Tiffany Allen is Business Program Manager for Diversity & Inclusion at Microsoft Germany. In this article, she shares why her move to Microsoft was a leap of faith and talks about how active listening and making others heard is a key part of creating an inclusive culture at work.
Moving to Microsoft was a risk for me. Just over eighteen months ago, I decided to leave a permanent position in the field of Talent Acquisition and start as an external agency worker in Diversity & Inclusion at Microsoft. Many of my friends and family asked why I had decided to make this move and accept a limited contract for a position in a career field that is not yet established in Germany. For me, there was one clear answer – purpose.
As Program Manager for Diversity & Inclusion at Microsoft Germany, I work to foster an inclusive culture which allows each and every person to be their authentic selves. Our aim is to ensure that our working environment, products and business benefit from the increased innovation, revenue and productivity that diversity can bring.
For me, communication is the key to success. In my role, I work closely with other HR and D&I professionals from across the globe as well as our internal Employee Resource Groups – ERGs for short – and upper management here in Germany. I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to Microsoft’s on-going cultural transformation and actively engage our employees’ different strengths, experiences and perspectives to challenge and stretch the status quo at Microsoft Germany.
The variety of stakeholders and business areas involved in driving Diversity & Inclusion means that every day is different. Some days, I work with local leaders to drive strategic measures to increase diversity within our company. Other days, I partner with our internal Diversity & Inclusion communities to plan initiatives and events supporting Microsoft colleagues as well as external local networks. As part of the local HR team, I also support my colleagues to establish an inclusive infrastructure in everything we do by considering diversity in initiatives around talent acquisition, development, retention and employee satisfaction, for example.
As I took on the role as Program Manager for Diversity & Inclusion last summer, I was not only motivated by the range of responsibilities and topics but also by the culture at Microsoft I had heard about. Authenticity, collaboration, leadership, and passion were words which I had heard often from people working at the company. Shortly after I started working at Microsoft, this perception was confirmed by my first impressions. Microsoft offered me the environment I needed to thrive and find purpose in my work. After just a few weeks, it was clear to me that my risk to take on a new role at a new company had paid off.
Coming into the field of Diversity & Inclusion, I have been able to learn so much about the impact of corporate culture on individuals and vice versa. This is mainly thanks to the insights I have gained from the vast diversity of our colleagues and their unique perspectives. Of everything which I have learnt at Microsoft so far, the most important thing is undoubtedly that the key to success isn’t knowing all the answers; in fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the understanding that we need to include and appreciate everyone’s perspective to make the most informed decisions and create the most innovative solutions.
Active listening and asking questions are central to my work in Diversity & Inclusion. By partnering with our internal Employee Resource Groups, I am able to learn more about the day-to-day experiences of under-represented communities across Microsoft Germany. When starting out in role, I was concerned that I was not an expert in matters concerning the LGBTQ+ community or people with disabilities, for example. Yet when listening and asking questions, I learned that it’s in those moments of curiosity that we show vulnerability and a willingness to learn, and often gain the most important insights.
Unlocking Potential Through Diversity & Inclusion
As I began my position in Diversity & Inclusion, many friends and family members began to question my move: Is this really a field where you can have a career? Isn’t Diversity just a marketing role or Feel Good Management? Do you think you can really make a difference with D&I?
This opened my eyes to how the topic is currently perceived in Germany and beyond. And – although I’d describe myself as a do-gooder at heart, it was clear that I had chosen this job to create a business impact for Microsoft Germany. Thanks to my academic background, I had learnt about the benefits of diversity management such as improved customer relations and insights, higher employee satisfaction, an increased understanding of the external market and positive implications for the development of high-quality products and services. Luckily, Microsoft shares this understanding and has therefore made this a key priority for the whole company. With a programmatic approach to unlocking potential through diversity & inclusion – whether it be through cultural initiatives, networks, development opportunity, empowering customers or engaging in social outreach – I am proud to have been part of the progress which Microsoft Germany has made in recent months. I know that through our continued commitment we will continue to make an impact for our organization and beyond for the years to come.
Thanks to my responsibilities and the collaboration with many colleagues across the country and the globe, I am also developing and growing on a personal level. Since I accepted a permanent position as Diversity & Inclusion lead for Microsoft Germany, I am excited to continue and expand my career in this field and at Microsoft. Having found a job that gives me purpose, I am keen to do my upmost to create an environment in which everyone at Microsoft Germany can thrive.