Our Black in Tech series features the career path & advice from Black professionals in the tech industry. In this Q&A, Bianca Sullivan - Inclusion, Equity & Belonging Specialist at DraftKings shares her story.
Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child?
I was born and raised in “Title-Town,” also known as Boston, Massachusetts. I learned most of my values from my parents, who migrated to the United States from Jamaica. Growing up, my family and I volunteered with numerous philanthropy organizations to provide resources to impoverished neighborhoods allowing me to serve as a change agent for the Jamaican Diaspora in the Greater Boston area. Besides volunteerism, I was a competitive student-athlete involved in Track & Field, Tennis, Double-Dutch, and Lacrosse. Lacrosse was my favorite sport, and I played from grades 5-12 and played D1 Lacrosse at Howard University.
Where did you go to college? What did you study, and what did you do after graduating?
I went to Howard University, a private HBCU in Washington, DC, and studied Communications. In addition to being a student-athlete on the Women’s Lacrosse Team, I also contributed as a Sports Writer for the student newspaper of Howard University, The Hilltop, to create visibility on women’s sports. My passion for writing, sports, entertainment, and advocacy sparked my interest in Media. As a student, I held numerous internships with professional sports leagues and TV stations. After graduating, I worked for FOX News Channel in New York City and NBC Sports Group in Boston.
Bianca and her Lacrosse teammates at HU
What inspired you to work in Tech, Sports & Entertainment at DraftKings?
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, employees are not only expecting employers to talk the talk on diversity but walk the walk by taking actionable steps to disrupt systemic biases and policies. Tech is the birthplace of innovation, growth, and global advancements, and DraftKings is a leader in this space. DraftKings is deeply committed to achieving and maintaining parity across our worldwide organization.
I look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on the business of sports and inclusion.
What has your career path looked like and the various positions you’ve held before joining DraftKings?
Before joining the team at DraftKings, I held several positions within the media industry. Recently, I worked with NBC Sports Group in Boston, working in Sales and Production closely with The Boston Celtics. Before NBC, I worked at FOX News Channel in New York City in Sales. I held several internships with media companies like The Washington Football Team, ESPN, CBS, NBC, and the U.S German Embassy in college.
Assisting Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman at a Celtics Game
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Inclusion, Equity & Belonging Specialist and some of the advancements DraftKings has made in the IEB space?
The IEB Team at DraftKings aims to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging that makes our employees feel safe, empowered, engaged, championed, and inspired to be the very best. In my role, I am responsible for assisting in advancing diversity across our global work-force, supporting efforts on knowledge sharing, promotion readiness, and career progression opportunities, and cultivating strategic partnerships that align with our Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging strategy.
DraftKings has made considerable strides to become more inclusive such as $1MM annual investment in IEB, increased diverse representation on our Board of Directors, cultivated new partnerships and social justice compact commitments, enhanced gender affirmations benefits and accommodations, and announced International Women’s Day, Juneteenth, and Election Day as company holidays.
What has attributed to your success thus far, and what are some of the obstacles Black professionals overcome along the way?
My perseverance, leaders, and support system have been attributed to my current success. There have been countless moments in my life where I have leaned on someone trustworthy for advice or assistance from professors, coaches, peers, or others, the importance of mentors is undeniable. My mentors have helped guide, direct, and shape my present situation and future opportunities for the better.
The systemic barriers rooted in race and gender bias contribute to the challenges Black professionals experience. Many of us face difficulties securing jobs, fitting into the work culture, and are paid less than our white counterparts. These disparities exist at all levels regardless of education and accolades. According to data collected by Forbes, “only 3.2% of C-suite executives are black, and only four fortune 500 CEOs are black.” The data speaks for itself and shows that racism still exists in the workplace. Black CEOs are all around us if we would just let them grow!
Can you tell us about the affinity groups at DraftKings and how you celebrated Black History Month?
DraftKings has three Business Resource Groups: DK Shades, DK Pride, and DK Women’s, all of which are committed to supporting and providing stewarding leadership and action within these communities that are welcome to employees and allies. Our Business Resource Groups act as strong cultural voices for DK, driving meaningful change and decision-making with our senior executives’ participation that affects our employees’ day-to-day experiences.
For Black History Month, we held several initiatives to celebrate black culture. We kicked off the month with our Buy Black February Challenge, encouraging employees to invest in Black economic empowerment and bridge the racial wealth gap by utilizing our crowdsourced resource catalog to support Black-Owned businesses. Just as voices can effect change, so can the dollar. We also worked with a black-owned organization named TriLuna Wellness to host a workshop on Meditation for Stress Management to provide employees with tips and tricks on navigating in times of uncertainty through journaling, mediation, and breathing exercises. Lastly, we launched our virtual career role-modeling speaker series with our newest Board of Directors to talk about navigating industries, the importance of diversity and mentorship, and the future of DraftKings.
While general awareness of diversity in the tech industry is a step forward, real actions need to be taken to make a lasting change. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what companies or employees can do to step up and make a difference?
Diversity is a fact; equity is a choice, inclusion is an action, and belonging is an outcome. I believe that organizations should amplify ongoing educational opportunities for employees and carve out safe spaces for diverse thought to tackle optimal results. I strongly encourage organizations to consider recruiting at Historically Black Colleges & Universities to find diverse talent for your pipeline effectively and recruit where diversity thrives.