Why don’t we have a VP of HR?

I just made my most important hiring decision of 2021, and I want to share the story with you. It’s kind of long, but I don’t want to leave anything out. This stuff matters a lot to me, and if you’re reading this, it might be because it’s important to you, too. 

Here at Glowforge, we’re working to create a world where anyone can print anything. I believe that vision, that future, will fundamentally change the way the world works. By empowering each and every one of us as engines of creation, we can create a more just, equitable, and free world. 

But working towards a noble goal doesn’t excuse us from making ourselves better every day.

It would be pretty difficult to live in America – especially in the last year – and not understand how profound change is required. Society-wide problems like systemic racism, gender & sexuality discrimination, and more require us all to take action.

That’s why I had to find the right person to help us grow. Last year, Glowforge owners created tens of millions of things in the world. A team of just over a hundred made that possible. As we hire more amazing and wonderful people, we are either going to double down on what made us great, or break the foundations that keep us strong. 

So I searched far and wide for someone who could make Glowforge an even better place to work, and who could make our work even better for others.

So today, I’m honored to announce that Uzo Akotaobi is joining Glowforge as our Vice President of People, Inclusion, and Diversity.

Because we decided that humans are not “resources”. More on that later.

Uzo and I talked for weeks before he joined about what this role would mean for him and for Glowforge. How do we build the company that takes us forward, from creating millions to creating billions? 

It helps that Uzo has a decade and a half of experience in the field at companies like Zulily, Comcast, and Prologis. But I asked him (I’ll be honest: begged him) to join us because of something that became clear in those long conversations. Uzo fuses deep, intellectual thoughtfulness with passionate empathy. Those things don’t always go together – and he fuses them into a superpower. 

Combined, it creates a passion for making great people better. 

Honestly, when we talked, it sort of felt like he worked here already.

And I suspect that’s why he agreed to join. We got excited together about the values we share together. At Glowforge, we call them our cornerstones.

Glowforge Cornerstones -- Hire Amazing People, Build Value, Delight Our Customers, Take Care of Each Other

It started back when our team was small enough to fit in (and get stuck in) an elevator. From the beginning, we provided transparency about our health benefits, so that everyone could make informed decisions without feeling awkward about asking tough questions. (Six years later, we still do). 

Then we got rid of salary negotiations, because they’re not just unpleasant; they’re terrible for pay equity. The data shows that salary negotiations penalize under-represented groups. Instead, we use multiple independent data sets to make sure we’re paying everyone fairly, equitably, and well above market.

Plus, we started literally paying for diversity to keep our team from becoming homogenous (and complacent).

These big decisions, plus a thousand small ones that added up over time, produced a company culture that I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of. And a team of people I’m proud to call colleagues. You can see them all here

Glowforge is a place where we take care of each other. That means helping out with work, sure, but it also means supporting each other when the going gets tough. During the pandemic, this warmth is what pulled us through.

I know most companies file all this under “HR”. But Uzo challenged me to do better. 

His title says it all: it’s about people. It’s about inclusion. And it’s about diversity. Those are our priorities – not how to treat humans like resources.

Under Uzo’s leadership, we’ll do exactly that. This means continuing to invest time, effort, and resources into making Glowforge more representative of the world we serve, and more welcoming for the people who care about what we create together.

When Glowforge was only a few days old, we had a few really good ideas. One of them was about building a world where anyone can print anything. Another was about building a team of amazing people who take care of each other.

Uzo is the one who’s going to take us there. 

I am so, so glad he’s here.

– dan