Showing Grace and Supporting the Practice of All Faiths — Alteryx Culture Champions Interview

AllVoices Team
AllVoices Team
December 7, 2021
5 Min Read
Showing Grace and Supporting the Practice of All Faiths — Alteryx Culture Champions Interview

This post is a part of our series, Culture Champions — Spotlighting the actionable advice, tips, tricks and learnings from top ERG leaders who are making a difference in their workplaces and communities.

Meet Christina Whittaker, Sr. Director, Legal Affairs at Alteryx, and Eryn McMorrow, Senior Account Manager of Customer Success at Alteryx. Alteryx is a leading data analytics company that changes the lives of data workers globally.

(Christina) I had previously been a part of an ad hoc prayer group at Alteryx that dissolved over time as folks moved on. It was such a special time with my colleagues on a weekly basis that once ERGs started to form, I knew I wanted to reestablish a time of fellowship and connection with those that were looking for the same. I was connected with Eryn by our HR team, who said she was also interested in starting a faith-based ERG. We share a similar passion and are both Christians, so we connected immediately. We knew that we wanted to extend beyond ourselves, though, and create an interfaith group to be inclusive and help everyone feel free and safe to bring their authentic selves to work. (Eryn) When Alteryx opened the door for employees to start resource groups, I thought of how incredible it would be if there could be a community of people at Alteryx who could openly share their faith and have a space to learn from and celebrate one another. I knew that being a part of a group like this would empower our associates to bring their whole selves to work rather than ‘leave’ parts of themselves at the door. I was connected with Christina, who shared the same passion and the same faith I do, and we hit the ground running. Through multiple iterations, we were able to stand up what is now known as the Interfaith Community ERG at Alteryx.

What is the mission and vision of the Alteryx Interfaith Community ERG?

We spent a lot of time considering the role of this group within Alteryx and how we want to impact our colleagues and culture. Our mission is to create a community that is rooted in the values of our respective faiths, fosters unity and respect through service to others, and acts as a bridge between employees, Alteryx leaders, and the communities in which we operate. Our vision is to promote multi-faith understanding and facilitate individuals’ ability to practice their faith as Alteryx employees.

It is important to us and our group that we have a common understanding of what the Interfaith Community is and is not. In our charter, we state simply that we are here to lift others up. We support the practice of all faiths. We show grace and embrace those who desire to learn more. We rebuke hate. We also state what we are not. We are not divisive. We are not political. We do not allow the diminishing of others or their faiths.

How do you destigmatize talking about faith at work? 

(Christina) The first part of destigmatizing talking about faith is talking about faith. My perception is that people often feel like they will be judged or perceived differently once someone knows that they are Christian or Muslim, or Atheist. To me, leadership is creating spaces for people to be brave and to feel safe practicing that bravery. For example, in interviews with new associates, I talk about my leadership style as servant leadership. I connect it to my faith and my work as an ERG leader. It’s a natural segue and doesn’t make it awkward for anyone. If someone asks me what I’m doing this weekend, I don’t leave out that I go to church or I have Bible study. It’s a part of who I am and allows me to make connections with my colleagues that are more than superficial. 

(Eryn) Faith in the workplace doesn’t have to be taboo. What I’ve discovered is that there are so many Alteryx employees who are not only excited to join our ERG but to be an integral part of building a successful group that creates a safe space for others to openly share their faiths. As our charter states, we show grace and embrace those who desire to learn more. Having a charter in place attracts individuals who want to be a part of our ERG not only for their own benefit, but to empower other employees to do the same. Encouraging and showing grace to one another actively builds our ERG to be a force for good within our organization and local communities. 

Do you need to identify as part of a specific faith or can atheists join the ERG or folks at the company who are curious to learn about faith? 

Interfaith Community is for everyone. Every person is on their own journey and at different places in that journey. Above all, we stress respect, grace, and understanding. Atheists, agnostics, and those who are unsure of their faith are welcome to join in expressing their views and beliefs just as those who follow a specific faith do. We believe this has the power to foster an inclusive and safe space that promotes education and awareness regardless of faith background. 

How do you think about planning employee events that empower employees to feel safe expressing their faith at work and educate other team members but not evangelize folks at Alteryx? 

We are still very early in our event planning and execution, but we have done our best to recognize and promote (using a third-party Diversity Calendar) celebrations that are important to various faiths and religions. We have a cooking demonstration planned with the Jewish Food Society, which is an organization that will simultaneously demonstrate how to prepare latkes while educating us on Jewish culture, traditions, and celebrations. We are also hosting an interfaith holiday trivia event and a giving campaign. When we have our bi-weekly prayer meetings, we open it up for each person (if they are comfortable) to pray in a way that is meaningful and important to them. If we can create understanding, connect people to ideas and build bridges between individuals, it’s hard to stoke and sustain hate or prejudice. 

We discussed the leader guide you’re creating to help leaders (formal and informal) have conversations about faith that impact their team. Tell us a couple examples of what will be in that guide and why it was important to create this. 

(Christina) A leaders' guide is something that was suggested to us by an organization with a well-established interfaith employee resource group. It also resonated with my experience where I had heard from employees in the past that they were feeling conflicted about accepting meetings during their prayer time, awkward about being unable to accept gift baskets because they included alcohol, or disappointed that no catered lunch option was kosher. I believe our leaders want our employees to be successful and simply need more tools available to them to be able to understand what employees may need, create those safe and inclusive spaces, and lead those conversations. 

How does Alteryx Interfaith partner with community organizations outside of the company? 

Service is at the heart of many faiths, religions, and personal mantras. We hope to impact our local communities in 2022 by providing more in-person service opportunities with foster care, homeless, and other marginalized people groups. In 2021, we are offering a virtual giving opportunity through Gift Card Bank to provide funds to families in need during the holiday season. We are also serving as an ally to our Veterans and Service ERG in their Toys for Tots campaign.

How are you celebrated and compensated as an ERG leader at Alteryx? 

Alteryx leadership stands behind the work that the ERGs do. We have a monthly call with our CEO to unearth and discuss key DEI issues, roadblocks, and successes. We also receive a stipend for our leadership during the year, and our ERGs receive a budget for events and other expenses. Lastly, our respective teams support us when we need to invest in making our ERG impactful.

What advice do you have for folks looking to start or lead an ERG within their organization?

Ask and if you don’t get an answer, ask again. When an organization is just beginning its DE&I journey, things can be chaotic. Faith in the workplace has historically been a taboo topic, which can require delicate navigation. It’s important to advocate for what you believe you and your colleagues need and be transparent about what that looks like. Find allies in your HR team and leadership to help you make inroads if you are experiencing resistance or hesitation.

Do you partner with the other ERGs at Alteryx like Alter-Q LGBTQ? If so, what do you think about intersectional partnerships? 

We have partnered with other ERGs this year on panels, including one on Allyship where we joined AlterQ and BIPOC & Friends to discuss allyship in relation to different groups of people and identity. While the ERGs are divided into specific topics, people groups, or ideas, we are all united in our passion for what the ERGs represent. The more we can support one another, the stronger our overall community grows.

What is your call to action for leaders to support the work of ERGs? 

ERGs can be life-giving to employees. The lines that once existed between business and personal lives have been blurred, likely permanently. Companies can no longer ask employees to show up as employees only; they show up as people who work for the business. If employees feel that they need to strip portions of themselves away when they show up to work, companies will likely end up with unhappy employees who may not be as committed as they otherwise could be. A happy, engaged, safe workforce makes for a more successful company. It’s also the right thing to do.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

If you are interested in starting a faith-based ERG (or any ERG, for that matter), reach out to others who have experience doing so and start the conversation. You never know what that connection could mean to you on your journey to starting an ERG. 

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