Building Resilient Teams as a Black Leader

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Wayne Titus has had an unconventional path into his current career. He began his professional journey as a comparative literature student at Yale University, with a burning desire to help people. He now finds himself doing just that, but in the most unexpected field: Tech. 

Today, Titus works as the Manager of the Enterprise Practice at Greenhouse Software. He has built a team that works to ensure the company’s onboarding clients get the best possible experience. He uses his unique perspective and education to help him be an effective leader. 

In this interview, Titus talks about his role at Greenhouse Software, his remarkable path to tech, building teams, and the joys of seeing people grow professionally. This interview was edited for clarity.

What do you do at Greenhouse Software?

I’ve been at Greenhouse Software for three and a half years now. I initially came in as a Customer Success Director, having had experience working with and directing teams that manage the most complex clients at KAYAK, Google, and MuleSoft. When I first arrived, the company looked to build out the framework for servicing the Enterprise segment. I was tasked with onboarding the software solution, ongoing support, and assisting with upsells and renewals.

During that time, we realized there was a real need for a separate implementation offering to scale the business appropriately. If you only have one individual taking on all the roles for a customer, you quickly find yourself in an untenable situation as their book grows. This need led me to take over the management of creating our enterprise implementation team. 

Over time, we have built out an incredibly powerful team made up of some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever worked with. Today, we have six implementation strategists, three project managers, and one technical solutions manager, with much more growth predicted for the future. Having a dedicated team allows us to work with customers in a much more thoughtful and prescriptive way. We’re able to create dynamic project plans for them and test tailored solutions for their business outcomes while meeting their project success metrics.   

It’s been a really wonderful journey and an exciting time to be with the company as we transform the future of hiring.

You have had an unconventional path to tech. Did you think this helped you in your career?

What I did before getting into tech was really formative for me. It helped me define where to focus my drive in the future and validated my need to help people no matter what I did.

At Yale University, I studied literature and film, focusing on the Black diaspora in Africa, Brazil, and the United States. Later I got my graduate degree in Cinema Studies at NYU Tisch. That time gifted me with incredible freedom to reach beyond what I had already been taught and contemplate ideas that I’d never entertained before about culture, race, and identity. 

After completing undergrad, I worked at a non-profit called Literacy Partners, which was dedicated to teaching adults how to read and write. The privilege of guiding and cheerleading someone else as they transform their lives was incredibly humbling for me. I was grateful to be part of their journey and inspired by their strength. 

That time in my life also solidified how much I enjoyed helping others. One of the greatest joys of being a manager today is the ability to watch someone grow professionally and give them advice and the space they need to think critically about their career.

When I pivoted towards the tech industry, I incorporated my love for listening to and sharing people’s stories into a business context. This also helped me greatly when building teams and making sure our customers feel heard and respected. 

You seem to have a passion for helping others and building teams.

Yes, this is something I’ve leaned into overtime. I enjoy venturing into the unknown, finding great people, and trying to tackle challenges in real-time. 

When working as the Director of Account Management at KAYAK, I had to scale a team as we expanded into the LATAM and APAC markets. During this, I realized how much I liked hiring, from looking for the right person to foregrounding their professional development.

Building a team is almost like solving a puzzle. The challenge is figuring out the best people for the job who can work well together and achieve the desired business outcomes while also pushing the goalposts further. Putting all those pieces together successfully is incredibly rewarding and challenging. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to accomplish in my career consistently.

Also, as a Black leader, I embrace the added responsibility to make sure we are widening the aperture of what great talent looks like and constantly fighting against bias. I have a lot of power in determining how we source for candidates, who moves through our pipeline, and the types of experience that will be valuable.

I have definitely taken all the lessons I’ve learnt from the past into my current role. I feel like I’m now able to exist as an authentic person in this space fully and amplify others. 

You’re part of many initiatives for people of color in the company.

Yes, at Greenhouse, I’m the co-chair of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council. In that role, I collaborate on company-wide initiatives with our DEI Director and create a culture of accountability. I’m also on the leadership team for our Shades of Green ERG and help plan events for our employees of color and all staff throughout the year.

I’ve been able to bring a lot more of myself into work to the point that it no longer feels like work all the time. The rest of my life has become very intermingled with my added responsibilities that have actually made me more open and willing to extend myself for others. 

Do you think it’s important to provide support to people of color in the work environment?

It’s really important that I stand up for my fellow employees and be someone they can lean on. Working in any business or corporate environment, people of color tend to shrink themselves, assimilate, get along, or even survive. I have done all of those at one point or another, and it’s a phrase you have to move through intentionally or risk losing yourself in.

Having an unconditional level of support lets people know that they are seen and valued and ideally encourages them to show up fully. That type of freedom allows people to take ownership of their work truly. Also, it gives the business the benefit of an undiluted and powerful perspective that they might miss otherwise.

Any last words to conclude?

More than anything, I’ve learned that empathy is not a luxury. It is a deep and abiding principle that makes us human. Once we let that skill atrophy, we are in greater trouble than any pandemic could lead us to. That growing empathy has been the throughline of my life up to this point and has opened every door I was lucky enough to step through.

Greenhouse is hiring! Check out their roles here
Julian Canlas

Julian is a tech writer, specialising in community-first SaaS content strategy and narrative journalism

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