As part of Pride Month, OpenSesame is celebrating our LGBTQ colleagues. Hear from Tiffany Hudson, Head of Accounts at The Nova Collective and publisher of the D&I Compass, a series of courses focused on building connections to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, on her role as a member of the LGBTQ community in leadership.
Can you describe your background and what drew you to your work?
I’ve been around this work for a long time. Both of my parents were very involved with DEI at their respective companies. I knew growing up that they were working to make the world a better place for folks who are often discriminated against. So I was always around the work, though I never intended to go into it, to be honest. But I ended up here.
I’ve always been passionate about equity and equality – about allowing space for underrepresented voices to shine and be heard. And so I’ve always had a passion for the work, which came through in different ways until my business partners and I started Nova.
When we started Nova, we were all working together at another organization. And while that was a great company, the DEI work that we were doing didn’t align with how we believed it should be done – which led to us starting this business. So I’ve always been subconsciously absorbing the work, and here’s where I’ve landed, 20 years later.
What’s your role as The Nova Collective’s Head of Accounts?
Typically, my team and I are the first point of contact for folks. So when they reach out to us – whether through our website, cold emailing, or through a friend – they’ll connect with someone from my team. From there, we’ll explain who we are and what we stand for, and then we’ll engage in high-level strategy to determine the right solution for their needs.
For example, someone may email us with potential solutions in mind – workshops, learning engagements, setting up a DEI committee – but as we continue to talk with them, we may recommend alternative solutions, based on the information they provide, that are a better fit for their needs. Then, if folks decide to work with us, we connect them with our Client Services team.
In your bio, you state your passion as “helping build brave spaces for underrepresented voices to shine.” Can you give a couple of examples of this in your work?
People often refer to these types of spaces as “safe spaces.” But in reality, you can’t guarantee safety to anyone. That’s why I say they’re brave spaces – because when someone comes into a room, a discussion, or a learning program of uncomfortable topics, a lot of folks are scared to have these conversations. Those who hold dominance and privilege don’t know what to say, or they fear they’ll say the wrong thing.
On the other side, you have the people who’ve been marginalized. They’re thinking, “I’ve been dealing with this for so long. I’m tired of talking about this. And now I have to be vulnerable in front of people who may treat me like sh*t because of my identities.” So I say it’s a brave space because people are being brave when coming into this space and being vulnerable.
I try to use my personal experiences in these conversations. I identify as a Black queer woman – and being Black, being queer, being a woman in America or in the world isn’t easy. I explain how I’ve created my own space; how I’ve created braveness for myself, and what my journey’s been like.
Using personal examples for folks gives them something to connect to. I say to them, “Whatever makes you stand out – that’s your superpower.” So if I’m the only Black person in a room, or the only queer person, or the only woman – that’s something I’m proud of – that I claim that nobody else has. I bring a perspective that others don’t.
As another example, we have many clients who come to us as the only woman in an organization who don’t want to sit through a DEI program with all men. So we’ll create workarounds for that.
Ultimately, I encourage people to understand that their identities make up who they are – and we’re beautiful beings. But this work is ongoing, and it isn’t easy. It takes time; it takes bravery. It takes folks in your corner encouraging you.
What are some examples of how your work with The Nova Collective has had a positive impact on organizations, particularly the LGBTQ community?
We have a retail client, and one of their employees recently transitioned and changed their name. They posted on social media that their organization invested so much in DEI, and this helped them feel comfortable making the transition.
When companies invest in this work and care about it, their people can feel it. We have quite a few clients who go through our learning programs and experience tears – tears of joy; tears of recognition; of learning – of acknowledging that they were doing things that were harmful, and recognizing the need to make a change.
This is what diversity means to us. It’s a lot of work; a lot of difficult conversations. But on the other side of that there’s joy. And sometimes you’ve gotta go through the pain to get to the joy. And when we do this work, we need to ensure that it’s having the right impact.
What would you share with folks who are considering taking your courses here on OpenSesame?
One thing that I’d love for people to know is that our approach isn’t cookie cutter – especially our VR and self-paced elearning. We’re not just throwing definitions at you; we immerse you in scenarios and help you dissect them.
And the courses contain knowledge checks to reflect on your progress. In other words, we don’t see it as a pass-fail – taking our course is a part of your journey. It’s very impactful.
A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce has been shown to improve innovation, productivity, and wellbeing. To learn more about how you can incorporate DEI courses into your organization, book a demo.