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Episode 34:

Love as an Uncomfortable Strategy

This week we had the privilege of sitting down with Victor Scotti, Chief Inspiration Officer of Moving Mountains LLC and former Google team member, to have a raw conversation about equity and diversity in the workplace. We were able to dig deep on topics of introspection, self efficacy, and opportunity when it comes to race and non-dominant groups. This episode is meant to spark conversation and make you look inward on some of these topics. We hope that you enjoy this episode with an open heart and an open mind.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Host

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Victor Scotti
Chief Inspiration Officer, Moving Mountains LLC

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Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Frank Danna
Director

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma

Hey, everyone. Before we get into this week's episode, I wanted to explain what we intend this episode to be about. We're going to be having real talks about lived experiences around race, identity and other dimensions of diversity. When we get into the conversation, you may experience some level of discomfort. And that's the point. This episode dives into some tough conversations and we hope you listen with an open heart and open mind and ultimately, embrace the power of being uncomfortable. Enjoy.

Jeff Ma
Hello and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business, but we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma, and I'm a director at Softway, a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offers services that help build resilience and high performance company cultures. I'm joined today by my good friends and colleagues. Chris Pitre, Vice President of Softway. Hey, Chris.

Chris Pitre
Hey!

Jeff Ma
And Frank Danna, Director at Softway. Hi, Frank.

Frank Danna
Hello, everyone. How y'all doing today?

Jeff Ma
I'm really excited because we have... am I supposed to answer that question?

Frank Danna
I mean, it wasn't rhetorical. I just genuinely wanted to know, Jeff.

Jeff Ma
Oh, you said I assume you want the audience to know how, never mind. Each episode we're diving into one element of business or strategy and testing our theory of love against it. And I am very excited for our guest today. Who has been waiting patiently to be allowed to answer this conversation. His name is Victor Scotti and he is a DEI practitioner and black student advocate. He is the founder and chief inspiration Officer of moving mountains LLC, which accelerates the possibilities of high achieving black boys through curated experiences that inspire innovation, spark creativity, and cultivate dreams. Amongst many of the things he's doing, which I'm going to actually hold off on, allow him to elaborate as we get to know him here. But welcome to the show, Victor.

Victor Scotti
Thank you for having me.

Jeff Ma
I'm so excited to have this conversation. We're going to get into your story and kind of all your passions and but before we do that, we do a little thing called icebreakers. It's often very awkward and seemingly unnecessary, but we refuse to stop doing it. So we're going to do that. And I never see these questions until we get to this point. And here we go.

Victor Scotti
Okay,

Jeff Ma
You're first on my list, Chris. Would you rather have unlimited first class tickets or never have to pay for food again?

Chris Pitre
Unlimited first class tickets.

Jeff Ma
You know, Maggie chose that, and I think she should have known the answer to that.

Chris Pitre
So here's how I feel about the reason why I'm not a huge fan of like, just taking free food is because I am particular about the food.

Victor Scotti
Oh, got it.

Chris Pitre
And if someone else is choosing what I eat, that's gonna be dead on arrival. So I would rather have somebody pay for first class tickets. And you didn't tell me I had a limit on the number of trips I can take. So I can live in a plane for the rest of my life, to be honest. And you know, from there, I'll pay for the food that I'm going to eat.

Jeff Ma
Well, it didn't say someone else. The question is, let's say someone else will pick your food says you never have to pay for food again. So you go wherever you want. You just never get a bill.

Chris Pitre
But that was not out in the open. So I'm used to things not being what I believe. And so I always go to the negative side of it, which is free food means somebody else is choosing where I can go and what I can have. And you know, I believe access.

Jeff Ma
A great a great little glimpse into your psyche, I guess. Thank you for that. Frank?

Frank Danna
Yeah.

Jeff Ma
Would you rather be forced to dance anytime you heard music, or be forced to sing along to any song you heard?

Frank Danna
I would much rather sing than dance. Much rather sing than dance, because dancing is not going to get me Tiktok famous, let's just be honest.

Jeff Ma
So and singing and singing will?

Frank Danna
You know it to be true. Jeff..

Jeff Ma
I don't think I've ever heard you sing as long as we've known each other. So, maybe this podcast...

Frank Danna
Blessed with the vocal talent.

Jeff Ma
And this episode is your debut? Okay, go for it.

Frank Danna
It will not be continued.

Victor Scotti
Well, you're ready.

Jeff Ma
Hi, Victor, are you ready?

Victor Scotti
Yes.

Jeff Ma
Would you rather move to a new city every week, or never be able to leave the city you were born in?

Victor Scotti
That's a hard one. I would say move to a new city every week. I think what quarantine has taught me and especially all the snow in Chicago where I can't even really go for walks is that it's been driving me crazy. So I'd rather be on the go. Rather than stuck. not stuck. I love Chicago. So let me let me put that out there. But I don't like to be forced to do anything. So that was really the kicker of the question. So I would move every week.

Jeff Ma
Well, you're kind of being forced to move every week too.

Victor Scotti
Phrase it as I'm just a renaissance man.

Chris Pitre
But you're also choosing the next city, right?

Victor Scotti
Yeah, it's all about framing. But I can't twist the fact that I'm stuck in Chicago and I actually can't go anywhere.

Jeff Ma
You can move to different areas of the city within the city every week. Okay.

Frank Danna
Jeff's gonna try to break the.. okay, nevermind.

Jeff Ma
I mean, Chris, Chris started us down this path of overanalyzing these questions.

Chris Pitre
My explanation was not an over analysis, Jeff. Jeff is a logic bully, Victor. I just want to like, welcome you to our team, so when you're trying to explain, you get questioned and then you present counter arguments. And it's like, well, why are you going over overanalyzing? It's like what logic bully just tried to come at me. So yeah, you know...

Jeff Ma
I have this button that can literally just remove Chris. I click this, but I choose not to use it. I love you, Chris. Appreciate.

Chris Pitre
See Victor this is this is what empathy looks like, right? So you can see what I deal with. I'm very interesting. I'm answering questions.

Jeff Ma
It's gonna be one of those.

Chris Pitre
If you don't like it, you don't like it.

Victor Scotti
Exactly.

Jeff Ma
Here we go. Alright, so we're gonna jump right into it. And I can't wait for this. I can't wait for this first part because...

Frank Danna
That was a good episode. Jeff, we're wrapping is that..?

Jeff Ma
Six and a half minutes. Hope you guys enjoyed this episode of love as a business strategy. Starring Chris. So Victor. Victor, let's let's let's start with your story I'd love you just share with us. Just, you know, kind of your your, your your history, your background, how, what got you here today a little bit about yourself, please.

Victor Scotti
Sure, happy to do so. So despite the fact that I just said I would not want to stay in Chicago for the rest of my life. I am born and raised here. And I love my city. So born and raised in Chicago, my family's been here for three generations. So really deep roots like me, my dad, my grandfather all went to the same high school. So we even like grew up in the same like, broader neighborhood. I think growing up in Chicago is really interesting for a number of reasons. And I think it definitely informs like how I think about and talk about equity, and it's very racially segregated. So growing up on the south side, it was definitely predominantly black. I think, though, not as though and I, from an early age, I always knew that, like blackness wasn't monolithic. So because that was like my environment. You know, I was in church, I was in school, I was, you know, always meeting different people. And so I think that, you know, a lot of how I think about equity is really rooted in, you know, how do we support folks where they are. So I think that's like, been the greatest lesson from where I'm from. I went on to go to University of Pennsylvania in Philly. Philly is a very interesting place. I loved it. And I loved and I always thought that I would do more work like more community based work. But then because Penn is so pre professional, I kind of got caught up in like the Wharton of it all. And so that's how I got introduced to Google, which has actually been a really big blessing and been a lot of fun, because I never knew that like, like how expansive the tech space was, and that you could really like focus on people and education and equity. And that's what I've been doing for the past couple of years. And I feel like also being able to directly give back and work within the black community. So kind of that those that journey and kind of took me to California. So I was in Silicon Valley for a little bit. And then I moved to New York. So I was there for three years, I probably had the most fun of my life, but not a lot of sleep. And so I wanted to move back to Chicago, partly for family reasons. But also because I think that like Chicago is a good medium between the Bay Area and New York, I feel like I've really been able to build and craft a life. So So that's kind of been like a quick version of my journey. Other than that, I am a really big family person. So my parents and my sister all live here. So it's good to be able to see them. I have a partner who lives in New York. His name is Gary. So once he hears this shout out to him, he's amazing. And so yeah, so that's a little bit that's a little bit about me.

Jeff Ma
Awesome, awesome.

Chris Pitre
So I've been to the UPenn campus and I actually fell in love with the cereal bar. This is the might like date me or age me because this was like when I was in school we took a trip up there. Yeah, but it was really cool if you've never heard of it, or if it's deliberate.

Victor Scotti
I was going to say, I don't know what that is.

Chris Pitre
So it was a breakfast restaurant that only serves cereal. And you would just go through the line and like mix and match your cereals. And like all the employees wore pajamas as the uniform and they would play Saturday morning cartoons.

Victor Scotti
What? And it was on campus?

Chris Pitre
It was on campus. It was like this. So I went to school and from 2002 to 2006. I think I went in 2005 to UPenn for that experience. And I just felt like it was like bulletproof because I'm like, who wouldn't eat cereal? Anyway..

Jeff Ma
How much were they charging for a bowl of cereal?

Chris Pitre
It was it was a Whole Foods prices, I will say.

Victor Scotti
That's an abomination. That's crazy.

Chris Pitre
But yeah, it's and you can like have these add ons. You could add chocolate. You could add like fruit, you could add all this other stuff to it. But it was like one of the simplest concepts, but it was just really cool. Maybe it was because nostalgia for me like, oh having cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Victor Scotti
Oh, that's also so funny to me, though, because a lot of people like I know a good number of people from Philly. And they all like really go hard for cereal. I wonder, is that like a Philadelphia thing?

Victor Scotti
You know, I actually, weirdly enough, y'all were talking about that. And I've been to a place called Cereal Killer Cafe in London. A few years ago, I was I was in London. And there was this event that was happening. And it sounds exactly like what you were saying. There's this just floor to ceiling of all these different cereals. You can pick your toppings you can do all this stuff. But it's called Cereal Killer Cafe.

Chris Pitre
Interesting.

Frank Danna
Very strange. So it so Chris there...

Chris Pitre
I've just said like that. So whenever I think of UPenn, I automatically think of cereal since that whole trip. So I was like, I wonder if he knows.

Victor Scotti
But now I have to ask around.

Chris Pitre
It was called the cereal bar.

Jeff Ma
You can recreate the experience for yourself at home as well.

Chris Pitre
You can't recreate it because you bought it and you're putting it in your own bowl.

Victor Scotti
Way to shut that down. Your entire business model.

Frank Danna
Step one, head to store. Step two, buy one box.

Jeff Ma
All right. All right. So Victor, I want to I want to hone in a little bit on like what you're doing right now like talk about, talk about what you're up to and you know, you know what your passions are?

Victor Scotti
Absolutely. So I think one of the one of the experiences that I got through Google that was really transformative for me, I actually ran this program called the computer science Summer Institute. So it's a three week like Summer Intensive experience for high or for college students. So they had just graduated from high school, but summer between high school and college. And so they came to like a campus of historically black college, a university that we are partnering with. And they went through a three week camp where they learned computer science and so like technical skill development, but also, you know, soft skills or, or, and then also learning about Google. And so that was really transformative for me as a program manager of that, because it dawned on me, I'm like, well, we're at historically black colleges. So like 98% of my students identified as black, you know, I identify the same way I brought other Googlers, who really who were also black, you know, and we're at this campus, which just has so much history and legacy. And so when all those things really came together, I'm like, this is really powerful. And I think in many industries, but especially in tech, we don't see this I'm like, this is actually like a direct foil to all the complexities that I think we've started talking about in the past five or six years, I think, love the work that I did, that I did at Google and love that role. But I'm also like, Hey, we can actually swap out computer science for other things, right? Like I have these relationships with these campuses. Again, no shade, Google love them. But I'm like, I can also do this myself. And I have more license, you know, to be able to focus, you know, on the populations that I want to focus on, and also really have a hand in what the components of the program are. So that really led me to moving mountains. And so what moving mountains is it's really an accelerator for black college men to equip them for that personal and professional alignment in corporate America. So when I look at, like my first five years in corporate, it was really challenging. I think, you know, school, in all ways from kindergarten through college is very facilitated, right? And they're like milestones and steps and semesters and years and you have this responsibility. Now. You know, in fifth grade, you'll have this responsibility, and then we throw students into the world of work. And then especially those coming from these, like super high performing places, you're like, oh, the world is mine. I can conquer everything and you can. But there's like no bridge, right? So I'm like, I know, I'm smart. I know I'm capable. I'm sure I can produce and achieve, but like, how do I do this? How do I actually manage this? And I think that when we talk about groups that have been like historically excluded from certain industries, I think that that's even tougher. And so that's how I really got to this work. And I think, you know, black men, we don't focus on black men in corporate America. I think the more we talk about equity, the more we talk about intersectionality, I think it's easier to and when you actually look at the data, a lot of times black women in corporate America company by company, unfortunately, it's staggering, have horrible experiences in that space. So I think from like 2017, to now, entrepreneurship for black women has increased by 600%. Amazing, yeah, that you know, but also, that's telling us that they're flocking from corporate and there are definitely reasons for that. So I think it's it comes out, it's like an obvious and very glaring place to focus. But identifying as a black man, myself, also, I can find multiple intersections. I'm queer, I'm Christian, I'm also in a black fraternity, navigating all of that stuff. And when I'm in community, with other black men with other brothers, we, there's so much that we talked about, and that's even outside of the perception that I feel like folks have for black men and boys in America and abroad. So that's a little bit about, like, why I'm doing what I'm doing and why I think it's so important to focus on folks like me, you know, because I think that we need that dedicated focus. And we need to be able to come together in community, and really be able to build off of the experiences of one another.

Chris Pitre
And that's really awesome. And I can tell you from personal experience, that bridge does not exist, and you have to build it yourself. Yeah, especially as a black man trying to get into corporate out of college. I remember, I had to literally ask professors to connect me to people. Like any new connection I made, I like clung within an inch of my life to everybody, because I never knew, like, who had something that could turn into an opportunity for me. And so like you become your own salesperson, essentially, right out of college. Yeah, college, and you're not always equipped with those skills, like so. I took it upon myself to like learn business etiquette. So whenever my university would offer, etiquette like and dinner etiquette, and all that stuff, like, I went to it, because I didn't have that. And I saw myself trying to go into corporate lunches and dinners, and not knowing how to pick up a fork or which fork to pick up, or just, you know, what conversation to strike up. So all those small little things that, you know, some people take for granted. Many people who again, come from backgrounds where that equity is not, you know, present, or that access is not readily available throughout their childhood, you have to sort of add all this periphery around your formal education, to be ready for it. And so I'm really curious to know, like, in your experience, and with the stories, I'm sure plenty of stories around you and your work that you've done. Have you seen, you know, how, how black boys and black men cope when they don't have access to a program like yours? Like, what? What do they do?

Victor Scotti
Yeah, that's a really good question. I can speak from personal experience. And I can also speak, you know, from, you know, what I've observed and what I've been blessed that people have shared with me, but in my personal experience, I think I continue to achieve, and I continue to do all of those things that you said, like, okay, I've always been good at connecting with people, which I think is a really strong strength. So I'm like, Okay, let me reach out to Chris, let me reach out to Jeff. And if I have this question, you know, I can ask and, you know, really like, step by step crafting my own experience. So I think in the absence of that readily available access, you you have to craft your own experience. And I think that can look many different ways. But I think the result for many people, no matter which kind of path you choose, and how you do it, is that it's exhausting. And a lot of times you're met with, you know, systemic barriers. So, you know, because at the end of the day, and if we're talking about corporate America, you're still in this structure. And the reality is that the structure of corporate America, aka capitalism, and capitalism was built on the back of chattel slavery was not created for black people in general. So it's not surprising that black women and black men and those who also identify as people of color, I feel like a lot of times you have to claw and like step by step, you know, to be able to really just like be at the table and feel comfortable about being at the table. So I think that my thought process is, okay, so many of us have done this. It's been hard, it's been challenging, you know, some people have lasted until they get to that VP level, other people are like, I did a year of this, I'm out because it sucks, right? But we can actually start to, I believe, operationalize those experiences by coming together talking to each other and saying, what, you know, I want to be that person that, you know, can help who I was. So I think about that a lot. And as it relates to like, career development, I think, like, I was still achieving, you know, by these indicators, like performance management, and, you know, making enough money to be able to support myself, and people were proud of me and all of that. But I think how that played out for me is I was lost. Like, I didn't have a reason for why I was doing this. I'm like, money is not the primary motivator for me. I never really intended to be in the tech space. So Google has such a cachet, which is awesome. But for me, that wasn't a motivator, either. Because I didn't want to be there, I actually felt a lot of guilt, because I'm like, I had vowed to like, help my community directly. And be and be in the community with my work. And I'm not doing that. So how it played out for me was just a lot of cognitive dissonance. I think for other people, they end up they end up leaving, or you know, they lean into what is concrete, right? Let me get on a path right now I can make this money for my family, and secure my future. I know I can live where I want. And all at the end, all of that is valid. I just am interested in making sure that like for my children, and for my younger mentees is not as challenging. Because I think that we do have enough capital, social and navigation and aspirational capital within the black community, you know, to be able to come together and help each other and really build off of our own experiences.

Chris Pitre
Yep. And this goes back to your earlier statement that you know, being black is not a monolith, which means that everybody's having a totally different experience. But I'm curious, right, so you know, on that path where people are going into the corporate workspace, and they are black men, and they are having more of those experiences, as you say that, that are likely things that they're not prepared for, or interfacing with realities that maybe weren't true in school, or weren't true in the home. And they're sort of facing a lot of difference. And in certain places, discrimination, lack of access, lack of opportunity, but also a lack of mentorship within the workplace. What would you recommend to those workplaces that are looking to hire and retain black black talent to really consider in terms of, you know, maybe attention or things that they can be doing to to help, you know, that bridge building, not just once they get in, but once they need to work up?

Victor Scotti
Yeah, that is such a great question. And I think that's like, the essential question of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at this point. And I honestly think that the beginning is, you have to believe the like what folks are saying and your company. So it's not, I think that like a lot of the work that you all do, which is why it speaks to me is yes, about love. But I think a foundation of love is truth telling. And so as organizations, we have to be willing to tell the truth. And so if black person after black person, LatinX woman, after LatinX woman is telling you that this is a bad experience. You know, I feel like I should have been promoted years ago, you know, I do have this evidence and all of that. And I also have issues with like, having to pull receipts for everything as if like, my word is not true. So again, when we talk about truth telling, right, you have to listen to what I'm telling you. And so I can also dive deeper. But I start there, because I think that when we talk about DEI, I think that people really want to stray away from like these, like, what I think they call like, fluffy conversations. Also, why I'm so interested in the work that you are doing talk about love. I think people think like what, like how does that play into business and all of that, and I'm like, it absolutely is right? Because if you don't have that foundation, then you actually can't move forward. So we can't get into tactics, you know, or programs or initiatives or policies, if inherently I'm actually not believing that your experience is valid, and I'm never going to be in the right frame of mind no matter what the ERG is, no matter what the program is. How painstakingly we sat down and crafted it, it's not going to be successful. So I think hands down, you know, that is number one. You know, I think number two, you really have to do that deep dive into the people processes. So that's why, you know, after kind of falling into HR, I'm like, Oh, this is actually perfect, because this is the crux of equity. When we look at pay disparity, when we look at disparity in performance management, you know, the data doesn't lie. And so we're in a moment now where everyone's like, show me the data, show me the data, again, got to believe the facts. And the facts are that different groups, you know, are experiencing this environment in different ways. And when we actually look at the real indicators, it shows that. So I think that like, and that's a big bucket of stuff. So I can like pause there. But I think like the those people processes, I think that's kind of the first place that people need to go. But you have to start with really questioning yourself. And that's why I think this work is so complex, because that person no has to come into the workplace. And so I personally, like I have to believe what is happening? And if I don't have a clear vision on what's happening, and I'm not willing to believe that, nothing's gonna work.

Chris Pitre
Oh, yeah. No, I think one of the, you know, great sort of black privileges is that we can grab and hold on to receipts very well, because we've been conditioned to.

Victor Scotti
Oh, yeah.

Chris Pitre
So personal and professionally, I keep my receipts, right.

Victor Scotti
And I have email tags for everything. Like performance management, so when you try to come for me, like you actually can't do that.

Chris Pitre
I delete nothing. Nothing is deleted. Personal email, professional, it's just never delted. Like, next to Google my email inbox is the next most queried thing, right? Everyone's like, why aren't you like erasing this stuff? I'm like, because I might need it. But I think, you know, getting to that point around the people processes. It is so interconnected into sort of that self awareness around behavior, but also the ability to believe. But yeah, that sounds unbelievable. And I think that always or am I gonna say always, but that in many times, and in many experiences that I've had were trying to speak truth, even objectively, third party, I'm not in your organization, but here are some of the stories bam, that are coming forward. And everybody's like, you're doing this to scare us, you're doing this to race bait, you're doing this to, you know, sort of make this a negative experience. I'm like, wait, this is not a negative experience for you hearing the story, imagine living through it.

Victor Scotti
Right, exactly.

Chris Pitre
But there's still this huge amount of disbelief when a lived experience is incongruent from the majority or from the mainstream. And then you know, that, that sort of ability, easy ability to just sort of squelch it, or brush it aside and continue on with a process or with a, a policy that will continue to create those experiences elsewhere is, like, groundbreakingly like, blade shocking, but also just depressing and disheartening, because it's like, you have a human who's telling you that my boss never looks at me, my boss chooses not to have one on ones with me. My boss choose not to properly level me, my boss loves to give me work, but never, you know, wants to give me any credit for it or pay me appropriately, or let others know that I'm doing good, and I could be considered for promotion elsewhere. Right? Like, they want to retain me for the purpose of continuing to give me work because they know that I do a great job, which, if you look at a lot of performance around, you know, blacks in the workplace, it shows that they are overworked, but also under leveled and therefore underpaid. And so when you get into that process of, you know, really looking at levels in an organization, right, because what they do is, they'll say, well, they're getting paid at the right rate based on where they're leveled. They don't talk about whether they're in the right level. And so we get into a lot of those DEI conversations, there's all these tricks and things that they do with the data. I'm sorry to get my soapbox, but like that's, that is what happens. And so when you're in a place or position where you're ready to do stuff and do the work, regardless of what your background is, I think that those are the places where you have to really sort of take a magnifying glass. And don't wait for the data to come from outside your organization, which to me is always the biggest sort of red flag when an organization says, well show me how some other organization fix theirs, and then I'll fix mine. And it's like,

Victor Scotti
I hate it.

Chris Pitre
your data is what you should be looking at, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Because those are still lived experiences that are getting muted, that are getting pushed out, that are getting ignored. And that are often oftentimes leading to EEOC violations, compliance issues, etc. And, again, nobody's getting wiser. And also nobody's getting helped.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, you know, one of one of the reasons I was so excited to do had this conversation with you Victor's like, one of the things, although we're just talking about, you know, a lot of our topic is going to be love and trust. And these things, one of the things we don't talk about as often is introspection and self awareness. It's at the, it's at the very core of what we teach and talk about. And, you know, we're often talking about these topics that have all these tangible, like applications. And the thing about talking with you is, you know, it's reminding me of the the importance of for our audience, and for as a takeaway, this the reality of what it means to really come to terms and be real and have a growth mindset around truths, as you'd said, around us, you know, we, we had the opportunity to work with an organization that I'll just keep very vague. But we had the opportunity to work with some leaders in this organization. And we did an exercise that we had, with the ability to gain access to some testimonials within the organization written by real people anonymously. So real stories, and we took out all the names, we got it all out, but we shared the stories, because some of them were, I mean, I won't I can't repeat them. But they were just things that things that executives had said, yeah, that you know, and and way that, you know, a woman was treated way that you know, these are just real stories. So we anonymize the whole thing. And we, we did an exercise in a room of leaders in that organization, very large organization, but we but a group of leaders, and we and we had them read these, we had them read it. And then, you know, this exercises around coming, being able to be uncomfortable, because you have to open up to the reality of the fact that this could be read that is reality. And what you see in that room in that immediate moment was, Oh, this must have like, when was this from? Like, was this from 10 years ago? 15 years ago? Like no, that was this year. And they go, they go, well, that must have been I mean, that wasn't us. I mean, that was like, if I was there, I would have spoke up. Like, why didn't anybody speak up? Like, I don't believe that, that could have happened without anybody saying anything? Yeah. And every and everybody turned outward, immediately. Everyone looked around them. And nobody stopped to look at themselves in their their own teams, their own leadership. And we had this, we had this saying that, you know, if one of us has done it, we've all done it.

Victor Scotti
Yeah.

Jeff Ma
And, and whether you can, and there's such a thing that we don't touch this podcast far enough, is, it's just that, you know, you have to people get so offended, and frustrated and hurt when they get put on, kind of like having to deal with some of these hard things. And you feel like you'll find every reason to like not be part of the guilty party for some reason, when really, all we're trying to do is talk about progress and growth, all we're talking about is moving forward and doing better things. And that's not a bad thing. It's okay to reckon with mistakes and problems in realities that are within an organization. And I think, yeah, your story and you kind of your your everything you guys have been sharing has just been really reminding me that we don't push that enough in our conversations here. That piece of introspection for every single person, not just your leader, or those around you because you're never blameless.

Victor Scotti
Yeah.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, it's, so many people in the room were like, if I was in that room, when that happened, I would have spoke up. I would. I was and they were like, we're like, really, because they're in this story. This person says there were 12 people in that room.

Victor Scotti
And no one said anything.

Jeff Ma
And they all watched it happen.

Victor Scotti
Yeah. But it also makes me to what you're saying, though, I think one of the coolest things about this work is frustrating. But I'm like, in a lot of ways, like, I'll say corporate DEI work, I'll just put it in that bucket. It forces us to think about things in ways and operate in ways that we're not used to organizationally or personally. So I'm listening to you and I'm thinking, how many conversations I have with people. I'm like, Oh, you don't tell the truth to yourself. And I'm not proclaiming to be someone who can you know, who is like placing the blame or saying like, oh, you know, I'm so honest with myself, no, there are times where I have to call myself like, Victor, that's actually not it, like call a thing a thing. And I say that to myself, you know, and I try to do better. But as I'm talking to people, and I'm also a really big energy person, too. So sometimes I can feel that I'm like, Oh, you don't like know yourself. And so I think about, and sometimes I've actually been able to have conversations with folks like that and then observe their leadership style, or how they're engaging with people and it's deplorable. And I'm like, you don't see it. And unfortunately, you know, this like strategy that you're asking me for all this data that you want me to continuously pull, all these beautiful decks and slides are actually not going to help that.

Chris Pitre
At all.

Victor Scotti
At all, like literally at all. So at this point, I'm doing busy work. And so I think that's like, one, that's the complexity is that, you know, what it really takes, you know, for equity, I think to take shape and to take form and folks to really move in the right direction, on a personal level, but also on an organizational level. A lot of companies have issues with that. And I think that's why when you really get deep into it, everybody gets flustered. And it's like, oh, well, because people talk about collaboration and cross functional, XYZ, but people don't do it. Right. And it's like, acceptable. If it's just like general business, I'll say to operate that way. But you actually cannot get anywhere with equity without doing that. And that's why, you know, cycle after cycle or diversity report, after diversity report is the same. And then people are, like, confused. So I think that is so complex, and so challenging, but it can really, it is a really beautiful journey, you know, if you lean into it, you know, and I think it pays off not only professionally, but also personally. And so yeah, it's, it's, it's all wrapped up, kind of in like your overall experience in existence and the experience that we're sharing with one another.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, yeah. And, when it comes to like the, especially on the the black men and the black boys that you are supporting and working with, what are they looking for the most in terms of their either work experience, or first work experience or bridge that they need to sort of have created? What are they longing for? Like, what what do you see? And this could be a number of things? You know, I'm not saying that, again, we're not a monolith. But do you see any commonalities or trends and sort of expectations or things that they're looking for just so listeners can start understanding maybe some of the needs, they can start meeting day one, versus when they're ready to put notice?

Victor Scotti
That's a really great, great question. And I think the answer is actually, a lot of them don't know. And it's okay, at that moment, because I, you know, I started working with folks at the college age at, I had a clue, maybe, you know, and so when I look back to what I thought I actually did, and have, like, done stuff that satisfies that, but I would never be able to name it. And so what I would offer is to actually give folks the space, and the career development, you know, and the real performance expectations and feedback, all of that stuff actually leads to clarity, and focus and being comfortable with like I have, I really think in the workplace, people want to have a clear function, like, this is what I'm here to do. They want to be aligned on that with whoever their manager, superior advisor, whatever you want to call it, and they want to be rewarded for it. And they want to be able to be I think, their authentic selves, however, they define that at the time, I really do think that that's the essence of everything. And so I actually don't think that it's different for black people, or for black men, or any type of intersection, gay black man, I think it's the same. I just think that because of systemic barriers, because of perception, we don't even give people like we don't literally give them the space and the time to be able to do that. So if you're someone said this to me, I met someone during quarantine. And I promise I'm going somewhere. We were engaging on zoom for a long time. And then we're like, you know what, let's like have a socially distance lunch or whatever. I had lunch with this person had a whole conversation, like two hours, I stood up, and this person was like, wow, I didn't know you were that big. And I'm like, okay, right, but like, what am I supposed to take take from that? You know, with what I do know, you probably like put me in a box. And it seems like I shattered whatever that box was. And I'm also looking at the visceral fear, once you like literally saw, like my stature. And so when things like that happen on a daily basis in the workplace, when I'd like as I walk through offices, right, I have to be conscious of how just how I'm being what is my face looking like? Do I feel that there's a comfortable environment for me to wear my hair in a different way? Do I need to take off my hat? Can I wear a hoodie? You know, my size. I'm a tall guy. And so I see the looks on people's faces, if they're not aware of that, you know, and then they are. So I mentioned that stuff to say those are all and for some people who don't experience that they don't even think about that stuff. So all that is going through my mind in addition to what I'm here to do, and so then on top of that, there's no clarity there. Because like you don't know how to give me feedback, like you actually don't know how to have these conversations with me. So you're not. So then I'm going through all of these things at the same time, organizationally, but also just my mere presence, because I have to be aware for my own safety. So I think, Chris, to your question. I think what I, what I would have wanted, was, I think that like, intentional, you know, guidance, and people actually, and people did it for me, you know, in doses, like asking me those questions, you know, letting me know that I also had agency, and I think, for people of color, you know, in the workplace, um, agency is something that, I think I believe that we have to like, build up for ourselves, and then exercise for ourselves. So I think, you know, for me, actually entered into a role, I realized that it wasn't right for me. And so I left after four months. And for me, that was so powerful, because I'm like, it's a blessing that I'm even in a position to do that. You know, that I feel good about it, you know, and that, like, I know, that I'll be able to provide for myself and all these things. And it's interesting, because when I talk to older folks, especially older, black people, they're like, when are you gonna get a job? Or what do you mean entrepreneur? Like, where's the check coming from? You know, I get it. Sometimes I asked, where's the check coming from so like, I understand it, but nothing for me will top me saying, you know what, this is not for me, and I'm going to make a decision that will set me up to feel good, and to be able to really be in my fullness. And my greatest hope is that black people and black men, specifically for what I'm doing, but really all of us can enter into spaces and exit and enter in them seamlessly, and be able to still feel that way, and be able to maintain that.

Chris Pitre
And I think that that's always been I always say I used to say always, but I'm trying to say that it's always But typically, when you tell, or if you were to told me, you know, early in my career that I had the agency to do what I wanted, right, like I would have been like, I don't think you get that like..

Victor Scotti
Where?

Chris Pitre
right, right, right. And then eventually, I got to a place where it's like, oh, I'm actually, you know, a luxury here, I'm not a commodity. And, you know, I started rejecting offers of people to mentor me, because I'm, like, I've seen the way you operate, there's nothing that I want, I wish to learn about you or from you. Because the way you treat XYZ, like I'm not about to sign up for that. I'm not going to take that into my realm going forward. And that offends people when they're like when you decline their generous offer, right? Yeah. But I have an agency to know who I, I can choose my mentors. I'm not desperate. And I'm not hard up, right? Because after a certain time in your career, you've built enough connection with real humans and all different places, all different walks of life. And that can honestly be a very freeing thing. But for many folks that are coming in, especially black men and women who are coming into the workforce, that never crosses their mind as to what are my non-negotiables? Also, who won't I accept help from? Right, like, who isn't right for me? Who is going to teach me things the wrong way? Right? Because everybody that smiles in your face is not your friend. And that sounds really negative. But you know, when you have when you've had enough experiences life experience, she starts to like, you say, you read the energy in the room? Yeah. Yeah. This, this probably isn't gonna bode well for me.

Victor Scotti
Right. Right.

Chris Pitre
So I'm gonna exit out and I'll find a nice way to say no, but...

Victor Scotti
And I think what's important to me like everything that you say, yes. And what was coming up for me, as you were speaking was at least and I'll speak for myself. I used to, like if I was 10 years younger, so the Victor 10 years ago, and I'm listening to what you're saying. My question, it would be like, well, how do I get to that point? Like, what does it actually take? Like, when did you begin to understand that, like, how did you how did you say like, oh, you know, Tom, who's trying to mentor me actually, no. Like, I know that I just my mind has always worked that way, like, well, how do you do these things? And so what I want people to kind of hear what I would offer, and this is what moving mountains is doing is, hey, not only are we going to have these conversations about these topics, which is helpful, but also therapy, coaching, really diving into what does like black masculinity mean to you? Because I think the society also gives us like, you can either be this or you could be that and I think that is something unique to you know, black men. And so what does it mean to actually be outside of those boxes, like who am I? And so there really are resources and facilitated processes, you know, to help, you know, us come to like to say like, Oh, I, I'm exhibiting agency, or when you talk about something like self efficacy, right? So we can also break these things down. And I think like, younger Victor, I didn't really have, again, that bridge or that connection point. And so it just seemed like something lost be like, well, maybe I don't have access to that. Or like, maybe my experience isn't lending itself for me to be able to think that way. But that's not true. Right. And so they're like, real resources, um, you know, to be able to, you know, to help us think about these things, and, you know, and to help us really grow into the fullness of ourselves, which I think is the best thing that we can do.

Chris Pitre
For sure.

Jeff Ma
I think I just have so much appreciation for just being able to just sit in on this conversation.

Frank Danna
Yeah.

Jeff Ma
And talk about these things. Because, you know, I think it it's, it's this very specific focus, you have right Victor black men entering the corporate workspace, but as you've spoken about your experiences, and Chris, you've shared as well, you know, even outside of the topic of race, like there's this reality that when you share these stories, there's this, there's this disconnect, where I'm like, okay, well, you know, being not black, I mean, some of these things you're talking about that you have to worry about that you have to think about some of the struggles, like I felt entitled to a lot of my life, I felt is never popped up as something I need to even worry about. And, you know, understanding that is really powerful for me, and I really have a lot of thinking to do on what that means to be inclusive around me. Because, you know, when, when I and again, I'm trying to expand this not to not to like, like talk outside of topic of just black and race. But you know, this does apply to in my mind is just not, you know, marginalization in general, where, you know, there's always dominant groups at play. Yeah, even even outside of race and gender, you know, just, you know, people, there's just every situation has a dominant group in a non dominant group, and you don't think about the non dominant group till you hear the stories. So you really get to know the people, and you really have a love for one another, to help bring out the truths. Because, you know, I'm a big guy, I'm a relatively tall guy, I don't ever walk through a hall and think about what anybody thinks about me, or how, or how I'm dressed or anything. And that little bit of empathy, and I'm just honing on that one part of your story right now. But that that's something that is so important to like, you know, just think about a little bit to me, and, and hearing that story, and like I say this out loud right now for myself, but also for listeners who are maybe, you know, also hearing these stories, such a powerful, I am encouraging everyone to turn it inward. Again, we talked about introspection earlier, and have some really hard truths with yourself about, you know, the reality of your bias and your your press interlink. I'm trying not to make it a just about race and other things like that. Because it really is this thing, it's a mindset at the end of the day, where we enter situations only knowing our perspective, yeah, these biases get lost in in kind of our own privilege and things like that. And so I just, I want to share that, because I'm going through that, and I appreciate you guys sharing some of that perspective. So I can continue kind of exploring that. And I believe that changing culture is like really at the individual level. I think it's on everybody to really take good, hard looks at themselves.

Victor Scotti
Yeah. And I will also, you know, say I think that one of my, like concerns slash fears of how divided we are. And I guess I'm speaking from like, an American context, is that I think a lot of people think like, so like me sharing my story, or someone like a black person sharing their story. I think a lot of people kind of look at like, what, what is my experience, like in relation to that, like, to their experience, and I think that that speaks to like, just the divisiveness that we're in. So what I will offer is that I think, everyone, because I often get the question of like, if I'm one on one with folks, and people are like, I don't feel like I really have. I'm not really in this conversation. And I'm like, you're absolutely in it, because society has conditioned all of us. And so there are roles that we all play based on all of our identities, right? And so race is like a factor there. But if we want to put it into a, you know, a work context, think of like, you know, maybe you've always been groomed to be a CEO. We can like deconstruct what that means, but maybe it means a certain set of behaviors. Maybe it means is how I treat people or just like, Hey, I know I'm the leader. So I might not be like the CEO right now. But everyone has always told me that, like, I'm going to lead. And so I'm going to act like that from day one, even, you know, in my first job, because I know that that's my reality. Right? So I think what people can do is really interrogate like, what roles am I playing? You know? And are they Am I being conscious about them? Yeah. And when you become more conscious, and really think about the things that you say and do and how you operate, I think that's how we can all tackle this, you know, together. Yeah, so it doesn't have to be in relation, you know, to anybody else's experience.

Chris Pitre
Yeah. And it's just to add on to that I, I'm pretty sure there are some listeners who get really skittish or uncomfortable when these kind of competitions come up, and they just sit and stew or and either shut down, or they are getting angry because they feel like we're pointing a finger at a particular individual or particular group. And that's not the intent of any conversation where we're trying to break down the walls and the barriers. And so the best way that I've heard how to help, sort of get past that feeling that some people might have, where they might feel triggered in whatever way that manifests, is to really think about comfort. And in many organizations, it's not an intended discrimination. It's not an intended marginalization. It's not an intended, you know, microaggression. But it is something where when we talk about the issues that certain people have faced or experienced in the workplace, a lot of times is a byproduct of people trying to maintain comfort and harmony in the space, right? And so, when you are having these conversations, or as you start getting more comfortable having these conversations, that discomfort is a signal for introspection, not too long away. What it is, it's time for you to now start understanding why am I triggered? Why is this offending me? Why am I bothered by someone else's lived experience? Why do I feel guilty? If that is where you're going, right? Like so asking yourself those questions, when you start feeling uncomfortable, is the best sort of way to walk the journey versus feeling that and then saying we need to shut this down, we need to stop this, I don't want to hear anymore. This isn't happening. I don't believe it. Right. So going back to your you know, understanding and receiving truth, but also giving truth, you know, when you start getting into that uncomfortable space, that is the sign that I need to go back and introspect. I must not be fully aware of who I am, what I've been doing, or what others around me are doing that could be hurting or harming others, unintentionally or intentionally. And I I let my silence allow for that evil to happen.

Jeff Ma
It's awesome, man. Well, with that this was this was definitely a really great, really powerful conversation, I'm really appreciative of this opportunity to have had this discussion, I actually, you know, need to make more room, personally, I need to make more room in my life to have these conversations intentionally more often. So actually appreciate this, this opportunity that you know, fell upon me here to do this episode, I really have a deep personal appreciation for Victor your time. Thank you so much for taking the time to have you with us. Frank, thank you for joining and sharing perspectives. Um, yeah. I'm very in my own head right now. So forgive me, as I close this out a lot to think about, I really just really, I think I hope this was as kind of helpful and impactful for others as well. With that being said, I'd like to close the show out and let everybody know that we are releasing episodes every Tuesday of Love as a Business Strategy. And if you enjoyed this, or you have any comments, suggestions, things to add, please let us know at softway.com/LAABS. And we appreciate any reviews and subscriptions you have and tell your friends, because we are really enjoying the content we're starting to put out here and people like Victor that we get to meet. And we'd love to know what you guys like to see. So share the love as a business strategy podcast. And with that, Victor once again, thank you very much. And

Victor Scotti
Thank you.

Jeff Ma
we will see you next week.

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