In 2021, we asked members of the Extra Space Storage team to share their perspectives on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In a series of six roundtable discussions throughout the year, 30 individuals shared their experiences and advice. From personal stories of discrimination to speaking up and challenging norms, the information shared was invaluable. Here are some highlights from those discussions.
Black History Month Roundtable: Inclusivity & Growth
Raymond Huntley, District Manager: You have to listen to everyone’s story. Everyone has a unique story that makes them who they are. And by listening and understanding who they are, you can come together and blend as a team more successfully.
Chanel Pickens, Operations Specialist: Be the best version of yourself every day. Strive to be better than you were before and look at where you want to go, and start taking on those opportunities that will give you the skill set you need for those areas. Also, embrace feedback. When you get feedback, take it with an open mind and make those changes. It might not be easy, but it’s going to be beneficial in the long run.
International Women’s Day Roundtable: Speaking Up & Challenging Norms
Allie Leininger, Senior Paid Acquisitions Manager: Ask for what you want. All of the big moves I’ve made in my career have come from things that I’ve asked for. And be specific. If it’s a new responsibility or a type of project you want to work on, speak up. The answer won’t always be yes, but I think you have to share what you’re passionate about because, otherwise, people might not know.
Andrea Kitterman, Director of Accounting: Challenge can feel like a big word and like you need big actions to challenge. But I think challenging can happen in small ways, such as living in a way that’s true to you. When you challenge the norm or do something outside of what’s expected, you can feel like you’re out there alone or open to criticism. But it’s an important thing to do what’s right for you. People admire that quality when they see it.
AAPI Heritage Month Roundtable: Allyship & Discrimination
Bill Mottram, Director of Transitions: Be open-minded to start conversations. Whether it’s talking about current events or things happening that affect our country, I used to protect these as things that aren’t workplace topics. But working with my team and having conversations about what’s going on that is affecting them starts with being open and understanding that there are times when people just need to express how they feel. When you’re in leadership, the tendency is to think “I need to fix this” or “You’re bringing this to my attention because you want my input.” I’ve had conversations with some of my peers where the conversation started with “Do you need me to listen today or do you need my opinion?” I think that’s important to understand.
Tony Chung, District Vice President: Unfortunately, I think discrimination is something that’s pervasive, and in light of what’s been going on in the last year or so, it’s as prevalent as ever. I have experienced discrimination probably more times than I can even count. When I was younger, I would handle instances of discrimination with anger, a lot of emotion, retaliation, and quite honestly probably a degree of ignorance, too, because I was trying to fight fire with fire. That’s never a smart thing to do. How I have evolved as a human being today and how I face and handle discrimination is to take the road of forgiveness. It’s hard for me to judge somebody else, and I have no right to do that. There could be an instance where somebody who feels a certain way lacks education or grew up in an environment where that was a pervasive part of their culture. I can’t fault them for that. It’s not right, and I don’t condone it, but it’s never a good thing to offset that with poor behavior yourself. So I take the high road, try to walk away, forgive, and move on.
Pride Month Roundtable: Pride & LGBTQ Inclusivity
Joanie Bachonski, District Manager: Pride is about community. I think everyone on this call has experienced some form of discrimination by family, or friends, or by people we don’t know. I’m so proud to be part of a community that has come together to fight for injustice for all members of our great amazing community.
David Wiehe, Director of Risk Management: The more I work with a diverse team, the more I believe in the importance of inclusivity. I try to lead in that area by being a good listener who shows an interest in allowing someone to share their story whenever they’re ready to. And by their story, I mean whatever aspect of their life they’re interested in sharing with me at that point in time. From there, with individuals, there seems to be momentum, and over the course of having a team in place for an extended period of time, you can start to build a thick fabric with team members for good growth.
Hispanic Heritage Month Roundtable: Diversity & Culture
Dani Bowman, Human Resource Systems Analyst: Learn about other people’s journeys. I grew up in a very urban and poor neighborhood in Southern California. So I don’t expect everyone to have the same background I did growing up. But I use that to fuel me, and I’m very interested to learn about other diverse backgrounds. Also, don’t be afraid to correct behaviors that you might see. If you notice someone using a wrong term or saying something that might come off as negative, don’t be afraid to correct it.
Tony Castillo, District Manager: I’m sure we’ve all felt what it’s like to be included and excluded because of our ethnicity. And while I don’t think that experience is essential to being a great leader, I think it does provide a valuable perspective of what it feels like to be on the outside. That experience drives me to make sure no one on the team ever feels that way and that everybody feels like their contributions are valued and championed.
Veterans Day Roundtable: Service & Support
Randy James, Senior Manager National Solutions Center: My biggest leadership model has always been “I work for them.” With my direct reports, and even with my colleagues and my fellow peers, working for them has been my guiding force. In leadership, you get to create a vision, but you should also be able to provide resources that include the ability for your team to grow and develop, as well as provide the right tools to make sure that they have a role that they can function in and become very efficient at and feel like they have purpose.
Rich Miller, Senior District Manager: The transition from active military to Extra Space Storage or the civilian job market can be difficult. It can be a stressful time for them. It’s a totally new environment with new rules to play by, and trying to identify that is very difficult for them. We have to be able to understand that. The other part is that we’ve got to treat them like any other employees. We can’t treat them, with some of the [negative bias] that’s out there. We’ve got to treat them the same and give them that respect and let them find the right fit with us.
Thank you to all the team members who shared their personal stories and advice to help us build a more diverse and inclusive company. For more information about working at Extra Space Storage, visit careers.extraspace.com.