A Change That Is Bigger Than Us: A Black History Month Conversation
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Feb 10, 2023
  • Lam’s BEN ERG has grown by four times over a two-year period
  • Our actions and behaviors impact the communities where we live and work

In recognition of Black History Month, Sherry Buie, executive assistant to the president and CEO and a leadership team member of Lam’s Black Employee Network (BEN) employee resource group (ERG), and Ohad Zaslavsky, VP of Global Integrated Talent Management, got together for a conversation about history, progress, and the Black experience in the U.S. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Sherry Buie: We’ve seen progress in the Black experience within the U.S. We’ve witnessed the first U.S. Black president make his mark on history, the first female, Black U.S. vice-president be sworn into office, and watched Americans take part in the Black Lives Matter movement. We’re experiencing history today – which is Lam’s theme for Black History Month this year. Experiencing history means taking part in these pivotal moments first, with these moments then becoming part of my lived experience and learning. What does “experiencing history” mean to you, Ohad?

Ohad Zaslavsky: As someone who moved to this country as an adult, experiencing history starts with learning – understanding how history is being experienced by people today. In my role at Lam, that means understanding the history of the Black community in the U.S., recognizing the impact history has made on today’s community, and how we, at Lam, can support underrepresented groups through our inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy, led by Antoinette Hamilton, global head of I&D.

SB: Our ERGs play a critical role in the company’s I&D strategy – they engage and support our diverse communities inside the company and are certainly part of Lam’s I&D history. I joined BEN when it was first established in 2021 and our group is dedicated to the mentorship, advancement, and retention of our members, while supporting the recruitment of new and diverse talent into Lam. It also provides other resources to Black employees, like where to get the best soul food in Fremont, CA. (laughter)

OZ: I’m going to ask you for some suggestions next time I’m in Fremont. (laughter)

SB: So, Ohad, how do you see your team making history at Lam?

OZ: It all starts with Lam’s multi-year I&D strategy. Inclusion refers to the behaviors that ensure everyone feels welcome and diversity has a lot to do with representation. Hiring, one of the most impactful actions on an organization’s diversity strategy, is what I oversee at Lam. I like to think that our diversity hiring strategy is a driving mechanism for us to do the right thing anyway – it’s the right thing to look at a diverse pipeline of candidates, to engage with external partners such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and to focus on fairness and equality in the interview process.

We’re making big investments in supporting the Black community long-term and building our brand to ensure potential candidates know that Lam is a great place to work. This year, we increased our funding to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), an organization committed to removing barriers to higher education for Black students. We also deepened our partnership with the National Consortium of Graduate Degrees for Minorities (GEM), which provides graduate-level fellowships to underrepresented candidates in engineering and science. There’s been leadership involvement, with Stacey MacNeil, chief communications officer, serving as a GEM board member, as well as continued funding for GEM fellowships – this year, we funded 20 fellowships. These efforts build a pipeline of amazing talent that has allowed Lam to hire better candidates, increase diversity, and move the needle on representation.

SB: It’s great to hear about the recruitment efforts the company has invested in to build a diverse candidate pool. Some of our ERG activities act as an extension of our recruitment efforts. For example, UNCF San Francisco is an organization we connect with regularly. BEN’s co-chair, Tony Davis, product engineer in our Global Products Engineering division, serves on the leadership council of the organization and this year, we’re again sponsoring a table at UNCF San Francisco’s premier event focusing on raising awareness of the benefits of a college education, and the contribution of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The Community for Latino and African Americans for Student Success (CLASS) Outreach ERG also goes beyond the walls of our organization to cultivate a diverse talent pipeline by exposing students from the Latino and Black communities to STEM. The ERG has engaged hundreds of students through their “See You Be You” (#CUBU) tours. Most recently, we increased our donation to the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) to extend the computer-aided design (CAD) program pilot launched in 2022, an eight-week class that was developed to expose high school students to the fundamentals of CAD and the various career opportunities within the field.

These initiatives open the doors for kids in tech who otherwise wouldn’t have had this exposure.

OZ: As they say, it takes a village to build a diverse and inclusive culture. The companies that do I&D well create those multi-collaborations. The more we can do to collaborate internally – across our networks of ERGs – and externally – with regional and global partners – will help us deliver better outcomes.

SB: I’ve seen progress in the past three years I’ve been with the company but I’m curious to hear what your first impression of Lam’s I&D strategy was when you first joined a year ago.

OZ: When I joined in January 2022, I immediately noticed that we have a key performance indicator (KPI) dashboard and I&D is a big part of it. When you have metrics, clear objectives, that are reviewed every quarter, it drives accountability.

Our commitment to I&D starts at the top levels of Lam’s leadership. Our board, CEO, and CEO staff have set a vision for the company on where we want to be in terms of I&D and the recruitment, development, and retention of our diverse workforce. Every leader in the industry may say that I&D is important, but it’s how you build a system within the organization to drive the right actions and ensure leadership accountability that makes the difference.

SB: We’ve built a momentum in I&D at Lam. To build on our progress, we need to continue our partnerships with local and regional organizations, build on Lam’s brand of being a best place to work to drive diverse talent, and encourage leadership to engage with our ERGs. Their involvement makes them more accessible and visible to our employees and gives them a pulse for what employees really care about. Ohad, how do we continue our progress?

OZ: If you think of inclusion and how we can create a work environment that will support us on our I&D journey, that cannot happen without everybody being involved. Allyship creates a momentum that goes beyond the Lam community to impact society. We need to find more ways to encourage allyship because once it’s unleased it’ll have ripple effects in the communities where we live and work.

This is one of the most significant opportunities we have to be part of a necessary change that is bigger than us.

SB: Thanks for having this important conversation with me, Ohad. Understanding Black history is critically important to dismantling the inequities and disparities that persist today. Let’s not only think about Black history in the month of February but all year long.  


Sherry Buie is executive assistant to the president and CEO and a leadership team member of Lam’s BEN ERG. Ohad Zaslavsky is VP of Global Integrated Talent Management.

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