Ubisoft is committed to building a more welcoming and inclusive workplace, and part of that commitment is ensuring that employees eel a sense of belonging. Employee resource groups (ERGs) play a key role in that commitment. These groups, led by employees and supported by Ubisoft, offer a variety of programming that ranges from professional development to community events. One such employee resource group is Black Employees at Ubisoft (B.E.A.U.). Director of Partner Marketing Temi Lane, along with Senior Director of Supply Chain Management Josiane Valverde and Office Manager Felesha Anderson, founded B.E.A.U. in 2020. Lane sat down with us to tell the story of how B.E.A.U. came to be, how it best serves its members, and how the ERG benefits Ubisoft as a whole.
Can you tell us exactly what B.E.A.U. is and how it got started?
Temi Lane: B.E.A.U. stands for Black Employees at Ubisoft and it is a global employee resource group. When I joined Ubisoft in July of 2020, it was right after the racial awakening that happened after George Floyd’s killing and I was looking to make connections with other Black employees. I naively asked around “Hey, where’s the Black ERG? I’d love to join especially as a remote employee,” and realized we didn’t have any.
So on August 26, 2020, I set up an informal listening session with about 12 Black employees that I had met and it was a really raw but transformative discussion where we realized we were experiencing a lot of really heavy things and unsure how to process it at work. Josiane and Felesha joined me to form a US-based connection group soon after. We started meeting twice a month and realized it was a great opportunity for us to come together and talk in a safe space.
Soon after we formed, we started to expand our network globally. I was connected with Leon Winkler in Amsterdam and Kurston Timothy in Toronto who started the Black Game Pros (BGP) mixer at E3 in 2019. BGP is focused on bringing together Black professionals in the gaming industry and has hosted several in person and virtual mixers for Black professionals both inside and outside Ubisoft. We realized there were similarities in what we were doing and we formed the basis for what is now a Global ERG.
You joined Ubisoft in July 2020 and started an ERG one month later. Leading the organization takes significant time and energy and isn’t part of your job description. Why is it something you wanted to do?
TL: I’ve always found it important to build community with the people I work with but sometimes as an underrepresented professional creating a feeling of belonging is difficult, especially in a remote working environment. For me, I’ve spent so much time doing ERG work because I’m passionate about the higher order purpose of the group. B.E.A.U. is not only about building community, it’s also about helping to give a voice to the Black professionals at Ubisoft and driving change. I would love to be able to come into a company like Ubisoft and see more people who look like me and working on this ERG is one way to be the change I want to see.
What sort of programming has B.E.A.U. organized for members, what kind of outreach has there been, and where is that going in the future?
TL: We started with building that affinity and connection with one another; we meet twice a month and we just get together to see what people are going through, how their career is going, or any challenges or hurdles they have in their professional lives. We also try to have fun but we’ve had to get creative with everyone working remotely. We had a live “Coming 2 America” watch party and sent everybody a gift card for their meal. It was amazing to be in a community with each other, have some laughs, and break bread virtually.
When thinking about the programming we’ve done so far, we focus on cultural education and awareness. For Black History Month last year, we brought a diversity consultant, Dr. Ella Washington to do an overview of Black History Month and why D&I is important. We also had a Juneteenth event with Tyree Boyd-Pates, a museum curator and historian to educate the company on the importance of the holiday.
Outside of Ubisoft, we have formed a community partnership with SF Achievers. They are a nonprofit that supports African-American young men in San Francisco Unified School through college scholarships, leadership training and mentoring. We have had several of our ERG members speak about working in the videogame industry to show representation of Black professionals in the industry. We’ve also partnered with allies at Ubisoft via our internal Anti-Racism Marketing Committee to volunteer their time to provide consultation on their website and social media presence.
Holistically speaking, what role do you see ERGs having at a company like Ubisoft? Why are they important things for companies to implement?
TL: From an HR perspective, having ERGs helps build a sense of belonging at a company for underrepresented groups, and building this belonging helps people feel included, which can help with retention. From a marketing perspective, I believe more diverse decision makers at a company lead to more culturally relevant activations. Often times, sub-cultures drive mainstream culture and can help brands remain innovative.
What was Ubisoft’s initial reaction to the founding of the ERG, and what sort of support has the company given you since that time?
TL: I’ve been impressed with how supportive the organization has been of us organically doing our own thing. We were very fortunate that any time there was a question of if we wanted to bring in a speaker or consultant or have resources to do a social event – even though the structures and processes weren’t in place – Ubisoft’s answer was always “whatever you need.” Now, with the emergence of a formal structure and organization, we hope that more of the structural changes can be tackled by the D&I professionals that are joining the company. I’ve continued to see nothing but strong support from professionals on the D&I team, as well as from the broader Ubisoft group.
What motivates you when you’re coming up with programming or resources?
TL: Seeing Black people win. Period. I don’t do this work just to benefit Ubisoft’s Diversity & Inclusion goals but to celebrate every time one of our members gets a promotion or press coverage for their work! Also, as a marketer at heart, I’m always curious about how to engage our members and find resources that benefit their growth. It’s been challenging and fun to do that insight work to understand the value proposition of B.E.A.U. to our members and come up with programming that suits their wants and needs.
Now that you’re a year and a half into this process, is there any advice you would give to someone out there at another company who’s looking to start a Black employee resource group?
TL: Definitely. It’s not something that can be done alone, so find other Black colleagues or professionals that can roll up their sleeves to get involved. It is a lot of additional work outside of the day-to-day, so it’s even more important to have that support and the resources to do that. It is also important to have strong executive sponsors – folks in leadership positions with influence who can help drive visibility and exposure to your group, and hopefully break down barriers. For example, before B.E.A.U. even officially formed, there were tough emotions people were having around the George Floyd killing and not knowing how that was going to be addressed at Ubisoft. We shared that with the leader of an internal group, the Anti-Racism Marketing Committee, [Michael] Beadle, and he jumped into action. Beadle was our executive advocate who helped us to connect with Yves, who made sure we had access to more resources moving forward. Those are the types of allies that are really important to any of this work, so we really love and appreciate the allies that we have.
What are your long-term goals for B.E.A.U.?
TL: Right now, we have chapters in the U.S., France and Montreal and we hope to continue to expand to more chapters globally. Today we have a global call once a month to connect across different locations, and it’s been great to learn about our cultural similarities and differences. We are working on a unified logo, a website, and a shared mission and value statement across our group.
Another big goal for our ERG is to improve representation of Black employees working in both the publishing and studio teams. We want to continue working with HR and business leaders to find ways to recruit, retain and promote Black talent at all levels, especially in leadership roles. Ultimately, if our mission is to enrich player’s lives then what better way to do that than to create a workplace that reflects the cultural diversity of our player base?
Be sure to check back into Inside Ubisoft for more ERG Spotlights in the future.