Leading With Empathy & Allyship Show

Building Global Inclusion Through Community With Gabriela de Queiroz

Leading With Empathy & Allyship promo and photos of Gabriela de Queiroz, a Latina with short black hair and brown eyes, black shirt, and gray neck scarf and host Melinda Briana Epler, a White woman with blonde and red hair, glasses, red shirt, and black jacket.

In Episode 113, Gabriela de Queiroz, Principal Cloud Advocate Manager at Microsoft, joins Melinda in an impactful discussion on building global inclusion through community. They dive into the importance of building inclusive communities to address the global gap in access and opportunity. They discuss how people can start to advocate for social change by finding out what issues they’re passionate about and recognizing what they can give back, no matter how small. They also explore key lessons from building inclusive communities that can help global leaders manage their teams more effectively.

Additional Resources

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  • “You don’t have to be very knowledgeable about something to give back. Anything matters; you have more to give back than you think…. Anything that you know is worth-sharing with another person…, just by sharing your experience, your background, that’s enough to give back or to share with someone else…. It’s not like you are only giving back, you are receiving. With the work with the community, I would say that I got much more back than I gave. We think that it’s very tiring and exhausting…, but it’s so little that you can give that makes a huge impact on someone’s life.”
  • “I start by being vulnerable; I’m very vulnerable with my teams…; I’m very vocal and transparent about the things that are happening with me so… it’s like I’m showing them that they can also have or be in a similar situation so they don’t have to hide because I’m not hiding.”
  • “Be curious about the place or where [your global teams] are, and listen, and try to have this conversation because there are… so many different things— that’s cultural— that you don’t know because you were not there. One example… that we learned with the community is, R-Ladies is more focused on gender minorities; in some places, they could not say this…; that was kind of… against the law, or not culturally accepted. So they had to rephrase the mission of the group to something else because they could not say the focus is more on this group or that group…. There are a lot of learnings from just being exposed to all these different communities… that we had no idea because we were in this other part of the world.”


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Guest Speaker
Headshot of Gabriela de Queiroz, a Latina with short black hair and brown eyes, black shirt, and gray neck scarf smiling at the camera in front of a white backdrop

Gabriela de Queiroz (she/her)
Principal Cloud Advocate Manager at Microsoft

Gabriela de Queiroz is a Principal Cloud Advocate Manager at Microsoft. She leads and manages the Global Education Advocacy team focused on AI, Machine Learning, and Data Science.

Before that, she worked at IBM as a Program Director on Open Source, Data & AI Technologies and then as Chief Data Scientist at IBM, leading AI Strategy and Innovations.

She is actively involved with several organizations to foster an inclusive community. She is the founder of R-Ladies, a worldwide organization promoting diversity in the R community, present in more than 200 cities in 60+ countries with over 100,000 members. She is also the founder of AI Inclusive, a global organization that is helping increase the representation and participation of minorities in Artificial Intelligence.


MELINDA: Hello, everyone. I’m Melinda Briana Epler, Founder and CEO of Change Catalyst and author of How to Be an Ally. I’m your host of Leading With Empathy & AllyShip. Welcome!


Allyship is about learning, showing empathy, and taking action. That process often includes learning, unlearning, and relearning, then building empathy for people with different experiences, and above all, taking consistent action. So each week, we’ll learn from somebody new. Please be open to new ways of thinking and understanding. You can learn more about my work and sign up to join us for a live recording at ally.cc. 


Let’s get started. 


Hello, everyone. Today, our guest is Gabriela de Queiroz, Principal Cloud Advocate Manager at Microsoft, where she leads the Global Education Advocacy team focused on AI, machine learning, and data science. She’s also the Founder of R-Ladies, a worldwide organization promoting diversity in the R community, and AI Inclusive, a global organization that is helping increase the representation and participation of minorities in artificial intelligence. 


Today, we’ll be talking about the importance of community in creating access and opportunity. We’ll discuss what it means to be an advocate, how we build communities, and what it takes to really lead to change and reduce the global gap in access and opportunity. 


So welcome, Gabriela.


GABRIELA: Thank you, Melinda. Thank you very much for the invitation. I’m so happy to be here, to be talking about something that is very close to my heart that I love to talk about.


MELINDA: Awesome. Me too, I’m really excited about our conversation today. All right, Gabriela, let’s talk about you and your story first, to begin. Can you start with where you grew up and make your way to how you ended up doing the work that you do now?


GABRIELA: Awesome. So I’m from Brazil. So I was born and raised in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. And we speak Portuguese, we don’t speak Spanish. Portuguese is our main language. I was the younger of four siblings, so all my siblings are much older than me. I grew up like any kid, playing and doing sports. I was very active, I really liked to be outside and playing with others. I would watch some TV here and there. Not a very good student, to be honest, growing up. But there was a very big part of me that was like, always be surrounded by people, either family, or friends, or people that I played with. Growing up, it was interesting, the variety of things that I got exposed to. After going to high school, I went to do my bachelor degree. I had a lot of ups and downs and trying different things. Until the point where I finished my studies in statistics. Then I was working with statistics, and then I moved to work with epidemiology. Then I did a Master’s in epidemiology where my focus was on air pollution, so how air pollution affects people’s health. So I was dealing with public health data, but then applying all my statistics knowledge and making models and creating outcomes, and informing the population about the issues around air pollution. 


Then after I finished my Master’s is when I came to the US. So in 2012, I came to the US to do another Master’s, now back to statistics. My main goal was very interesting. Because my main goal, when I came as a Master’s student, was to learn how to speak in English, the technical terms that I already knew in Portuguese. So it was not much to add more knowledge per se, but more to know how to speak the language in more technology terms. Because we all know that especially in this area of data science and machine learning and AI, there are a lot of terminologies that you need to be aware of. So it’s kind of like learning another language. So you learn English, and then you also learn another language which is very specific to this field. Then after finishing my Master’s, I did work for different companies, small companies, and large corporations like Microsoft, IBM, as a data scientist, and then as a leader and as a manager. That’s pretty much the summary of my story.


MELINDA: Awesome! So you are doing a lot of incredible work as an advocate. When did you start the two organizations that you founded?


GABRIELA: Yeah, that’s an awesome question. So it all started when I moved from Brazil to San Francisco, which is the centre of technology, so many things happening. Then when I got here as a student, not a lot of money, so very, very limited budget, I found out something called Meetup where you would sign up and go to these events in-person after work hours, during the night. I was so amazed by how much knowledge and things that were happening in this vibrant city, all these different technologies and terminologies, and people doing amazing work. So I signed up to different meetups. I signed up to a meetup on machine learning, data science, data visualization, all these different technologies and buzzwords that were around us back then. I was going every night. I like to joke that it was kind of like going to the Disneyland, where you look to one side or look to the other side, and there are all these different options, and you don’t know what to do. If I should go to this meetup or this other meetup? Should I learn this or should I learn that? So many options, so I was amazed about the opportunities that we had, and so much knowledge for free. So I started going to these meetups. 


I think it makes sense to talk about the path on how the organizations came together, because it’s very much related. So I started going to these meetups every night, and then I joked that it’s like a Disneyland. But also, I was getting knowledge for free. Like, people were there after work hours, giving back to the community, giving their knowledge to us in the audience. The other fun fact was like, always, they had dinner. So for me as a student, it was the best of the worlds, where I had knowledge for free and food for free. So I would go every night, and I was always paying attention. Like, people were giving their time and giving the knowledge for free, and in my mind, it was like a cycle. You were receiving you, you were getting all of this, you were providing opportunity for everybody that is coming to these events, and then you have to do the same thing. So it’s a cycle. So you get, and you give back, you get, and you give back. That’s what I’ve always thought. It’s like, you get for free what you get, you pay for it to give back. Especially when It’s free, when people are doing that from the heart. 


Then I got to a point where I was like, “I think now it’s my time to give back. Is there anything that I can give back after getting so much?” Then I started to think, what are some of the options, what are some of the things that I think I’m good at that I can give back? Then I thought, well, I know a programming language called R, why don’t I do something around the R language that is one of the things that I’m passionate about? There is this whole explosion of data and data science, and R is one of the languages used in it for analysing data. 


But then I thought, I didn’t want to do like a general group. Because one of the things I realized by going to these events was, one, as a woman, as a foreign, as someone from the outside, I didn’t feel welcome in those places. I didn’t feel like there were people like me. The opposite. I felt the crowd, the audience was all the same, all White guys. So then I’m like, I don’t want to feel the same feeling that I was feeling when I went to these meetups where I didn’t feel this sense of community, I was very in the corner. I felt like, what about if I do something different, what about if I give back and I create something that is going to be inclusive, that is going to be friendly, that is going to be diverse? That’s how the first community came together, which is called R-Ladies. That was the first organization, where I was giving back some of the knowledge that I had, but also creating this safe environment for others to learn to build this community together. To be honest, it was something very individual, because I didn’t have this community, and I wanted a community for me to feel included. So I’m like, I’m going to create a community for me, and then that’s how it all came together.


MELINDA: I love that. I believe that advocacy is a huge piece of allyship, and this idea of giving back. I love that idea of that cycle, that we receive support, we receive guidance, we receive free information, and then when we’re ready, we give back; we turn it back over. Perhaps, we do that in a bit of a different way, like you did. It was to look at, well, who is this not reaching? How can I help reach them? How can I change the ecosystem so that more people feel like they belong in that space? I love that. 


So with the two organizations that you created, can you talk a little bit about what the problem is that you’re working to solve? I mean, in terms of gender, that’s pretty clear. When it comes to looking at a global community, I think there’s a different layer on top of that as well. Can you talk about that a bit?


GABRIELA: Yeah, absolutely. So there is, of course, the gender that we all talk about. I would say, back then, 10 years ago, it was the main focus. It was all about gender, and then I think it was even further, the reach was further than that. The reach was further than that, in the sense of like, we were reaching out underserved communities. So communities that didn’t have the basics, like the basic infrastructure or the basic knowledge, to go and advance in their career, or to get into the data science or AI or machine learning field. So we were empowering those communities as well, on getting access to the resources that, as someone being in the US, we had. So in that sense, it was beyond the agenda, or it was much more than that; the reach was much more than that. 


Then with the other organization, AI Inclusive, it’s the same way. I started that organization seven years later, but I took a lot of my learning from R-Ladies to create this other community. The only, I would say, difference was, one, it was language agnostic; we were not related to one programming language, but any language. But it was very interesting and timely important. Because back then in 2018, we were in the centre of discussion around AI and AI discrimination and all the problems that AI were causing, and the majority of population were not aware. The majority of population that were going to be suffering because of the AI technology, they were not aware. They thought that AI and the implications were something very futuristic, something that was not part of the lives at all. So with AI Inclusive, one of the things that we did was like, “Hey, this is what is happening now, this is a fact to you now. If it’s not, it’s probably going to be a fact to you in the very near future. So you should be aware.”


MELINDA: Yeah. For anybody who’s interested in learning a little bit more about that, too, Episode 92 with Lydia X. Z. Brown, we talked about the impact of surveillance tech and AI on marginalized populations too, it’s really important. So what you’re doing is not only creating that awareness, but also getting folks involved in the creation of it as well, right?


GABRIELA: Absolutely yes, we need them to be with us in this journey. That’s one of the issues that we had is, because we didn’t have a diverse population working on the creation of those algorithms, things went in a very bad way. So we need to bring all these communities with us in this journey.


MELINDA: Yeah, lots of examples of that out in the world. Driverless cars that don’t see Black people on the road at night, the automatic water faucets that only see certain skin tones, and the list goes on and on. The Google algorithms when arised, so many different things happened, and have continued to happen as a result of this. 


Let’s talk about community and what that means to you. What does community mean to you, why is it important to you?


GABRIELA: It’s kind of cheesy to say, but it means everything. Everything that is related with or for community is a big chunk or a big piece of who I am. There is no way that I would be where I am today, actually be the person that I am today, without the communities that surrounded me, either by creating the communities or being with communities. So if you think about how lonely the journey can be, and I’m very much talking right now about the whole journey of your career. But even if you think about other things, like when we all get older, it’s so important to have this community for us to have like a better life. It’s all well-known, and there is data backing this up. But when I talk about the community, I’m talking more about the career aspect. 


There are so many great stories, not only by myself, but these stories that I heard of like, because I was inserted or because I was with this community, I had the strength to keep going and change my career, or I felt like I belonged here. So I had this network of people that were like me, or that had things to add to myself, that made me knowledgeable or gave me strength to change, which we all know how hard it is to do any change by yourself if you don’t have one, two, three, 20 people around you surrounding you.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. Community can make such a difference in your career, you talked a little bit about that. But how has community made a difference for you or not made a difference for you?


GABRIELA: Yeah, it made a difference from people knowing my work. So when I was changing jobs, or when I was feeling down because something happened, and I didn’t have anyone at work to talk to, I had my community where I know that I could trust them. One example was, I was in this team of engineers, and I was the only data scientist, and they couldn’t understand my work. Their mindset was very different from my mindset or my training, and I felt so lonely that I didn’t have anyone to talk about the problems or the challenges that I was facing inside my job. There was no one that could relate. So I went back to my community and said, this is what is happening, what do you all think about this? I had so much great support and ideas and suggestions, and we brainstormed together. I’m like: “Wow, I’m so happy that I have this community. Because otherwise, I would be lost in this job, or maybe I would not have the confidence to do any changes inside this particular job.” So that was one example, I cannot imagine being in this journey by myself without any support. Going back to the community, we all know, there is this saying that it takes a village to raise a child, for example, and it takes a community to make us change, whatever change we want to have. It is very similar in religion; the community is so much similar in so many aspects.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. Creating communities where people feel they belong, they’re safe and they feel like they belong, is a critical piece of that too. You can have a community where you still feel like you’re on the periphery, and you are not going to get the same experiences, as if you feel like you truly belong within that community. 


So what kind of impact have you seen, as you look at people who have been in your programme, on their lives, their careers? What kind of impact are you seeing?


GABRIELA: Yeah, there are a few stories. But one story that I always remember is this person, and that she was a stay-at-home mom for over a decade. She was raising her child by herself, and then she had to stop her full-time job. She was doing a few things here and there, and she really wanted to go and get a job in data science. Then she found out about this community, she found that there was a chapter. So the organization, we have chapters, and the chapters are based in cities. So she found out that there was this group, and then she found out that there was a chapter near her house, and she started going and going. She was like, “First of all, I had no idea what they were talking about. But I felt so part of the community, even though it seemed that I had no technical knowledge at all. But I felt so welcomed in that community that I’m like, I’m going to stick with this, and I’m going to learn, and I’m sure that I’m going to succeed here because I have this community by my side.” So she started going to this data institute, again, to the point where she was like, “Okay, I’ve been getting so much, I want to give back.” She became a chapter leader, and then after a while, going to these events, she got a job. So after, again, 10 years at home, she got a job, I think it was at Disney first, in a data-related job. She’s been going up the ladder since then, and I felt it was so inspiring. Because, like, can you see the shift that she made with the support of the community? 


There were other examples of such stories on more remote cities, where they don’t have, as I mentioned, the infrastructure or the basics, and they would get together. Like, the woman would get together, and I remember this picture where they all had babies, and they went to this place to learn about the R language or the data science piece of it. In the back of the room, they had their partners taking care of the child while they were learning this technology. I felt that was so empowering, that they also had this community over there, and their partners over there helping them during this time, so they could get upskilled on their careers or their lives. It was so empowering to see that. When someone shared that picture, I was like, wow, this is amazing! They didn’t even have computers. Even though the technology is on computer, they didn’t have computers, they had a whiteboard, and they had a paper and pen. I was like, this is motivation. This is the power of community. This is how community can change their lives.


MELINDA: That job at Disney creates a whole new wealth generation within the family, within the community, and hopefully, they are also giving back in the future as well. So it really can fundamentally shift individual lives, communities around those neighbourhoods, and also our technology as well. Because that knowledge and experience is essential to creating truly inclusive technology.


GABRIELA: Yeah. One of the interesting points that I saw is, there are some places that are so hard for us to reach, so hard that you cannot reach, unless you have someone that belongs to that particular community. So another example for R-Ladies, we had chapters in these very small cities that we had no idea that we were there. But because someone knew someone, it was kind of like passing this word about this community, that they were like: “Oh, we should have something over here, even though we have no connection with the outside world. But I get what this community is trying to do, let’s replicate that in our community.” So I think the impact was even broader than what we can see.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure. And who knows, moving forward, how many people we’ve inspired to then give back as well. 


I want to ask you something here. I really believe, and our research shows, that advocacy is a key piece of allyship, and of creating change, and really creating diversity, equity, and inclusion, broadly across our technology, as well as in our cultures and in our communities. So what would you recommend to somebody who wants to give back, who wants to do something, but isn’t really sure how to start?


GABRIELA: That’s a great question. Let’s say that you don’t have to be very knowledgeable about something to give back, anything matters. You have more to give back than you think. Because sometimes we think: “Oh no, I need to be an expert, or I need to be very knowledgeable about this, or I have to be at a different level.” But no, that’s not true. Anything that you know is worth it, sharing with another person or giving back. Like, anything matters! The same goes for the relationship. Sometimes people think: “Oh, I don’t want to be a mentor, or I’m not ready to be a mentor, to give back as a mentor. Because I’m not there yet, I don’t have enough knowledge to share with my mentee.” I’m like, you do. You have more than you think. There are so many different ways that you can give back. Just by sharing your experience, your background, that’s enough to give back or to share with someone else. It’s usually like a two-side, it’s not only one side. It’s not like you are only giving back, you are receiving. With the work with the community, I would say that I got much more back than I gave. We think that it’s very tiring and it’s exhausting. It can be, sure. But it’s so little that you can give that makes a huge impact on someone’s life, just by giving a little bit.


MELINDA: Yeah, it’s amazing, and so true. I mean, when I think about the ways that people have supported me in the past and made a difference for me in my life, it’s been something that they said in that moment, or an action that took them five or maybe 10 minutes. It is not a big amount of time, necessarily. Starting a programme is amazing, and I have both done that. But you can also give back in so many other ways that can make a significant impact in somebody’s life.


GABRIELA: Exactly. I am a huge believer that you lead by example. As a leader, we talk a lot about this, lead by example. So this is one way of like, you are giving an example to your community, or to your employees, or to your mentees, or to the people you manage, you are showing them the value. Hopefully, my hope is, they will do the same, and they will pass this forward to the new generation or to other people. 


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. So you talked about what you’ve received, you mentioned that. Can you talk a little bit more about what is that? What have you received, and then how have you taken that back to your teams as well? 


GABRIELA: Yeah, so all these stories. When I see someone sharing their stories or their achievements, or how the community changed the way that they think, or how the community has changed their lives, this is like what I feel. It’s like, “Oh yes, this is what I was hoping for.” Or when they come to me and say, “Hey, Gabriela, this is the best community ever, I’ve never felt so much included than I feel in this community,” especially when It’s coming from specific communities and people that have never felt this sense of community before. So this is huge for me, that I’m moving the needle a little bit. So any story that I hear, it can be a very big story, or even something like “I feel comfortable by being in this place,” that is the biggest reward for me. I bring all my community learnings to my teams, as well as making sure that I’m hearing and listening to them, that I am hearing other voices. That when I’m building a team, my team is diverse, that they feel included, making sure that I have the safe space for them as well that they feel safe to share and to talk. So there are so many learnings that I got from the community, it reflects in my work today. Just now I’m seeing, “Oh, wow, this is all the learning that I got from all these years because of my work with communities.” I feel like I’m a better manager and a better leader because of the work and the learnings that I had with building the communities.


MELINDA: Can I ask you, for managers and leaders who are working with global teams, who may be working with people with different regions they’ve never even been to and don’t know a lot about, what are some learnings that you have gained, that you might share with them in terms of working with global teams?


GABRIELA: Yeah, my team nowadays is very global. I have people from different places, like Africa, Italy, UK, US, South America, so it’s all over. I would say the first thing is curiosity. Like, be curious about the place or where they are, and listen, and try to have this conversation. Because there are so many things that we don’t know, so many different things that it’s cultural, that you don’t know because you were not there. One example, again, that we learned with the community is, R-Ladies is more focused on gender minorities. In some places, they could not say this, that we have a focus. That was kind of like against the law, or not culturally accepted. So they had to rephrase the mission of the group to something else, because they could not say the focus is more on this group or that group. So there are a lot of learnings from just being exposed to all these different communities that were in places, that we had no idea because we were in this other part of the world. 


Going back to being managing a global team, again, curiosity, trying to be curious and to listen to what people in your team have to offer. Instead of you coming with our very biased US-centric region on how things work. One related example that I was thinking now is, I was talking to my team about a new tool, and I was like, “Oh, this tool is great because it just needs to connect to the internet and then you you don’t have to do any setup. You just need a computer and an internet, and then you can start your work.” Then someone came to me and said, “But, Gabriela, this is not going to work here.” I’m like, “Why not? You only need the internet and a computer.” “Oh, our internet is not reliable, we cannot rely on internet to do the work.” I’m like, yes, of course! So sometimes even myself, with the experience of coming from the place that I came from, sometimes I forget, and I’m so glad that I have these other people in my team that they feel safe to tell me that.


MELINDA: Absolutely. So creating that safe space for people to come back and say, wait a minute, is a key piece of being an inclusive leader, too. Being open to that feedback. Anything else that you have noticed already other recommendations when working with a global team?


GABRIELA: Yes. There was another thing that I have been doing right now with my team. Every six months, we go for this, which is something that we call team agreements or guidelines. I’m like, what are the things that we should do as a team? What are, let’s say, agreements that we have, in terms of meetings and time zones? Especially because we have people from all over the world, what about time zones, respect their time-offs? How they like to be called, like, what are the pronouns? Maybe you need more focused time, so please block your calendar. Because I need some time that I need to be focused, and no one can interrupt me. So we have this team agreement that we do every six months, where every person on the team has a say, and we agree as a team, for the next six months, “This is our agreement, we are going to do our best to follow this agreement.” It’s something that has been working very well with us, and we feel like, at least from the feedback that I get, that they feel that they are heard, and they are respected. 


MELINDA: I love that, that’s fantastic. So it’s sort of like an agreement. It’s like when I’m doing a workshop, we have ground rules, or we have a mutual agreement at the beginning of a workshop too, this is our protocol for working together. I love it.


GABRIELA: Yeah, exactly. Also, it’s not forever, it’s every six months, and it can be even less than that. We go over it again, to make sure that it’s still true, it’s still applicable to everybody, if there is any change, or anything that you’re like, “Oh, this didn’t work, let’s change.” So it’s also like a way for us to have this open dialogue, where we can change things. It’s not written in stone, it’s not forever, but It’s something that is ongoing, and we can change it. We can try, and if it doesn’t work, we can try again and we can adjust.


MELINDA: I love that, those two pieces were so powerful. Is there anything else that you can think of that might be useful?


GABRIELA: Not that I can think of. I can say that it’s a big challenge, leading a global team, and you have to change your mindset. You know that it’s going to be very rare, the times where you have everybody together as a team. But make sure that you have some overlap in terms of times, where you can see your team face-to-face, because it’s so important. But then you have also this other time that you have to learn how to work async, where you have a lot of documents. So there is a lot of writing, it’s much more wider than this face-to-face interaction. But just make sure that you don’t miss the face-to-face interaction, it’s so important. This one-on-one time or the time with your team as a whole, so they feel part of a team, instead of like feeling, “Oh, because I’m here in this part of the world, I’m totally excluded.” No, we as a leader, we need to make sure that we are including everybody all the time.


MELINDA: Awesome. A follow-up question. You mentioned that your team gave you that feedback. Can you think of, as a manager, how you open yourself up to that feedback? How you let your team know and create that safe space for doing that?


GABRIELA: Yeah, I start by being vulnerable. I’m very vulnerable with my teams. I try to show them that I’m a human, that I have my meltdowns, or I have times where I’m so all over that I need some quiet time, or that I need to take a break, or that I need to go for a walk, or that I have to take care of my family. So I’m very vocal and transparent of the things that are happening with me. So they feel like, “Oh yeah, Gabriela, she is going through this as well.” It’s kind of like I’m giving permission to my team to have the same things. In a way, it’s like I’m showing them that they can also have or be in similar situations, so they don’t have to hide. Because I’m not hiding and I’m a leader, where usually, we think that leaders don’t have problems, they don’t have to do many things at the same time; they have a village helping them. That’s not true most of the time. So I try to show them that I have problems, that I fail, that I do not succeed all the time, that I’m insecure, that my confidence is not every time high. I feel that it gives them the permission to show or to bring their whole self to work, and they feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts and giving me feedback. They give me very true feedback, and I’ve learned to take the feedback, to pause and to listen. Then if there is anything that I want to say, I take this pause, and then I say something. But it’s more like, I take all the feedback as something that is constructive, that it’s coming from a good place and that I will do something about it. That I’m curious to learn more, tell me more.


MELINDA: Yeah, I love it. I think that what we talked about at the beginning was you developing these communities of practice and building access and opportunity, and you’re also building a community with your team as well. It’s a global community where you’re creating a safe space for people to be whoever they are, and to contribute to the ground rules or the mutual agreement together that really drives how you work together, and that you’re creating a safe space for people to be vulnerable and to give feedback to one another and to you as a leader. I think that that sense of community is coming through in your team work as well.


GABRIELA: Yeah, it’s interesting. Because my role now at Microsoft, I work with students. So I work with and for students and educators. One of the core things that we do is to create this community for students. It’s so interesting, because it’s like a full circle. Now I’m working with students and creating this community where they feel like they are part of a place, that they belong. It’s global. So we have students from all over the place. The core is, having this community where they can learn, where we can share our knowledge, where they can upskill and get into this field and get a job. It’s so interesting to see how things come together, and without even planning that much, the community is somehow included as part of my full-time job. So it’s so interesting to see, as I navigate, and we navigate throughout our career, there is one aspect that comes with us, no matter where we go.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. I know that as a leader, and also, you’ve founded two different organizations, that you’re doing a lot. Part of being an inclusive leader, being an advocate, really driving change across the ecosystem, it takes energy, and it takes emotional as well as cognitive work as well. So I want to ask you, just how do you take care of yourself? What are the ways that you make sure you don’t get depleted and that you’re replenishing?


GABRIELA: Yes. I’ve been better and better with this as I get older, is making sure that I have time for myself, that I’m building my resilience, that I have enough on my tank so then I can give back the better of me. So it’s something that I’m very mindful, that before giving back, I need to refuel myself so I have something to give back. Otherwise, I don’t have anything to give back or to give. The community work or work with people, it’s something that energizes me. So even though there is this drain, it’s very draining to deal with people, to be a manager, to be a leader, because there are a lot of hard conversations, and you’re dealing with emotions as well. There is this other aspect that energizes me, that it’s like leading and unblocking people and empowering people. So I would say, luckily, one side can balance the other as well. So it’s not draining, that I’m taking all my energy and I’m totally out of energy. It’s the other way. It also brings me energy and brings me inspiration to keep going.


MELINDA: I love it. So this show is focused on creating a space for people to learn and then to take action. So I want to ask you, after folks listen or watch this episode, what action would you like them to take?


GABRIELA: I would say, look around, there’s some opportunities. Because again, there are plenty of opportunities of things that you can give back. You can start small. You can become a volunteer in some organization. All these organizations that I mentioned, for example, they are all volunteer-based. So we need volunteers, we need people to help us to keep spreading the knowledge. So we need more people to be on this journey with us. So look around, see what are the opportunities that there are. If you cannot find, just ask around. Because there is always someone needing something that you can offer. I don’t have any specific website. But if there is any topic or anything that you are passionate about, this is one of the easiest ways to give back. If there is something that you care about, go and see if there is any place that you can give or you can help on that one. 


I feel like listening to your podcast and your book is a great way for you to be more knowledgeable and to learn. Sometimes, people are not doing it, not because they are bad people, but because they don’t have exposure or they don’t know about it. So the more you get exposed to all these different environments and different people, people from different backgrounds, the more you can be more knowledgeable. I would say, it’s also more that you can understand what are the gaps that you have. So get exposed, try to get out of your small world and try to explore things that are you are not aware of, that you don’t know that exist. Try to get more exposure on that.


MELINDA: I love it. Where can people learn more about you and your work?


GABRIELA: Yeah. So I have a website, it’s K-roz.com. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, I’m all over the social media. At Microsoft, you can look for Student Hub, which is a place where students can come and find materials to use, and there’s different paths if you’re a student. But for myself, any place in the social media world, I’m there.


MELINDA: Fantastic, thank you. Thank you, Gabriela.


GABRIELA: Thank you very much.


MELINDA: Yeah, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience. 


GABRIELA: Thank you. 


MELINDA: All right, everyone. Please do take action as a result of listening to this, and see you next week. 


We’ll share resources and a transcript from this discussion at ally.cc. And please make sure to subscribe to our channel and rate this show, it makes a difference for us. Thank you for being part of our community. 


Remember, the more we take action, the more we grow as humans and as leaders, and the more we transform our communities. So what action will you take today? Let us know your actions by emailing podcast@ChangeCatalyst.co or reaching out on social media. 


Leading With Empathy & AllyShip is a show by Change Catalyst, where we build inclusive innovation through training, consulting, and events. You can learn more about us at change catalyst.co. So let’s keep building allyship across our communities and around the world. 


Thank you for listening.

About the Host

Host: Melinda Briana Epler

Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.

As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.

Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.

Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.

In The Press

Watch Melinda’s TED Talk

Speaking Engagements

Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.


This show has given me clear opportunities to learn in the midst of 2020’s numerous social and personal challenges, including engaging remote content. I’ve learned new terms, heard new voices, diversified my interests and internalized personal narratives that have inspired me to get more active.

The show shaped my scope of reasoning on the dynamics in the corporate world, brand building, harmony across board with team mates. Your series has helped me feel less alone and less daunted by the challenges I face as a leader at a company that is used to moving fast with decisions and making swift progress across the board. I so earnestly want to grow and deepen my perspective when it comes to diversity and allyship; it’s not always clear how to do it. This series has felt like a path I can follow and revisit and draw strength and insight from. Thank you.

I watched many of your live shows in 2020, and I learned something from every discussion. They were inspiring on many levels. Early on during the pandemic (especially), the show also provided me with a sense of community that I was sorely needing. Thank you.

Virtual Training, Consulting & Coaching Solutions
If you’re looking for a way for remote teams to continue their learning and professional development, we’re now offering virtual allyship, inclusion and leadership trainings. We’ve also continued our consulting practice virtually. AND we now offer hourly coaching. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more!
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