From Software Engineer to VP of Engineering: Leadership in Action at Cheesecake Labs
Caroline Schmitz | Aug 17, 2022
Living in a heteronormative society is really complicated. Sometimes you can’t just stand up for yourself because you need that money, that job, that place to live. According to The Guardian, most companies in Europe and US are relatively open to LGBTQ+ people at their workspaces. However, 34% of the LGBTQ+ in UK are still in the closet.
This behavior is about being afraid to show who they really are and how it keeps these people from sharing great life experiences with others. Well, if that is happening in countries where LGBTQ+ rights are relatively growing, we can imagine how it is in Brazil – one of the countries that most kills LGBTQ+ people. Fortunately, there are people trying to change our reality.
I confess I didn’t know that Cheesecake Labs was so inclusive. I was applying for a brand design internship position when I got there to my first interview. I left the elevator and I found out, right at the door, how Cheesecake Labs announces that they’re all about respect and inclusion.
This already made me feel like I wanted to work there. Omg, I was being accepted at the door, which meant that I had the freedom to be myself at the internship interview.
One of my first challenges to get the job was creating a non-gender character, and back then I was super excited with the idea of working in a place like this. It was literally insane that a place with so much respect exists after everything I’ve heard from my friends about their workspaces – and also things that I’ve experienced myself.
On the first interview, our Talent Acquisition evaluates if we have the cultural fit to be accepted at Cheesecake Labs. To become one of us it’s really important to be respectful and to share our beliefs of being inclusive, so we can share great ideas and experiences among the Cakers. It doesn’t matter who you love or who you are, we want your community spirit and a well-done job!
Well guys, you know, I’m good at what I do. I got the job. After that I got to know about the culture and daily routine. We have an amazing team focused on making inclusion happen.
On the first day as a Caker there is this onboarding process to help you to get to know the team, the place and the culture. You also get assigned on Slack – our main tool for internal communication. And, yes, we have created channels dedicated exclusively to inclusion topics. I’m gonna talk a little about them.
This group is focused on solutions about how we can always get more inclusive. We are always having meetings to discuss how we can improve our workspace and make softer and kinder experiences for all the Cakers. Last meeting we discussed how we should prepare ourselves to assist people with disabilities. Cool, right? This committee is all about enhancing as people and, of course, as a GPTW that we are. Our plan is to keep the committee and to talk about a new subject every meeting.
This is a special cool slice of our cheesecake. Besides of having a group on Slack, the girls gather at least once a month on Fridays and discuss about the issues of being a woman in general. The coolest part of that? The guys are allowed to listen and learn about these issues. This way the girls can help us know how it is to fight like a girl and also build a safe and good space for them.
Last year we had the first Female Week. This week happens on International Women’s Day and everyday we have something to discuss, to think about and to learn about the greatness and the issues of being a woman on our actual political and social moment.
To make sure that besides having a space for discussing these issues we’ll also have women being empowered working on whatever they want, we have an attraction and selection process that aims to reach this public. We usually try to make sure women know they have a safe place at Cheesecake Labs and that they can apply to every position we have open.
Branding is also responsible for making beautiful and engaging arts to share that we are always looking for some awesome girls to our technical or administrative teams.
Once in a while we host community events that are engaged to the cause and the Cakers are always participating on these strategics. Renata, our Talent Acquisition says “Girls, apply for the positions you are interested in, even if you don’t fill all the requirements, you only need to press the apply here button and tell us you are interested, we will make sure we call you to talk and get to know you better!
Cheesecake Labs will also call you whatever your identity feels like. Politics like these inside a company helps the LGBTQ+ to fit in without suffering or having to “explain” their being for anyone.
As a LGBTQ+ guy and also an enthusiastic of safe spaces for every minority, I was pleased to see things like these happening. We had so much trouble fighting our problems and all the companies should hold our hands like Cheesecake is doing.
Also, we have our gender-neutral bathrooms with cool Game Of Thrones signs on the door to make everyone knows – in a geek way – that you can use whatever bathroom you feel comfortable to use, as long as you wash your hands (designed by me, by the way. cof cof). Something that I focused on when I was looking for references was that the art for that signs should have more than an illustration of a man and a woman or a mix of both. My goal was to illustrate something more than that because we don’t have to fit in on a man’s or woman’s illustration only, specially when it comes to gender people having to know that they can be away from the “regular” spectrum that society asks us to put ourselves. So, in one of the signs we have an illustration of Daenerys, Jon Snow and a White Walker to make it fun and away from the box that we imagine when we think about Game of Thrones. Using a Cheesecake Labs language I tried to create this joke about how everyone can use that bathroom.
From a gay guy view, these are all tactics to help oppressed part of our society to grow inside a great and healthy workspace. We still have some companies that use what we call inside the community the “Pink Money” tactics. Pink money is a term used for artists or companies that use the LGBTQ+ cause to show that they are inclusive but, in fact, they don’t stand up for our well-being or our fights for equal rights. Definitely not the case here.
People are really working on diversity and respect around here. Being surrounded by powerful women, LGBTQ people, people of all ethnicity on great positions is really inspiring. Knowing that all these people are here together, holding hands and doing amazing jobs to show how representativeness is important, has been a great opportunity and experience. Of course we have a long way to go from here, our goal is to be a great place to work for ALL. I’m sure we’ll keep our culture to show the rest of the world how our success comes from all kinds of minds.
A young cupcaker trying to bring happiness, better communication and some beautiful aesthetics to this world.