Dan Martin, Vice President, Marketing, DHI Group Inc.

Ask the Expert: Creating an Inclusive Community through Curiosity and Vulnerability

Articles Aug 17, 2023

Through our work with hundreds of clients, The Diversity Movement has connected with thousands of fascinating people who are creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces and communities. For this “Ask the Expert” series, we invite leaders to talk about their DEI journey, lessons they’ve learned, and what inspires them every day. 

Dan Martin (he/him), Vice President, Marketing, DHI Group, Inc.

Dan Martin

Dan Martin is a senior marketing and communications leader, content strategist, brand and product experience evangelist, and award-winning creator. In his current role, he leads brand strategy and execution, product marketing, and content marketing for DHI Group, Inc. 

Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share the story of how you came to your current role?

I’ve spent my entire career in marketing and communications, and that’s always interesting to me because of how I basically fell into it. After graduating with a journalism degree in the middle of the demise of many print publications, I struggled to find a job, and ended up taking a marketing internship with a large financial services company just to pay the bills. The work was primarily data-entry and not very appealing; I remember one night I was working later and one of the marketing executives called me into his office, asked me what I wanted to do with my career, and told me all of the things he loved about marketing.

Fast forward 16 years later. He was right about so many things, and that conversation was such an important launching point to where I am in my career today. I’ve worked at large corporations, smaller businesses, a nonprofit organization, and a public company, and while all are unique and different, the core tenets of marketing are always the same. If you understand the basics and the skills central to marketing, and are curious and willing to learn, you can work in any industry and company. That’s one of the things I remember from that fateful conversation, and one of the reasons I made the decision to stick with it and make marketing my career.

It’s a reminder to me, and to all of us as leaders, to take that extra moment and be the one that starts that conversation with someone. In 20 minutes you may not even remember, you can have the most incredible impact on someone else’s life.

How are you working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your community?

At DHI Group, we have four Team Member Impact Groups focused on different communities, and I have the privilege to serve as the Executive Sponsor of our Pride Group. Before being part of the group, I had what I thought was an understanding of the biggest challenges that the LGBTQIA+ community was facing, and to say my knowledge was incomplete is a vast understatement. Learning the obstacles the individuals are facing just at work was staggering, not to mention what they are experiencing in their personal lives and the emotional impact of the many horrible legislative attacks on their rights. 

I’m proud to be able to use my position to bring these issues to light with our executive team, who have been incredibly open to not only hearing me and the group, but also in taking action. These issues range from supporting trans healthcare to better benefits for therapy, adding LGBTQIA+-specific DEIB trainings to the corporate training portfolio to involvement in legislative action in the local communities where we live and work. The members of the LGBTQIA+ community have taught me so much, and to have the chance to give something – anything – back to them is a responsibility I don’t take lightly.

As part of the group’s impact, we are also helping to coordinate volunteer days for organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ youth and adults, and organizing support for the charities that are having the biggest impact on counter-legislation.

Can you describe a personal experience that fuels your passion? 

Early in my career, a mentor said something to me that I will always remember: “Everyone deserves the chance to have a decent day.” At the time, it seemed like such a low bar, but looking at it now, it’s still more of a dream than a reality. And I want to be a part of changing that. I’ve always considered myself an advocate and an ally, and in recent years, I’ve realized that I was spending too much time on the sidelines instead of truly joining in the fight. 

My revelation came when I heard a similar sentiment from a member of our Pride Group: “We are human beings just like everyone else, and we just want to live our lives in peace.” My heart broke to hear that plea and to see all of the heads nodding along in our meeting. That should be something achievable, and it’s what I’ll be fighting for until we can get there.

Can you tell us about a DEI win that you are proud of? It doesn’t have to be big, just meaningful for you.

During Pride Month this year, we were able to organize events at all of our locations. As a special surprise this year, we brought in a drag queen to perform in our Denver office. In addition to many employees who attended live, we had more than 100 dial in virtually. The performance was nothing short of world-class. In addition to her dance routines, Fonda shared the history of drag to a captive audience, focusing on its importance to the LGBTQIA+ community and the deep meaning it holds both for those who participate and those who enjoy it. It was an incredibly powerful discussion on community and humanity, and I’ve heard from so many employees about how touched they were by the experience.

I spoke with a member of our Pride Group after the session, and she told me that she had never felt more supported, valued, and celebrated than she had working at DHI Group, Inc. She also said she turned down three different higher-paying job offers, because feeling safe in a culture that’s inclusive and understanding is more important. There’s no better example of the business impact of DEIB efforts than an interaction like this.

Character is so important today in our professional and personal lives. Which character trait do you think has been most helpful in your journey? Can you please share a story or example of that trait in action?

It took me a while in college to choose my major, and I’m so glad that I eventually landed in journalism. Learning the tactical skills involved in how to interview and write like a journalist has been valuable to me in my career. More importantly, I’ve always believed that great writing is really great thinking; it’s a way to perceive the world, to ask the right questions, and to look at the first answer as only scratching the surface. One of the most important traits of a great journalist is curiosity, and that’s the one I’ve found to be most helpful in my personal and professional life. 

Professionally and through a marketing lens, curiosity is critical in being able to peel back the many layers of the onion required to really understand your customer’s needs, wants, and point of pain, and that’s the foundation of any great marketing campaign. In my personal life, I think curiosity has helped me be a better partner, parent, and friend, because the richness of life is in getting to know people at their core. 

I have a lifelong love of everything ice hockey, and I always look at that as an example of how my curiosity brought me deeper into something that brings me joy. When the Stars came to Dallas in 1993, I knew nothing about the sport. Watching a few games, I was amazed at what the players could do, all while balancing on two thin blades. I started collecting as much hockey knowledge as I could: everything I could learn about the players, the rules, the history of the game. Then, I thought, “I wonder if I could learn how to skate like them?” From there, it was adding a stick, hours and hours of practice, joining a team, and taking my gear to college. 

Today, I’m still able to play, be a student of the game, and a diehard fan. Beyond the love of the sport itself, hockey has brought me the confidence that comes with learning something from zero knowledge to a certain level of skills, great friends from teams current and past, and an incredible community that is ever-growing and changing. All because I decided one day that I was really interested in how something worked.

What is your one piece of advice for people who want to be inclusive leaders?

In most cases, as leaders, we’re in that position because we are experts in a certain discipline or disciplines. That can create pressure for us to feel like we always need to have the answer and be the ones who know what to do in any situation. That mindset can hurt our ability to be truly inclusive, because we are making decisions based on our own perspectives and experiences –  not those of the people who we’re hiring, nurturing, and leading. 

I’ve found it’s helpful to take the opposite approach as a leader and ally. While I have my experiences and opinions as a starting point, I don’t really know anything about other peoples’ experiences. And wanting to know about those experiences, asking the questions that get to the heart of where people are coming from and what they care about, and showing people that you really want to know the answer, makes all the difference. To me, the vulnerability that comes with knowing you don’t have the answers and the curiosity to want to learn are the traits that set apart great inclusive leaders.

How can people follow you online or connect with you?

Follow or connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing/.  

Check out more expert advice in TDM Library, where you’ll find articles, videos, how-to guides, podcasts, and webinars – all organized by topic so you can quickly find the answers you need about the subjects you care about. When you subscribe to TDM Library, you get access to thousands of award-winning DEI learning resources, so you can start improving your workplace culture right away. 


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