Why I Belong at Twilio

Why I Belong at Twilio
March 11, 2019
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Imagine all of the different people that might speak to a business, all of the different reasons they might do so, all of the different channels they might use, and all of the different experiences they need to have when they get in touch.

Now imagine building a future of communication that enables businesses to respond to all of those needs, in all of those different moments; to deliver experiences that aren’t just good enough, but are brand-enhancing and loyalty-inducing.

To do so, you need engineering skill and technical ability. But you also need imagination and empathy. You need people who can understand each of your customers and each of your customers’ customers and help every organisation find a way to deliver experiences that make a difference. You need people who can help other people imagine what’s possible, in order to help make it possible.

Well, that’s the feat of imagination that I’ve been getting my head around since I joined Twilio as VP of EMEA Sales 90 days ago. As the former Vice President and General Manager at VMware, it’s tempting to say that this is the first time for a while I’ve understood exactly what business value it is that my business delivers. That’s because Twilio’s offer is simple and compelling for business as well as the IT team. We give software developers the toolkit they need to build magical communications experiences – experiences that involve phone calls, email, text messages, instant messaging chatbots, live chat and video. We are able to make a difference at the most important touchpoints that they have with their customers.

How it needs to feel to build the future

What’s been absolutely fascinating about the last 90 days is realising what an organisation that can deliver those experiences needs to look like. It needs a high-performance team that can scale at a rate to match its growth. For Twilio in EMEA, that’s fast. However, it also requires something equally important: a culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging that attracts the many different perspectives we need to imagine those different possibilities for our customers and our customers’ customers. We need to embrace all kinds of human potential in order to help others fulfil their potential.

That means diversity across many different dimensions: gender diversity, diversity in cultural and ethnic background, diversity in outlook, diversity in ways of thinking.

I’ve spent a lot of my time in management thinking about how to build that kind of culture. I’ve written about the importance of diversity & inclusion and more recently mental health in the workplace, which to me is a critical test of whether you’re really building an inclusive environment that empowers people to be themselves and contribute as themselves. I know how difficult it is to achieve these things – and how frustratingly slow tech companies, in particular, often are when it comes to achieving them.

You hear a lot of phrases: we’re a different place to work, we want people to belong, to be their best selves. They speak to a culture of inclusion – but what do they mean in practice? How do you make sure this doesn’t just stay at the surface? How do you make sure it’s not all talk?

Making sure the experience matches the vision

The last thing a business like ours needs is to promise people a culture that we can’t actually deliver. We need genuine belonging because we need to earn our employees’ loyalty. We don’t want a rapid turnover of people – and so it’s not enough to just get diverse people through the door. We want people who can embody the vision and values of this business throughout its growth. We need teams that are motivated, that stick together and work together for our customers.

That’s why a business like ours has to ask itself questions: do we mean it when we set out a vision for a different kind of tech company? How deep does it really go? Is what we say we’re delivering for our people what we’re actually delivering for our people?

I’ve been here for 90 days and I’m convinced that the answer is yes. I don’t think we’re over-promising on the kind of business we are. We’re not just focusing on looking like we’re open, welcoming and different. We’re inclusive where it matters. We genuinely seek different people and diverse points of view. We invest in one another. We expect people to take responsibility and act like an owner – but we’re determined not to put any restrictions on who rises to that challenge. We know there needs to be a balance between being yourself and having a meaningful career – and we think we’re getting that balance right.

That’s why I belong at Twilio. But the real question isn’t whether I feel like I belong here – it’s whether you feel like you could belong here. We’re going to be hiring a lot of people over the next few months. And we’re determined to get that right.

Think you might belong at Twilio too? Check out our open positions here.

David Parry-Jones is Twilio's Regional Vice President of EMEA Sales based in London. He's currently working on building out a high-performance go to market team with a diverse and inclusive company culture, and supporting Wales Rugby. He can be reached at dpj [@] twilio.com