Voices of GoTo: In this series we highlight the people that make flexible work, work: our employees! GoTo is a global company with more than 4000 employees around the world, these are their stories.
Anderson Dinga is our Director of Change Operations at GoTo. He makes it easier for people at our company to adjust to our ever changing and evolving way of working. Born in Cameroon, he enjoys a life of travel and the outdoors in Massachusetts with his family. In honor of Black History Month, I sat down with Anderson to talk about his story, his vision for the future, his inspirations and how we can celebrate and recognize Black voices this month, and every day after that.
Anderson, tell me about yourself and your history
The first question people often ask me is: “is Anderson your real first name?” My parents were Christian. Growing up in West Africa, it was not unusual to have an English first name. Both were educated in Cameroon. My mom was a nurse, and my dad was a medical doctor of infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. So, growing up with these two powerful science influences, I gravitated towards technology. My dad taught me math and science at home. After high school, I really wanted to do engineering. It was challenging to find a good engineering college in Cameroon. As luck would have it, my family was already in the process of immigrating to America. So I traveled here after high school and settled in Massachusetts, which is now home for me and my family.
You say your parents were powerful influences for you. Are they what inspired you to get into the tech industry?
They always pushed me to work hard. After college, the ‘dot com’ bubble had happened, and I noticed something interesting in tech. The back-end developers didn’t have the patience for the end user, and the end users couldn’t communicate their needs to developers. If I stayed in IT, I could bridge that gap. I could connect the backend developer who was building the tools with the person who would be using them. It’s that in between that really interested me to pursue a career in IT and now in Change Management.
What are you most proud of?
Personally? I’m most proud of my journey to self-awareness. One of my passions in life is wellness. I believe that if you create a practice where you could have a singular focus, you can do anything. When I think about self-awareness, I ask: what does the whole mean? How do I show up as me 100%? That holistic focus is not something I thought about when I was younger. Most of the focus was on intellectual growth. But now, I can layer on that physical and emotional growth. There is plenty of room to deepen your knowledge of self.
I now value that time for self-love and introspection more than I ever did. That time for self-care more than I ever did. When you give yourself that time and space, you allow yourself to fully reach your potential. We can all spend more time on meditation, self-mastery and education that allows us to show up fully.
In terms of work, I am proud of being here at GoTo, my accomplishments, and my amazing coworkers. To be surrounded by people who make me feel safe, that’s a life goal. Psychological safety is something that we all seek. Finding people who can support me and make me feel like I belong is a warm feeling.
Do you think that if we didn’t have self-care days, you would you go out of your way to do those things? Or do you think self-care days enable this more?
I still would want to do self-care and give back to myself. Now that it has become a habit, it is hard to just stop doing something that I benefit from daily. That said, I understand that a lot of people might not have the same values as I do for self-care, or they may not feel empowered to give themselves that time. Some might need permission or approval. Collectively doing self-care days allows us to come back to work without feeling that pressure of a full mailbox or calendar. I enjoy that part of it and I can see that being a challenge if GoTo wasn’t providing it.
How can we discuss the history of Black people and other underrepresented groups in a way that does not allow their struggles to define them?
We all need to learn from the past. Black History Month gives me a chance to celebrate our origin stories. But the past, where we came from, or how we got here, that should not hold us back. I saw this quote somewhere recently, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.” We have come a very long way together, and sometimes it just starts with acknowledging that. Acknowledging even the smallest of wins. In Change Management, we talk a lot about celebrating the small wins. Success builds on success. Together, we can build a better future.
The me of yesterday is different from the me of today. If I made a mistake yesterday, and I’ve learned from that – why wouldn’t I treat the me of today as a whole new person? When you focus on the future, it’s a whole new world.
How can companies better acknowledge and celebrate the Black community?
I think it comes in three phases.
First, recognize where you are. Awareness. Listen and learn from your employees. Ask questions. Collect feedback. Sometimes we assume we are doing a very good job at it, meanwhile our people have a different expectation. Awareness is an important first step. If you don’t recognize that your black employees need that sense of belonging, then the buck stops there.
The second step is to create space. I’ll give you a real-life example. When George Floyd was murdered, I followed this story in the news for weeks. So many heavy emotions were felt during that period. I kept thinking to myself, “Can I talk about this at work?” I spend most of my days there, it only makes sense to have a space to discuss this. People bring their passion to work, and sometimes they bring their stress. Stress is contagious. And if we are not proactive about it, then the air leaves the room. This could significantly impact your company culture.
BE, our Black Employees resource group, was that safe space for me, Black employees to connect and support each other. So, for employers who are trying to create a sense of belonging, create a space. Group. Email. Or Channel. It can be quite simple to get started. Being empathetic for your employees, means creating that space for people to be seen and heard.
Third, take action. This step is both individual and collective, but I would like to emphasize the individual part. The company could create all the spaces, but it is up to the individual, to me to join that space, to be engaged, to connect with others, to support others and to feel supported. To tell my truth. When individuals change together, change amplifies.
And GoTo did that. Black employees and their allies came together virtually, they all shared their truth. This was powerful and healing.
We can be a beacon for change for the world. Once we start having those conversations internally, then we can make a change externally.
Is this why you decided to become evolved with the Black Employees (BE) employee resource group?
Employee empowerment serves a strategic business need. How? I’ve been here for eight years. When I come to work, I want to feel safe, and I want to feel like there is a community here. I want to talk about African food, I want to share my African music and heritage. I also want to learn about other food and music and heritages.
ERGs (employee resource groups) open amazing conversations around inclusivity. This idea of “culture fit” - throw that out the window. Inclusivity is about culture addition. Sharing my life journey with others has allowed me to create better connections with others. I want that for others too. For the voices that have never been heard or seen, they too can be heard, seen, honored, rewarded, and celebrated.
How would you describe inclusivity?
Inclusivity, to me, says, ‘you can be a part of this community whether you grew up in it or not.’
I’m a foodie. Food is so deep in African culture. If I can’t talk about food with someone, I cannot really connect with them authentically. It’s the simplest thing in life. It’s so funny how those things really connect us.
We need to be authentic to connect. By celebrating me, I celebrate us. I talk about my food because it opens the door for you to share with me something that you eat. Same for music. There are similarities everywhere. That’s true inclusivity. It’s realizing that, yes, there are seven billion people on the planet, but my experience is unique. My uniqueness is what allows me to be connect to the rest of the world.
What advice would you give to a young, Black professional in tech or any industry?
Keep growing. It is not uncommon to see people go to school, get a job, and then stop learning. We must exercise our brains. Growth is important to health and wellness. See, I lost my grandmother last year to Alzheimer’s, a disease of the brain. Discrimination is a huge barrier when it comes to seeking health care. To honor her memory, my goal is to continue to share my knowledge with others on how to live better. Diet. Exercise. Read a book. Travel. Learn something new about yourself, or someone else, or the world. It might just make you that whole person we talked about earlier.
Any parting words for us?
I appreciate this opportunity to speak my truth, show up as my authentic self and tell my story. I hope that it inspires, enriches, or connects someone to their higher purpose. I love to connect with people. Feel free to send me an invite on LinkedIn.
We work where we like, which is why we like where we work. We think you will, too. Interested in joining our team? Look at our opportunities.
In the spirit of celebrating culture, here is Anderson’s GoTo playlist and dish!