Leading with Empathy

Men at Work: Damien Hooper-Campbell

As Zoom’s first CDO, Damien Hooper-Campbell taps into his humanity.

Damien Hooper-Campbell doesn’t shy away from an opportunity to be the first. He recently marked his one-year anniversary as Zoom’s first-ever chief diversity officer. He also was the first CDO at eBay and
at Uber.

Before that, Hooper-Campbell was a diversity strategist at Google; a vice president in Goldman Sachs’s Pine Street Leadership Development Group, where he led underrepresented minority outreach for Harvard Business School’s Admission Board; an associate program manager at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation; and an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley. The Morehouse economics grad earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Wisdom garnered from his various roles and more than 15 years of expertise in diversity and inclusion, leadership and management coaching, recruiting, community engagement, and finance uniquely prepared him for Zoom. The mission he chose to accept was to lead the design and implementation of the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy, create Zoom’s university recruiting program and initiatives, and build on the company-wide inclusion education, employee resource groups, and hiring initiatives.

Hooper-Campbell’s tenure at Zoom is the third time he has started a diversity and inclusion practice. After participating in his first Zoom session during an Easter dinner with family in April of 2020, he says, “I was blown away by what Zoom enabled. It helps saves relationships, jobs. I reached out to them about a position. The timing was right.”

The company value of “caring” resonates with him. He asks himself and his team two key questions. “What do we need to do? What does caring mean, as relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion?” asks Hooper-Campbell. “I’ve been empowered to come in and understand how people feel, to make recommendations, to build from scratch.”

Diversity Woman: Now that you have completed your first year at Zoom, what are some of the highlights?

Damien Hooper-Campbell: It was a tremendous year with Zoom growing exponentially. There were challenging and inspiring moments. I had personal changes, tragic losses. I started days after the death of George Floyd. As a Black, Caribbean man, I had my own feelings that I had to sort out. It was a sensitive topic. But I’m proud that we had several conversations at Zoom about George Floyd and racial issues. Employees said they were greatly impacted by them.

DW: One thing that comes up with Zoom is that some people don’t want to show their homes as their background. In what ways did equity play a role in Zoom’s product updates once the pandemic began?

DHC: We didn’t make a product adjustment but leaned into the product and provided choice. You can show your home or use a virtual background, or if you don’t feel comfortable talking, you can use the chat function. There is flexibility.

DW: What is the biggest takeaway from your first year at Zoom?

DHC: That I came to the right place, with the right people, doing the right work at the right time.

DW: You’ve served in the role of CDO a few times. What skills are necessary?

DHC: You need a sense of humor. Being a CDO 10 years ago is vastly different from now. A decade ago, people were not talking about politics and the news so much. The separation of work and home has narrowed. People are paying more attention to the need for a CDO. You need to be a therapist. When majority group members come to you and say they want to get involved and ask how they can add value, you need to be able to address that. You need a global lens, the business acumen to know when it’s the right time to embed DEI and to do it so it is relevant to the business. You must have an incredible appetite for learning, asking questions, and listening, instead of evangelizing.

DW: Was there a moment in your childhood or early career that set the stage for getting involved in DEI?

DHC: I love this work, to be a vessel, to advocate, to bring people together. I learned early on as a student growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut, about the challenges of racism. There were polarizing moments. Instead of fighting, it was better to try and unpack why people were acting as they did, to try and understand the why. When I worked with nonprofits in Harlem, I was able to use my Wall Street skills to advocate, to help them get funding. While I was in academia, I advocated for those who were underrepresented. I think every step of the way was a trajectory pointing in this direction.

DW: What career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

DHC: What almost took me out was myself, not taking care of myself. I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder], which requires medication and therapy. If you don’t put on your own oxygen mask, you’re no good to the company or your family. At times I lost sight of this, and I also didn’t go to church as much I needed to. I learned to manage expectations. You want to save the world, but that has to be balanced with maturity. Issues in a company stem from the outside world. You’re dealing with hundreds of years of history. Success doesn’t come quickly. What you hope is that when you stop running the race and pass the baton, you’re leaving the company in a better position than when you started. My faith has always sustained me.

DW: How would you describe your leadership style?

DHC: I try to lead with empathy and low ego. Sometimes, not at Zoom, DEI is not taken seriously. You need to be direct and assertive but be able to balance that delicately. I try to meet people where they are and operate from abundance and not deficiency, not focus on what I don’t have, but create and build. I like to work hard. My mother had me doing chores. At 10 years old I was sweeping up hair at the barbershop. I worked at Domino’s while I was at Morehouse.

DW: Which leaders inspire you?

DHC: My mother was courageous. She stepped out as a single mom, quit her job in New Jersey, and moved to Chicago so she could earn her MBA. She started Winston Strategic Partners out of my room. My grandfather was a role model. He loved everyone. Every night he invited someone over to dinner. It could be a recovering drug addict, someone from church, or a next-door neighbor. Professionally, it’s people like Maurine Knighton of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. She taught me how to have a come-to-Jesus meeting. Carla Harris [vice chairman of wealth management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley] and Ray McGuire [former executive at Citigroup] were my professional parents. They balance excellence with humanity.

DW: What advice would you give to men who want to help women succeed in the workplace?

DHC: Don’t psyche yourself out and assume a woman doesn’t want a man as a mentor. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have just listening, asking questions. Understand women’s experiences so you can use your privilege to advocate for them.

DW: When you’re not righting society’s wrongs, what do you like to do?

DHC: Mentoring, collecting art, shopping for sneakers. Jordan 1 Retro High or Gallery Dept. X Lanvin.

DW: What are your favorite objects in your office?

DHC: My hairbrush, my art collection, the photo of my mother, and the photo of me when I was a waiter. I was happy, helping people, working hard. That photo helps me remember the journey and not get too comfortable. DW


By Sheryl Nance-Nash

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