By Trish Fontanilla
If you’re an avid BOSFilipinos reader, you’ll notice that all of our pieces this month are about really awesome women. While some may see this as a ploy for Women’s History Month, to be honest, it wasn’t planned. How did we find these rad ladies? By using our networks, but also committing to go past them to elevate community voices through content like our blog and programming like our eatup (and upcoming meetup). And while the BF founders do this for fun, I was so excited for this interview with Melissa Obleada, who gets to work on diversity initiatives for a living! Melissa and I connected when she started following BOSFilipinos on Twitter, and I fell down a rabbit hole looking up all the great stuff she does in the community.
Thank you Melissa for taking time to chat with us this month!
Where is your family from?
Melissa: I was born in New York City, and then we moved to the suburbs in New Jersey. My mom is from Santa Maria, just outside of Manila, and my dad is from Lucban, Quezon. I haven’t been to Lucban yet, but Santa Maria has a Dunkin Donuts so it feels like home.
What do you do?
Melissa: I’m the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company located in East Cambridge. I plan events and initiatives for two of our four resource groups – People of Color at HubSpot (POCaH) and the LGBTQ+ Alliance – as well as work to see how we can make our company more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
I see you started out in marketing at Emerson (woohoo Emerson alumni!). What inspired you to get involved in diversity and inclusion?
Melissa: Yes, go Lions! Good question. The gist of it is, as a queer, cancer-surviving daughter of immigrants, I found myself caring more about the state of D&I at our company than I did about my job at that time, which was mainly focused on employer branding.
I was a founding member of our LGBTQ and POC employee resource groups, and was in a unique position. Unlike my colleagues, my role was already focused on employee engagement, and I reported directly to a C-level executive, Katie Burke, who’s a huge advocate for D&I. My access to top leadership and wiggle room in my original role allowed me to spend most of my time focusing on these ERGs (employee resource groups). After about a year of this, I became Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager.
In a predominantly caucasian and male industry, I think I’m able to bring a unique perspective and voice to the conversation. I want to put in the work now to make sure that other folks who are underrepresented or othered can come to this company and not question whether or not they belong. It’s cool to have my personal identity inspire my professional work.
HubSpot seems to be one of the leaders in Boston when it comes to transparency in culture and D&I. What are some things that make HS different, but that other companies can emulate?
Melissa: When it comes to our culture, we think differently than most companies and that’s what sets us apart. A lot of people think a company’s culture (or vibe, feel, secret sauce, etc) is something that just is. But one thing that HubSpot did early on was write down our company values and all the things that make us us. (Shameless plug for culturecode.com.) Having that general framework keeps us from losing sight of what’s important to us as a business.
We have a cute acronym called HEART that we use to describe the things we look for in all of our employees: humble, empathetic, adaptable, remarkable, transparent. We apply HEART to everything we are and do. So in the context of creating an inclusive company, humbleness allows us the space to ask questions and learn from one another, empathy helps us understand one another, adaptability has us making sure we’re making the necessary changes to improve, transparency has led to us publicly posting our diversity data, and remarkability pushes us to not just tackle low-hanging fruit, but make the big changes.
Open and transparent communication in any organization when it comes to new challenges or obstacles ensures that everyone is on the same page, while closed door conversations and secrecy breed paranoia and distrust. Companies should be as honest with employees as they can be about diversity & inclusion efforts, goals, and initiatives.
How long have you been in Boston?
Melissa: I’d been coming to Boston on and off since I was 10, since my oncologist is here and my radiation treatments were also here back in the day. I’ve been in Boston full time since 2010 when I came for school.
What are your favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
- I love the MFA, especially alone. My Emerson ID got me in for free in school, and it might still work.
When it’s nice out, spending time along the Charles on the docks by the Esplanade is the best. Beware of geese, though.
InnerCity Weightlifting is the only reason I’ve kept up with my New Year’s Resolution.
You have to try Manoa in Cambridge. It’s the best poke, and the staff are great.
I heard you run another meetup outside of all the events you organize for work…
Melissa: I organize Queers with Beers at Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville. It’s a very chill space for folks of all identities and orientations to come and hang out. It’s the first-ish Monday of each month. Like us on Facebook!
What's your community superpower?
Melissa: Empathy. I’m good at being able to understand things from other people's’ perspectives. My awareness of my own feelings as well as the spoken and unspoken messages coming from other people is very helpful in the work I do.
On Filipino Food...
What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Melissa: My mom’s lengua (beef tongue or ox tongue). She prepares it in a mushroom sauce, and it’s the best thing in the universe. Also her arroz caldo (Filipino-style rice congee). Perfect on cold days. Or all days, actually.
What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Melissa: Whoops, I can’t cook Filipino food... The best I can do is making my own garlic fried rice (sinangag) with an egg and tocino (Filipino-style cured pork) or Spam from the grocery store. I guess we’d call that tocsilog and spamsilog. I really want to try to make my own pan de sal though. Please, send me your recipes.
We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.