RALEIGH – Fast-growing software startup Pendo doesn’t just want to talk diversity. It actively wants to make it happen.
That was in full view this Thursday when the company hosted its first Careers and Community Night.
In collaboration with Wake County Economic Development, a program of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the company opened its doors to a broad swath of jobseekers, putting out the call to women and people of color, in particular.
It’s part of the company’s push to increase racial diversity and build a more equitable community in Raleigh, said Leslie Neitzel, Pendo’s VP of People.
“Pendo is growing really fast. We have 25 open jobs at any given time, and we wanted to share these opportunities more widely in Raleigh,” she said. “We believe one way of being inclusive, is by being really open and transparent as a company, and welcoming anyone who walks in our doors.”
In the end, around 150 people took them up on the invite, gathering for drinks, light hor d’oeurves and chitchat in Pendo’s swank new office on the fourteenth floor of the Wells Fargo building on Fayetteville Road. The crowd was still comprised largely men, but there was also a strong showing from women and African Americans.
“I give Pendo a lot of kudos for stepping out on doing something that is new for them,” said Danya Perry, Equitable Economic Development Manager with Wake County Economic Development, who helped get the word out about the event.
“They’re a new company. They’re still growing, but they see this as a priority. They understand that there is a huge return on investment when they invest in diversity.”
Building a winning job culture
It was only five years ago that Pendo started out as a fledgling company hatched right here in Raleigh.
Since then, it has exploded onto the scene with its cloud-based technology that helps business customers improve their software through analytics and feedback. It employs 224 employees, and also has offices in San Francisco, NYC and Israel.
Globally, the company is 66 percent male and 34 percent female. In the U.S., 10 percent of its employees are under-represented minorities.
As far as recruiting people from diverse backgrounds, Neitzel wouldn’t go so far as to say it was hard, but admitted it does require a “conscious effort”.
“That starts by ensuring the company is inclusive to begin with,” she said. “Companies focused on inclusion evaluate every decision through that lens.”
When it came to hosting Thursday night’s event, the company tapped Raleigh HQ and Wake County Economic Development, to help publicize its efforts and make inroads in more underserved and disenfranchised sections of Southeast Raleigh.
Perry said he specifically reached out to people from the area’s historically black colleges, like Shaw University, as well as programs like Digital Connectors and Southeast Raleigh Promise.
“It’s about economic mobility for us,” he said. “We want to make sure that we create bridges with these communities and remove barriers to ensure that they have the same opportunity as everyone else to be able to climb the economic ladder.”
Getting the message
Melvin Tate, 22, from Raleigh, was among the first through the doors.
The recent college graduate from UNC Greensboro is actively looking for employment as a product designer. He had heard about the event through his local Meetup group, and decided to check it out.
“It says a lot about the company that they want to bring in more [diverse] people,” he said, acknowledging that, as a black man, he often feels like the minority at such events.
Still, he’s not letting that hold him back. “Even though there are not a lot of African Americans in the tech space, I’m [here] and I feel like I can be an inspiration to someone else that may want to break into it.”
Around the corner, Erin Song, 40, a former first grade teacher, lined up to chat to Pendo representatives. Currently retraining in data science, she’s looking to get a job as an onboarding specialist.
“Diversity in the workplace is crucial,” she said. “In order to solve problems and technical issues, we need different perspectives.”
Jannaee Sick, 36, a bi-racial single mother and freelance developer, also turned up to see scope out the scene and potential job prospects.
“I’m returning back after having a child. A lot of times people take a look at my resume and see that time gap and say, ‘we’re going to move on because you’re a risk.’ It’s been difficult, but I’ve been growing.”
Before attending, she hadn’t heard about Pendo’s diversity outreach, but welcomed the news. “Now I’m really excited. It gives me hope and confidence to know that they’re looking for people like me, and they’re willing to give me a chance.”