Translator was founded by serial tech entrepreneur Natalie Jane Egan after she came out as a transgender woman in 2016 and experienced bias, discrimination, and hatred for the first time in her life. With 20+ years experience working in B2B digital transformation Natalie had a vision to scale empathy through technology and to make DEI data-driven.Follow
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 263. Today we’ll be talking to Natalie from Translator about the use case or business case for why her customers choose Translator.
Translator is a social DEI learning platform designed for facilitators, live audiences and data freaks.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.
Show length: 24 minutes
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Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup (00:24):
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today, we have Natalie on From Translator. You’ll be learning about the business case or use case for why prospects and customers pick Translator. Let’s do some introductions. Natalie, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Translator?
Natalie Egan (00:43):
Sure. Awesome. Thank you, William. Hi, everyone. My name’s Natalie Egan. My pronouns are she, her and hers. I’m the CEO and founder of a company called Translator where we build diversity, equity, inclusion, training and analytics software for corporations, schools and nonprofits. I’m excited to be here on the podcast, so thank you very much.
William Tincup (01:04):
100 percent. Origin story, how’d you start Translator?
Natalie Egan (01:11):
Yeah, so it’s deep for me, it’s personal. It goes back to my identity as a trans woman. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I have been trying to help people and solve problems and start businesses since I was a little kid. I think I had my first actual money making business when I was seven years old. Translator is my second major venture capital backed HR tech, what I call change management technology business.
My company prior to this was a company called PeopleLinx, which was a social media best practices software or guidance software designed to show people what to do on social media at scale, change hearts and minds and behaviors. I bring that up because the business was basically, it was the same business model as what we’re doing today, it’s just a different subject matter.
That business was designed to teach people social media at scale. This business is designed to teach empathy at scale and it’s based on my experience coming out as a transgender woman in 2016 and experiencing bias discrimination and hatred for the first time in my life, at aged 38, and it hit me a like a ton of bricks. I mean it was this huge wake up call. It’s an ongoing wake up call, by the way.
William Tincup (02:47):
Oh, 100 percent.
Natalie Egan (02:48):
William Tincup (02:49):
Natalie Egan (02:51):
Continue to get a little bit more woke is the word. But I decided that I was going to do something about it. I was uniquely qualified based on my previous business, which by the way had taken off like a rocket ship and then came crashing down and all kinds of little nuance details that we don’t have time for this podcast to go into. But I felt I was uniquely qualified to build technology to help us.
The original idea was technology to help us understand each other better. That was the original idea, and I quickly realized that we can’t understand each other better until we understand ourselves first, understand our own identity and our own lived experience. That becomes a gateway or a launching point to start to understand other people’s identities and other people’s lived experiences.
I was a little case study, and I don’t mean a little, I was the perfect case study for that. I had zero self-awareness prior to my transition, and in this process that what I called my transition or my journey to becoming Natalie, I also talk about that as my journey to empathy. What I was effectively trying to do was bottle that or productize that experience and put it into a platform so people could, in little bite sized chunks because most people aren’t going to experience what I’ve gone through, but they have their own version of it, believe me. To be able to start this journey of understanding your own identity and then slowly starting this process of starting to help you become more self-aware, and that just creates empathy.
That’s actually interestingly, William, is something I experienced and documented and then actually found out that that was a proven researched thing. People have been talking about that process for empathy development for a long time. I knew I was onto something and ultimately, just to finish this long story very quickly, I went out and I started to study diversity, equity, inclusion, the space, what people were doing. I quickly realized that this whole space was super antiquated and there was going to be an increase in demand. At the time, I couldn’t have forecast the pace of the amount of demand, and I’m super grateful for it. But back in 2016, people didn’t think there was a market for this. Let’s put it that way.
William Tincup (05:38):
Right, and that’s unfortunate, in and of itself.
Natalie Egan (05:41):
Yeah, totally, and it’s hard to celebrate, but at the same time, it’s good product or it’s good timing for where we are. Anyways, we decided to build this technology and that’s what Translator is today. Think of it as self-awareness technology and it spins off a ton of data too. Employees go through these learning experiences that we’ve created.
They’re anonymous, digital learning experiences and we collect a ton of data about their intersectional identities, about their lived experience, their privilege, their marginalization, the unconscious bias, the marginalizations that they experience, the questions that they have. Then we feed that back to the organization to help them better understand their employees, which ultimately drives retention, engagement, referrals, et cetera. That’s high level, very fast version.
William Tincup (06:33):
I love this. First of all, I love the phrase, “empathy at scale” and just, I love that, trademark it, please. Take us more into, because I was going to ask you about the training itself and those experiences as you touched on a couple really key points. It’s anonymous, so it’s not tethered to somebody’s profile, so people can be as honest as they want to be, which is really I think a wonderful thing.
Then the organization over that anonymized data and aggregate data, they can then learn, okay, here’s where our employees are currently. I would assume that there’s benchmarking, or at least having an idea of where you are now as opposed to where you want to be on your journey?
Natalie Egan (07:18):
That’s right. Yeah. I’ll back up just a little bit and talk about the platform and then we can talk about the data.
William Tincup (07:27):
Natalie Egan (07:28):
At the core, I told you I started to study DEI. DEI is, obviously, abroad but specifically we focused in on DEI training and we just saw that there was a lot of opportunity for workflow automation, technology, what we call digital transformation. Digital transformation’s taken over every other part of our business except for culture and culture change. We knew that we were onto something there where it was just, this is super antiquated and it’s so easy to add technology workflow here.
Automation’s probably the wrong word, by the way, but we are connecting things that weren’t previously connected. Things that used to be done on pieces of paper and pencil, or turn to your neighbor and complete this sentence three times, or stick a sticky note on the wall if you agree with this statement, or step forward if both of your parents went to college. All these exercises that used to be done in person that were paper based or just analog, we’ve digitized.
If you’re familiar with DEI training, there’s literally, I mean there’s tons of exercises that used to be done in person. The iceberg is one of them. The walk of privilege, which I just mentioned. There’s a whole list of all these exercises that are critical for the learning experience because they’re designed to deepen the learning and help people get in relationship with each other.
Now that everybody’s distributed and hybrid remote workforce, you can’t do those exercises anymore. That was actually not expected, by the way. When we built this, the original technology, you could think of it as DEI tech tools, or tech tools for DEI trainers. DEI trainers in person doing trainings would be able to use our app and our technology to help amplify and elevate the learning experience in person. COVID hit and everybody went distributed and the demand and need for our product went up even more, which we didn’t really design for that in the first place. But it was an interesting byproduct of going remote and it made our platform even more relevant.
One way to think about this is, there’s still a trainer. We certify trainers to use our platform in their trainings. They use our technology tools when they deliver their trainings. We’ve developed a curriculum and the technology is integrated into the curriculum. We effectively license the technology and the curriculum to the trainers and then they go out and use this with their clients. Or, in some cases like a large organization that has its own DEI resources internally, we can license the technology to them and they can self implement it themselves.
It could be 90 minutes, could be 120 minutes, two hours. These learning experiences, people are going to go on a journey together, they’re going to use the technology and then they’re going to have facilitated conversations as a result of that. The technology, as you mentioned, William is anonymous so we get very high participation rates, we get very high efficacy or honesty is where people are being much more honest with our platform than they might have been with traditional employee surveys. Because it is a third party tool that is not, like you said, tethered to your HCM. Most LMS is personally identifiable.
William Tincup (11:12):
Natalie Egan (11:12):
It’s like you log into the LMS, it knows that it’s you, it knows that you completed the session, it knows how you answered the questions and it’s tied to the rest of your compensation or whatever. This is a completely anonymous third party tool, no person identifiable information. There’s no app to download, it’s a web-based app. You just log into it with a four digit pin, it drops you into this learning environment, you do exercises and then we collect that data and feed it back to the client. That’s the process.
In terms of the data itself, the second part of the question, you brought up, it’s wholly new data for clients and we’re just scratching the surface by the way, in terms of what we can start to get to and we’re not quite resourced well enough yet to have data scientists working on this all day long, which we’re excited about. But we have more data than we know what to do with, and it’s new data for the client because they’ve never really understood things like privilege and marginalization.
How do you look at your employees and understand just those two things alone, let alone in particular what types of unconscious bias and microaggressions they’re experiencing? What types of prejudices that they’re holding onto? Our platform helps pull that out in a really friendly way that people tend to be really honest with. We can serve that back to the client to help them better understand, like I said earlier, the lived experiences of them and their employees.
It’s like self-awareness is key for individual empathy and organizational awareness is key to organizational empathy. The more the company can understand its employees, who they are collectively, the more they can have empathy for their employees, which is what drives retention, engagement, referrals, et cetera, and that’s how you change culture.
William Tincup (13:08):
One of the things I’m sure you faced through this period, I know I’ve heard this, at least on the back channels from folks, is some of the reasons they don’t start some of the initiatives that they want to start in DEI, and just in particular in training around this, is twofold. One is, they can’t see the end game. If you’re doing change management, usually in change management there’s a beginning, middle and end, okay? But with DEI, it doesn’t seem like there is. It seems more like a journey that you never reach, which is okay, but I think it’s a cop out.
I’ll be honest with you as I hear that, I also hear, “Yeah, so you don’t want to get started. Okay. Yeah, I got it.” But it’s also, I want to get your take on that but simultaneous to that is, I want to get your take on the relationship between vulnerability. What you’ve seen in vulnerability from both leaders, employees, everybody that uses the platform. Because it seems to me the more honest that you are with yourself, which is complete vulnerability, the more vulnerable you can be with other folks.
But I don’t want to make something that’s not there. First thing is, are we there yet? This idea that there is a finite destination that you should reach or that it is a journey and you should just be happy to be on the journey to be continually learning things.
Natalie Egan (14:45):
Yeah. Thank you for both parts of that question. I think there’s not a destination, but I would say there is a state, right? There’s a state of being that you can reach organizationally from a cultural perspective, but a state implies almost temporary.
William Tincup (15:05):
Natalie Egan (15:05):
If that state is not maintained, it can vaporize. I do think that’s how people should think about the goals here. I do believe truly, and that’s why a big part of the driver to really start this business, and believing that it would have real legs, is that those same people that get fatigued by this or are looking for a destination really just need data. They just need to understand is it working or is it not working, and is it not working is just as valuable as is it working right?
But the problem with traditional DEI, like anything, anything associated with the DEI ecosystem traditionally has been hard to measure, if not unmeasurable. But that used to be true for marketing and it used to be true for sales and it be true for all these other parts of our business where we’re like, “We don’t really know how Jerry sells things. We just know that he does, and at the end of the quarter he always hits his number.”
But that’s not how it is anymore. We now understand exactly Jerry’s behaviors and it’s all measured and there’s a ton of data and analytics behind every part of the sales process. I think we’re headed there with DEI, and that shouldn’t be scary, that’s actually good. That means we’re going to be able to, if you can’t measure it, you can’t prove it.
I think we’re headed in the right direction and Translator is one of many technologies that are helping us change that reality for organizations. We happen to be focused on training. There’s many other parts of the DEI ecosystem, like I said. I think that’s exciting, and I think that the data that we see not only drives culture change, but it’s also driving ESG compliance, environmental, social, governance, compliance. That is equally as important to giving people, again, not so much a destination but a state.
We can reach this state if we’re able to satisfy these compliance mandates coming from board of directors, coming from investors, coming from Wall Street, coming from the employees, frankly. Those two things combined give us the first part of your question. Obviously, go into more detail, but this is not the four hour podcast. This is the short quick version podcast, so that’s the first part.
Then I think the second part around vulnerability is, and what you said it’s spot on, and we have great data with our platform to be able to measure the impact of these experiences. We always say that behavioral change is immediate. We can immediately measure behavior change coming out of these sessions. Culture change takes more time, that’s like a multi-year journey.
But behavior change is actually a quick hit, but it doesn’t sustain without a program behind it. That behavior change will also vaporize if you don’t have systems in place to support it. But people leave the session with a more open mind, more awareness, ready to make the change. If you then put in the programming, the tools, the resources, they will continue on that journey. We can also measure resistance.
William Tincup (18:31):
Natalie Egan (18:31):
I can tell you 6% of your employees are actively resisting this. Again, that becomes, as you mentioned earlier, a benchmarking. There’s a ton of benchmarking throughout this whole thing and that’ll just grow as we grow. But anecdotally, you look at the data and then you also look at the sentiment data that we pull out of the platform as well, and the conversations that we have with our clients afterwards.
When somebody, whether they’re on the front line in a individual contributor role, all the way up through mid to senior level management, C level organization is vulnerable with people about things like mental health, about neuro diversity, about ability or disability status, LGBT issues, and they’re talking about their own journeys and their sharing their vulnerability. That ripple effect is really ultimately what’s creates the change. We think about the technology, it does a lot of things, but at the core it helps facilitate difficult conversations in the workplace.
William Tincup (19:44):
Sorry to interrupt Natalie, but one of the things I love about this is it’s using their data. A lot of people speak in platitudes or generalizations, and it’s like, “Okay, what we see in the market, blah, blah blah.” But you’re actually, you have the ability based on data to then say, “In your organization, here’s what we see.”
Natalie Egan (20:02):
William Tincup (20:04):
I think there’s just a power, that seems like a small thing but it’s not because most of DEI over the last 30 years has been taught from the perspective of platitudes and generalizations. You’ve figured out a way to actually, again, you’re getting it down into the organization, all the way down. You can go down to the department, you can go all the way down and actually say, “Okay, here’s the next step. Here’s what we see, here’s what we observe, here’s what we found, here are some things.” And in coaching them through specifically how to then resolve that and then move that forward?
Natalie Egan (20:45):
William Tincup (20:46):
Oh, okay. I got to ask you, we’re about to run out of time, but your favorite customer story right now, and you don’t have to name names or brands or anything like that, but just something that just touches your heart.
Natalie Egan (20:59):
Gosh, and there’s so many. It’s good that you’ve narrowed that to right now because it seems-
William Tincup (21:04):
I also sometimes I have to say, “Your most recent.” Just keep it simple.
Natalie Egan (21:08):
Yeah, no. I mean we just got off the call with, just about two hours ago, with a client. Very large, very conservative, traditionally conservative search organization that has been on its own journey with us. There’s been some changes in the organization over time over the last couple years. We have new leadership that we’re introducing the program to and we had people, actual champions inside the organization, very senior folks stepping in for us and vouching for the efficacy of the platform.
It’s just emotional to listen to as the entrepreneur for people who are opting into speaking up about their experiences and the importance of this platform, the technology and the continued implementation of it. It’s such a great honor for me to be a part of that, and it happens regularly, but there’s something special about our space. I’ve lived in several different technology worlds selling enterprise search, selling CRM, selling recruiting technologies and sales acceleration technology.
Every once in a while you find somebody that’s really passionate about those things, and it’s super cool to connect with them as customers. But when you’re selling diversity, equity, inclusion like DEI solutions you connect at the most, this really human level with people where they have such a vested interest in your success, and that’s amazing because we get to surround ourselves with those people. Those are our customers and then they march us into their organizations with this passion that I’ve never seen before in all of my years of professional selling and being in the tech space. That’s probably a good summary to answer your question,
William Tincup (23:22):
Natalie, this has been absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for enlightening us and just talking with us about what you’re doing and I just love it.
Natalie Egan (23:32):
Yeah. Can I just share my contact information real quick?
William Tincup (23:34):
Natalie Egan (23:35):
Yeah. If anyone wants to continue the conversation and reach out to us, you can find me on Instagram and LinkedIn. Those are my two social media sites, just at Natalie J Egan. My middle initial is J is in Jane, so Natalie J Egan. You can also email me directly at [email protected] That’s dot company, with C-O-M-P-A-N-Y, the full word. Thank you so much, William, for having me. Thank you everybody for listening and hope to hear from you soon.
William Tincup (24:05):
Absolutely. Thanks again and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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