Giannina Seaman is currently the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Advantage Solutions: Sales Marketing Technology organization. A seasoned Human Resources professional, Giannina has worked in several industries from non-profit, retail, professional services and consumer goods, and has been a champion of equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts throughout her career. After attending the first Women’s March in 2017, she came away feeling a greater need to dive deeper into her EDI journey. While at Ketchum Communications, Giannina leaned into their DE&I efforts, playing a key role in driving their efforts to create a culture of belonging. She was instrumental in leading and expanding their diversity councils across North America and developing a ‘Real Talk’ series globally. Outside of work, Giannina also continues to give back to the community by serving as a board member for local nonprofit organization, Frontline Arts, an arts organization that provides transformational experiences through printmaking to Veterans, Migrant communities, and Frontline Medical providers. Their work has been featured in local and national media. Giannina is a proud immigrant, originally from Peru and attributes her success and drive to her mother, who pushed her to do her best, even when faced with adversity. She is a mother of two amazing daughters, Autumn and Serena, wife to Rick Seaman and loving fur mom to her constant companion, Sandy, her adorable Labrador.
Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.
My parents. My parents immigrated here when I was very young and while college-educated in Peru with careers. They both had to essentially start over and took factory jobs that paid low wages and required long hours. As they learned the language and went back to school, both my parents eventually left those low-paying jobs, my father became a business owner, and my mom worked in research and development for a couple of CPG companies. My mom is my inspiration. I watched how she had to navigate a new path for herself in the science field, faced biases and discrimination while going to school, and then in her career that was (and still is) male-dominated. She persevered and was very successful in her career. She only just recently retired and is now enjoying her time away from the lab. It was my mom who always pushed me to think about my future. She was and continues to be the voice in my head when I think about my life choices. I’m grateful for all that she and my dad have done for my younger brother and me.
Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?
Parenthood is a tough job. Those of us who are parents (dual or single) know all too well there is no playbook for how to be a parent. Sure, there are self-help books out there and well-meaning friends and family with “suggestions,” but in the end, it’s about trusting your instincts, incorporating learning from resources (e.g., books, podcasts, and therapists,) mixed in with your own life experiences and frankly a little luck. Adding “Parent” as a title on a resume should translate to anyone (parents and nonparents alike) that I am a teacher, healthcare provider, counselor, spiritual advisor, and lifelong “life coach” to another human being. It is the hardest role I have ever had to engage in and continue to have as the mother of two adult children now. I may not be placing Band-Aids on scraped knees anymore or helping with homework, but I’m forever going to be a mom to my girls. It’s a lifelong, loving commitment.
What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?
Being curious, an independent thinker, and communicating well are key qualities for me. Curiosity brings innovation, independent thinking leads to courageous creativity, and communication is about delivering a message thoroughly while being receptive and responsive to others. I’ve always found that when I’ve worked on teams with team members that exhibit these qualities, we accomplish really great work. It can be super inspiring and motivating.
Qualities to avoid, hmm… I would have to say it’s the complainer that turns me off during an interview; when I hear someone talk about how negative their situation was/is about a past or current employer, that gives me pause. I fully understand that there might be some unfortunate situations that may drive someone to explore a new opportunity, and certainly, I am okay with hearing their reasons for leaving (you gain insights there too.) However, when it goes on and on or seems to be a pattern that comes through about each role the person has had, then I start to think maybe it’s a “you” issue, not a “them” issue. If a candidate is going to share a tough situation, I want to hear how, while faced with adversity, the individual is managing to find solutions or share attempts in improving their situation. Those candidates who stay in a negative space never move forward with me.
I’ve learned we should meet people where they are at and help employees and leaders get comfortable with the uncomfortable when talking about DEI.”
Is there a time when you were told to change yourself, or hide some aspect of yourself to be accepted or successful in a situation? How did you react?
I can’t recall if I’ve ever been told to change or hide some aspect of myself. Certainly, throughout my career, I’ve been provided feedback that has helped me manage a strength from becoming an overused strength. For example, I’ve been told I can be very direct in my communication. I learned to know my audience and flex my style of communication appropriately depending on who I’m speaking with. As an HR professional, knowing how to finesse a conversation is key to building partnerships and gaining buy-in from employees and leadership alike. Listening and being open to feedback has allowed me to continue to evolve my communication style – some changes are necessary. However, being asked to change who you are or hide some aspect of yourself is frankly not appropriate and all kinds of wrong. If you can’t be authentic and present yourself authentically, then perhaps that workplace is not the right one for you, or the person asking you to change is not the right leader/manager to help you succeed.
Which three books, podcasts or news sources do you think everyone should read? Why?
I love podcasts! I used to commute into Manhattan, an hour-long drive coupled with a few train trips, allowing for lots of listening time. Post-COVID and now fully remote, it’s still part of my morning routine, except now the commute to my office is down the hallway or to my kitchen for my morning coffee. My current top three podcasts are:
Latino USA – I love Maria Hinojosa; she is the Executive Producer and CEO of Futuro Media. This podcast offers insights into the lived experiences of Latinx communities, sharing topics that range from culture to politics. Latinx stories aren’t often heard in the mainstream media or are misrepresented in TV and movies. This podcast provides a space for our experiences to be shared honestly and authentically.
Code Switch – Part of the NPR family of podcasts, this team of journalists of color put together episodes that bring courageous conversations centered on race to the forefront while being empathetic and funny at times, depending on the topic. Shareen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby are amazing hosts who always keep the conversation very real.
The Element of Inclusion – Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptley hosts this very insightful podcast on all things related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many of the episodes I’ve listened to have led me to additional resources to explore on my own and help me in the work I do as a DE&I professional. I have books purchased and articles earmarked as a result of some of the information he’s shared.
Bonus: WTF with Marc Maron – sometimes I need to take a break from the heavy stuff. Marc Maron does some interesting interviews with public individuals, ranging from politics to entertainment. I’ve followed his career for years and sometimes find his take on life refreshingly honest, albeit sometimes risqué – not a podcast for everyone.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?
In my personal life, it’s about who I support and promote online. There are so many great influencers that I follow. I typically share information with friends on what I’m learning, whether it’s a podcast, book, article, or even an IG story. Many texts accompanied with attachments have been sent with, “Hey, you have to listen to this; it was so good.” I think it’s important to continue to find ways to promote education and dialogue around DEI. It’s a balancing act because you also have to know who in your personal circle wants to expand their knowledge in this space. I have learned not everyone is always receptive. Now professionally, that’s a little different. I’m in a new role leading DEI for my organization, and here is where I can be more direct and strategic about raising the DEI EQ/IQ with our employees. Recently it’s been my mission to help educate and promote conversations at work around DEI. I’ve learned we should meet people where they are at and help employees and leaders get comfortable with the uncomfortable when talking about DEI. Learning more about different DE&I concepts helps an organization foster a culture of inclusion and acceptance.
What do you find most frustrating about corporate DEI initiatives and what’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?
I think that if a company is truly committed to DEI, it must be more than what can optically be observed (i.e., training, website, and social feeds.) If an organization is not simultaneously making internal systematic changes that can be woven into the DNA of a company, then your most valuable and important resource – employees – will see through the optics and make decisions as to whether the organization is truly committed to DEI. More and more employees are asking questions about their company’s DEI commitment, and candidates are doing their research and making DEI an important qualifier when considering a new employer. One of the first steps toward building out a DEI strategy is to gain leadership buy-in; if leadership is not talking about DEI with their reports and messaging down, any initiative started will not gain support and traction with your associate base. If you have leadership buy-in, then strategies created around DEI can be more easily promoted and supported.