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DK Shades: Lookback at 2021

At DraftKings, we are people first and foremost, whether that be our customers or the teams of dedicated people who work here. Our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are one of the many pillars of support for the larger DraftKings community, and celebrate our individuality and provide support to each other during challenging times. These values are central to how DK Shades, a group dedicated to uplifting and supporting the BIPOC community at DraftKings, came to be. In today’s post, you’ll hear from our previous co-chairs of DK Shades, Lance and Anthony, as they reflect on their time at the helm and what they look forward to as they hand over the reins to the next leaders.


Could you introduce yourself, your role at DraftKings, and how you became involved with DK Shades?

Lance: My Name is Lance - I am a Marketing Associate for our CRM team at DraftKings. I got involved with DK Shades from day one. I sought out Vanessa, the Director of Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging, to discuss supporting underrepresented groups in our spaces, in order to advocate and help advance their careers.

Cooley: My name is Anthony, but I just go by Cooley. I’m a Desktop Services Engineer here at DraftKings. I sort of just invited myself to the event during a Black History Month meetup at Darryl’s Corner in Boston. Lance, Vanessa, and a few others were trying on different names for the group, and “Shades” came up. When I heard more about what they were trying to put together, I just knew I had to be part of it! 


How did you become the co-chairs of DK Shades?

Lance: Everything was new at the time, but we followed a democratic process like the other DraftKings BRGs. I was nominated by the DK Shades leaders and won, stepping forward with Cooley as the inaugural co-chairs of DK Shades.

Cooley: I think people saw my passion for driving positive change. Being supportive and saying out loud what everyone was thinking helped move tough conversations forward. I stepped into this role not just for my community, but also for all underrepresented and underserved communities. I truly appreciate the opportunity I was given and the trust everyone placed in me. It was an honor to serve DK Shades. 


It’s a significant role to take on with everything going on in the world. What were your proudest accomplishments and achievements during your time as co-chairs?

Lance: We definitely didn’t expect the world to go the way it did as the group was getting off the ground. However, it allowed us to speak more freely on complex matters. In my opinion, one of our biggest accomplishments was our first open discussion after the events of George Floyd. During that conversation, we saw how invested and committed everyone was, all the way to the executive leaders of the company. This open discussion was powerful - it showed that DraftKings leadership will dedicate time and effort to build more diverse teams across our global organization.

Another milestone accomplishment was the addition of Juneteenth to the company calendar. We wanted to make sure that everyone was mindful of the historical day when slavery ended.

Cooley: For me, it was really just sparking conversations that most people avoid. It’s one thing to have a guest speaker come in and talk to people for an hour and leave people feeling whatever type of way. It’s an entirely different move when the Senior VP of Engineering steps up to moderate a fireside chat and drive meaningful, impactful discussion leading to a Q&A that ran over on time because there were such lively conversations. That tells me that we did something right and good, that it got people thinking and moving in the right direction. 


Did anything surprise you since joining DK Shades? Your biggest takeaways?

Lance: I was pleasantly surprised that we had so much buy-in from the company. I genuinely thought it would take more time for others to see the importance of issues, like addressing the lack of diverse representation across the company. It’s certainly a challenging topic to tackle, but I know folks aren’t ignoring it and are open to the discussion.

Cooley: I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the total buy-in and support from our top leadership genuinely blew me away! I felt like the work we were doing would be heard by the entire organization. That’s how we were able to start seeing those changes. The main takeaway from my time as co-chair is that anything is possible here. 


With new co-chairs starting in this role, what do you hope to see with the new leaders of DK Shades?

Lance: I hope the new co-chairs feel even more empowered to meet with the executive leadership, to continue driving critical initiatives forward, and to keep advocating for charities that deserve more attention. 

Cooley: I’m excited for the fresh ideas and perspectives the new co-chairs will bring to the table. I’m ready to hand over the reins and watch their passion drive us in a new direction.


Any last pearls of wisdom?

Lance: Don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers - that’s how change starts. Keep your foot on the gas and keep driving even more change.

Cooley: Some seeds are going to grow and bear fruit. Some won’t. The way I see it, each idea has a 50/50 shot of succeeding, so you might as well plant every seed you’ve got.

DK Shades BRG

Lance and Cooley are handing over their massive responsibilities as co-chairs to a new pair of leaders. They have gone above and beyond to get DK Shades off the ground and to build a community where the DraftKings community feels heard and seen on issues that are often difficult to discuss openly. We are so grateful for the work they’ve done, and we are so excited to see their legacy carry on in the new co-chairs.


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