As we celebrate Black History Month, for this Employee Spotlight I sat down with Marque Blackman, co-lead of the Cloudera Black Employee Network (CBEN). We discussed his experience at Cloudera, his career transitions, and what he learned along the way. We also discussed his work with CBEN and his perspective on Black History Month.
Meet Marque Blackman, Director of Global Workplace
As part of Corporate Services at Cloudera, Marque leads the team that manages and coordinates Cloudera’s physical locations worldwide.
Corporate Service’s mission is to provide an optimal experience for employees and guests while they work at and visit the many Cloudera locations. While Covid has transformed the way corporate services operates and engages with Clouderans, the teams are still hard at work offering remote support where needed and preparing global sites to be ready to meet the needs of the new workplace. “Most importantly we want anyone who visits one of our facilities to know their experience will be intuitive and consistent across locations,” Marque said. “But at the same time,” he added, “we aim to provide a sense of local culture and flair unique to each location so that employees feel at home.”
Marque has been with Cloudera for almost 6 years, and he says that his role has given him the opportunity to visit many cities and meet Clouderans across cultures and geos. He notes, “I find Cloudera to be a company that is constantly changing and growing, giving me and my team the opportunity to also grow with the company.”
From Corporate Services to breaking new ground in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
While Marque started out in corporate services, in 2020 he was asked to join Cloudera’s inaugural Equity Committee and support the development of initiatives within the company around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This work evolved into a full-time role as Senior Program Manager, with the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) organization.
Marque says he’s proud of what he and his team accomplished during his time with DE&I. “Cloudera’s DE&I programs were just starting, and it was all a green field for us. I had the opportunity to support Cloudera’s first pay equity study, and lead the publishing of our public-facing DE&I website to provide a level of transparency rarely seen at other companies.”
If you visit the DE&I site today, you will see a full demographic breakdown of employees including race and gender. Marque said he learned a lot from the experience and the team learned a lot from each other. After supporting the launch of these, and several other important programs, Marque returned to corporate services and advanced to his current role.
Connecting the dots: From photographer to problem solver
Given Marque’s unique experience at Cloudera from Corporate Services to DE&I then most recently as Director of Global Workplace, we discussed the skills and experiences he drew from to be successful in these diverse positions.
“First, I think it takes a strong AND smart work ethic,” Marque proclaimed. “I’m a perfectionist, and try to operate between the lines of doing my best and also understanding that perfection is the enemy to ‘good enough’. Finding the balance between the two has kept me on the road to achieving my goals.” He added, “this is something I learned from my family in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and getting to work at a young age.”
While Marque’s family hails from Natchitoches, he grew up in Houston, Texas, and later moved to Southern California to pursue a career in media and entertainment. “I had a number of marketing positions, interned on the MTV show ‘The Hills’ and even did some freelance photography.” Marque eventually transitioned to technology sales and operations before making his way to Cloudera by way of the Austin, Texas office.
“From all these experiences I developed my creative side and learned how to sell and develop ideas,” he said. “I learned that being ‘creative’ in the traditional sense, like taking a photograph or designing a graphic is not the only way to think about using one’s creativity. I realized I could apply my creativity to solving problems, finding solutions, and then to work collaboratively with others to do everything from launching DE&I initiatives to rolling out new employee amenity programs.”
This is a great example of the value of accumulating varied experience. You may not see it at the time, but these skills and experiences can come together, contributing towards future achievements. As Steve Jobs put it in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Marque’s work with the Cloudera Black Employee Network (CBEN) and his perspective on Black History Month
As we begin Black History Month this was a great opportunity to hear Marque’s perspective, a look back on his work with CBEN, and a look at what’s ahead.
“Although I think that it’s important to remember the history and recognize the achievements and the struggles all year round, I think Black History Month is a vehicle to really amplify the conversation, and the voices of the now,” he said.
“Last year we had the opportunity to do this in a few ways,” Marque said as he pointed to one of them, his Blog post: Embracing the conversation – The reawakening of civil rights movements in the workplace.
“Last year CBEN also hosted a 2-hour panel discussion around the theme ‘Investing in Black Futures’,” he noted. This virtual panel was made up of members of the Black community at Cloudera to discuss best practices, key insights, and have an authentic conversation with peers.
This year’s theme “Own your seat at the table” will carry through all year as we recognize the contributions of other Employee Resource Groups like CBEN.
Marque noted, “I think it is important to recognize this month as a celebration of social progress, a celebration of our living history, and a chance to increase visibility outside of our communities.”
Looking ahead, Marque and his CBEN co-leads have the 2022 goal of increasing engagement by exploring and amplifying the intersectional voices of the CBEN community beyond Black History Month.
As we close the conversation, we want to thank Marque for his continued commitment to CBEN all year round and thank him for sharing his journey so far. We know there is more yet to come from Marque!