When InHerSight featured Ursa Major in September 2021, the aerospace company was in the midst of a rebrand and taking the important step to launch new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives during an exciting phase in the company’s growth. Since then, the Ursa Major team has grown substantially, and they’ve hired Indigo Cunningham, their organizational development specialist, to lead efforts in assessing the state of DEI at the organization and understanding the employee experience. Her long-term goal is to ensure every Ursa Major employee feels included and like they belong.
In the short term, she aims to simply understand the company’s greatest opportunities for growth. For any employer prioritizing DEI at any stage, Cunningham’s job requires lots of listening, absorbing, and making connections in order to take action. We asked her how she plans to help Ursa Major gather feedback from employees and push their DEI goals forward, and how she defines success in a role like hers. Here’s what she has to say about Ursa Major’s efforts toward building a more inclusive culture.
Organizational Development Specialist at Ursa Major for three months
Top three must-haves at work:
Flexible Work Hours
The People You Work With
Sense of Belonging
You’re relatively new to Ursa Major, but not to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. Tell us about your background, how you discovered Ursa Major, and your responsibilities in this role will be?
I spent the last five years working in organizational development for a large health care company. There, I took the opportunity to learn about myself and what is important to me in my work. Where possible, I would get involved with the DEI work, sharing my knowledge, perspectives, and expertise by speaking to teams about inclusion and developing resources to support belonging. Additionally, I enjoyed finding creative ways to tie all things DEI to the curriculum and learning opportunities that our team built.
After five years in health care, I felt I had acquired many skills and competencies and wanted to explore ways that I could bring value to a new industry. This was when I discovered Ursa Major. One of my top influences for joining Ursa was the impact of an editorial I read on InHerSight. The article motivated and drove me to want to be a part of Ursa and participate in all the incredible work.
As an organizational development practitioner, I am responsible for supporting the culture through team member and leader development, employee engagement, training, and DEI by assessing needs, collecting data, and developing resources. Since joining Ursa, I have taken an active role in our Inclusion Council by leading us in a new direction to support the DEI efforts at Ursa.
Ursa Major develops high-performing, low-cost engines for launch and hypersonic applications, which for us earthlings means they’re powering the next space race. But beyond how cool that is, we like how their three top metrics—Maternity and Adoptive Leave, Paid Time Off, and Flexible Work Hours—are parent- and life-friendly. Click to explore other reasons why Ursa Major is an out-of-this-world place to work.
Although Ursa Major started some of its DEI journeys before you were hired, you’re still laying a lot of the groundwork for the company’s future initiatives and goals. Describe what that process is like.
I am incredibly grateful for the work before I was on board. The constant effort to continue to make Ursa Major welcoming for all is one of the many reasons I was excited to join. If you are familiar with DEI, you know that it is a constant journey and not something that can be completed overnight. Since joining, the Inclusion Council has spent most of its time seeking to understand Ursa’s current state related to the values and behaviors that support diversity, building equitable practices, and creating inclusive spaces. This includes exploring hiring metrics from the year prior, previous initiatives that were implemented along with their progress, and conducting an inclusion survey to capture the voices of all team members.
With a solid understanding of what the current state looks like, the council is using this to establish goals for the remainder of 2022 and beyond that not only support our specific DEI efforts but also align strongly with the strategic objectives of Ursa. As we begin Q2, we are finalizing goals that will be ready to share with the company shortly.
One of the areas you’ve taken over is the Diversity Council, now called the Inclusion Council. For that committee in particular, what does success look like, and how do you plan on measuring it? Any specific action items in mind?
As a council, our role is to integrate DEI initiatives that align with company strategy and ensure accountability for action. This year, the biggest goal that we can align with is employee engagement. While we did well last year, with the recent growth of employees, the company's goal is to maintain our 85 percent overall engagement score. I see the council supporting this goal to be inclusive in the areas that matter most to all employees. From our most recent inclusion survey, the feedback we captured that we could use to drive our goals this year and impact our overall engagement is related to the employee’s life cycle. This will include inclusive recruitment strategies, onboarding experience, internal development, and retaining our teams.
What about success in the employee experience and lifecycle? What do you hope to see, and how do you plan to get there?
Success is being able to tie DEI into everything you do as a company, including each employee’s experience and life cycle. While we have made strides to accomplish this by updating our employee handbook, revamping our recruiting efforts, and developing an internal mentorship program, I hope we continue to be intentional, ask the right questions, and challenge ourselves to be better. If we do this right, success will be when we have DEI initiatives that everyone is involved in and feed into our company culture and overall strategy. Eventually, we hope they are no longer standalone strategies supported by only our council members but lived out by every employee at Ursa.
Last question. Because you were recently job searching, what sold you on Ursa Major, and what have you learned about the company since then makes you happy to be where you are?
The culture and the people who are a part of Ursa sold me. I was interested in working for a company that accepted me as a whole and where my values strongly aligned with the company. The support that each team member and leader provides, the ability to have a voice and speak up on things that matter to me, the opportunity to connect and volunteer with others through our ERGs, and the constant drive to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels like they belong are just a few of the reasons that make me happy at Ursa Major.