Diversity is About All of Us

By Andrea King-Smith, Senior Strategic CSM & Customer Engagement Lead, Carbyne

diversity is about all of us

I first visited the Orleans Parish Communications District in October 2017. That’s when I met their fearless leader, Executive Director Tyrell Morris, MBA CPE. I knew from that first encounter he was a strong, innovative leader and I wanted to stay connected. In December 2019, I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Communications Executive Leadership Academy hosted by Director Morris at OPCD. It was during that week I had many personal and professional breakthroughs. That week I set my intentions and made a goal to have professional growth within two years. I didn’t know where I would be, but I knew I wanted to ascend. Exactly two years later, I left the 9-1-1 center I grew up in for an opportunity to join Carbyne who was busy disrupting the industry! It was serendipitous that the universe saw fit for OPCD to be my first official customer, and I got to be part of the elite team that, under Director Morris’ leadership, launched Carbyne APEX at OPCD on June 24, 2022.

My time being a friend of OPCD showed me a lot of things that I didn’t get to see on a regular basis. It showed me that there was a place in leadership for people that looked like me. It showed me that when diverse voices are represented, perspective can be gained. It also showed me that bold changes could, in fact, be made in 9-1-1 to celebrate our differences…and to push the industry forward. It was serendipity again that would put me on the stage of the 2022 NENA National Conference, standing next to Director Morris and Valley Com 9-1-1 Executive Director Lora Ueland, while I delivered a keynote Spark Speech about diversity in 9- 1-1. Sharing this speech took me on a journey through my experience in this industry. It was an honor to share my truth and my hope for the future of 9-1-1 with the NENA membership, and I’m excited to share it with you readers now:

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“Diversity. It’s a noun. It’s the practice of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds. Sounds simple, right? Sounds like something that naturally happens. But unfortunately, the last few years have polarized the fact that most often the opposite actually happens, even if not intentional.

For nearly 15 years I proudly wore a headset and served side by side with my sisters and brothers in gold. I strived to be the best dispatcher I could be and worked hard for each step I took and each promotion I received. When I made it to a leadership role, a heavy truth hit me: there was nobody else on the leadership team that looked like me. Twenty supervisors, four managers, and a director, and I was the only Black female. I said it was a heavy truth. For some, it was an uncomfortable truth. But I internalized it as my truth and problem that I needed to fix. I joined recruitment councils and intentionally signed up for recruiting fairs in predominantly Black neighborhoods. I developed mentoring programs and interview prep sessions just hoping the one or two newly hired black employees would come. It was a slow process that rarely yielded results, but I knew the responsibility was mine to bear.

Eventually, after several years of trying but just barely making an impact, I realized that it wasn’t just my responsibility to diversify the leadership at my organization. Diversity is not a problem cast upon any marginalized group to fix. Everybody has a role to play. The reality is, a 9-1-1 center is a full ecosystem. From leadership to the employees on the front line, to the citizens they serve, each component of the 9-1-1 ecosystem should be intentional when it comes to ensuring everybody feels represented.

This begins with recruiting. We should be intentional about where we seek qualified candidates that will add diversity to our centers. It then leads into revamping antiquated, and sometimes discriminatory hiring practices. For example, should a non-offensive tattoo visible on the wrist of a qualified candidate prevent them from being hired? Does bright blue hair truly mean a person won’t be an excellent call taker? Does it honestly require The Crown Act to be passed in your state before you decide it’s not okay to pass on a qualified candidate because her kinky/curly natural hair seems unkempt and unprofessional to you? Because by not divorcing these practices, we miss out on opportunities to create an inclusive environment for our employees to work at and our citizens to benefit from.

Renowned diversity and inclusion expert Dr. Derrick Gay once said that “effective diversity efforts must represent mirrors and windows: a space where ALL people see themselves [mirrors] And connect with others [windows] in ways that support fostering an equitable society.” So let’s talk about mirrors and windows for a moment. I want you all to think about what you see when you look around your 9-1-1 center. Do you see yourself? Do you see lots of mirrors? If so, that’s a good thing! But let’s look a little deeper. How often are you looking in a window? How often are you connecting with someone who is different from you? Look to your leadership. Do you feel represented? Do you see yourself one day being on that leadership team? Leaders, look at your staff. Do they represent the community they serve? Do you foster an environment where differences are embraced and celebrated? If you have any doubt that your center has mirrors AND windows, it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s time to make bold changes. It’s time to be intentional. We all benefit from diversity…from inclusivity. Diversity in the 9-1-1 center is how we gain perspective and understanding. Because diversity is about all of us.”
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Whether you are a caller, a call-taker, dispatcher, police officer, firefighter, or paramedic, Carbyne is committed to serving you regardless of your race, gender, creed, national origin, or age, because every person counts.

Carbyne (Headquartered in New York, NY) is a leading global provider of cloud-native mission- critical contact center solutions. Carbyne is one of the largest rich-data providers for emergency response centers, delivering over 250M data points per year all in a unified platform. Our technologies enable emergency contact centers and select enterprises to connect with callers as well as connected devices via highly secure communication channels without needing to download a consumer app. With a mission to redefine emergency collaboration and connect the dots between people, enterprises and governments, Carbyne provides a unified cloud native solution that provides live actionable data that can lead to more efficient and transparent operations and ultimately save lives. With Carbyne, every person counts.

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