Culture at Braze

A Moment of Belonging: Braze at AFROTECH 2022

Lee Upshur By Lee Upshur Nov 28, 2022

Last week, more than 25,000 Black tech professionals gathered at the annual AFROTECH Conference in Austin, TX to network and seek job opportunities, but also to make authentic connections and empower each other. Founded in 2016, Afrotech is an annual conference centered around startups, entrepreneurs, and business leaders in the Black community. AFROTECH founder, Morgan DeBaun boldly declared during the opening ceremony that “This isn’t like other tech conferences,” which, as it turns out, is the understatement of the century.

This year’s event, held November 13-17, marked the first time the Braze has sponsored the AFROTECH. Our involvement with AFROTECH reflects our organization’s focus on making moves toward becoming a more inclusive workplace and expanding our talent sourcing to pull in a more representative body of applicants.

Like many affinity conferences, the pandemic forced AFROTECH to host the conference virtually for the past two years, so the excitement for this year’s in-person conference was palpable to all—including myself and the 15 other Braze employees who attended. Throughout the week, all of us had the privilege of peeking inside the passionate and thriving world of Black tech and were able to make connections that (we hope) lead to a workplace community where all employees, regardless of race and ethnicity, can thrive.

Braze was one of the first sponsors to arrive at the conference, so I had the opportunity to watch with wonder as the bare expo center was transformed into a job candidate’s dream, with brands from every spectrum of tech gathered to engage some of the nation's most talented and unique job seekers. Beyond the expo center, the team behind AFROTECH also scheduled a powerhouse lineup of workshops and panels that inspired attendees to empower their communities post-conference. Panelists such as Chamillionaire, Mark Cuban, and Blaytoven discussed topics like the importance of financial literacy, maintaining personal authenticity in professional spaces, and acting with integrity.

As a DEI manager, my job is centered around creating safe and inclusive spaces for underrepresented communities, and I often talk at work about how essential it is to bring community-centric policies back into the workplace. Being at AFROTECH really brought home the importance of connecting with other Black workers in the tech spaces without the invisible cloak of respectability politics or White-centric standards around professionalism. At AFROTECH, you come as you truly are—with braided hair, in colorful attire, using language you feel comfortable with, and without the undermining gaze of those who might ask you to shrink.

From my perspective, AFROTECH stands as a beacon of hope to all who aspire to rise through the ranks as the people they truly are, not who they’re told to be. One of the core values here at Braze is “Take Your Seat at the Table,” reflecting the importance of empowering employees to grow into their power and play a meaningful role in the work we all do. And, following AFROTECH, I’m looking forward to seeing people who we met at the event become part of our organization, bringing with them fresh perspectives and valuable experiences as they pull up a chair to the table that is Braze.

Interested in being a part of the change at Braze? Check out our careers page and explore all of our current opportunities.

Lee Upshur

Lee Upshur

Lee Upshur is a DEI Manager based in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to advocating for community and safe spaces, she can be found lurking in stairwells with a camera, rewatching the A24 film catalog, and talking to her plant babies.

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