In the Name of Pride: How Members of Klaviyo’s LGBTQ+ Community Think About Inclusion in the Workplace

This article is part of a series that helps you see what it’s like to work at Klaviyo and get to know the people who help you grow your business!

June is Pride Month—one which celebrates the equality of the LGBTQ+ community, the progress that’s been made, and the struggles that still persist. In honor of Pride Month, I had the privilege of speaking with several members of Klaviyo’s LGBTQ+ community, including Mike DiCairano, onboarding specialist, Tai Garside, staff accountant, and Joe McCarthy, director of performance marketing. They generously shared their stories and their perspectives on inclusion in the workplace.

Katie Tierney [KT]: Tell me a little about what you do at Klaviyo and why you chose to join the team.

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Mike DiCairano, onboarding specialist at Klaviyo.

Mike DiCairano [MD]: I work on the onboarding team and I was actually one of this team’s founding members. Before I came to Klaviyo, I was doing the same thing in the cybersecurity space, but I found the customers in that space to be very closed off. They didn’t really like building relationships, so when I heard about Klaviyo, I knew I wanted to be part of something monumental and that’s why I joined the team.

I also really love the platform itself, what we do for customers, and how we can be more strategic for them—that’s something I didn’t get to do in my previous roles. Being able to offer strategic guidance like, “I’d recommend using an A/B test here, which will allow you to try different subject lines and help you see which message resonates more effectively with your audience to help you see higher sales,” is really appealing to me.

Tai Garside [TG]: I’m in the accounting department and I deal with the cash receivable, so that’s mostly working with billing. Before I became a full-time team member, I was actually a contractor for six months. Before Klaviyo, I was working for a large public accounting firm and it was an environment where I didn’t feel like I could be me. There was this mentality of, “You’re an auditor now and all are auditors are basically the same.” I didn’t feel like I belonged, so I took some time away and that’s why I accepted the contract position at Klaviyo.

I wanted to make sure I actually loved the next place before I decided to stay. I knew I needed a smaller company that had a smaller department—one where everyone knew each other and worked well together. I didn’t necessarily want to go into a place that’s already been established because I feel like I would’ve had to have to molded myself to fit into that. When I came to Klaviyo, I just fell in love. I was looking for a smaller place where I could grow and now I want to stay here forever!

Joe McCarthy [JM]: I lead Performance Marketing here at Klaviyo, which includes Product Marketing, as well as Segment Marketing, which is a really unique role that not every organization has. Then, also, we have Demand Gen, which is essentially new customer acquisition, and also Inbound Marketing, which is typically SEO and conversion rate optimization. For the last 10 years or so, I’ve always worked in the online space, from an online marketing perspective. Whether I was on the client side directly or I was on the agency side, I’ve always worked with ecommerce brands or travel brands.

At my last company, I actually oversaw a portion of building out their behavioral emails, or as we call them Klaviyo flows. What took months and a full team of developers and creative people and email builders, etc., to build out something that was fairly simplistic took about an hour, give or take, with Klaviyo’s product. That was pretty remarkable to me and that’s why I was instantly sold on Klaviyo. When I saw the role and the different teams that this particular role would work with, it was just a perfect fit.

 

[KT]: Candidates have a lot of choice in today’s job market. How has a diverse and inclusive workplace factored into where you’ve decided to work throughout your career?

[MD]: Yeah, so this has actually been really important. My first job out of college was with a large insurance company—you got lost in the sea of the crowds. People had no idea who you were, you were just a number. They tried to do some things with diversity and inclusion, but for the most part, they failed at it.

When I made the switch to working in technology, I found tech as a whole is very diverse. It’s very inclusive. Tech has been very comfortable to me, so I don’t feel like I’ve ever needed to change who I am. When starting in tech, the person I walked in the door as on day one is the same person I am today. I’m much stronger, I’m sure. But in terms of being comfortable with who I am, I have a very outgoing personality and people know who I am so tech has definitely really been accepting of who I am. Being your authentic self is really important, so it’s important to work in environments where that’s embraced.

[JM]: When I first was out of school and starting my job hunt, I don’t know that I even knew that diversity and inclusion was something to look for or to consider. I think it’s one of those things you learn more about as your career evolves, what’s important to you in a workplace, and what you do and don’t like. Specifically, I would say probably in my first two or three roles, I was not out. So, it had no impact on me, whatsoever. Probably in a subconscious way, maybe it did, but nothing that I sought for.

When I joined a marketing agency here in Boston, I had a really great manager who was really open and that was probably the first time I had ever openly talked about myself in a job. I realized how great it made me feel to do so and how comfortable it made feel to be in an environment like that. You should feel comfortable in your job every day and you should love where you’re going and love the people that you’re working with and feel like you’re supported. And I just felt that when I came to Klaviyo from the moment I interviewed.

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Tai Garside, staff accountant at Klaviyo.

[TG]: I like a workplace that has a lot of individuals, people who are different, and people who are comfortable expressing who they are. When I came to Klaviyo to interview, I watched people walk around and saw all the different clothes people wear. In public accounting, everyone wears the same thing and it’s super boring. You can tell that everyone’s stressed out and they don’t really want to be there. Being here, watching people actually stay after work and play ping pong or watch movies, I used to wonder, “Why would you want to stay after work?” But now I’m like, “I want to stay, too!” Looking at those little things, you realize that individuality is celebrated here. Tech companies are more likely to have a “Come as you are” culture.

 

[KT]: Since you started working professionally, what are some of the things you’ve seen in terms of inclusion that you think companies have done really well?

[MD]: Companies and their employees are starting to march in the Boston Pride Parade or at least they’re discussing marching in the parade, so that’s been pretty good.

One thing that it can turn into, though, if you’re not careful is an advertisement. Big corporations can come across like, “Look, my brand is marching in the gay pride parade, we’re inclusive,” when really they don’t emulate that inclusivity in their culture itself.

What I found in tech, specifically, is that most people don’t care whether you’re gay, straight, white, black… it doesn’t matter. We’re all equal and here to help each other reach our goals so the only thing that matters is that we’re all working hard.

[JM]: I think education is definitely a part of it. Inclusion covers so many different topics and, quite frankly, it’s an evolving landscape of things. One thing Klaviyo does really well is we have our inclusion task force, which hosts monthly events and discussions on all sorts of topics.

For example, one topic was about what it’s like to work when you have children. I don’t have children, so it’s something I don’t intimately understand. It baffles me sometimes to see how hard people work, knowing they then go home and have the equivalent of a second job. Being able to understand that is really interesting. It just gives you a lot of different perspectives and I think it just gives you a little bit of insight into someone else’s life.

Can we ever be in someone’s shoes explicitly? No. But the closer you can be to understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes or at least having some sort of purview into it, is huge. It helps us all be better colleagues and coworkers, and better people in general. Planning events that are outside of people’s comfort zones and inviting people to join them is something we do really well. I think it’s the only way you grow and focusing on growth is probably the best goal coming out of it.

[TG]: One thing I really like at Klaviyo is our By the Numbers meeting every Friday. We go through company metrics each week and each time, someone different from each department comes up to present their portion of the presentation.

It’s also when we introduce new people to the company. Each new Klaviyo shares two truths and a lie about themselves, and we all have to guess which is the lie. It’s a great way to get to know new people and help them to feel like they’re part of the team from the get-go. We get to know who you are and learn about each other. That’s an ice breaker. The people we hire also have very diverse backgrounds—when you meet people or talk to people, you’re not going to find the same person over and over again.

 

[KT]: What stands out to you about Klaviyo’s culture in particular?

[MD]: My last tech company had a very bro-like culture. So when I first started at Klaviyo, I was a little nervous it might turn out to be more of the same. But it’s actually been pretty awesome, nothing like that at all. Something that I love about being here is that I am who I am. People know it, they don’t care.

Growing up gay, there’s always a guard. Whenever you meet someone new you always feel like you have to lie or not ask or if they say, “Who’s your partner?” Just lie, don’t use pronouns, that kind of thing. But here I’ve been my authentic self saying, “Oh yeah, my boyfriend,” and people don’t even flinch. It’s like they don’t even care.

I think something that’s really unique about Klaviyo is we have a very high LGBTQ+ community here and that’s pretty rare, at least for people who are out and comfortable with being so in the workplace. And I think that’s awesome. I think that helps create a culture of people who are just people and you don’t necessarily know or care about who’s gay or straight on the team. That helps with not being judgemental. I think we do a really good job of just being a team and leaving the orientation, race, religion to be what it is. That’s something I really love about Klaviyo.

[TG]: Two things. One, I think we’re doing a good job of hiring more women. Two, I think our culture is very laid back yet very hardworking. You know people are hard at work all the time, but at the same time, we celebrate all of our victories and our wins together. Everything’s very much a team.

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Joe McCarthy, director of performance marketing at Klaviyo.

[JM]: We’re really inclusive. It’s really interesting, and I think it’s a byproduct of how we hire here, but everyone is very open and trusting and willing to help one another. That level of trust and comfort allows us to be more open with one another.

If you look at the marketing team, for example, you’d think we’ve all known each other for far longer than we probably have. Everyone just feels really comfortable around one another. It’s just so interesting how trusting we are of one another, and I mean that both with close coworkers and also those who I maybe don’t know explicitly, but who I’ve had a lot of great conversations with. There’s a level of sincerity there that’s very tangible. I think everyone here just actually cares about people on an individual basis. People care about each other being successful from a work standpoint and comfortable and welcome on a personal level.

 

[KT]: I’m relatively new to Klaviyo and I hear there’s an inclusivity event each month. What are some of your favorite topics that have been covered? What would you like to see discussed at an upcoming event?

[TG]: We had a discussion about pronouns. It was a safe space to learn about everyone’s pronouns and things like what LGBTQ+ actually stands for, what it means, all these things. I liked how everyone was into it. People asked questions and were really interested.

[JM]: One of my favorites was a discussion about communication styles, which is maybe not your typical inclusion topic but it really focused on how you, as an individual work, and how you, as an individual, communicate. It helped you better understand if you’re this type of communicator, it’s best to work with that individual in this capacity. I thought that that was really interesting because it helps to break down barriers.

[MD]: One of the best discussions was the one about sexual harassment. I think it’s really important, especially in today’s climate with #MeToo.

I’d love to see more about women in the workplace. Growing up, my mom was a chief financial officer of a company, so I’m actually very uneducated when it comes to the struggles of women in the workplace. I come from a mentality of, “This is dumb.” I don’t see why women are discriminated against. It doesn’t make sense in my head—what does it matter whether you’re a female or a male? My mom taught us men and women are equal. But after being in the workplace, working at the insurance company specifically, I started seeing how women are definitely treated differently and that’s not right. It’s fundamentally an issue that we need to educate everybody on.

 

[KT]: In the workplace, what’s been a high point for you in terms of inclusion?

[MD]: In my first company, I had a boss who was in her 50s and she wasn’t out. I came into the company not being able to understand why she wasn’t out. And I came in very, not flamboyant, but who I am. Not holding back. And over time, she saw people accepting me and it actually made her feel comfortable enough to come out in the workplace, which is pretty cool. She pulled me into her office and said, “Listen, I need to tell you that I came out because you made me feel comfortable with who I am it the workplace.”

[TG]: Well at a previous company, I didn’t feel comfortable being myself. Actually, after I left, I was told that I was being too gay. I was like, “What?” That was a low point so when I came to Klaviyo, I wasn’t necessarily super open. I talk about it, but I’m not super open about it. I’m glad that some people are though. It makes me happy. I know some team members talk about their own experiences with their significant others and their kids. When I hear someone talk about herself and her wife, their experiences with being married and having kids, that’s so cool to hear.

[JM]: When I was working for an agency, we had our first team event right after I started. My boss, who I have a lot of admiration for, was talking with me. I’d probably been there maybe two weeks and she was asking me just about myself, what I do, all across the board and she asked me if I was seeing anyone. I said, “I am,” which was a fresh relationship to my husband now. And she said, “Oh what’s their name?” Maybe she had an idea that I was gay, but I just remember her being like, “What’s their name?” She just left it open-ended and I remember sharing Rich’s name and she was just super, like, “Oh great! How long have you been dating?” It was such a non-topic to her, but internally, for me, it was a big topic at the time. I built it up to be something in my head and then it was just absolutely nothing. I really appreciated that she did that. At some point, I would’ve said it, but it’s great when there was just this natural opportunity to say it and not make it not a big deal.

 

[KT]: How can companies keep making progress when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace?

[MD]: Continuously educate people on the topics. I don’t understand a lot of stuff within LGBTQ+. Transgender is something that I, and other people, don’t necessarily understand well, but it would be great to help people learn more about it, understand the pronouns of it, and so on.

Women in the workplace is another important one for me as I mentioned. Creating opportunities to continuously learn and educate your people on those different groups of people who might be discriminated against or having trouble with making them feel accepted is so important.

Take time to use press releases or blogs or marching in the Pride Parade, not as a way to advertise your brand, but as a way to genuinely connect with your employees like, “Hey, we want to let you know that in honor of Pride Month, these are the struggles our team members have to deal with and overcome.”

[JM]: There are so many topics out there on inclusivity and its related challenges from all different perspectives. The more companies look at those topics that might, in many cases, be either taboo or really challenging to talk about, the more we bring it into the light. Look for where people might be uncomfortable and jump into it, find the right person who wants to talk about it.

There are so many things that I think can be challenging and scary topics to talk about, but the only way to make people feel more comfortable with them is to actually talk about them and make them see that it’s okay to talk about these things. Even just helping people understand the proper way to talk about something, or what might make an individual who might fall into any particular category comfortable or uncomfortable, is great to put out there. I think most people are willing to tell their stories if they feel comfortable in a safe environment to tell it. So, I think there are opportunities to do more of that.

[TG]: It would be great to see companies have more LGBTQ+ specific events. June is obviously a huge month for that. Even if you just had one event, here or there, that was more geared towards getting the community together to socialize, that would be great.

 

[KT]: June is Pride Month. Tell me a little about what that means to you.

[JM]: As a gay individual, I never actually gravitated towards Pride Month and I think it was probably due to some level of discomfort growing up or being aware of it but not sure I wanted to participate in it. But this year, I went to the Boston Pride Parade for the first time and now having gone to an actual Pride celebration—it’s like Disney, the happiest day on Earth. Everyone’s just so happy and so supportive, and you see so many great things. Now, I wish I’d been way more involved in and had gone to more events over the last few years because it was just crazy to see the level of support that’s out there.

I saw an article this weekend about a guy who went to the parade and he had a t-shirt that said “Free dad hugs.” That is so impactful for people who probably don’t feel support from their families. Seeing the community come together was really powerful, so to me, Pride Month is about support. We’re very lucky to see a supportive community come together. There were so many kids there and they’ll just naturally be brought up with a more inclusive mindset, within more inclusive environments, so that was also really great to see.

[TG]: Pride is about being part of the community, and it’s great to see other people being themselves, enjoying themselves, being open, and being free. I know June isn’t National Coming Out Day, but a lot of people use Pride Month to do just that. For me, it’s more about honesty and openness and acceptance.

[MD]: Pride Month isn’t just about having parties, though I think that’s a great way to celebrate it. It’s really about overcoming all of the struggles our community has experienced. I’ve actually recently started thinking about what Pride really is all about. The first pride parade wasn’t a celebration at all. It was an uprising that happened in response to the Stonewall riots of 1969, which led to the whole notion of Pride being about equality and progress amidst the struggle.

Where people can get lost with Pride is thinking, “I want Pride to be about sex and fun and partying.” What gets lost is the importance of where we came from and the struggles that we’ve had to deal with. Especially right now in today’s political climate, when the country is so polarized, you don’t know where people stand. Making Pride less about partying and more about, “I’m gay. I’m the same as you. I’m proud of who I am,” is really important. If we lose sight of where we came from, that’s when we’ll end up being taken advantage of again.

 

Think a career at Klaviyo is right for you? We’d love to meet you! Learn more about what it’s like to work at Klaviyo and apply on our Careers page.

 

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