🎙️ Podcast

Watch the 2020 summit videos

In today’s episode, Allie sits down with Tracy Levesque, Co-President and Co-Founder at Yikes Inc. – the team that builds smart, effective, creative web solutions for businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Allie and Tracy talk about diversity and inclusion within the company, finding the best pool of talents, the effects of name biases, and prioritizing diversity when hiring people.

Tune in and learn running a diverse agency!

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:50 Welcome Tracy Levesque of Yikes Inc.
  • 01:34 What is Yikes Inc?
  • 04:01 What’s unique about an agency?
  • 07:01 How do you prioritize diversity when hiring?
  • 11:49 The best place to find a good pool of hires
  • 14:27 What exactly is a pipeline problem?
  • 16:50 If you need to network, go out and meet people
  • 19:05 Men and women co-working in the WordPress space
  • 21:06 Challenges in connecting with diverse talent during the pandemic
  • 22:20 What is name bias?
  • 29:02 Diversity and inclusion
  • 41:11 Running a business during a pandemic
  • 45:03 Things to focus on to prove you are qualified

Episode Resources

Podcast Transcript:

Allie Nimmons: [00:00:00] Hi, this is Allie Nimmons, the community manager here at WP buffs. What you’re about to hear is an AMA that I held with Tracy Levesque . She co runs yikes, Inc. A WordPress agency in Philadelphia, PA. And she’s a master at framing talking about an acting on. Building diverse teams. So we chat about prioritizing diversity in hiring without tokenizing people, which can be very difficult.

We talk about how to find talent during a pandemic and how to support a team of diverse people within the agency on an ongoing basis. So I really hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. And if you do, please hop on over to our YouTube channel, where we hold weekly AMS, just like this one. Enjoy. Alrighty. So this week answering questions about starting a diverse agency is my friend Tracy Levesque. Welcome, Tracy.

Tracy Levesque: [00:00:58] Hi.

Allie Nimmons: [00:01:00] Tell us a little bit before we dive into these questions, tell us a little bit about what it is that you do a little bit about your agency, all of that kind of fun stuff.

Tracy Levesque: [00:01:09] Sure. Am Tracy Levesque. And I, co-own an agency called dykes in the lovely Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. And I co-own it with my wife. We started it back in the nineties. But we pivoted to doing WordPress only in about 2010 ish, 2013 ish time with time anymore. I don’t even know. Back in the day we started the agency with a third.

Partner another woman, but then after five years, she left to do massage therapy or something. My wife and I own it now, and we are certified women owned a company and a certified LGBT bee business enterprise. So we have two official certifications. In addition to that, we’re also a B corporation. And would it be corporation is it’s like a. Certification process for sustainability for a company. So if you think of lead certification for a building where, okay, you did X, Y, and Z. You gained all these points and now your building is certified as sustainable. It’s the same kind of thing for a business.

So they take a look at it’s a really rigorous. Process. It’s not easy to get B Corp certification. And it’s another, it’s a point system. And so if you make a certain number of points, then you’re certified. And in addition to, and also the, I guess the main philosophy of B Corp certification of sustainable businesses that the triple bottom line, which is people, planet profit, instead of just profit.

So from everything too, we have solar panels on the roof too. We have really liberal flex time and vacation time and benefits. And we also have like green cleaning products in our office, things like that. And in addition to that, the first thing we are is we’re a benefit corporation, which is a legal corporate entity in Pennsylvania. So it has to be written into your corporate bylaws, sustainability. And we were one of the very first Pennsylvania corporations to do that in a big, fun ceremony that so cool. Yeah. From the outset of the three of us starting this company, we’ve always had sustainability in mind and community and wanting to, a mission of doing good.

Allie Nimmons: [00:03:24] So cool. And yeah, congratulations retroactively on all of those things that you have worked to accomplish and. Done all those steps completed all those steps to get those certifications. That’s incredible.

Tracy Levesque: [00:03:33] Thank you.

Allie Nimmons: [00:03:34] So we are going to go ahead and dive into the very first question. Oh, you have two people watching Amy and Cammie. Alrighty. The first question that we have for you, what is the difference between starting an agency and starting like a business or a company what’s unique about an agency and was there any, maybe processes that are different. That just starting a regular business.

Tracy Levesque: [00:03:57] When I think agency, especially in the WordPress space and the web dev space, I imagine that you build websites for organizations versus like the product space where it’s I build plugins. Or, and sell them, or I have a service, like a WordPress monitoring service, like you’re selling a service for a set price, or I’m a hosting company, I’m like providing like a service and you’re paying for that. Or I’m selling a plugin or I’m selling software or whatever it is an agency. You have clients that you go through a discovery process with them. You have a design process and you create a a custom product for them. Does that make sense?

Allie Nimmons: [00:04:42] Yeah, that totally makes sense. I even, and this might not be necessarily correct, but I always thought of an agency too, as you have different departments within the, so you have. Maybe a team of designers, a team of developers, SEO people, social media, people, and a client could build, a Alec Hart pick the services that they need for their business.

Whereas a regular business or a, not an agency is like. Here’s what we sell. Do you want it or not know? Cool. Okay. So maybe that was probably a good question to start off on is what are we actually thinking of when we’re thinking of the agency that you built? It’s not just a business, it’s specifically an agency.

Tracy Levesque: [00:05:17] And we also have plugins though. We do sell plugins as well, but that’s a very small percentage of our overall business.

Allie Nimmons: [00:05:23] I didn’t know that. What are the plugins that you sell? What do they do?

Tracy Levesque: [00:05:27] We have to plug plugin, our two most popular plugins. One is a MailChimp plugin and the other one is a WooCommerce plugin. And each one of those plugins has over a hundred thousand active installs. I like very another, talking about diversity, a lot of agencies in the WordPress space and businesses. No, there isn’t a ton of diversity. So another. Thing that I’m proud of is that as a women and queer owned agency we have, two plugins that are in the top, like within the top 19 pages of the most popular plugins, pages, if you browse through them, which I do obsessive early all the time. So we have free versions of those and the WooCommerce one has a pro version. So it’s just the Frida pro and the MailChimp one has add ons.

Allie Nimmons: [00:06:15] Question number two. So this is we’re diving right now into the diversity portion of this topic. And this is a question that I’ve heard a bunch of Gillian times, and I’m always really interested in hearing how other people answer it. How do you prioritize diversity when you’re hiring for your agency without tokenizing people? So without just saying you are queer, I’m going to hire you, or you’re a woman I’m going to hire you, but still prioritizing the fact that you want those sorts of that sort of amalgam of different kinds of people.

Tracy Levesque: [00:06:48] I think the concept of a diversity hire is a myth. I think it’s something that is used to prevent people from. Seeing the real value of diversity because that’s the tokenization, thinking, Oh, I need a diversity hire for the optics or, this the concept of diversity hire in general, because if your company is all the same type of person, you are at a disadvantage.

From a diverse company. Cause research proves that diversity is good for profit is good for productivity and problem solving. So if you have all the same kind of PR person at your agency, you’re not doing as well as you can. So the thought of, Oh, I’m just going to hire this person just because they’re X, Y, and Z is false because you’re hiring to make your company better to build a better team.

So the mindset that for some reason, and this is what really, I think what people need to wrap their heads around most the mindset that the most valued person you can hire is a CIS white guy. Whereas everyone else there’s some question as to their merit, right? It’s like everyone else is judged on a different scale. Then what is seen as, the guide with guy with the beard and the glasses to be the most valuable developer, that’s where it’s wrong. So you have to get that diversity hire thing out of your head, and you have to hire on merit because we do not. Meritocracy is an absolute myth.

Allie Nimmons: [00:08:27] So the followup question that I would always get to this and I’ll pose it to you say hypothetically, right? You are hiring for one position and you have that, that straight CIS white guy applying, and you have. A clear African-American disabled woman just to throw all those boxes and check all those boxes off. And they have the same exact or very comfortable background, very comparable skill set. And it’s down to these two. How do you approach that.

Tracy Levesque: [00:08:58] The person who brings more diversity to your organization brings more value? That’s it’s if this, if the skillset is, Comparable, but, hiring the person that looks like everybody else at your company actually hurts your company because it hurts, because all the research shows that diverse teams just to a better job and you can, it only makes your team. More high-performing. So that’s what you have to look at. You have to look at your overall team and the value of having, a wide range of folks on your team.

Allie Nimmons: [00:09:32] Especially like in, in software, in the world where we work, where it’s, it is a lot of problem solving. And so if you have people from different backgrounds coming at one problem with different perspectives, Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:09:44] And, some folks had the life perspective that other folks don’t, so they’re thinking of problems. Yeah. It wouldn’t even occur to other people. And that’s how you run into problems. When you have a homogenous team of folks making a product, that’s supposed to be used by everyone in the world, but there are, they don’t look, the team who made it does not reflect reality. Then you run into all kinds of problems. It’s, historically happened over and over again, like the the air blowers, don’t recognize like different the skin pigmentations things like that. It’s you’re setting yourself up for failure with a homogenous team folks.

Allie Nimmons: [00:10:17] Yeah. I think that every time we get something where. A company releases something and it has a name that maybe means something to a particular sub culture. And it’s did you not have any of this type of person on your team to say, Hey, that’s something really inappropriate, maybe, and it’s funny. Yeah, it’s funny when you think about it, but if you think about it a little too hard, it’s that’s actually really depressing because it’s just completely happened in a vacuum and you had nobody to catch that. So yeah, that makes total sense. It’s definitely something people should keep in mind. So question number three when hiring or recruiting or looking for people to join your team, where do you go? Where do you recruit from, in order to find a good pool of people to pick from.

Tracy Levesque: [00:11:02] To me hiring is you’re always hiring like in life, moving your way through life, your networks events. Folks, you stumble upon someone who reaches out to you randomly like here. And they’re like, you’re always hiring. I’m always filing connections away in my mind. And some of the best hires or folks that I’ve reached out to later at a later date who expressed interest in us or what we do, or, somehow our company clicked with them in some way. But. I would say the way not to do it is the same old ways that we always do it. So you make a you put a call out on Twitter or you put out your, your job page on your website and think that people are just going to come to you and then wonder where, I’d hire women. If there were any, if any applied, so for me, it’s like networking and making real sincere.

Connections with folks and putting yourself in situations where you’re just around a wide diverse group of folks. So like here in Philadelphia, we have different organizations that have like diverse tech of different kinds. We started a group called tech in color years ago. And we’ve had it like Philly tech week is An event that happens in Philadelphia once a year.

It didn’t, it was virtual this year. So it was a little, not the same thing, but that organization, we put on different events. Like we had speed mentoring. We had we had, one of our last event was dedicated to accessibility. And just, if you don’t see the groups that you the groups available in your area, make one, create one, and it’s just so beneficial to everybody. Cause you network, you get to know other diverse folks in the tech industry, in your area. Then you also just get to make friends and you make more connections. And that’s where. You have this, people think there is a pipeline problem. I refuse to believe there’s a pipeline problem. We would make up 51% of the population.

Allie Nimmons: [00:13:03] Describe really quickly for me, just in case there’s anybody watching who, when they hear that, the pipeline problem, what exactly does that is that thought process? What does that mean? When people say that there’s a pipeline problem?

Tracy Levesque: [00:13:16] People think that there aren’t any diverse candidates out there. They think that there are not enough qualified people from marginalized communities that they could hire for XYZ position. And I refuse to believe that because, if you put women and all marginalized folks altogether where the majority of the population, I refuse to believe that, th the folks aren’t out there, I think that we’re just led to believe that other folks are more valuable.

And they’re the default. For a developer. So yeah, you have to work. Harder, but in a way it’s not like really working hardest. You just need to expand your networks. Cause we’re, especially in the WordPress community. I love the WordPress community. Don’t get me wrong, but we are like very narrowly focused and exp it just expanding that world and also getting more people involved, that’s how you find folks because.

People may not, we think that the WordPress community is all interconnected and we’re all on Twitter together. And we know who we all are, but there are a lot of people who work on WordPress, who work are not part of the community. They just don’t know that it exists. They’ve never been to a word camp. They aren’t on Twitter at all. But they’re doing their thing and they’re talented and can be like, and can have the skills and what it takes to be an amazing WordPress developer, but they just don’t have opportunities.

Allie Nimmons: [00:14:39] So I would, I what I’m hearing and what I believe is, one of the first steps you have to take is consciously stepping outside of your own sort of. Network and sphere of influence and the people that you hang out with all the time. And because that’s still common. I feel like if people just hire their friends, it’s Oh, I know your experience. I know your background and your skills come work with me or come work for me or come join this thing.

And that’s how we end up with Denise, just like ever cycling. Yes. Environments of the same sorts of people. So yeah, to that, to answer that question, I feel like the first thing is go outside. Go out into other places, which for some people can be scary, but it’s if you’re gonna, you’re going to network and hire. You got to take that step out into the world and meet people.

Tracy Levesque: [00:15:26] I think a lot of people are scared to be, in to go to an event with people who are not like them. And we all have opportunities to do this. Even though if you’re used to being the only whatever in any kind of crowd, like I’m usually the only biracial lesbian in like many, worlds I navigate.

But think of what ways in which you’re. You’re in other ways that you’re the majority. So let’s say you went to an event that was, like a open captioned movie where you were one of the only hearing folks there, like in a, with around deaf and hard of hearing folks, it’s there are other ways in which you can be the minority in ways that.

You’re usually the majority and it’s not just, and not just there to be to, I dunno to say that you’ve done it, but to actually make some SERE, real connections with people and there. Are environments where this encouraged like diverse chambers of commerce right here in Philly, we have African-American Asian Latin X chambers of commerce and LGBT as well.

People want to meet people who they want to do business with. You are welcome to come to these networking events. People won’t think like you don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be here. They want you to come. They want to make business connections. Other networking events like that are also like, safe spaces where you can be the minority and you can, have a bigger network circle. And it’s not like a people collector and a people collector kind of way, but in a sincere makes sincere connections with folks and find ways where you can both help each other.

Allie Nimmons: [00:17:03] So that’s another question that I’ve gotten before as a follow-up to the same one is, I’ve had men say, if there’s an all women’s event, all women’s tech event or something, I feel like I can’t go. I feel like I’m not welcome. I feel like I’m, I don’t want to take up space where, women should be able to, XYZ, which I can appreciate from an objective standpoint. Do you believe that mindset is. Incorrect. Does it maybe depend on the event and on the circumstance?

Tracy Levesque: [00:17:32] I think it absolutely depends. Like definitely if it’s a supportive. Situation where, you’re there to support one another and I guess, have the space, so complaints, complain and, support each other. But if you’re having an open yeah. Like maybe it’s a talk or a workshop or something else that is publicly advertised.

If you were to have an event that was part of a bigger event, like Philly tech week or a, a city-wide like tech. Festival or something. Yeah. Then I think it’s okay to go to an event like that, where it’s being promoted, where they want to have attendees, where they want people to come.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:12] That makes total sense. We have a couple more people saying hi in the chat Emmanuel, Joseph says, good job, Tracy, way to go. You have somebody named fine show that says, hi mom.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:25] Oh my goodness. That’s my child.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:29] I have a beard. And then I didn’t acknowledge them. And they said, hi mom again, and all the caps. So they really want it. Okay.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:35] Do your homework? Just kidding.

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:38] It’s so awesome that they’re watching you’re grading.

Tracy Levesque: [00:18:41] I don’t even know how they got hold of link

Allie Nimmons: [00:18:44] You have a spy in your midst. Alrighty, let’s get let’s look at question four. Do you think this is a super interesting one? What ways has the pandemic made it easier to find and connect with diverse talent? Have, has there been any challenges that it’s created instead?

Tracy Levesque: [00:19:03] It’s definitely been challenging because I’m a, get out there and network kind of person. Because I wanna I like being out in the world in general. And we just did around, we just hired a couple of folks. And, during the pandemic it has been challenging. But actually one good one resource that has been really helpful is a B Corp has a job. Listed like a job board and the really nice thing about it is that it’s anonymized, which, and then, and named biases, we have to get to at some point, cause named bias is huge. And I think it’s one of the biggest barriers for marginalized folks to get into tech, but that aside, so they have a job board, which has been really awesome and it attracts folks who want to work for B corpse, which is usually a good fit.

Allie Nimmons: [00:19:49] What is a B Corp?

Tracy Levesque: [00:19:52] B Corporation the certification system for sustainable businesses.

Allie Nimmons: [00:19:55] Great. Yeah. You just mentioned a little bit about named bias. Can you touch on that a little bit? What that means, maybe how, if somebody is looking to hire and they don’t want to be influenced by named bias, maybe what they can do or places they can go.

Tracy Levesque: [00:20:09] Sure. So name biases. When people see a person’s name, assume something about them, and then, have all this unconscious bias about the person because of their name. And the research shows that it is absolutely a thing. There was a study done where they took it at ads in the Chicago Tribune. And it was just like job postings. I’m sorry. I had it too much. Caffeine today. They went through the Chicago Tribune and they sent fake resumes to different job listings. All the resumes were identical.

It’s like some had white sounding names and some head African-American sounding names and we can all, we all know what the results were. Fake white candidates with the exact same qualifications were called in for more interviews. And then what they did was they made the the resumes with the African-American sounding names. You’ve been hiring quality. So they made them overqualified for the jobs they’re applying for. Yeah. It only resulted in like 3% more intercourse. Yeah. And they did another study with STEM professors. They sent out a fake resumes. Two STEM professors throughout the United States. And then were asked to rate the, the quality of the candidate.

Would they hire them? What would they, salary? Would they offer them if they hired them? And once again, all the resumes are the same, except half were named John and the other half were named Jennifer got fewer offers, and if she did get an offer, she got like less salary than John. Wow. This is another reason I believe the people are out there, but because of unconscious bias, they don’t even make it past the first round. Yeah. And another thing that I noticed from the B Corp job listings and having gone through the. Experience of just having, done some hiring.

When you look at the job listings, they’re all like, they have a little bar of like how qualified the person is for the job that you posted. And it’s self-assessment. So I had two candidates that I asked, CA we did zoom interviews with when it was a woman and her self-assessment was like in the red. And one was a guy and his self-assessment was like, not all the way green, but up there, the woman was so much more qualified than the guy like different planets. And it really upsets me that marginalized people rate themselves as under-qualified, when they’re probably. Perfectly or even overqualified for a job.

So as a hiring manager, let’s say I’m a hiring manager and all I’m doing is looking at that list. And I’m just, going like reject reject anybody who doesn’t meet a certain threshold. I am missing out on so many talented people because they are self-assessing themselves to low. Meanwhile, somebody mediocre, maybe like I’m the greatest and I’m going to waste my time, interviewing that person. Yeah. So that’s another thing that you have to fight, imposter syndrome. And I think all of this marginalized folks we need to. Ask for what we’re worth. We need to realize like that we are qualified. We are talented just because society like, judges us much more harshly than other folks. We, we are awesome. We’re qualified, we’re talented and we need to demand, you know what we’re worth.

Allie Nimmons: [00:23:33] A hundred percent agree. Amy Letson in the comments as classic story Ebony in the comments, just as I know what that feels like. I totally, yeah. All of that rings true so much. And I feel like a lot of people I’ve met and spoken to in the WordPress community who come from marginalized groups, I feel like everyone has that story of. I’ve done XYZ, I’ve done all of this stuff, but I constantly undercut myself and I constantly doubt myself and I constantly feel like I’m not enough. What do you think? Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:24:05] The sad thing is that employers who are not enlightened in tuned in take advantage of this because they will work harder to keep there. The certain people like on their team they’ll offer them more bonuses, more salaries, do what it takes to keep them and just think that all of them marginalized folks are they’re ha they’re lucky to have a job in the first place. I’m not going to work as hard. And that I find that upsetting as well and completely unfair.

Allie Nimmons: [00:24:32] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s absolutely something that, if you are watching this and you are somebody who is thinking about building an agency or hiring people, those are things you have to keep in mind the idea that you can just compare to people, apples, to apples. Yeah. In a way. But sometimes you do, you might have to look at one person and say, okay, this person is pushing through more barriers. Maybe then this other person, does they have a lower starting point to the race maybe than this other person does? And I think that to me personally, that’s really important of being aware and being in tune without then going too far and deciding to pity that person, or I think that’s where we get this idea of I don’t want to tokenize that person because you’ve already decided you feel badly for that based on what they’re going through. And. It creates this weird cycle. So yeah, all of this is really valuable to, to understand about yourself if you’re a marginalized person, but also about marginalized people. If you are not one,

Tracy Levesque: [00:25:32] I want to try for true meritocracy. I want people hired on skills, hired on qualifications and then rewarded, Like when they do a good job and it’s hard, we all have unconscious bias, all of us, it’s not something to beat ourselves up about, but something to be conscious of and to fight every day.

Allie Nimmons: [00:25:55] Absolutely. So this actually leads into the next question. Question five. What are some ways that you support. Let’s support diversity after hiring. We can talk about that, but I’m also interested in how you support the diverse people on your team. After hiring. So like I remember in just reading and research that I’ve done. I remember coming across an article that RPG notes, not enough to hire a really diverse and awesome team, your culture and the way that people move through the environment that you’ve created for them, whether that’s a remote environment or physical environment. Has to keep all of those things in mind. So at your agency, how do you approach, how do you keep these people in the long-term and make them feel included in everything moving forward after they’ve been hired?

Tracy Levesque: [00:26:43] That’s exactly, it’s the inclusion piece, like you can have diversity, but it’s not going to last, if you don’t also have inclusion. So I always think of inclusion as do I need to alter. Like a part of myself that other people don’t have to. So let’s think of in a gay way, like if I worked at a company and I have my, in my straight coworkers have pictures of their partners on their desk, do I feel comfortable having a picture of my partner, my desk?

If the answer’s no, then there’s a problem. If I have to go into work and not talk about a certain part of my life, where other people don’t have that don’t even think about it, then that’s not inclusive. So those are the things I think about. I, know, I think about that in my position okay how is it for other people? Let’s say, I know what the feeling is like to come, go into a place that’s like mostly straight when something just horrible happened. Like a law just got passed that really knocked the queer community back. And you go somewhere and nobody cares. Oh, everything’s great. And so I think about like, when something awful happens to.

Whatever marginalized community. I don’t want people to think that they have to act like business as usual. And if you need to take personal day, if you want to talk about it, don’t want to talk about it. That is welcome here because it is not fair for. You to have to like, act like business as usual and like nothing happened just because it isn’t affecting the people around you directly.

Allie Nimmons: [00:28:19] If there’s any doubt in your mind to that, that has been proven. I just said it. I was listening to NPR and there was a, this study that basically showed this woman, looked at patent registries from the last 200 years. And she compared, she, did a graph of how many African-American people in the United States.

Filed for patents between I think 1870, 70, and like 1950, every time there was an instance of intense violence against African-Americans in the United States when lynchings went up or when certain register laws were passed, the number of patent registries dropped every time to zero. And then climbed back up again over time. And every time there was a hit to the mental and emotional state of that community, people were less creative. They were more fearful, they felt devalued. And so it was this idea of if my life is not valued, why would my intellectual property be valued and protected? And it had this complete ripple effect into the production of.

New inventions in the country. And it made me think a lot about similar to what you were just saying. If somebody comes in and they are just reeling from this mental, emotional pain or something that just happened at the most selfish level on your end, they’re not going to be productive. They’re not going to be able to. To work, to be creative, to think critically they’re not all here. And so it makes sense, to give them that time to recover, whatever from whatever that might be. Yeah, sorry to derail, but.

Tracy Levesque: [00:30:00] It’s not derailing at all.

Allie Nimmons: [00:30:02] It completely brought me back. Yeah. To that study, which absolutely proved the value in, I mean that study proved a lot of other things as well. Not so great things, but it makes total sense to me.

Tracy Levesque: [00:30:13] No one should be expected to act like it’s business. As usual when something devastated, devastating has happened in their community. But more on inclusion. I actually have some information from a Harvard business review, did a study and found that there are four factors that drive inclusion.

So this here’s a little facts, like in addition to, stuff that we do here, you need inclusive leaders. So you need. People too, in leadership positions who will listen to you receive your feedback, implement your changes when you have a good idea. That sounds great. Let’s do it. If you feel like you’re just there as the diversity hire, if you make someone feel like liver diversity are there, they’re not going to stay, so you need like leadership, that’s going to. And I think this across the board, just like you need to listen to people and know that you don’t know it all and be open to new ideas. And then when somebody has a good idea and then incorporate those ideas and then reward people for new and awesome ideas authenticity, that’s the piece that we were just talking about.

Can you be your authentic self at work? Networking and visibility, making sure that there are there’s mentorship guidance feedback given by senior employees in order to improve job performance and progress. So making sure that mentorship is given equally to everyone ma if someone is given mentorship and like climbing the ladder at work where some people aren’t given as much mentorship that’s no good.

And then a clear career path. So is there a game that needs to be played to get to the top that diverse folks just can’t play? It’s Oh, I need to do these things too in order to progress at my job, but I can’t even do those things. Like some, I dunno, I have to play golf with a boss or something. I’m not making this up, but it’s like, Make sure that everybody has equal opportunity equally listened to. And given, that mentorship.

Allie Nimmons: [00:32:11] I feel like that’s very common at companies where you have that boys’ club where it’s like, all right the boss is going out for drinks and go into a strip club and who wants to come? And, if you’re a woman, you’re probably like, I don’t, some women may be totally into that, but I feel like your general woman probably won’t be. So then all the guys go off. And all the guys get to be in the boss’s ear. And you have this section of people that are not that was, that really happens at video game development companies a lot.

Tracy Levesque: [00:32:36] Interesting.

Allie Nimmons: [00:32:37] Yeah, and it, I think, I believe there’s a direct correlation between that mentality and why living in video games tend to look the way that they do, That’s a whole other.

Tracy Levesque: [00:32:48] You need a guest for that. But yeah, I think also as a business development in terms of owners and, getting new clients, new contracts, there’s also a game there that is. Queer women. I feel sometimes we can’t play that game. I can’t imagine like schmoozing somebody, over whiskey or golf for, like you said, strip club. It’s that’s just not, like it’s not when I’m not willing to do it. And also we’re just not in that world. Like it’s. As women and queer women. So this is why I believe that marginalized people need to start their own businesses. We need to change the way the game is played because I, it’s I’m so tired of this mentality that like, okay these dudes empowered me to somehow become enlightened and then I’ll invite us all to the table.

We need to build our own tables. We need to create the meritocracy, that should exist. And I think the more marginalized folks start their own businesses and mentor each other and bring each other up the federal be. Yeah, absolutely.

Allie Nimmons: [00:33:50] I I can’t tell you when I joined the team at WP Buffs in the spring, I’ve never worked for another black person before, and it was. It’s life-changing it’s game-changing to work for somebody who understands that facet of who I am. It’s not, it doesn’t define me, but it’s a large part of who I am, what I look like. And so working for another person who just inherently gets it, I don’t have to explain myself. I didn’t have to ask for a day off.

I did, but like when I wanted to go to a black lives matter rally, I didn’t have to defend that decision. I just had to say, this is what I’m doing. And he’s go, makes total sense. We seem to have a plant in the comment section Ebony says as a marginalized person working at Tracy’s agency. One thing I have at this workplace that I’ve never had at any other is for her at Mia to consistently ask me, what are your thoughts? Ebony, it’s super nice to feel heard. And I love being in this space. Oh, that is quite quite a case study right there that you got.

Tracy Levesque: [00:34:49] Keep trolling me and been trying to make me cry.

Allie Nimmons: [00:34:52] Like maybe. Excuse why she was a wild one. All right, let’s go into the next question, which…

Tracy Levesque: [00:34:58] I guess I guess just like a little bit on I think one thing I’ve tried to really learn. To do as a boss is stop saying we I’m like, Oh, so we did that for you. We did that for you. Like even, in, in the mundane, most mundane of email conversations. I’m like, Ebony did that thing. Ebony fixed that bug. Jamie did this thing, like Chris did that thing instead of saying we cause you know, people need credit and I don’t want to assume, credit for something that I didn’t personally do. And I think it’s important for people to know that they’re valued and know that this is the person that fixed a problem.

Allie Nimmons: [00:35:36] Yeah, that is a fantastic, actionable tip. If you are, if you, why that straight, CIS white man, and you have a company or an agency, and you have other folks that work with you or work for you. I think that is a fantastic way to S to stand up for them and to support them by, because I’ve worked for CIS white men before, and I’ve had that thing where.

They inadvertently take credit for something I’ve done because it’s their company and it’s not done on purpose. It’s not, he’s not trolling stash and saying, I’m going to screw her over. Yeah. It’s an inadvertent that we sometimes do. And so if you are right now looking for ways to really show up for the people that work with you and give them that, that support that is a very easy thing that you can start doing is.

Naming them giving them their names back when you’re speaking to your clients. Because it sucks when a client just sees that one white male face, and they’re not seeing all of the other people that are doing all of the actual work, that really sucks. So I love that you do that.

Tracy Levesque: [00:36:46] I try.

Allie Nimmons: [00:36:47] So the next question that we have, which came from Amy, do you have any additional reflections on running the business during a pandemic?

Tracy Levesque: [00:36:56] Gosh, just general. We’re a rare WordPress agency in that we have an office that people come to. And I, and that’s also a part of the diversity piece for me because we live in Philadelphia. One of the most diverse cities in the U S and. To think that I would need that I’d have to be only, the only way to go to remote is like it’s preventing me from looking in our own backyard for talent and, I it’s I want to put the work into finding like diverse talent here or, in the surrounding areas. So anyway, that’s an aside thing, but but so that’s been an adjustment. Since we have a office of folks who come into work, I think it’s been hard for all of us to be siloed at home. I know I’m an extrovert and I like, I love coming to work.

I don’t like working from home. It actually, me and I are coming into the office just by ourselves. We’re the only ones I like leaving my house and going to work and then working then coming home and not working. So that’s been challenging of course. Everyone was, is able to work at home for any reason. Or you have a work at home. Work from home day of the week. But honestly for whatever reason, you need to work remotely that, that’s fine with us. So we already had everything set up to do that, but it has been challenging because we also have, varying levels of skill here.

And we really like. For people more senior to train people more junior, and that’s been more challenging, not being in the same room together. Not impossible, of course, but just, I don’t know the ability to communicate with each other and then pair programming, show people like, Oh, this is how you do it. And having to do all this over zoom and then.

Allie Nimmons: [00:38:42] Any teacher right now will tell you, teaching remotely, entirely is very difficult. You learn better when you’re right there and can ask those questions.

Tracy Levesque: [00:38:50] So that’s been a challenge, but I think, we’re surviving and we’ve taken advantage of the time we got the floors redone and we got new like cool desks for everybody. And we’d have the walls repainted. So whenever we are able to open safely again, whenever that will be, we’ll be ready.

Allie Nimmons: [00:39:07] Yeah, I will say it’s kinda nice to see that a lot of our industry is not as affected as other industries. Like I think we should all count ourselves. Very lucky given that we just work in the internet, even though we were set up for this anyway. Yeah.

Tracy Levesque: [00:39:23] I have friends. I have friends who are stylists who you know, people who work in museums, it’s like they are suffering. If people in the restaurant industry, it’s I, I count myself very lucky that I, the type of business that we have can still keep going.

Allie Nimmons: [00:39:38] Yeah, absolutely. I’m really glad to hear that. All right. We have time for one more question. It comes from Emmanuel and he asked. I believe what he’s asking is what can black people outside of the U S do I think he needs to get work in the U S I personally have been feeling unqualified or under-qualified maybe jC. I know that you are not a hiring manager or, things like that may not be specifically your specialty, but I guess maybe we can look at this question as when you are looking at hiring somebody or maybe I guess somebody who is feeling under-qualified when they go to apply for a job, what are the things that they should really focus on too? To prove to themselves and the person looking at that application that they are indeed qualified.

Tracy Levesque: [00:40:26] It’s w I’m me, but when I, when you can get my attention with a really enthusiastic cover letter, I have to say and then and also the qualities that I look for, I’m not looking for the Ninja rockstar developer. I’m looking for somebody who does have a talent. It in, for programming, whatever that may be front end backend, like whatever part of like web development they are focused on and a willingness to learn and like a hunger to learn more. Yeah, those are the things I look for in a person, someone who is, good with communication, someone who is responsive someone who is a good, works well with other folks and is supportive of other folks.

And doesn’t think they know it all. Honestly, those are the qualities I look for in a person I look for like their potential, like where could they go? Like with. The right support and skills, could this person just take off and be an amazing developer. So with us, you. This show is showing that capacity is more important to me than being an out of the box Ninja rock star.

And we do have an apprenticeship program. Right now it’s it’s on pause because of the pandemic, but we it’s a paid program and you could come in with no WordPress skills at all. But if you have a willingness to learn and all those other things that I mentioned, we will mentor you and give you the training necessary to become a WordPress developer. We just want more WordPress developers in the world. And from that apprenticeship program, we have two current full-time employees.

Allie Nimmons: [00:42:04] Nice. I love that. And then you’ll, I hope that touched on and answered your question and gave you a place to look. I know that also I’ve been starting at WP Buffs to assist with the hiring processes, which has been really interesting for me to learn how to do and one of the first things that, that I’ve really been learning to look for and look at is if I want to find out information about you, how easy is it for me to do that?

Like I’ve maybe been recommended to somebody and I’ll go to their social media or their LinkedIn, or either Twitter or, and they have nothing. They don’t say what it is. They do. They don’t have a link to a website. They don’t have any other way for me to get in touch with them. And that’s always, to me, okay there are other people on my list, that I can go look for.

So I’ll go look for those people. And it’s always the people who have, what they do, why they do it, in their Twitter bio. Like those are the people that grabbed my attention because I’m like, you know who you are and you know how to communicate that to other people. So I really like what Tracy said about that willingness.

Willingness to learn, right? You don’t have to know everything you have to be willing to learn. And I think maybe if you’re feeling one thing that’s helped me is when I’m feeling under-qualified. I try to remember the things that I know how to do, the things that I know that I do well, even if it’s just one, two, three things. And then all of the things that I would like to do that I know that I could learn how to do. I feel like if you have those things in mind, the things that I can do really well and the things that I know that I can do really well, that. Prevents you from feeling like you have to make up all of these skills, to be like, yeah, I remember how to start this and that. But it also keeps in mind, like exactly what you were saying, what your potential is. And yeah, I think displaying those things, like you said, good communication, is being able to communicate all that information to somebody who might be looking for you.

Cause you can be standing in front of the perfect person for you. And if you can’t see anything about who they are, then what do you do? Yeah, I hope that together, our combined opinions helped you with that. So we are at the end of our time, unfortunately. So we’re going to go ahead and stop there, but thank you so much to everyone who hung out in the comments with us and who sent us questions. This was the most active comment section in a video yet, which is.

Tracy Levesque: [00:44:17] Cool. Yeah. To see my kid.

Allie Nimmons: [00:44:22] I appreciate it. I definitely yeah. Tracy, thank you so much for sharing your part of your Wednesday afternoon with us. Oh, Jamie says such great information. Thank you, Tracy. And Allie, you are welcome. Thank you for being here with us. Tracy, if people would like to learn more about you, your agency where can they find you? Where can they best get in touch with you?

Tracy Levesque: [00:44:39] Our website is yikesinc.com YIKES Inc. And I forgot to mention that we are one we are a WordPress VIP agency. Which another thing I’m very proud of. Like we are the first and I think still the only certified women owned certified LGBT owned VIP agency in the world. And if you want to check me out on Twitter, my personal account is liljinni, L I L J I N N I.

Allie Nimmons: [00:45:07] Alrighty. So I’ll make sure to add those links to the description. So if you’re watching and you just want the grab those quick links to go find Tracy. You can definitely do that. And before we sign off for real and it’s time to pick our weekly random giveaway winner. So this week our winner is Mario. Congratulations, Mario. I will email you at the email address that you provided for us, that you can go ahead and grab your prize.

And yeah, we will see everyone next week. Make sure you go to a wpbuffs.com/wp-ama-series . Sign up there to get early access to who the next speaker is. And you can submit your questions. First. We do meet every Wednesday here on the WP Buffs, YouTube channel. So if you subscribe to this channel, you’ll get alerted of when our next session is scheduled for. And if you want to find out any more about us, go to  dot com. Find us on social media. That’d be boss. It’s really everything. So that is all folks and have a fantastic rest of your day.

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