Our company is built on people: We call them Boxers. They come from a range of backgrounds and experiences, and each has a unique story to tell. At Box, we have a wide variety of Employee Resource Communities (ERCs) that are employee-led affinity groups that support a culture of belonging and elevate the needs and experiences of underrepresented communities. Available both remotely and across office locations, ERCs bring Box culture and values to each region while remaining inclusive of Boxers worldwide.
In this ongoing series, we’re going to highlight our incredible ERCs and the Boxers leading them.
As we celebrate Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to spotlight Ashley Fernandez, co-lead of Box’s Latinx Employee Resource Community (ERC). Read about her background, how she Brings Her (___) Self to Work through leading the Latinx ERC, as well as what allyship means to her.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Ashley Fernandez and I have been at Box for a little over 3.5 years. I’m currently a Senior Account Executive on the SMB East team! I have also been the Latinx Global Chair since August 2019.
Beyond Box though, I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Washington Heights, a neighborhood at the northern part of Manhattan, bordering the Bronx. I’m half Dominican and half Samoan, so growing up here in New York, especially in Washington Heights, in many ways felt like I grew up in my quisqueya. The demographic of the Heights is mostly Dominican, but there are also Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Haitians, Mexicans, and Jamaicans that the neighborhood belongs to, too.
Like the rest of NY, it’s a huge melting pot, with a lot of Black, Caribbean, and Latin influences. My favorite part of being raised there was witnessing the variety of ways people pay homage to their home countries and the different traditions they bring and hold onto, so future generations don’t lose touch either. You can walk down any given street and see people proudly display their flags on fire escapes and store fronts, music ranging from soca, to tipico, to cumbia, and the smell of food from pollo guisado to oxtail - all different ways people hold on to and celebrate their respective cultures. This community has taught me so much and has cultivated a curiosity in me that I’ve carried everywhere I go, including Box. As a rep, and even as a Boxer, it’s not enough to just show up - what really allows you to 10x it is when you are able to foster strong relationships, both personal and professional.
What has your experience with the Latinx ERC at Box been like?
Over the last three years, the leadership team and I have worked so hard to increase engagement, opportunity, and create a safe space where all people who identify as Latinx or allies can show up as themselves and just be themselves, together. It is so easy to become siloed into your organization whether it’s recruiting or engineering or sales. But as an ERC, we consistently hear feedback about people mixing with other business units they wouldn’t have met otherwise, which makes us really happy to hear. Boxers from the engineering org would’ve never met Boxers from the RevOps team who would’ve never spoken to Boxers on the customer success team who likely would’ve never met Boxers from the people org, but it happens! It happens across all the ERCs and that is the beauty of it - especially, in a remote first world where it’s easy for culture to be lost when you don’t see your coworkers everyday or every week.
These communities give us a space to connect, even if it is virtually. We meet monthly with the goal to keep it super light, often discussing topics that have nothing to do with Box, whether it’s J-Lo’s iconic green Versace dress, Bad Bunny’s albums, or the new HBO show, Gordita Chronicles. It is also important to us that we create spaces for tough conversations too, ranging from immigration, social injustices, tragic attacks, race, ethnicity, to colonialism and colorism. If there is anything that the last two years have taught us, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to separate life’s happenings from your job, no matter how hard you try. It’s my hope that the spaces we create and relationships built across all ERCs give Boxers the confidence that there is room for the different and nuanced parts that make up their identity.
Are there any events or activities that Box is doing during Hispanic Heritage Month or throughout the year that you’d like to highlight?
There are a bunch of events to highlight! On any given affinity month, ERCs are always looking to collaborate. One of our very first events is a joint bookclub with our Box Women’s Network. We chose Violeta by Isabel Allende, a Chilean author. Some other events include our game nights, a conversation on money management, and an in-person event in Austin, Texas. We hosted another in-person event over the summer and it was a hit: meeting members for the first time in person, welcoming new members, and connecting with old members was very much needed.
In your opinion, what challenges remain for Latinx folks today and how can allies best show up for the community?
This is a great question and pretty timely given Hurricane Fiona making her way through countries like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, however, I’ll probably start a bit more broadly. As with any race or ethnicity, it is not a monolith, and the Latinx community is no different. We come in different shapes, sizes, and colors and have different beliefs, cuisines, dialects, music, and so much more. Just last week, a member raised a question on whether it would be better to use Latinx Heritage Month versus Hispanic Heritage Month, as some people feel the term Hispanic only includes Spanish speaking countries, whereas Brazil’s national language, is Portuguese. Therefore, Latinx Heritage Month is more inclusive. There is no right answer, but it’s these organic conversations that foster an environment where bringing your ‘blank’ self to work thrives, because you can guarantee that your opinion will be heard and valued.
Part of being an ally is showing up and being present. It’s about understanding that people’s experiences and stories are really just that — experiences and stories. Everyone is on a different journey, even if there are commonalities that unite them, like race and ethnicity. It’s about listening to different perspectives, leveraging the privileges we have, and calling out injustices when you see them.
I think many of us in this community, myself included, are very worried about Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. When I think about how do we show up for them as an ally (myself included with my privilege living in the U.S.), I think about local, on the ground support. This means finding organizations and leaders who are doing the real work, sending supplies over, meeting people face to face, helping clean up debris and providing aid. I encourage everyone to support small organizations who are there to invest their resources. A Boxer posted in our Slack channel asking how we’d respond to the disaster and if we were fundraising and in an instant, Corrie Conrad (VP Communities and Impact and Executive Director, Box.org) and our Box.org team was immediately on it, showing that they’ve been doing the work and the research to best understand where to put Box’s own resources way before we even brought this up - that is actionable allyship.