By Kimberly Díaz, Co-Founder & CEO, oneTILT
Ever since I was a little girl, I had this feeling. Despite getting all the love in the world from my family, it was a feeling that would show up as soon as I started going to school — I’m not supposed to be here.
It happened when we moved school districts and my principal told my mom there was no way a Díaz would qualify for Gifted and Talented programs.
It happened again when I got into The University of Virginia, the first person from my high school in New Jersey to go there, and my classmates said that it was just because I was “Spanish.”
It happened when my first manager told me to watch my hands and my smirk when I speak — as I come across aggressive.
It happened again when I sat in my business school entrepreneurship classes — often one of few women and definitely the only Latinx person in the room.
It happened when I started oneTILT, and a funder told me, over a glass of wine, they voted against funding me — the first of many rejections I’d get as I was pitching this idea of bringing together an intentionally diverse group of folks to interrogate their practices for equity.
You’re not supposed to be here.
But you see, my whole life — these “supposed to be’s” have driven me. Don’t think I can handle gifted and talented classes? Watch me. Think I only got into UVA because of my ethnicity? Here’s my Dean’s List award. You don’t want to fund me? Watch me take this idea and build a company with 11 full time and 17 part time staff focused on having true impact. Watch me create spaces for people of all backgrounds to come together and struggle with what it means to be actively anti-racist. Watch me.
That organization became oneTILT. In so many ways, oneTILT was my answer to every single “supposed to be’’ I had ever heard. It started off as an idea over a glass of Malbec with Andrew, my co-founder turned best friend, 6+ years ago as we wondered — what if we all did one tiny inclusive little thing differently as leaders every day? What difference could we make in the workplace? In the world?
Since then, we’ve launched our inaugural program — the tiltForward fellowship — which has served over 40 education leaders who are committed to creating more equitable schools and workplaces. We’ve helped over 25,000 (like, WHAT?!) participants make their own oneTILTs through our work with clients — who knew that everyone from big tech to philanthropy to an NHL team would want to do this work with us? And there are so many oneTILTs coming… Later this month, we are launching TILT — The Inclusive Leadership Tool — an on-demand leadership assessment for everyone who wants to create a better, more inclusive workplace. It provides users with a custom TILT report — including a deep analysis of strengths and growth areas along with tons of practical, differentiated resources and exercises, that will help us broaden our impact across the US.
I’ve woven together all of these “supposed to be’s” into a beautifully messy, challenging, imperfect organization. An organization that tries every day to build the equitable workplace we all want to be in. An organization that falls and gets back up. An organization that, on our best days, centers love and humanity. An organization that still functions within the walls of capitalism and struggles to decenter the white supremacy culture that is ingrained in it. Perfectly imperfect.
And I’ve given it my all.. Just like my mom did, working two jobs to take care of my brother and me when she suddenly became a single mom. Just like my abuela did, after moving to this country — also as a single mom- to take care of 3 boys. It’s in the blood of so many of us who identify as women and/or people of color to fight and keep going. It’s also in our ancestry to put everyone else first, before ourselves.
And I’m exhausted. My anxiety and depression have been debilitating at times as I try to keep it together for my team.
About 6 months ago I had a realization — I need to take care of myself or this isn’t going to get better. I started working with a coach, an acupuncturist, and others to try to take control of my life and my health. Through this process, I’ve learned how conditioned I’d become to work. I’ve had two jobs since I was 16, working at a Pizza Hut and as a lifeguard (and that time I also moonlighted at Hollister)… all while keeping my 4.0. I’m not used to resting, prioritizing myself, or taking care of myself. I’m used to, and honestly almost crave, the go-go-go culture, to focus on the grind, and to put myself last.
I started oneTILT to fight for equity — that I deserve, that my peers deserve. But my fight for equality can’t continue like this — exhausted, anxious, and in physical pain. The fight continues by taking care of me, not CEO me, not co-founder me, just me, Kimberly Rose Díaz. That’s why, to prioritize myself, I’m stepping down as CEO of oneTILT as of June 2022. It’s the most important and difficult oneTILT (one tiny inclusive little thing) I’ve made to date, and I am so proud. I’m doing it for little Kimberly who couldn’t rest without worry. I’m doing it for college Kimberly who constantly felt the need to prove herself. I’m doing it for me now, almost 35 years old and for the first time in my life prioritizing me, just as I am, without a qualifier.
I know in these kind of reflections, we’re socialized to expect a plan and some assurance that everything will be ok. As with everything we do at oneTILT, we’ll be doing it a little differently — from using a selection committee that is predomiantly staff voices, to not requiring cover letters or heafty lifts of our candidates, to transparency on the interview questions and selection process — we’re incorporating (several) tiny inclusive little things to find the leader that will embrace this organization, the work, the people and be the caretaker of it moving ahead. Our Job Description is now live and we’ll continue taking care of each other and our candidates as we move through this process together.
About 10 years ago, someone at a conference quoted Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, It is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” I thought I understood what she meant then — but I had no idea. Only now do I understand it, as I am exactly where I am supposed to be.