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Celebrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to Build a Better Driverless Experience

June 24, 2021 Sarah Ishman, Product Manager, Captain of PRISM Accessibility

For Pride Month we highlight how our LGBTQIA+ team members are helping achieve Motional’s goal to build for everyone.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are ingrained in Motional’s DNA and are essential elements of our Build for Everyone philosophy. We’re working to make driverless vehicles a safe, reliable, and accessible reality – for anyone, anywhere – and this effort begins with a company culture that thrives on fresh ideas and wide-ranging perspectives.

One of the ways Motional promotes collaboration is through volunteer Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) on Slack that foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace while supporting employees who share similar genders, ethnicities, lifestyles, and interests. This month we’re spotlighting PRISM (Pride, Resources, Inclusion, & Support at Motional), the ERG for LGBTQIA+ employees, as its members celebrate Pride Month.

Motion Planning Engineer Nivi Seshadri made the decision to share her transgender identity publicly for the first time during Pride Month 2021, and Motional’s culture of acceptance eased the way. “There are lots of ups and downs, worries, and happy moments of getting to terms with who you are – and for myself going through transition,” says Seshadri.

“The one thing I’ve never questioned is the support of my company and my colleagues,” she adds. Having her coworkers’ backing helped reduce the stress of a life-changing decision, something that’s “not the case for a lot of people,” Seshadri says.

Robotaxis Do Not Discriminate

Motional was a natural fit for Global Learning and Development Specialist Sydney Main, who joined the company to help make a difference by addressing inequalities in the transportation industry. Reducing the wait time for people using paratransit services is one way robotaxis can make a difference, Main believes.

Motional’s mission to provide equal access and mobility for everyone aligns with her vision for driverless vehicles. “Robotaxis do not have the ability to discriminate on who they service,” Main says.

PRISM is vital to Sydney’s experience at Motional, giving her a place to be her authentic self while being recognized and supported as a member of the team. That was especially important given her roots, growing up in small, conservative towns where she was “unable to live my truth.”

At Motional, Main says she’s encouraged to develop unconventional solutions to workplace challenges. She especially likes the Motional Innovation Challenges that inspire team members to develop creative approaches to help shape the future of the company, and she appreciates the company’s strong emphasis on work-life balance.

Round of Applause from Coworkers

Motional’s welcoming culture allowed Global End User Support Manager Kat Brewer to “be myself.” When Brewer announced in June 2019 she was engaged to now-wife Maggie, a round of applause from coworkers underscored that she was part of the team. That acceptance was a sea change from a previous job, where she didn’t feel welcome to affirm her lifestyle among colleagues.

That kind of acceptance has helped Brewer help others – what she’s wired to do as the go-to person for onboarding and tech support at Motional. She gets satisfaction from colleagues’ smiles when she helps them solve a problem.

“You sit down with them for five minutes,” she says, “and are able to help resolve something that was plaguing them for an hour by saying, ‘Click here, here, and here.’” It’s a natural fit for Brewer, who was “always taught to help others.”

This Pride month Brewer is celebrating those who came before, making it possible for LGBTQIA+ employees to live openly among their peers. “I’m celebrating those people who opened the gates for the rest of us,” she says.

Able to Completely Be Myself

Kael Alberghini, a Boston-based Learning & Development Specialist, says, “Early on, I felt comfortable telling my manager I was trans, and he has been nothing but supportive. When I went through the interview process, I appreciated hearing from my future teammates about how this company encourages expression and how they empower their employees from the start to contribute and provide insight,” he adds.

At Motional, Alberghini says he is able “to completely be myself and to feel confident bringing my ideas to the team. I feel more empowered and more capable than I have at other companies. To know that my opinion would be respected and that I could take charge of my work was what committed me to this company. Beyond that, it’s clear that the company is committed to even small acts of support, like including a space for [LGBTQIA+ employees] to share our pronouns on Slack.”

Better Insight into the LGBTQIA+ Community

The Slack ERGs at Motional are open to those who identify with a minority group as well as allies who support them. That appealed to test engineer Arjun Goradia, who joined Motional because the company’s technology fits his vision to alleviate traffic and parking challenges in urban areas.

Goradia is an ally in the PRISM ERG, where he learns about LGBTQIA+ issues and culture to better understand interests important to his fellow employees. To Goradia, allyship offers the chance to “learn if you were a bystander before.” One of the things he enjoys about PRISM is that members encourage each other to watch certain movies and share thoughts on books for better insight into the community.

Goradia feels he also brings his own unique contribution to PRISM. “It’s important to showcase your opinion even though you may not be part of that community,” he says. “Because you’re the gap between those who don’t understand the community and those who do.”

Pride in Our Team Members

Being part of PRISM is about empathy, a trait that’s key to Motional’s build for everyone approach. That means “putting yourself in the user’s shoes” to develop a product or solution around an individual as well as the technology, Goradia says.

“We have to keep in mind that the user is the end goal,” he adds. And that these users come from a multitude of different backgrounds is reflected in Motional’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion – and in the pride we take in all our team members.