During her tenure as an engineer at Google, Dina Levitan used some unusual techniques to advocate for inclusivity.
The MIT-trained engineer championed diversity and found creative solutions to cultural challenges while leading teams on projects like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Compute Engine. She cultivated a more welcoming social environment for all employees by leading a 2,000-person organization to adopt tea as an official beverage instead of the de facto drink, whiskey. To curb in-office complaints, she started the tongue-in-cheek “First World Problem” forum, with favorites like “my two 24-inch monitors block my view of the mountain.”
When Levitan noticed inconsistencies in how new employees were onboarded, she launched a global mentorship program, too. “It’s important to have an outside perspective, to have someone who you can talk to about what’s going on [who] will understand and be able to give good advice,” she says.
Levitan’s global mentoring program for Google’s Site Reliability Engineering organization was launched in 2014 and expanded to matching hundreds of employees with mentors across 15 global offices by 2018. “Relationships often help women and folks from underrepresented backgrounds stay within organizations and feel satisfied within their roles,” she says. “What I introduced helps everyone get an outside perspective on their team and projects. But the benefits for someone who might not have others to rely on are much greater.”
In 2019, Levitan left Google to pursue a business degree at the University of Washington. Through her blog and a series of talks, she promotes organizational and cultural change in tech culture. She intends to educate local businesses and organizations on how to improve the workplace experience for historically marginalized employees, regardless of what industry they work in. In her presentations, Levitan draws on her own experiences in tech to emphasize the importance of programs that aid employees with underrepresented backgrounds, noting that these programs “improve things for everybody.”
In her next adventure, Levitan aspires to amplify her commitment to positive workplace culture. “I’m hoping to focus on bigger-picture problems,” she says. Be it consulting now or leading a company in the future, her underlying goal remains the same. “I want to be able to solve interesting problems and help enable people around me to succeed.”