We had the good fortune of connecting with Carrie Sawyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carrie, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I don’t think that you ever really give up – though you may have to rethink, reevaluation, pivot, or even change directions completely. When you have a dream or a goal that you’re passionate about, it’s just not something you can give up on. You’re going to find a way to bring that idea into the world, even if in the process is evolves into something different than what you originally conceived of. “Giving up” is very much linked to failure and I think we really need to turn the idea of failure on its head. If you set out to do something and it doesn’t work out, you absolutely learned something that you can use to do better and think bigger next time. The experience wasn’t a waste, it wasn’t a failure. It was growth, learning, and a key step on the way to your big break through. Failing is sitting on your butt doing nothing. Failure is letting a dream die because you’re too paralyzed by fear or perfectionism to take those first initial steps. Failure is criticizing the actions and growth of others from the sidelines. Our greatest successes rarely happen in a straight, logical path. If you are moving in the direction or your dreams (even if it feels like you’re moving sideways or backwards), you are not failing and you haven’t given up, you’re going for it and as long as you keep moving, one day you’ll get there.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
One of the most surprising, frustrating, and exciting parts about starting a business is that it’s always changing. That’s how I’ve felt since I launched Diversity by Design with a friend back in 2018. It was a slow start, we knew that we had a novel and innovative idea – using design thinking to approach the many and varied challenges companies were dealing as they tried to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. I’m a design researcher by trade, I’ve got a master in Design and spent 15 years working in tech immersed in user experience and research, before finding this amazing intersection of my skills and passions.
I think the “changing” aspect of a new business is critical though – how do you find the thing that your customers need that also aligns with what you as a founder and business owner are most inspired to deliver to them? I didn’t quit corporate to do work that I didn’t love. I left to make my own way, be my own boss, and bring something new into the world that only I could.
So it’s been a winding road, trying to fit into the mold of what DEI consulting looks like (and failing) because we are doing it differently. Also, my heart isn’t in basic consulting. What I love it research, I love to explore the experiences that people are having in their lives and then design ways to make that experience better, whatever it is.
After George Floyd was murdered there were a lot of us who were trying to figure out what we could do to help, to make a positive impact. I started running simple Q&A sessions where people could come and ask any question they wanted on Antiracism and we’d provide answers, without judgment. We wanted to meet people right where they were and help them to work through one of the most challenging and uncomfortable topics to face – race and racism. We had arrived at a point in history where these things could no longer be ignored.
As I’m getting ready to moderate the 1st Q&A session – we called it Antiracism for Leaders – I looked down at the 25 or so questions that people had pre submitted and my researcher brain got SO excited. I suddenly saw that each question was a piece data and I knew that if we could collect tons and tons of questions, we could get a better understanding of what people were wresting with, what they needed to know. We could create tools and resources and classes and all the things to help them, based on the topics that people cared most about. All of this coming directly from the questions that people were asking. I pivoted my focus and launched the Inclusion 1stTM Project to start the research on the antiracism questions while also providing a public service by answering these questions and teaching and modeling how to talk about race with the people around you.
Over several months I held over 20 sessions where we asked people: “What’s your #1 Questions on Antiracism?”. We launched a YouTube Channel and IG account (@Inclusion 1stTM Project) to reach more people. At this point, I’ve collected almost 700 questions and started running them through my design research process. From this data I came up with top themes that represent the things people care more about. I’m using this data to create tools to help people step onto a path of antiracism and learn what it looks like to walk this path at home, at work, in the community and everywhere in between.
I’m in love with the idea of studying antiracism through a design thinking lens and then working with community partners to create innovative solutions that actually create more inclusion and equity in our world. My next step is to transform the Inclusion 1stTM Project in the Inclusion 1stTM Institute where I get to study and teach about antiracism full time. We have to approach things differently if we are going to create solutions that work. I believe that answers to real change are hidden in the questions and experiences that people are navigating their way through, every day. This is exciting and meaningful and important work to me. And I’m SO glad that I kept changing what my business did until I found this, an even more amazing intersection of my passions and skills then where I started.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
For me, the best parts of San Diego are by the beach and anywhere outside with a beautiful view of nature. We’d have to have a day at La Jolla Shore and Torrey Pines for a hike and beach walk. I’d want to show them Coronado and maybe even take the ferry over to get some time on the water. We’d have to go to Little Italy to eat and I’d def want to stuff ourselves at Phils BBQ. You can’t come to San Diego without getting amazing tacos, TJ Oyster Bar is my fav and it would be super fun to cross the border and grab some tacos and beers in TJ.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my little sister, Amy Titus! She constantly inspires me with her novel ways of navigating the world and she encourages me to see the best in myself and my gifts when I’m feeling down and out. She’s done the important (yet often overlooked) work to learn to truly love herself and now authentically leads with love. Through this journey she’s able to give SO much to the people and world around her and I am SO blessed to have her as my sister and best friend. This shout out is for her!!