Google’s Head Of Multicultural Strategy for CS in Media, Daraiha Greene, Talks Tech, Entertainment & Natural Hair
ZD: Can you give more insight into how you were able to incorporate STEM storylines into “Miles from Tomorrowland”, “The Powerpuff Girls,” “The Quad,” and “The Fosters”? What is the process of not only pitching the idea but ensuring that it’s accurately executed?
DG: Sure! First, I want to say that it takes a village. I would never in a million years be able to to take credit for these storylines by myself. CS in Media is a team and we’re all extremely fortunate to have brilliant engineers and tech consultants both inside and outside of Google who help us bring these extraordinary and much needed storylines to life. I’ll also say that no two processes are the same. Each storyline develops in its own unique way and that’s one of the most beautiful aspects of my job, but I’ll use “The Quad” as an example since it’s the most recent.
My colleague randomly met one of the writers/producers at BET at an event and introduced me to her because she knew I had been wanting to work with BET forever! We had an initial sync, I gave the good ol’ “CS in Media pitch” (which is deeply rooted in implicit bias and stats) and she put me in touch with the Showrunner for “The Quad” with whom I had a similar follow-up conversation. At the time, they didn’t have room in the arc to introduce a CS-themed storyline, so they were gracious enough to make one of the characters, Noni, a Google scholar and coding genius. Now I have the pleasure of going deeper and advising on a storyline for the second season. For all of the shows, that typically looks like this: we’ll receive the scripts, read them in its entirety, provide notes and general feedback on the characters’ appearance, language, attributes, etc., and then we’ll ask a couple of engineers with a CS focus similar to what’s being highlighted in the show to take a look as well and help us make it authentic and accurate onscreen. A few of our engineers even go as far as to write code out for us to include in the show!
I’ll also say that a lot of our pitches are based on people in real life. The CS-themed storyline for Mariana from “The Fosters,” for example, is loosely based on an engineer at Google who refused to choose between dance/cheerleading and computer science. She knew she could do both and use one to enhance the other! What we liked about The Fosters was that it already targeted high school students and highlighted a strong inclusive cast. Mariana is a high school student and a talented dancer; she’s popular, “attractive,” social, loving, and fun! “What if she happened to be a computer scientist as well?” “What if she found a way to incorporate it with her dancing?” Well, Mariana suffers an injury and can’t compete with her dance team, so she codes a sixth digital dancer to perform onstage! This technological plotline was heavily inspired by the dance group, iLuminate!
Our personal styles are reflections and presentations of who we are, why hide the queens within?
ZD: It seems as if you have so many projects on your plate as the Head Of Multicultural Strategy for CS in Media where you’re tasked to accurately represent different minority groups with your work. We all want to be stellar employees but mistakes and missteps are bound to happen. Can you share how you rebounded from a mistake and what you learned from it?
DG: To be honest with you, the only mistakes that come to mind are trivial where I coded an expense report incorrectly or misspelled a word in a mass email. If you don’t mind, I’d like to answer more profoundly with a key learning. One of the biggest things I’ve come to realize is that not everyone moves at the same pace as you and some projects are going to have a different outcome than the one you have spelled out on paper. I can only control how I handle it and how effectively I communicate prolonged deadlines and unforeseen circumstances to my stakeholders. I’ve learned that it’s not about how much you’re doing, but more importantly, it’s about how you’re doing it. It’s critical to think about processes from start to finish, to take various perspectives into consideration, to think about risks and opportunity costs, and keep executive sponsors informed at a cadence that works for everyone involved. If you do this, it’s very rare that you’ll run into mistakes and missteps. If you do, it’ll be much easier to rectify them and get back on track.
ZD: As you rise in the ranks of your professional career, “networking” can often be a mutually beneficial relationship. However, when you’re an intern or a recent grad and you need a job, how can you possibly add value to the person you’re reaching out to? How do you keep in touch with someone in an authentic way without being thirsty?
DG: Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally enjoy honesty. When an intern reaches out to me and they’re very forthcoming about the fact that they’re green in their career, they want to take a similar path as the one I’ve taken, and/or they’re seeking advice, I instantly light up. Most folks have reached their current status by networking or somebody more senior gave them advice along the way. I look at those opportunities as a way to give back. Now, time is very precious and sometimes those meetings need to be pushed out, but I always try to take them, even if it’s just for thirty minutes. I’ve always believed in lifting others up because people have reached back and helped me. The fact that someone mustered up the courage to even contact me and put themselves in that vulnerable state is all the value they need. They’re doing what’s necessary and that should be rewarded. I think quarterly is a good cadence to check in with someone who is actually capable of helping you achieve your goal. I think it’s fine to say that you want to check in and provide updates on your progress. I also think it’s important to build a genuine relationship – find things you have in common, talk about hobbies outside of work, share your weekend plans, etc. Again everyone’s different, but that’s what I enjoy. Lastly, gratitude and motivation prove to be immensely valuable. Send that person a thank you note with some actionable next steps you plan on taking. That person is going to feel proud to have been a part of your journey and happy that they were able to help push you in the right direction.
ZD: I’m producing a national hair tour to empower women that want to wear their hair natural in Hollywood and within corporate America. I’ve seen some beautiful photos of you with a fro and with braids; was there ever a time where you felt as if you have to conform/assimilate in the workplace? Or have you always felt comfortable with your natural hair at work? What advice would you share with young women who are made to feel their fros, locs, twists, etc. aren’t acceptable?
DG: Not once have I ever or will I ever feel as though I have to conform or assimilate in the workplace. That statement in itself gives this particular bias too much power. “Conforming” implies a particular look is the norm and I refuse to believe that. I am who I am and I’m extremely proud of that. My hair is wonderful and I can do so many different things with it, so why wouldn’t I!? I see it as an art form that should be celebrated, not to mention I get bored easily. I grew up with parents who told me I was intelligent and beautiful no matter what, to always look ahead, but never to forget where I come from. Therefore, I would tell these young women the same thing. Be proud of who you are and what you look like. Wear those hairstyles with pride because they are reflections and statements of your personal brand. If someone has a problem with it, that’s too bad. If your boss deems it worth termination, do you want to work there anyway? Fortunately, I’ve never had this issue at Google, but I know it’s prevalent and it hurts that so many people are encountering such pain over something that shouldn’t even matter. I say embrace it and keep doing what makes you happy. I wake up, get dressed, and do my hair for ME, nobody else. Our personal styles are reflections and presentations of who we are, why hide the queens within?
Follow Daraiha on Instagram & Twitter @daraihasunshine