling that day.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love. Okay, let’s go there.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Where you are. And so the standard, the standard answer is, well, I’m Chief People Officer at Vice Media Group where I oversee a global HR team responsible for everything from recruitment, onboarding, engagement, performance management. My team also is responsible for real estate, and facilities, and procurement, and all things, diversity, equity, and inclusion. But I’m also a mother of a teenage daughter, which quite frankly occupies a lot of my time, and energy, and heart as it should.
And I’m a wife, I’m a daughter, I just spent the weekend with my father and I hadn’t spent months, it’s been months since I spent time with my dad and my brothers, one of my brothers, I have baby brothers, and I call them babies, although they’re grown men, but they’re 23 and 26. And so the 26 year old just moved to Boston, and it’s his first time away from home after having returned from college. And I knew my dad was going to need a little extra love-
JENNIFER BROWN: OH, it’s sweet.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … but what I didn’t realize was that I needed the extra [crosstalk 00:04:43]
JENNIFER BROWN: You do.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: So I’m really energized by that. And I think that also speaks to who I am. I have been thinking about this work of diversity, equity, and inclusion as you well know for most of my adult life. But my journey started much earlier. I was born in New York city to teenage parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent.
My father’s Dominican, my mother’s Puerto Rican. They were 15 and 16 when I was born, and they were ill-equipped to raise me. And I was fortunate that my paternal grandparents who lived the Dominican Republic, offered to raise me. And so I was born in New York city and I grew up in the Dominican Republic, which I often say I did the opposite migratory pattern than most people do, and I still very much consider myself an immigrant, even though when you think of the standard immigrant definition in the US, I have a blue passport, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: About what’s green now, I think. It’s changed over the years, but growing up that sense of national identity and the freedom that I knew I had as a US citizen who had a Dominican residency, who had the fortune of being able to attend an international school while my parents and my grandparents, I called my grandparents, mommy and poppy because they raised me, but they were working class.
And so I was attending a school with kids from all over the world, of all nationality of quite frankly, pretty significant economic standards as compared to mine, but yet we were all equal in our learning, we were equal in the moments of growth and identity formation that we were all going through.
And so that’s very much my identity, and I talk about that often because I grew up with an identity that was tightly tied to my national heritage of being Dominican and Puerto Rican, while also tied to the exposure from the global cultures that I lived with my best friends growing up, my childhood friends were Caribbean, Danish, Dutch, Chinese Israeli, they were from all over the world and we all spoke Spanish and we would go home and speak our native tongues, and then come back to this school and speak in English as we were being taught.
And so I credit that, and I actually, in my acknowledgements in my book, I credit a few of my childhood friends as being my first teachers in how to straddle multiple cultures and identity and in a sense of being. And so that’s been so much of my life. And then I moved to the United States when I was a junior in high school, Jennifer, which is we’re calling all of it very directly having a 13 year old at home. I am living my teenage years again through her, which yes, lots of pain.
I think of goodness, I was barely 16 when I moved to New Milford, New Jersey with my father whose dream had always been that I would study in university in the US. And so he would send all of his income over to the DR, and my grandparents would kind of pull all the money together to send me to this amazing high school.
And when I was a junior in high school, someone told him, well, she’s going to go to school in the US, you should send her to the… You should have her come and complete her junior year here because she has to take this thing called the PSAT, and we didn’t take those things, we don’t know. I had no idea what these standardized tests were.
And my father bought a house he could ill afford. Like I said, in New Milford, New Jersey and brought me over, my grandparents came with me to ease with the transition, if you will. They came, they took the voyage with me, if you will, and they ended up staying because I was their last baby in many ways. And all of a sudden, Jennifer, I became Hispanic.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s what I was going to ask you about that, moment when you were like, “Oh, wait a second, I’m this in America.”
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: It’s wild because it’s funny, and I can’t tell you, it was one moment it was a series of moments, but there were these small realizations, and realizations that came from how people saw me, how they spoke about me, how they addressed to me, this was a small town in New Jersey that was pretty mixed, but I was one of three Latinos in the high school. And the other two were brother and sister-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … and black students that were also less than a handful, and again, my best friend, still to this day, she was my first friend in the US, Brandy Backum. It was her and her brother who were these biracial kids in this high school. And I am all of a sudden here in this American high school, which for me, everything I knew was through all of these eighties movies and it was… But yet I very much felt confident in my ability to speak the language, which at that point, it’s years later that I recognized, goodness, what a privilege I had.
I was able to transition to a school where I remember my principal literally, and she was… Not principal, sorry, my guidance counselor, Mrs. Smith. She was such a kind lady, but even in kindness we project exclusion. I remember her saying, “Oh, thank goodness you speak English.” And I remember being so proud of like, “Yeah, I’m making her life easier,” but as I reflect back on that, I was like, no, it wasn’t my job to make her life easier, it was their job to create a welcoming space for me. But I actually have been creating welcoming spaces for other people ever since I can remember-
JENNIFER BROWN: Beautiful.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … and many of us do that.
JENNIFER BROWN: We do.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: We do that of necessity, we do that out of fear of not feeling welcomed and accepted, we do it out of fear for our own safety, depending on what our identities are, and you and I have spoken about this and so all of these small moments were happening to me. I remember, I was placed in an advanced English class and I came from a really tough educational system. And so for me, it wasn’t necessarily that I was smarter than everybody else, but that I worked really hard because that’s what I was taught from an early age.
But here, my English teacher is literally chastising the rest of the class, my classmates, when they would make a mistake. And his way of chastising was saying, “Well, you know the foreigner speaks better than you.”
And again, it wasn’t his intent to be mean-spirited to me or, this was his disciplining style and this was what was comfortable to him, but it made me feel so small, it made me feel like such an other at a time when, oh, we want this to be like everybody else.
JENNIFER BROWN: That was deeply wanted, oh.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Because we don’t want to be different from anybody.
JENNIFER BROWN: No. We’re not at that age.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And literally the… I remember him, he was also a really kind and lovely man who introduced me to Broadway and to so many amazing things. But I would see him in this tall ominous way, and that was his way of making everybody straighten up and behave because they needed to somehow speak like me because it was exceptional that I spoke proper English, if that wasn’t, that wasn’t what was someone like me should be doing.
JENNIFER BROWN: Right.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: So those were some of my early experiences. And then I think to me, the one that’s, there’s two that I often speak about, one was when we were all getting our acceptances into colleges. And again, I was in AP courses, I was in advanced placement courses. And one of my classmates turns to me and he was a white man, and he turns to me, he goes, of course you got into all your schools, you’re there because of affirmative action.
And Jennifer, I didn’t even know what affirmative action was at that time. That’s how naive I was, that’s how little I knew about American socialization, and race, and identity. And my family was very adamant about protecting me as an immigrant, but that was not terminology we used in my house, that was not part of our conversation.
And so I remember being so deeply offended and of course, and as a teenager who was not particularly sharp, my response was like, of course I did, I’m just shorter than you. It’s like, but-
JENNIFER BROWN: Good comeback.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … but I would have a very different comeback now. But I remember, it’s like those moments in our past, but I remember where I was in the high school bus sitting next to him and the feeling of shame that came over me when he set that in, and all I could say was, well, of course, I’m smarter than you, I’m going to get into all these schools, and I was, but I also worked harder. That I deserved entry into all of those schools.
He did not see it that way, or his parents didn’t, or his community didn’t because again, of what people thought of people that looked like me, right. It’s we put you in a box and if you’re Hispanic, you’re low socioeconomic background, which check I was, low educational attainment, no, I wasn’t, a criminal or a maid? None of which was my experience.
So there were all these boxes that all these checks that I would start reading and seeing and signals that people were sending to me, that didn’t make sense to me because they were not part of my lived experience. I could see it as part of a more global lived experience, and I was not that naive that I did not know that existed, but to me, there was a much more universal we, versus the limited we, that I was being placed in.
And then I started experiencing the same thing in college and the same thing in the workplace. And so it is that combination of… And I know I’ve been going long, but it’s that combination and that series of scene, as I joke often with my team sometimes. I’ve seen that movie play out before, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I started seeing the same scenes take place, and I started seeing them, not just experiencing them myself, but I started watching it in others. And I started seeing, especially when I went to the workplace, the marginalization and sidelining of women, people of color, LGBTQ members, I mean, I really just, I became kind of like that was my spidey sense.
I started to see, oh, wait a second, when they speak about this person, they don’t speak about them the same way they speak about this other person. When they give access or let someone into a meeting or a special project, some people have to go through additional hurdles than others. Why is that? And that became the early thinking from me and the early preparation for the work that I do now, but those were the small provocations that led me to do this work.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative) oh, thank you for all that. This is to me-
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: A lot, I know.
JENNIFER BROWN: I enjoyed it. I learned so much about you. And I have so many questions, I’m trying to think where I want to go. That moment, I guess of, I want to do this for my living, my legacy, right? I’m sure you flirted with it on the side like so many of us did and still do, that are listening to this, while we have the day job, right?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: While we do a thing. And then, something flips amongst some of us, and I’m wondering how many years ago did that happen, where you said to yourself, this is going to be my biggest contribution and enable me to work from my most aligned self, like my deep purpose and my identity, which is part of our toolkit for change.
When did that… And did you have to give yourself permission to do that? I suspect not knowing you, but who knows? Maybe you were still in stuck a bit, in, “Hey, I have to give this up, and this up, and this up in order to pursue this, but it’s so meaningful that I just have to do it, there’s no other choice.” So I wonder, what was that period, or was it a moment, or was it a decision that you made, or perhaps it was your first role leading this work? Take us to that time.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, I love that. It’s funny because in many ways, this is the work that I was doing before I started doing it, but I didn’t know I was doing it. But my entry way into this was not my own creation.
I was at Moody’s, I was a credit risk analyst, I went to NYU right after my undergrad, I got my master’s in public administration, I did a fellowship in public affairs, I thought I was going to lead a career in the public space, and as I was doing… As I was completing my fellowship, my core fellowship, I realized, and I was like, “Well, I really want to change the world, but I don’t really have any of these skills that people speak of,” I’m this naturally curious person and I’m constantly just thinking about like, well, what else do I need to just be more effective to, I also was raised by a very pragmatic woman.
And so for me, it’s always about, what else do I need to solve for X, Y, Z? And so for me, solving for building a career meant going into corporate America. And I landed at Moody’s really by happenstance. It was my father… My father’s a doorman at the Grand Hyatt hotel. And he is just a friend to everyone. And one of his friends, Ali Saspane is Iranian, and he moved to the US when he was in, sorry, in the eighties, during the Iran Contra war with a PhD in economics and nobody would hire him.
So his first job was as a doorman, I don’t know if he was a doorman or bellhop, I don’t remember what role he had, but he was working at the Grand Hyatt hotel with my father for a couple of years, and they became fast friends and they’re still dear, dear friends. And eventually Ali was able to find a job in his profession, which was as a credit risk analyst at Moody’s Investor Service.
So one day, over a barbecue, my father was complaining about, well, my really smart daughter just keeps on getting degrees and no jobs-
JENNIFER BROWN: As we do.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And she doesn’t know what she wants to do. And Ali turned to him and said, “Well, we hire young people like Daisy with masters in public administration let me give the resume and put in a good word for her.”
And several, several interviews afterwards, I got my first job as a credit at risk analyst in the public finance department at Moody’s. And I was hired by the grace of Nicole Johnson. Nicole was given a remit to build a small team of young analysts. So at that point, just straight out of graduate, not undergrad, but graduate school, and we were really just there to turnout ratings, just at a fast pace and Nicole who was outwardly gay and at a time that many leaders at her level weren’t, really just decided that she was going to build the most diverse team in the public finance department, and she did.
And without there being a mandate, without there being a DNI team, Nicole built, what I used to joke was kind of the United Colors of Benton and credit ratings team at Moody’s. And we were all from different parts of the world, and gender, and identities, and that was my introduction to corporate America.
And like I said, I certainly started seeing the marginalization and the sidelining of great talent, but I also was incredibly fortunate that I had Nicole as my first manager and Chin Hugh as my second manager, who’s an Asian female leader who really led very gracefully and thoughtfully with diversity, equity, and inclusion before we were talking about this.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wow.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And so I had this career at Moody’s where I was advancing and moving on to doing different things. And from being a credit at risk analyst for six years, I was able to transition and manage our global foundation, which was really beautiful work and it was work that I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life, be in philanthropy it was a great sort of marriage of all of the areas of interest that I had both academically and professionally.
And while I was managing our foundation, I caught the eye of our CFO who realized that I was the one that was advocating to support our programs for young girls and students of color in math, economics, and finance. I used to joke, I was like, “We’re preparing the future geeks of America and they should be from all backgrounds, [inaudible 00:22:02] identity.”
And so she used to watch me the way that I navigated that, I was also at that point going to HR and really advocating with the recruitment team to support the programs that we were supporting. And while there should always be a fair separation between a corporate foundation and the business dealings of our foundation.
The fact the matter is that if we are putting out these programs out there, we should have a look at the kids that are going through these programs for our hiring. And so I was the one doing that, I was the one going to the Black MBA conference, the Asian MBA conference, the Hispanic MBA conference. I was just doing that because I loved it because I believed in it. But Jennifer not because I thought there was an actual career in that, so I was doing that work without doing it, and then there was a lawsuit in the company and one of the remediations was to create a diversity and inclusion role.
And so all of a sudden, and someone said, “Well, that young woman over there, she seems to care about this stuff.” And what nobody told me but in retrospect, I realized and saw was, they felt there was a pretty safe bet to give that to me because I was up and coming in my career and had grown up in the company, and so they knew that I was loyal and supportive of the organization, but I was also not known externally. So like if I flopped it wasn’t going to be the worst thing in the world.
JENNIFER BROWN: Good point.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Of course, nobody negotiated that with me, that would’ve been terrible. But I realized later I was like, “Oh, this is what they were really not expecting much from me.” But what they got was a whole lot more because-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh yeah.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … all of a sudden like you and I’m sure others that are listening, I had this moment of, oh, this is what I’ve been meant to do my entire life.
JENNIFER BROWN: I remember those moments. Yeah.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: But I was afraid. In full transparency, I remember when the head of HR at that time was a former analyst that I had worked with, we had a good relationship and when he offered me the role, I remember, just being very cautious and saying, “Well, I would be reporting into HR. I’m sorry, I don’t want to work in HR.” I don’t, HR is a place that people go to when they’re in trouble.
I didn’t really have a strong working knowledge of the HR function other than that perception that people have of HR leaders. I didn’t know any other diversity and inclusion leaders, this was, think about this, this was in the early two thousands and it wasn’t when we had all this wonderful Google searches where I could go widely, I literally had start going to events and I remember pulling event programs from everywhere I’d go and then I would look at everyone who was there.
JENNIFER BROWN: Me too. I think they do the same thing.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And I was like, oh, this person does diversity and they’re at Amex and Amex is right behind our building. Well, maybe I can find out their number, I don’t even remember how I found out their number but-
JENNIFER BROWN: Take number, that’s dating you.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: On the landline or your desk phone, right?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And the Rolodex, right? [crosstalk 00:25:11] I had that, I had that role for that time, but I remember finding their number and figuring out if they would be so kind as to have coffee with me so they could share all they knew and the beauty of that was that they did, everyone that I reached out to in those early stages of my career did that.
But before I even accepted the role, I [inaudible 00:25:34] it because I was worried that A, I was in a place that I really loved philanthropy and I thought, well, I’m just going to be here for a really long time, I’ve been making a lot of money for the company now I get to spend it in a worthwhile way. I thought that this was my lane. And the second part of it was, I also, I have an immigrant’s mentality, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: It’s, you have to continue to advance and grow and create more economic safety and stability for your family. And there was a moment for me of like, if I fail in this, then I will fail my family, then I will fail everything that I’ve been working towards. And I didn’t have a safety net.
And so those were all of the doubts and questions that I had and they were dispelled quite frankly, when our CFO, I remember her to this day, and I will say she walked into my office, but she never really walked into the office, she stayed in the doorway and looked at me and said, “So I hear you don’t want this job?” And I remember like gulping and just being really nervous. And I said, “Well, no, I haven’t said I don’t want it. I’m just still trying to think if it’s the right move.” And she turned to me and she goes, “So what are you afraid of?”
And I don’t know what it was, but I really had one of those moments of like, you don’t know what else to say about the truth. And so I was like, “I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I won’t do this well.” And she looked at me kind of nodded at her head, and she was a huge advocate of women in the work place. And she said, “Listen, if you have a problem, come to me.”
JENNIFER BROWN: Nice.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And then she turned to me, she goes, “I put your name in the hat for this job.” And people don’t say no when I put people’s people’s names-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, okay.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … that’s okay. And Jennifer, that was my first lesson into sponsorship, that was my first lesson into the political maneuverings that happen in organizations. I was like, wait, that happens? That’s how this works, it’s not my hard work that gets me noticed and everybody decides, well, Daisy should get this role, no, it’s our CFO used her power and influence and yielded it towards me.
And I just kind of looked at her and nodded and said, “Okay,” and I accepted the job. And goodness gracious, this was, I went into HR and it just took barely a few months for me to realize the hard labor that goes into this work, how amazingly talented the HR professionals that I worked with were, and how many misconceptions there were about these individuals, but also how hard it was going to be to do this work because no one really cared.
JENNIFER BROWN: And back then even like so much worse, I feel old saying that, but I’m like, “You don’t know what it was like.”
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh my God. I mean, I remember Jennifer when I first proposed employee resource groups, which were kind of a no brainer, it was the simplest thing I remember putting together all of my business plans and saying, well, my research indicates that when you create these employee resource groups, employees of similar identities find connections in a sense of belonging, and I had this great business case and I remember one of our leaders in HR turning to me and said, “Well, we worry, they become unions.”
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, we’re still hearing that now, I hate to tell you.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh my gosh, Jennifer, I remember looking at it and going, “Wait, what?” But it was also great learning for me around how to reduce obstacle. Because and this is, and I write about this in my book, it’s the last step in my process is to persist despite obstacles because they will arise repeatedly, but it was I had so many early stage obstacles and it was in those first three to six months where I realized, oh, they don’t really want me to do this, they just want to say that I’m doing it.
But they don’t really want me to do this the way it should be done, they don’t really want to reduce inequity in the workplace, they want to live under this belief that we are a meritocratic organization because as a company of analysts, yes, that is essentially what we do with the work that we do is always based on data, and analytics, and sound judgment, but it is also based on bias and people’s perceptions of what the truth is and how you interpret data.
But nobody was having those conversations at that time. And that was when I realized, oh, this is what I’ve been meant to do my entire life, there was no going back for me, whatever I was going to do next, it was always going to integrate this in one way or another.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love it. So the resistance didn’t intimidate you
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: No, it intimidated me, but
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. But please you eat that for breakfast. Come on buddy. But what you’re describing is it even more amazing to think about the decision to persist in the face of literally like a function that was not respected, and what it shapes in us as change practitioners, just like coping with the resistance, understanding it, getting underneath it, overcoming it.
All of those strategies and competencies we build in order to get things done in the face of all that, all those headwinds is really so I think life changing, I think also just deeply transformational, as difficult as it is. It’s such a life lesson and it’s such a lesson around change. Like how does change really happen? What does buy-in look like? Who are the key stakeholders in an organization? How does change happen in these complex systems?
Particularly when you don’t feel you have a seat at the table, maybe in name only, but not in this sort of real day to day, which is what you’re talking about. So anyway, oh my goodness. So I want to get to the book and your focus on middle managers and sort of that audience that you really want to speak to because maybe the seeds of what you decided to really write about and what you want this book to be known for and who you want it to reach. Were the seeds planted in those days? Do you look back and you say there’s a thread actually that made this book inevitable for me to write.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, absolutely. And I think you’ve had this experience as well, Jennifer it’s impossible not to, it’s that collection of stories that we accumulate over time. And I come from a family of storytellers, I’m actually the worst storyteller, my family, my dad, my aunts, my grandmother, I mean, they’re just magical storytellers. But I grew up around storytelling and collection of narratives that were passed down generation through generation, because that’s how we make sense of who we are.
And so for me, storytelling is how I make sense of what I’m going through. And throughout all of my career moves from Moody’s to Time Warner, to Disney, to Google, to Viacom, to my consultancy now, through Vice, I would use storytelling in connecting with folks and in threading what I was learning, what I was going through, what I was challenged by, what I saw around me throughout. And throughout all these years, I would often have friends and colleagues tell me, I was like, well, you have, you should write a book.
But the funny thing is, and again, is these stories that we tell ourselves. I never thought I had it in me. Well, other people write books, I’m a corporate leader like this is what I do, this is my lane, I’ve figured out how to drive change from the inside out, and there is change that comes from many different areas that I have friends and people I admire that are in every single facet of how change happens because there’s a complex and beautiful web of how change is built. And I’ve become really comfortable realizing this is where I like being in the middle of the web. I certainly have, my experience is mostly in corporate, but I sit on several nonprofit boards, which allows me to operate in that sphere and I advise startup companies, which allows me to operate in that sphere.
I’ve worked across finance, and media entertainment, and technology, which allows me to connect dots across all those industries and I love that. I love constantly connecting all of these pieces and it wasn’t until I launched my consultancy that I realized a little bit out of necessity of, oh, like, I guess it’s a consultant I need to have assets, I need to have something that people can point to because just my own experience apparently is not enough.
JENNIFER BROWN: Apparently.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: So I was like, well, let me start writing and testing this out. And these stories, Jennifer were just coming from me, emanating from like the deep reservoir of who I was.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, sure.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: And I realized, oh, I’ve been telling these stories, and contextualizing these stories, and fine tuning these stories, and understanding myself and others in the context of stories for so long that it’s time for me to start writing this story. And that’s how it came about for me. And then there’s, that could be a complete other podcast as you know that the whole process of writing a book-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh gosh.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … but that was what inspired me. And there was this sense of, for me, it’s I have this deep seeded desire to contribute, that’s I know of, that’s been since I was a child and I come from, again, a long line of just family members who just contribute in big and small ways. And my family has such deep, I mean, there’s… I love, I adore my families, this is why you hear me talk about them all the time.
But they have such deep aspirations for me that sometimes I feel like I’m not ambitious enough for them because they want so much more for me, and I may not have been doing some things because, again, out of fear, that’s what stops all of us from doing so many things.
But out of these stories that I also told myself of, I was like in order to be a good girl, in order to be a good daughter, and wife, and mother, and all these things like this is, I just need to stay in this lane. And it’s those moments that push us out of our lanes where you realize, oh, I can actually do this and still do this. And so for me, writing a book was, let me test the waters of whether people will even care about what I’m writing about-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, and they’ll.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … and whether this is something that also it’s important to me, that it feels joyful and that it feel meaningful to me. And everyone that I work with knows that it’s been important, every single member of my team and they’re mostly women of color, they’re all certainly identify as women with the exception of a few new members of my team recently.
But it’s always been important when they’re getting to know me and realize, so I’m not in this to build a brand or to showcase anything else, I just, I want to contribute. And I want to feel that when I leave this earth that I have left something that has made it a little better, and that makes my family, and at that point it will be my daughter and the rest of our family- the younger family members makes them proud. And so those were a lot of the drivers that were sort of running around my head and my heart while I was thinking of writing this book and writing it.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I mean, a book has a way, a very unique way of gratifying your parents. I’ve definitely seen that.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: They’re so proud.
JENNIFER BROWN: They’re so proud because the thing that we do is so abstract to them, they struggle to explain it. And D and I is like, what is that?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I love that you say that, my grandmother still does not know what I do.
JENNIFER BROWN: Go bless them. But the book, they can-
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: She does not know, she’s proud.
JENNIFER BROWN: … like flash. They haven’t read it, but they can flash it around, right?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, she is going to be walking around, she walks around with every article I’ve ever been on and goes to everyone. Everyone of Dominican Republic knows that I am a professional, that’s what they know.
JENNIFER BROWN: She has arrived. Meanwhile, we all know this has been built like brick by brick, but the book has a way of, even for ourselves, like it works it’s magic on, I think [inaudible 00:38:20], maybe shaking off that imposter syndrome once and for all, you know?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JENNIFER BROWN: Like solidifying ourselves in our voice, in our contribution, I love that you use that word. I have a deep need to contribute too, and I thought the book will reach so many people that I can’t reach with a webinar or with a paid engagement, or… I mean, and I had just had to get another mechanism to get something out that’s useful to people.
And when you’ve been through so many iterations like you have, and I love that you delineated all the different industries you’ve been in, the kinds of companies you’ve been in, because this is what makes you such a rich expert that you’ve seen how this plays out in so many different environments. And I’m sure you were an amazing consultant and I’m sure your clients were like, “Ugh, please don’t leave.”
But I’m so glad that you stopped and said, “I need to capture all this,” and for posterity for the world and then build from there. I wonder, what did it transform in you doing all that? I guess I wonder, the stories matter if they’re heard and they land with somebody. So who did you have in mind that you were writing to? That you really wanted to kind have an awakening as a result of hearing what you had to say and what you had to tell? And I guess that leads us to like that audience, who were you picturing when you were writing?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, I love that question. And it’s funny because I struggled with that so much when I was-
JENNIFER BROWN: We all do.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … both writing my book, proposal and book, because to me, it was initially, it was like, I want to impact everybody. I was like, I want everybody-
JENNIFER BROWN: Me too.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I was like, I want everybody to change as a result of this. And this is where your publishers come in and go.
JENNIFER BROWN: No, Yes. They drop the hammer. It’s the worst.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: This has to be sold to certain community, and what does it look like? But it was really my agent who helped me solidify that, because I met my agent right before we went into lockdown, which I’m so grateful for because we were able to build a really quick bond. And she’s also Latina and she’s very committed to bringing more Latina voices to the publishing world.
And she was, I was having this moment of like, well, the publisher doesn’t get me. I was like, what do I need to do? And she just turned to me, she goes, “Every time you and I talk, you talk about how important it is for the future leaders of organizations. So why don’t you make this book for the manager, because they’re the future leaders?” And she’s like, “You always talk about the experience of managers.”
And I was like, absolutely and now I went… When you have those moments of yeah, because they’re the… And I just like, without even thinking, I said, “Yes, they’re the linchpin of organizations. They are who impact the experience of employees day in and day out, because the tone gets set from the top, but really it’s the managers who tell you what to do and how to do it, who can ruin or make your experience in the workplace.”
And I just got so animated by just having that conversation without feeling the pressure of who’s your audience? But really just going like that’s who I want-
JENNIFER BROWN: Perfect.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … to most impact, because if I impact managers and I impact not just current managers, but those who are aspiring to be managers to think about the way that they will manage people in a different way, then, oh my goodness, that experience can be just multiply it across the board, then we’re really talking business here, and then we’re really making change.
And so that’s who I was thinking of when I was writing the book. So it was really that manager, and it was not just the white manager, but also the BIPOC manager, it was also the LGBTQ manager, it was also the managers like you and I, who have been trained and taught to manage in a certain way, whether we like it or not. We also fall into the traps of exclusion, and we also fall into the traps of doubting our decisions because we are being socialized in the same way.
And so I wanted this book to not be a book that shamed white managers, although I do call out and specifically throughout the book, I was like, and this is for you white managers, and this is what you do. And then I also call out and say, and BIPOC manager, you do this too. I was like, and this is how we all can come to that place of honesty, and truth, and recognition of there’s no shame in acknowledging where we fall short, the shame is in silence and in action, that’s the real enemy of inclusion in the workplace.
And so how do we move ourselves away from being silent and from sitting in our corners because we’re so afraid of losing something or being harmed by something? We all have different fears and they’re all real, by the way, they’re all real. But if we all hold hands and drive this change, then I really do believe we can build the workplaces of the future, workplaces that work for everyone.
And so that was my audience, but I do have to say, because this is when my father was talking to me about this yesterday, in his not humble way, he was mentioning to me and he was like, “I’m so proud of the role model that you are for other Latinas and young women of color.” And I looked at him and I said, “I’m humbled by that.” I’m always embarrassed when he says those things.
JENNIFER BROWN: No.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: But I said, I was like, I wish I had more leaders that led this way when I was growing up in my career, when I was coming up in my career. And so if I do that for a few other women of color, if there are other Latinas, and black women, and Asian women, and women that see themselves reflected in my story and feel like, oh, I can put a foot forward now just a little bit more than I could before, because I know I’m not alone, because I know that I can do this. That just gives me such… It just fills me with hope and deep gratification.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s beautiful. And as they put that foot forward, that they find partners in their managers that are ready, able, willing to make the most of that, right? It’s like-
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Because we can’t do this alone.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right, it’s a partnership.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: We can do this alone. This is a team effort, it takes a million actions. It takes you and I, and the people we know and the people who are listening to this podcast, it takes all of us doing this work. And so if, and by the way, my stories may not be fully universal, but they’re pretty universal, you can see whether you don’t have to be a Latina woman to have felt silenced in a meeting. You don’t have to be Dominican, Puerto Rican to have felt othered. We all experience those pieces.
So it’s building that universality of like, we’re all human and our most deepest desire is to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of connection, which we’ve so lost during these last two years of the pandemic. And so why not really stretch ourselves and allow ourselves to be a little bit more vulnerable, and a little bit more humble, and allow ourselves to just connect with someone in a different way, and to think outside of the ways that we have been taught, because those ways are not going to serve us in the future. So let’s try something different.
JENNIFER BROWN: Let’s do that. I love quoting the book title, What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There. And I always say it, I think it to myself, I think anytime I feel hesitating around a new skill, or uncomfortable, or that I’m not clear about the terrain, I remind myself that evolution is constant. And if you’re not evolving, you’re not leading and you’re not probably challenging yourself enough to meet the future and prepare for it.
And I love that, that this audience that you’ve chosen and identified really, really needs as you know needs this book. We joke about it, but we call middle management, the frozen middle. It’s not a very nice term, but it’s where change efforts go to die, as I sometimes say, and we need to shore that group up because you’re right, they are the ones that are touching every single day, the potential of people.
And we’ve got to equip them to be better partners because that’s really going to unleash that talent up the pipeline, and hopefully into the C-suite where we all belong, but they have that very critical role to play. So I hope our listeners are, I get the middle manager question like daily. So I hope everybody’s listening to this, knows that’s a focus of Daisy’s work and the book is called Inclusion Revolution, the essential guide to dismantling racial inequality in the workplace, March 15th, that’s out. But Daisy, I hope you recorded your own audio book by the way, because I have been enjoying your voice today.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh, I did, and it was so much fun.
JENNIFER BROWN: No, I know that you’re born to do.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: I had so much fun, at the end of it, the technicians that were working with me said, well, they’re like, well, if this career doesn’t work out, you can go to Disney. I was like, this is fun. It was particularly joyful.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, I love that. So if everybody’s audiobook fans, pick it up, check it out. Where else can we find you, support you, Daisy, what else can we do to lift you up?
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Oh my goodness. Well, thank you so much, Jennifer. The book is everywhere, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore, I’ve been hearing from friends who have been purchasing it, everywhere from Washington Heights and other areas-
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, that’s okay.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: … my website is my name, Daisy Auger-Domínguez, and LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter are our other social spheres. I love, love, love to continue this conversation, and I’m excited to see the future books that come out of this work, and the change that comes from not just my work, but your work and all of our collective efforts.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, thank you. Generous as ever. Thank you so much, Daisy for joining me.
DAISY AUGER-DOMÍNGUEZ: Thank you.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
DOUG FORESTA: You’ve been listening to The Will to Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please of subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.
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