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The IBIS Team: Ready for the New Year

Our team weighed in on key takeaway lessons from the recent past, and what changes they hope to make happen in the coming year.

Watch it on video or read on below!

Shilpa Pherwani

Shilpa Pherwani
Principal and CEO
After working in the DEI field for more than twenty years, I did not expect to encounter a year like 2020. Almost every day we were reminded of the blatant racism in this country—from COVID-19’s wake of anti-Asian discrimination to the countless murders of Black Americans—and with this reminder, I was ever-more aware of the need to move beyond addressing the subtle and unconscious biases in the workplace. While I am learning every day, what has become even more clear in the aftermath of 2020, is that we may start at conversations and trainings; however, we need to transition to broad systemic change aimed at dismantling oppression at the root. As an Indian immigrant, I have come to recognize the immense privilege and power I have to make a change within my sphere of influence, starting small with family and friends, but with our eyes on the horizons of a bigger picture. If 2020 taught us anything, it should be that we need to hold ourselves accountable by avoiding the comfort of familiar ideas and striving towards a more equitable world.

Kiera PenpeciKiera Penpeci
Senior Consultant
The major events of 2020 caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting on what really matters in my life, and I’ve realized that this is: growing my connection to family, sustaining the work that positively impacts those with less privilege than me, and seeking internal peace through mental health and spirituality. All of these things were threatened last year for me and many of us as we became vulnerable to Covid-19 and saw reflections of ourselves, family, and friends dying at the hands of a system that should protect us all equally. It’s a privilege to have made it to 2021 with my priorities intact, and though Blacks have a long way to go before we receive the protections we deserve, it is comforting to see the mobilization of those who were not previously using their privilege to elicit change. This year, my hope is that the approach of accepting willful clients, friends, and strangers as they are will continue to chip away at the divisiveness that had previously prevented them from joining me and other champions of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Teja ArboledaTeja Arboleda
What I found most difficult, especially during the holidays, was not being able to see my family, spread out over 3 continents and my dear colleagues. Combined with having to coach my daughter and her friends on how to deal with anti-Asian discrimination as a result of Covid, and other family members’ struggles with anti-Black racism during the George Floyd aftermath, 2020 was at best an emotional challenge. What we do know, however, is that problem solving, community support and change builds resiliency. I’m convinced that with healthy observation and unpacking of these types of reflections, we can provide for ourselves personally, and our global clients and partners professionally, opportunities to stretch and grow and make the world a better place.

Jamie CartyJamie Carty
Production Assistant
2020 showed me that nothing is permanent, the bad or the good. So much is out of our control, but this last year has taught me to focus on what I can actively do to make change, from the grand scale of working to dismantle systemic racism to the personal level of reaching out to loved ones virtually. For me, 2021 is the time to scrap what isn’t working, build on what’s good, and make sure we stay connected with the people who support us.

Melissa JamesMelissa James
Strategic Partnership Lead
The year 2020 was filled with uncertainty; my biggest takeaway was the importance of true leadership. What we saw in 2020 was that leadership is not just about title. Leadership is about who we are as a person, what we value, and what we truly believe is important. If we say we want an equitable America, I think 2020 showed us that we as a community will have to put in the work and truly pay attention to the pain points of our community. Every American has unique life experiences, unique pain points, and unique strengths these attributes make up who we are. We have to work together to help us build a strong community.

I hope that in 2021 we all have a deeper appreciation of leadership that is not only focused on the individual but also focused on servant leadership. Servant leadership will help us create a more equitable life for Americans. Our values as a nation were tested in 2020. I believe that in 2020 our values will continue to be tested as move forward. My greatest hope is that our values can unite and help us to lead with empathy and compassion and put in the work and face our issues head on with our eyes, ears, and hearts wide open.

Sarah QuinnSarah Quinn
Office Manager
My year started off on the highest of highs. I was meeting many personal goals that were a long time coming. Then in March, the world hit the pause button: quarantine due to COVID-19. Our country was showcasing that we are even more divided than we realized. Whether it was politics, racism, conspiracy theories regarding the validity of COVID or the hoarding of an abundance of toilet paper. 2020 showed me another aspect of my privilege when compared to my close friends working in retail. IBIS is a small business and there is always the concern that a small business is usually the first casualty of a national crisis. However, I’m optimistic that based on the inquiries and new voices clamoring for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that 2021 will be a year of change.


Michael LawrenceMichael Lawrence
Client Services & Operations Manager
Before I came to IBIS, I spent a lot of years talking to Students of Color to encourage them to apply to college and graduate school, or how to deal with life once they arrived. It gave me the chance to meet a lot of different young people and to hear first-hand how underrepresented students felt about their chances of moving ahead in a world that wasn’t built with them in mind. I’d hear so many of the same kinds of worries, fears and anxieties, year in and year out, and it helped instill in me a deep empathy for anyone who isn’t given a fair shot or has the resources for success. So the events of 2020 – and now 2021 – have shone a glaring spotlight on the inequities and injustice in this country on a variety of levels. But in turn what that’s done, is galvanized me to dig in deeper to continue the work I’ve been doing at IBIS – to keep listening to and learning from others and to help my colleagues bring lasting changes to the organizations they work with!


Abhishek VermaAbhishek Verma
Project Manager
Majority of 2020 was the most stressful and uncertain times I’ve ever seen. Of course, like everyone, I had not anticipated my year to turn out as it did. Virtual classes, graduating in the middle of the pandemic, virtual commencement ceremony, being away from family for an year, countless number of job applications, interviews and rejections, mostly because of my visa status, an all-time lurking fear of my years of hard work getting wasted and several other life events were nothing less than emotionally, mentally and physically debilitating. On the flip side, dealing with all these challenges, made me more perseverant and tenacious.
My spiritual practice and beliefs helped me to stay calm and focused and not give up. In 2021, I look forward to continue to evolve as a better human being both personally and professionally, and to follow my spiritual practice and my passion for my work with more dedication, while also focusing on self-care and being healthy. I hope this year will bring more faith, trust, clarity and stability in our lives.


Cedar PruittCedar Pruitt
Senior Consultant
I was so inspired in 2020 by the number of leaders who worked hard to come to grips with the presence of systemic racism in their organization and in their world on every level – whether it was on their kid’s soccer field or in the movies they chose to watch on Saturday night…or at the large-scale client conferences they ran. After 15 years of working on culture, this was a ground-breaking, Titanic-level shift. It is not easy or intuitive for white people in the US to recognize how profoundly different experiences of “the same thing” can be, based on different identities and the social expectations we put on those identities. I like seeing people work at it. In 2021, I’m super energized to help grapple with that recognition (and grapple with it myself, as a white person) – as we keep building it into meaningful change that alters the way people are hired, promoted and supported as leaders.


Nicole ChininisNicole Chininis
Project Manager
The unprecedented events of 2020 were a shock or wake up call to many in a variety of ways. We grieved about the number of lives lost and life we left behind. We saw how the inequities in our country continue to thrive and hinder the lives of the Black community. My hope for 2021 is that we take action to move past who we are as a country and decidedly move towards who we want to become. I know as a community we can make change, and I am excited to see where this leads us.